West Cumbria currently has a shortage of volunteers offering to be school governors, don’t let our region down, read on and find out more about what being a governor could mean to our communities and for you as an individual. Find out how you can make a difference.
The current list of Governor/Trustee vacancies is as follows:
- Bransty Primary School
- Holm Cultram Abbey C of E School
- Moor Row Community Primary School
- Lowca Primary School (Chair of Governors and Vice Chair)
Have you ever thought of becoming a school governor or trustee?
OK, so you’ve pondered on becoming a school governor (or a trustee¹) but maybe you thought you were not qualified because you don’t have children at all or don’t have children at a local school. This does not mean that you cannot become a school governor. The only specific requirement to become a school governor is that you are over 18 years of age.
There are different types of governors — a “parent governor” is elected by the parent body. It is worth noting that to become a “parent governor”, you do not need to have a child at the particular school, only have a child of school age under 16. To be a “co-opted governor” you need to have the skills and experience that the governing board require.
With regard to skills, it’s worth noting that business management, finance skills and leadership have been found to be the most desired skills for school governors. Indeed, the Government set up the Inspiring Governance scheme with the specific aim of
“increasing the number of volunteers, especially those with business-related skills and with diverse backgrounds, serving as governors and trustees in schools”
So, by taking your business and finance skills onto a school board, you are not just playing your part, you are filling a real need of your local community.
You will often see ‘governor’ and ‘trustee’ used together in much of the literature. This is because for MATs (Multi Academy Trusts — Trusts that are responsible for the operation of more than one Academy), the role of school governor is termed a ‘trustee’ as the governing body is called a trust board. To keep this document easy to read, we have used ‘governor’ throughout but everything written here applies to the role of trustee too.
Could you be a governor or trustee? Why not? Schools need you!
Schools need governing boards that have a balance and diversity of knowledge, skills and experience. It can be a challenging but hugely rewarding role. It’s an opportunity to give back and to use and develop your skills in a new environment.
Anyone aged 18 or over can become a school governor. No specialist qualifications are required, the aim is to create a diverse board of governors with a mix of skills and experience providing a strong and effective leading body to question and support the school.
Being a governor allows you to develop and gain new skills, you’ll be provided with training all of which offers up some great transferable skills for other areas of life and work.
What is the difference between a governor and trustee?
It all depends on the type of school you govern in – if the school is controlled by the local authority or is a faith school you will be known as a governor, and if you govern on the board of a single or multi academy trust you will be a trustee. If you govern on the board of a school that is part of a multi academy trust, you may be known as a local academy committee member. The role of governors and trustees are largely the same but there are important distinctions. When governing in a multi academy trust, some responsibilities will lie with the trust board and others with the local academy committees – check the scheme of delegation of the trust to find out about this.
There are also different categories of governor including parent, staff and local authority. If you do not have a connection of this nature to the school, you will be a co-opted governor invited to join the board for the skills you can contribute. The type of governor you will become depends on your situation; however all governors have the same roles and responsibilities once part of the governing board.
What do governors and trustees do?
The governing board provides strategic leadership and accountability in schools. It has three key functions:
- Overseeing the financial performance of the school and making sure its money is well spent
- Holding the headteacher to account for the educational performance of the school and its pupils
- Ensuring clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction
As a governor or trustee, you will be able to:
- use your own experience of education and life beyond school to inform conversations
- develop and utilise your skills in a board-level environment
- make a valuable contribution to education and your community
- support and challenge the school so that it improves for pupils and staff
- bring your unique experiences, perspectives and insights in to decision-making in the interests of the school community
What will I have to do?
- be fully committed to the role
- be willing to learn
be discreet, open minded and fair
- be willing to raise questions constructively and participate in discussion and decision-making
be prepared to participate in the life of the school
- have the time to attend governors meetings and training
- be open to new ideas and ready to learn
- engage with pupils, staff, parents and the school community.
- Oversee the financial performance of the school, making sure the money is well spent.
- Volunteer between 5 – 8 hours per month.
Each school sets a term of office for its governors, usually 2-4 years although many governors serve multiple terms. Most governing boards hold their meetings in the evenings. As far as your normal employment goes, employees have a right to reasonable time off to work for their public duties (like being a school governor) — although this time may be unpaid.
What are the benefits to me?
- Give back to an education system we all benefited from.
- A sense of wellbeing from sharing and helping out.
- Helping improve the life chances of children
- Build stronger links with your local community
- Gain experience of thinking strategically and discussing high level decisions
- Develop your ability to engaging and challenge stakeholders at all levels
- Maintain or develop your communication, teamwork, budgeting, problem-solving and management skills
- Have an impact on the skills of young people and standard of education
- An opportunity to work with a diverse range of people.
If you are someone who is not currently in a leadership role at your company, being a school governor can be a great way of showing that you’re ready to take more responsibility.
So, as well as being a place for you to use your existing skills to assist the running of the school, being a school governor is a golden opportunity for you to develop new skills and enhance existing ones in a different environment from your workplace. This will not only help improve your standing with your current employer but will also contribute to an enhanced CV for the future.
How does being a Governor benefit my employer?
It is true that some employers can be reluctant to support their staff in volunteering to be a governor. But this is often because of a misunderstanding about the role, believing that it will involve numerous daytime meetings, take up a lot of time and prove a distraction for the employee from their work. This is rarely the case.
Your employer will benefit from you further developing your skillset, becoming more experienced at strategic planning, financial management, influencing and teamwork. Research by the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) showed the full potential of employee development that can be demonstrated through volunteering.
By enabling and supporting employees to volunteer as school governors, an employer is building a more motivated and loyal workforce. Research has shown that 76% of volunteers said it had a positive influence on how they feel about their employer, 87% believed that volunteering improved their understanding of issues affecting their community and a whopping 95% said that volunteering had a positive influence on them.
So, by supporting your employee to volunteer to be a school governor, you are contributing to a happier, more skilled and more motivated workforce. See Employee Volunteering for more details on the benefits for business. Further, it is always good for an employer to be seen to be supporting their local community.
So what now?
If you are interested in becoming a school governor or trustee please get in touch with the Primary Business Partnership who will invite you to fill out a skills audit. This will then be used by Cumbria County Council to link your skills to the right role.
Useful documents for people considering becoming a Governor
Ann-Marie Steel, Chair of Governors at Eaglesfield Paddle Academy shares her experience.
“ I’m Ann-Marie and I am Chair of Governors at Eaglesfield Paddle Academy. I have been a governor for 8 years and Chair for the last 5 years. I became a governor to give back to the education system that all my children have benefitted from. I strongly believe our children deserve the very best start they can have and schools need support with their strategic direction and decision making to allow children to reach their potential.
The role allows you to gain a variety of new skills and be able to share the and develop the ones you already have, from Finance, risk management, recruitment and health and safety to name but a few. I would strongly encourage anyone to think about the role. It’s not all work, we do enjoy fun times too with school trips, parties and residentials.”
Henry Hickling, Governor at Westfield School in Workington
“I became a school governor because I wanted to understand more about the education system and how that impacts on the lives of people not only in the local area but also further afield in Cumbria. The school I am part of has its own unique set of challenges and that is what makes it so interesting – although there is some time commitment, it is nice to know you are hopefully making a difference.”