Back in 2006, in my late 20s, I filled out an application form with my Local Authority to volunteer to be a school governor. I had been working the Education department of a neighbouring LA for the last 3 years at that point. Added to that I was raised by parents (especially my Mother) who highly valued education and impressed on my siblings and me that a good education could make a world of difference.
Having applied it wasn’t long before I was contacted and asked to go and meet a panel of existing governors. Off I duly went to my “interview”. Far from being daunting I found it a useful opportunity to gather a bit more information about what the role entailed. Following that I was matched to a school close to home and inducted by the Head Teacher and Chair of Governors. My journey into governance had begun. I spent many meetings desperately trying to follow the agenda but feeling overwhelmed by the jargon and not sure of what my remit was. I didn’t have the confidence to join a committee and felt that due to my lack of experience my comments where not valid.
However, I persevered and attended termly meetings at the school. I was lucky enough to be able to have some release days from work to be able to visit the school during the day. It was great to see the school in session, I started to get to know some of the staff and then things started to fall into place. I could suddenly ask more meaningful questions at the meetings because I could understand the context of what was being presented. I felt as though I was making a valued contribution.
Fast forward 10 years and I now had two small children and lived and worked in a different borough. I decided it was time to hang up my governor hat as I couldn’t commit the same amount of time I once had. During my 10 years I had done so much – chaired the standards committee, chaired appeal panels, overseen staff grievances, been interviewed by Ofsted for an inspection that saw the school go from Satisfactory to Good, been Co-Vice Chair and much, much more. The question I heard most over those 10 years is “how do you find the time to be a governor?” My answer was always the same. If you want to do it you make the time. It doesn’t have to be onerous. At worst it’s one meeting per term. Most people can commit three evenings in the space of a year. Once you start to become more invested in the school you happily put in more time. I absolutely loved visiting classes and speaking with the school council. I felt pride to be part of the Family Learning Conferences held each year.
It felt sad to be leaving after so long. In my final term I became Chair of Governors and I worked hard to welcome the new governors on board and share all the knowledge of the school that I’d picked up over the years. I still follow the school on Twitter and feel pride when I read about all the great things they are doing.
It may not surprise you to hear that last year, two years after hanging up my governor hat, I contacted Governor Services in my new home borough. Before long I had been placed in a junior school close to home. So I’ve now been a governor again for the last year and I’m loving it. I feel it’s so important for people from all walks of life to volunteer their time and help to shape the education that’s provided for the next generation. My outlook has changed now that I’m a parent and also work as a School Business Manager. With all that experience behind me I’m more able to ask challenging questions, more able to make suggestions and it’s also useful to be able compare practices with the school I work in.
I find the time because I think it’s important. Schools need governors and although more and more is being asked of governors in terms of the skill set they bring to the table I feel it’s a wonderful development opportunity. I didn’t go into it knowing how to govern but I developed new skills along the way. I’m not only making an impact but I’m benefiting immensely too.
If you think it’s something you could do and would like to do there’s lots of information online about how to become a school governor – https://www.gov.uk/become-school-college-governor
Give it a go, it doesn’t take up all your time and it’s so worthwhile.