Become an Educator on Board

Joining the governing board of a different school/trust offers a fantastic development opportunity for education professionals. By contributing your experience and expertise, you will provide effective support and challenge to another school, and the school where you work will benefit from the insight and skills you develop.

Here’s why you should volunteer

·         It’s a substantial, varied and valuable professional development opportunity

“You might go to a CPD session on how to become a great senior leader and think that was really interesting, but then might never think about it again. This is ongoing and the projects are constantly changing and involves a lot of people. I’m not in charge of how these things develop in the school I’m in charge of asking the right questions.” Sanum Khan (Middle leader, grammar school and governor, primary school: Buckinghamshire)

·         Be involved in a school/trust with a different context or culture: use your expertise to solve new challenges and see different ways of working

“You gain an understanding of how others do things and what your school could do differently on matters such as pedagogy, human resources and governance. You also get to see a different side to when you work with other schools, governing enables you to see the inner workings and why some schools do the things they do. After all, we are all striving for excellence.” Karen Giles (Headteacher, primary school and trustee, academy trust: London)

·         Develop and extend your strategic leadership skills, personal skills and job related skills in an education environment

“It’s been the best CPD I’ve had as a teacher. When I first started off in my career, it gave me opportunities to see things and be involved in things at a higher level and at a strategic level in schools, things I didn’t expect to be involved in for many more years into my career. It truly upskills you, to be able to have those types of strategic conversations which change your perspective, which you can take back to your own school.” Connor Acton (Teacher, secondary academy and trustee, academy trust: Leicester)

·         Get a strategic view of a school/trust: you’ll oversee budgets, human resources and long-term planning

“I have gained a much wider view of education and the ability to think strategically about areas such as finance and budgets. As a member of staff you only really know about the things you need to know about, things which affect you. As a governor you have the depth and a broad knowledge, and a much wider view of accountability. I now know about things that are outside my remit and look at how things all work together. I have a deeper understanding of the issues facing schools and apply these in my work.” David Rogers (Assistant principal, secondary academy and chair of governors, Church of England primary school: Littlehampton)

·         Build networks and connect with other education professionals and people from the wider community

“It’s great networking in the form of sharing things amongst schools and it opens the door to lots of opportunities and contacts in education and from the community which you wouldn’t get otherwise.” Amanda Marson (Senior leader, alternative provision primary academy and governor, primary school: Wolverhampton)

·         Gain a practical understanding of the role of governance in schools/trusts

“The experience of being on a governing board has helped me to better understand the role and governance. It’s also helped me to better work with governors in the school where I work and understand what they need to support their role of setting the school’s strategic direction and holding the SLT to account. It’s helped me to reflect on what our governors do and to support them more as well.” Andy Barnard (Assistant headteacher, grammar school and chair of governors, primary school: Gloucester)

·         Take professional pride in applying your knowledge and expertise to support another school/trust

“You’re just giving from the heart really, knowing that it’s bettering another community and another organisation. I’m not going to get that time back, but I don’t necessarily see it like that. Maybe because I’m from an educational background, I don’t see it as being about me and my needs, while I can manage doing it I will. I think I’m just very much aligned to their philosophy, so I just find the energy.” Nav Sanghara (Executive headteacher, primary academies and trustee, multi academy trust: London)

·         Broaden and deepen your knowledge and understanding of education issues and how they affect schools

“Governing gives you insight into changes and challenges before they affect you as a teacher. As a governor, you gain a knowledge of how things work, you know why SLT make the decisions they do and you have discussed it in detail.” Laura Ridley (Middle leader, secondary academy and governor, secondary academy: Coventry)

·         Reflect on your own practice, and the policies and practices of the school/trust you work in

“Being a governor is truly continuous professional development – I learn something new on every visit and in every meeting. It also strengthens your ability to reflect on your own practice within your normal environment – sitting on the other side of the governing table can really drive self-reflection.” Rob Leitch (Deputy headteacher, secondary school and Chair of Governors, secondary school: London)

·         Essential experience for aspiring future leaders

“I would actively encourage other education professionals to govern – if you are looking at headship, governing is as valuable CPD as the NPQH.” Alex Reed (Headteacher, primary academy and chair of governors, primary academy: Manchester)

It’s not just you who will benefit from the experience – both the school where you are employed and the school/trust you govern at will gain too.

Advantages for your employer

·         You will gain a strategic view of leadership in schools/trusts

·         You can apply your new experience and skills in your day-to-day role

·         You can bring back ideas, insight and knowledge from another school

·         You will be better equipped to work effectively with your school/trust’s governing board

·         You can build stronger relationships with local schools, trusts and networks

·         You will have important strategic leadership experience to support your school’s succession plan.

Contributing to effective governance

·         Your specialist knowledge and skills such as data, safeguarding or SEND will add valuable knowledge and perspective to the board you join

·         You will be able to offer robust challenge and support to executive leaders with your working knowledge of education and understanding of the profession

·         You will provide insight and ideas from a different phase, type or context of school

·         Your experience of working in a school can shape the culture and practice of another.

“A teacher from another school can be more independent, whilst knowing both the job role and governance. Teachers from outside the school can challenge more confidently and they can be a critical friend without worrying about challenge their employer or manager.” Dr Tracey Bailey (Chair of governors,  primary school in Milton Keynes)

About being a governor/trustee

Governing boards have three core functions:

1.       Ensuring clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction

2.       Holding the executive leader to account for the educational performance of pupils

3.       Overseeing the financial performance of the organisation and making sure money is well spent.

The average time commitment is between five and eight hours per month, and activities include preparing for and contributing to meetings, undertaking school visits, sitting on panels and undertaking training and development associated with the role.

About the Educators on Board campaign

Governing boards must have a balance and diversity of knowledge, skills and experience – including that of education professionals – to be effective. Teachers, middle leaders, senior leaders, school business professionals, trust central staff and others can make a valuable contribution to the governing board of a different school/ trust (to where they are employed), and access substantial, no-cost CPD.

National Governance Association (NGA) and Inspiring Governance – with the support of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), National Association of Headteachers (NAHT), TeachFirst, Chartered College of Teaching, Ambition Institute, Independent Schools Council and many more education sector organisations – are encouraging education professionals to consider the

opportunity and benefits of becoming a school governor/trustee, and if it suits your interests and circumstances, to volunteer.

How to volunteer

If you want to support another school/trust by joining their governing board, sign up to Inspiring Governance, the Department for Education funded service which connects volunteers interested in becoming a governor/trustee with schools that need them.

Using Inspiring Governance enables volunteers and schools to make connections outside of their established networks.

Sign-up to become an Educator on Board

Here is what representatives from those organisations had to say:

Dominic Judge, Director of Inspiring Governance at Education and Employers said “Teachers already do an incredible job and we are increasingly seeing them sharing their valuable expertise more widely through being placed as governors in local schools. Becoming a non-staff governor through Inspiring Governance is an easy way to develop your educational networks and broaden your strategic experience across other educational phases and contexts. Teaching is a demanding job, but we would love even more people to sign up to share and develop their skills through governance outside of their immediate school.”

NGA chief executive, Emma Knights, said “Governing boards need to make sure they have the right people around the table and that means including people who have educational knowledge and expertise. Boards, as the employer, will also benefit from creating a culture that enables staff in their school to go out and govern – they can bring back practice from other contexts and will have an understanding of what a governing board does. When considering succession planning to leadership positions, staff will also have experience of strategic leadership and working with a board. It is absolutely fabulous development for educationalists and I encourage teachers, middle leaders and senior leaders to consider governing.”

We encourage teachers and school leaders to consider the huge opportunities for career development in education that becoming a school governor offers, by signing up with Inspiring Governance. 

Appearing in short films to promote the opportunity, the campaign has won the support of:

Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) general secretary Geoff Barton, who says “As a leader, you are bound to be able to contribute to what the board is doing strategically and there will be ideas that you can bring back. There’s also professional development in what you can do for the other governing board, for what you can do for your own and what you can do for yourself. We want to encourage as many people as possible to become an educator on board.”

NAHT’s Director of Policy and NAHT Edge James Bowen, who says “Governors play an absolutely essential role in our school system… it can be hugely rewarding for those who do step up. The same goes for staff in school who decide to be governors too. By doing that you get to see leadership in a whole different context. In a sense it’s the best form of CPD you will ever get, particularly for aspiring leaders.”

TeachFirst CEO Russell Hobby, who says “It’s not possible for a school to fail if it has got good quality governance, so we are really keen to encourage our ambassadors and participants to play the role [of governors or trustees] – it’s good for the school and there’s also a lot in it for them. Insight into how a board operates – the kind of things they ask, the kind of things that motivate them – is absolutely crucial insight for those aspiring to a senior leadership role.” 

The Chartered College of Teaching’s chief executive Professor Dame Alison Peacock, who says “If you’re a teacher and you govern in another school, you gain the opportunity to learn about finances, about the way they organise their curriculum – it’s a fantastic form of professional development. I really recommend to you, if you are thinking of becoming a leader in the future or are just generally interested in education, join a governing board near you.”

Luke Tryl, Director, New Schools Network, who says ”Getting the right people around the table is key to a strong board, strong trust and strong results for young people. New Schools Network supports the call for independent educational expertise at board level, alongside financial and business acumen. Taking on a board role is an invaluable professional development opportunity for educators and particularly those considering the step up to CEO. Our Academy Ambassadors programme has seen experienced leaders flourish when they take on their first independent board role and New Schools Network looks forward to helping many more into this path”.

Ambition Institute interim CEO Melanie Renowden, who says “I thoroughly recommend getting involved in governance to education professionals. There’s a huge amount in it for you as an individual, you gain fantastic insight, you get brilliant professional development and you get to build your network… The schools and trust boards get all the benefit of your experience in the education sector and as an education professional you can really get to the business of giving all children a great education.”

Independent Schools Council chief executive Julie Robinson, who says “Great governors can be hard to find but those of us in education are well placed to serve with a ready-made understanding of education priorities and strategic issues. I would urge independent school teachers to consider becoming a governor in a state school – they can benefit hugely from the experience and we hope that teachers and school leaders will want to work together, sharing staff as governors across the country.”

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the School System Lord Agnew said: “The role of governance in our school system cannot be underestimated – it underpins our efforts to continue raising standards in our schools. Governors and trustees have a huge opportunity to make a positive impact, and we need even more people to come forward to invest in their local community, help shape young people’s futures, and to boost their own skills and experience.

“The NGA’s campaign will ensure a diverse range of voices on governing and trust boards, which helps schools to reflect the communities that they serve, and builds on the Government’s support for new and existing governors – offering a fantastic opportunity for school leaders to gain more experience and develop their own careers.”