Why school clerks and governance professionals deserve a fair wage

School governance professionals are one of the most female-dominated professions and their pay is much worse than that for equivalent jobs. Neil Collins from GovernorHub explains why that needs to change.

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Felicity Jackson is a highly experienced clerk who has for years advised her school’s governors on the intricacies of staff pay, absence hearings and financial reporting. And yet she’s paid just £11.59 per hour – barely £1 an hour over the National Living Wage.

There are up to 10,000 Felicitys across the country. The vast majority – 90% – are women, many of whom have caring responsibilities they are juggling alongside work.

They go largely unnoticed in our schools and Trusts, partly because they tend to work part time and from home, advising governors and trustees, whose meetings tend to take place during the evening.

These clerks and governance professionals are a vital part of the infrastructure of our education system and deserve to be paid a fair wage for the increasingly complex work they do. It’s standard now for a clerk to be expected to have an excellent grasp of the legal, financial and regulatory aspects of running a school and to coordinate pupil exclusion and complaints panels.

Why then are some paid so little?

An online survey we have just conducted at GovernorHub of 1,298 school clerks and governance professionals has found that some say they are on the minimum wage or even less and many others are paid for only some of the hours they work.

We have discovered that the average pay for clerks, £25,000, is well below what it would be in a comparable role in the charity sector or local government. In these sectors, some could command almost £34,000.

The same is the case for more senior school governance professionals – sometimes known as governance coordinators. They are paid £32,000 on average, but could be earning more than £40,000 – £8,000 more – each year in a local government or public sector services role. The most experienced school governance professionals are paid on average £42,500, but could be on £60,000 – or just under – in an equivalent position in local government or public sector

We know that there is a significant squeeze on school resources and senior leadership teams are under more pressure than ever.

However, it’s essential that schools, local authorities, Trusts and other employers don’t see this experienced, often hidden workforce as simply women who need flexible work. Organisations must start to annually review and benchmark the pay of their clerks and governance professionals so that it is commensurate with their skills and experience.

Equally, clerks and governance professionals need reminding that they aren’t a volunteer workforce and should feel emboldened to demand a fair wage.

We know that governance professionals are one of the most female-dominated professions in the education sector and this should focus our attention more keenly on fair salaries. After all, addressing pay for clerks and governance professionals can also serve to reduce an organisation’s gender pay gap.

*Neil Collins is Managing Director and one of the founders of GovernorHub.  He has been a school governor and academy trustee for nearly 20 years and is currently a trustee at a specialist school for young people with autism in Norfolk.

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