How can we ensure school governors value the arts?

With the release of a new resource by Arts Council England we reflect on how a focus on the arts must come from the top.

13 May 2016

In the same way every successful business needs a strong board, every successful school needs strong governors. Often mirroring the functions of board members, governors are the ones behind the scenes who are responsible for many of the key decisions in schools including the appointment of the headteacher and deputy head, and looking after the school’s finances. This means that for real change in a school’s ethos or approach to occur, it has to have the support of not only the staff but the governors too.

This is interesting when applied to cultural education. When you consider recent developments in education policy (such as the proposed implementation of the Ebacc and a renewed focus on the ‘hard’ STEM subjects) it is clear that for cultural education to be valued in a school, it is especially crucial that the school has the support of its governors.

But how can we ensure this happens?

One approach is to encourage more senior figures from arts organisations to become school governors. This was a particular call to action in our recent publication, London and the Power of a Creative Childhood, and was also the subject of a guest blog post written for us by Charlotte Jones, CEO of The Independent Theatre Council (ITC), which you can read here. ‘I would like to see more arts leaders and practitioners becoming school governors’, she writes in this.

A point worth highlighting from her experience is that not only does she find being a governor hugely rewarding, but the ITC are also supportive of her holding the role alongside her CEO position. This is a factor which can often deter senior professionals, but in many cases the professional development opportunities school governance provides are enough to convince an organisation that the extra responsibilities are worth taking on.

Another approach to ensuring the arts are valued by school governors is to make the case for the value of the arts in supporting and enhancing the curriculum, and (some people would argue more importantly) increasing young people’s enjoyment of school. This is something we at A New Direction aim to do through all of our work with schools, but Arts Council England have now released a specific guide for governors which not only makes the case for cultural education, but also provides advice and guidance on how governors can implement positive change in their schools.


Listed in this document are many of the programmes and initiatives which A New Direction are responsible for facilitating in London as one of the Arts Council’s Bridge organisations. So, if you are a school governor at a London school who would like advice and guidance on how to improve your cultural offer, or if you are working at a London arts organisation and are interested in becoming a school governor, please get in touch and we will be happy to help.

Alternatively, click here to see a summary of 10 ways that you can work with us.