Some of the challenges facing school Boards of Governors in Northern Ireland explored

The latest paper in the Ulster University series looking at the NI education system outlines some of the challenges facing school Boards of Governors and the ways in which the construction of Northern Ireland’s education system may contribute to these.

The briefing paper, the fifth in the “Transforming Education” series, refers to recent UU research which found that:
“Boards range in size – from eight to 36 members – in respect of the relative size of the school that they govern. In the smallest schools, a BoG can have more members than teachers in the school. A three-teacher maintained rural primary, for example, may have a BoG with nine or ten members”.

Some of the challenges facing school Boards of Governors in Northern Ireland exploredThe composition of the BoGs in the NI system differs according to sector. The BoG of a controlled school is legally required to include a proportion of representatives from the Protestant churches (transferors) but only controlled integrated schools have places reserved for members delegated by the Catholic church. Similarly, whilst Catholic trustees have guaranteed seats on the BoGs of Catholic maintained schools there are no places for transferors. The governors assigned by DE and EA to a board of any type of school may be drawn from a different community/religious background to that of the school’s founders, but this has not always been without difficulties.

The New Decade, New Approach agreement, drawn up by the Westminster and RoI governments and endorsed in January 2020 by the NI Executive parties, includes a commitment to an independent review of education.

The author of “The Governance of Schools”, Dr Matt Milliken, argues that if the education system is to be reformed, then attention needs to be paid to the way in which schools are governed. It is important that any new model arising from this review should build on established sharing, cooperation and integration and contribute to the most efficient use of limited finance.

Welcoming the release of “The Governance of Schools”, Tina Merron (Chief Executive of the IEF) commented:
“This research adds to the growing body of evidence to support arguments for a fundamental reform of the NI education system. The wide range of compositions of Board of Governors in Northern Ireland Schools perpetuates the divided nature of schools provision here. We look forward to the establishment of the independent review of education, which we hope will identify all the elements which should be addressed on the way to building a new education system.”

Download the briefing paper
Download the infographic

The UU School of Education has received funding from the IEF, the UNESCO Centre and the Community Foundation NI to support publication of the research.