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?
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.