Talent fit for the Northern Powerhouse

Date: 25/01/2018
Author: SGOSS
Company: SGOSS

SGOSS Governors for Schools and KPMG will host a Business Breakfast to discuss how Manchester professionals can gain experience of board-level management through school governor volunteering. The breakfast will take place on Tuesday 6th February 2018 at 8:00 am at the KPMG offices in St Peter’s Square, Manchester.

The North of England has huge economic potential, with its GDP equivalent to the entirety of Belgium, and Manchester is the region’s greatest city. Investment from the government’s Northern Powerhouse strategy has already seen Manchester overtake London in terms of growth according to a report by Cebr.

However, the North still lags behind the rest of the country in terms of productivity, with each worker adding 13% less value to the economy than the UK average and 25% less than in the South. This is partly because there are fewer graduates and skilled professionals in the region.

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority has identified that the gap in the number of board and managerial-level professionals will need to be filled by 2020 in order for the city’s businesses to benefit fully from incoming investment. The Centre for Cities think tank also says that upskilling the region’s workforce will be a deciding factor in the Northern Powerhouse’s success.

With Manchester relatively short on professionals with board and management experience, businesses face a challenge in recruiting their next generation of leaders. One option is to train up internal candidates, but this can be costly and time-consuming. Instead, professionals can gain board experience and give back to society at the same time by volunteering through SGOSS as school governors.

Being a school governor is a commitment to attending governing body meetings on issues like planning school strategy, setting the budget and dealing with human resources. They’re also involved in the school community, acting as critical friends to the headteacher and observing lessons. Governors need to be dedicated people who care about improving education, but they don’t need prior board experience. It makes the role perfect for professionals looking to improve their business and soft skills while giving back to society.

Schools benefit hugely from working with professionals, particularly anyone with experience of finance, law, project management or human resources. A governor with business know-how can transform the running of a school.

SGOSS volunteer Jennie Griffiths is a governor at the Manchester Federation of EBSD Schools. A collective of three schools on five different sites, the Federation specialises in providing education for children with social, emotional and mental health difficulties. As an experienced accountant who now works in finance at the Department for Education, Jennie’s know-how is extremely valuable to the schools when it comes to planning their budget and resources. Being on a committee making difficult decisions about funding for children with special needs has helped Jennie develop her HR and people skills:

“It’s given me more soft skills, I’m more rounded in work and thinking ‘How do we approach this a little bit differently?’ It’s about focussing on what’s important and prioritising. It’s helped me interact with my teams who might be having difficulties.”


Graham Hutton is another SGOSS volunteer in a village near Stoke-on-Trent. In Graham’s first governor role he used techniques from his day job as a management consultant to lead on hiring the new headteacher. This inspired several nearby schools to adopt his more modern approach to recruitmen. He said of his volunteering:

“I brought in sound financial management and budgeting into the school so it could better deliver education. The school slowly moved from Requiring Improvement to Outstanding.”

Encouraging talented and dedicated individuals to volunteer as school governors is a way for businesses to give back to the community. SGOSS is hosting the business breakfast with KPMG, a longstanding partner with dozens of its employees involved in school governance. Rachel Nicholson, Assistant Manager for Corporate Responsibility at KPMG, said of the company’s partnership with SGOSS:

“The quality of a child's education fundamentally impacts their social mobility in later life. KPMG is committed to ensuring children receive the best possible education, enabling them to reach their full potential. Empowering our people to utilise their skills, expertise and abilities by becoming school governors allows KPMG to have a positive impact on local schools across the country.”

Serena Brown is one of KPMG’s school governors. She said of her volunteering experience:

“It is nice to have my professional skills valued and it is interesting to apply them in a completely different context from my day to day work. My financial management and governance experience in particular complement the skills of our other governors.

“I would urge anyone who is as passionate about the importance of education as I am to get involved. A strong governing body transforms a poorly performing school, and it helps a strong performing school excel to exceptional.”

Just as Manchester businesses face a shortage of board members, Manchester schools face a shortage of governors. SGOSS receives some of the highest demand nationally for volunteers in Greater Manchester, but also the lowest rates of volunteers coming forward. The low volunteering rate is affecting the day-to-day running of schools and the quality of education. This will have a long-term effect on the region’s economic performance, as well as the wellbeing of its population.

Manchester needs more talented business leaders to allow it to reach its full potential as the largest city in the Northern Powerhouse. Manchester also needs more governors to support its schools to become outstanding. These two problems are linked by one solution.

SGOSS look forward to seeing you at 8:00 am on Tuesday 6th February. The event is free – you can register your place here. You can find out more about school governance or sign up to volunteer on the SGOSS website.