Are you one in 30,000?

What’s up, gov? Have you ever thought about being a school governor?

I’m a school governor and I love it most of the time. It’s something I wanted to do from when my eldest started school, but realistically I knew I couldn’t do it with two very small children at home. Plus I didn’t have the confidence to talk to people I didn’t know because I felt very insignificant as a Reception parent.

Nationally, schools are short of a massive 30,000 governors. A new campaign SGOSS – Governors for Schools started the other day to help fill these vacancies. So what is a school governor? And could you be one?

 
School governors are the largest group of volunteers in education. They support and challenge the Head Teacher, set the strategic direction for the school and monitor and evaluate progress. As members of the school’s governing body, governors have the opportunity to significantly develop their skills and competencies.
 
Well, that’s the official line. This is my experience… I was told at the beginning that school governors are a critical friend to the school. You are there to approve and to question the school. If a group of kids isn’t making progress, why? Is it the teacher? Is there a high number of children with special educational needs in that class? Do they need extra TA support? Can the school focus more on a particular subject to accelerate their progress?
 
I became a parent governor when my kids were in year 4, year 1 and pre-school respectively. I was warned by a governor friend it was a lot of work – and she wasn’t wrong. There is a full governors meeting every half term of about two hours. You will have papers to read beforehand and need to engage in discussion during the meeting.
 
There are committees. Initially I was on two, then I dropped to one, now I’m back up to two. These meet at least three times a year, but often more. Again there is stuff stuff to read and actions to follow up on.
 
There are specific jobs to do – like being Chair of Governors (a huge job!), chairing a committee or being secretary of a committee. There is a clerk who will deal with the paperwork and take the minutes of the full governors’ meetings, but it is often a governor who minutes the committees. This may rotate or it may be down to one person. I started out as secretary of two committees and now I’m chair of a committee. It’s early days for me, but I know there’s going to be more work.
 
Each governor will  have a subject area they are responsible for – or maybe two or three. For me, it has always been literacy, which is a big love of mine. Subject governors will meet with the teacher who is the subject lead and observe lessons and look through children’s work to gain an understanding of the way the subject is taught and the progress being made across the school.
 
You serve a four year term and mine is due to finish early in the next academic year. I can’t automatically stay. If I want to carry on, I have to be elected by the parents. My kids will be in year 5 and year 3 by then. I won’t know the Reception and year 1 parents, they might want ‘one of their own’ to represent them, not a cyncial old bird like me.
 
There are different type of governor – parent (of course), authority (often a local councillor), community (someone from the local area) and partnership (to be honest I’m not sure who this differs from community!) and staff – the headteacher plus two members of staff, preferably a teacher and a member of support staff. This should make for a representative group of people – not all of whom have a tie to the school. The reality is, it’s a tough job for working age men because men usually work the longer hours, work away etc so I’ve known many men resign after a year or so. So the ‘representative’ group of people is usually mums plus retired men and women. At 39, I am still the youngest non-teacher on our governing body.
 
Being a governor is a responsible job, but it’s also fun. It’s valuable experience and, as a parent, a great way to to get to know the school better. It can give help you gain negotiation and business skills which would be useful in other areas of life. Although don’t forget that most of what you hear is confidential!
 
But as a grandparent or a non-parent it’s a great way to get involved in your local community too. Does your local school need more governors?
 
To find out more information about the campaign or to volunteer as a school governor visit http://www.becomeagovernor.com/.

There’s also a great YouTube video to tie in wih the campaign http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hnm6BV5ft-8&feature=youtu.be&noredirect=1

I was contacted to write this post by a representative of SGOSS. I am receiving no payment for this post and am writing it from my own experience as a school governor.

Author: Sarah Mummy

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17 Comments

  1. Brilliant post! I am a parent governor who looks after the SEN isuues. We too have a vacancy for a community governor which we are having difficulty filling. We do the meetings you describe above, and other stuff too. It is a commitment and pretty hard work, though there are governors who put in more than me! Next month I am attending an SEN governor regional conference where I will attend seminars on current SEN policy, and meet other school governors.

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  2. Thanks very much, I really appreciate that. We’ve just got a new partnership and new community governor – both retired men, but now we need ANOTHER partnership governor! SEN is hard work, but looks interesting and conference should be good. I’m one of the in-between governors – I work fairly hard, but there are those who work harder than me. And there are some who don’t seem to do more than just attend meetings…

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  3. I take my hat off to anyone who is willing to put themselves ‘out there’ by becoming a school governor. I imagine it to be hard work and therefore know my limits. You do a sterling job – well done!

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  4. Thanks very much! It is hard work, but no harder than lots of other things. It may seem hypocritical, but as a governor, I refuse to do all the PTA type stuff – I can’t think of anything worse than making cups of tea for people! I give a lot of time to the school – I also listen to readers, so I choose not to give my time in this way.

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  5. Very impressed with your commitment. I have done my time reading with the younger ones, but can’t currently due to Syd, but would be terrified of board type meetings!

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  6. Thanks very much. I learned that I just have to be myself in these situations – even if that means swearing sometimes! Well, I only did that once…

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  7. I am a parent governor too. you are right, it is hard work but very rewarding. I really enjoy it. great post x

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  8. Thanks very much! It’s good to know there are a few of us around. It is rewarding and hard work, but I do enjoy it. Was pondering whether to stand again when my time is up, but I will and I will leave it to ‘the people’ to decide if I can carry on. x

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  9. Interesting post, I’ve just been elected as school parent governor and I’m still unsure of what is expected of me. Hopefully, it will all become clear in time.

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  10. I applied to be a school governor for my daughter’s school. Unfortunately there was a higher than normal level of applications and unusually two men were appointed. Co-incidentally one of them is a teacher at the local senior school 🙂

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  11. Thnaks very much, Lesley, it really is! x
    Anne – good luck! It does take a year or so to work out what you’re supposed to be doing, but don’t hold back, just join in. The sooner you take part or volunteer for a job which is a little bit out of your comfort zone, the sooner you work it out.
    That’s a shame, LLC. Of course people will vote for teachers because they think they have a better understanding, but it’s not as neutral as someone who is ‘only’ a parent. As I said, men don’t always last, you may find those vacancies come up again sooner than expected!

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  12. Great work Sarah,I bet is is lots of time and work. Thanks for sharing with us at the hop 🙂

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  13. Ha not sure why I wasn’t following you? so glad I checked, now following hehe 🙂

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  14. Thanks very much, Claire, and you know I always love sharing on the hop! No worries about the following thing! Following isn’t my strong point, so I can’t expext to have too many followers in return!

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