Participation of Volunteer Citizens in the Governance of Education, 2000-2003


Abstract copyright UK Data Service and data collection copyright owner.

This mixed methods study of the participation of school governors/school board members as 'volunteer citizens' examined the influence of volunteers within a reformed system of governance across the United Kingdom, designed to enhance public accountability. In particular, it examined their contribution to school effectiveness and the raising of standards, as well as their influence over local national policy-making. Hypothesising that shared understandings and agreements between all the 'stakeholders' in education are the way to enhance public accountability and raise standards, the research studied ways in which volunteers engage in 'dialogic democracy'; how the institutions of the governance of education facilitate or constrain the 'voice' of volunteers; and how volunteers use their social capital in different regional contexts, at a time of conditional change, to make an effective contribution. The research was comparative across the UK, and studied the contribution of governors/school board members to education policy, practice and performance at school level, local level, and national level. Qualitative (interviews and observations of meetings) data were collated and analysed to develop an understanding of theory and practice in this area. A questionnaire survey was administered to all school governors/board members in the five local authorities which formed the focus of study. A programme of interviews was conducted with national-level officials responsible for school governance, local education authority-level officers and members, school-level interviews with chairs, governors, heads and teachers. Finally, observation notes and minutes were taken of school governing body meetings.

Main Topics:

Topics covered in the interviews included: why became governor/school board member, or details of school headteacher role; voluntary work; whether parent or co-opted governor; length of service; structure and focus of school governing board; communication; relationship between board and school; role of chairperson and perceived future developments. Topics covered in the survey included: volunteering; participation; governance; school governance and democracy; and demographic questions.

Purposive selection/case studies

A census approach was used for the survey of local authority governors.

Face-to-face interview

Postal survey


Focus group

Metadata Access
Creator Ranson, S., University of Birmingham, School of Education; Arnott, M., Glasgow Caledonian University, School of Law and Social Sciences; Smith, P., University of Birmingham, School of Education; Martin, J., University of London, Institute of Education; McKeown, P., Queen's University of Belfast, Institute of Child Care Research
Publisher UK Data Service
Publication Year 2007
Funding Reference Economic and Social Research Council
Rights Copyright S. Ranson; <p>The Data Collection is available to UK Data Service registered users subject to the <a href="" target="_blank">End User Licence Agreement</a>.</p><p>Commercial use of the data requires approval from the data owner or their nominee. The UK Data Service will contact you.</p>
OpenAccess true
Language English
Resource Type Text; Numeric; Textual data include: semi-structured interview transcripts; focus group transcripts; minutes of me
Discipline Social Sciences
Spatial Coverage United Kingdom