You can help schools improve

Published on: 07 Sep 2015

IT isn’t only children and staff who are going back to school this month – governors will be getting back into action too.
Scores of volunteers in the Downend area play a vital role in helping oversee the development of schools.
And, contrary to what many people believe, you don’t have to have a child who’s a pupil – or even be a parent at all – to be a governor. Nor do you need an existing link with a school, or a background in education.
Governors come from all walks of life and a successful governing body will be made up of a wide range of people who bring different skills and experiences.
Maggie Todd, chair of governors at Stanbridge Primary, said: “It is really important to have members who are not already connected with the school as staff or parents. We need that outside eye that community governors can bring.”
Jim Lott, chair of governors at The Tynings School in Staple Hill, has been a governor for about 25 years.
He began by volunteering as a parent governor at Brimsham Green School in Yate, where his son was a student. The head asked Jim, who was a software development engineer at British Aerospace,  to stay on as a community governor, and he later became chair.
More recently, he has moved into primary school chair of governor roles, helping staff get Stanbridge out of Ofsted special measures in 18 months before moving on to give The Tynings Primary a lift after it hit a rough patch. Both schools are now rated good, and Jim expects to take on a new challenge this autumn.
At Stanbridge, Jim and his fellow governors – including Maggie, his successor as chair,  and the head Faye Bertham – won a national award for the way they had helped the school improve so rapidly.
Maggie, a civil servant, became a parent governor three years ago and said she had found the work fascinating. She brought skills from her day job into the governing body and has developed her expertise in a number of areas, including budget management, health and safety, facilities management, as well as increasing her knowledge of the education sector.
“It is very much a partnership role, taking a strategic view of the school,” she said.
“Governors can serve on various committees, such as curriculum and personnel. We also have link governors, who specialise in a particular subject area.
“One of the best things about it is meeting the children themselves, seeing their enthusiasm and getting to know what they think.
“It is also very rewarding to know that you are helping to improve the school.”
Both Maggie and Jim emphasised that potential volunteers should not be put off by thinking they do not know enough about schools and how they are run, because South Gloucestershire Council provides excellent training, starting with induction and covering many different aspects.
Jim, who is now retired, had a professional background in training, so he helps deliver some of  the governor courses, as well as taking part in others. He is a member of the Schools Forum, which decides on financial allocation, and is chair of South Gloucestershire Governors’ Association.
“The Government is putting more and more onus on governance,” he said.
“Governors are there to provide support and challenge.”

Being a governor

“There can never have been a more important time in our country’s recent history to be involved in education. We need skilled and motivated governors who are committed to transforming our schools.”
That’s the view of Schools Minister Lord Nash. So, if  you are interested in becoming a governor, find out more at the SGOSS (School Governor One Stop Shop) website, www.sgoss.org.uk, email info@sgoss.org.uk or call 020 7354 9805.
The average time commitment is 10-15 hours per term. This includes meetings, background reading and school visits.
School governors are like magistrates or members of a jury and therefore have a right to reasonable time off work for their public duties (this may be unpaid).
The term of office is four years. However, as a volunteer you can resign at any time if your circumstances change.
The Tynings School and Stanbridge Primary both have governor vacancies. Email thetynings@sgmail.org.uk or admin@stanbridgeprimary.org.uk

 

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