Eileen Wong is a senior business change manager for the Race Delivery Programme at HMRC and volunteers as a school governor. We spoke to Eileen about how she has used the skills in the role to make meaningful changes for the children at her school, the personal benefits she has experienced and why other civil servants should consider the role too.
What made you initially want to get involved in volunteering as a school governor?
I’ve always liked volunteering at the school with the PTA or reading with children, but felt that I could use my skills to support the school more. The school has been great to my children and I wanted to give something back to them and to the community I live in.
What skills and insight have you brought to the governing board from your professional background?
As civil servants, we develop lots of useful skills for being a governor. I used my analytical skills to really scrutinise financial documents and headteacher reports, examining contracts and weighing up options to make the right decision for the school. What I enjoy most, is making use of my strategic, stakeholder engagement and project management skills on the governing body to ensure we bring in the right expertise for a problem and ensure our conversations are outcome based so that we are not just a talking shop!
What have been the benefits of volunteering as a governor to you on a personal level?
The biggest benefit is playing a key role that influences the school experience for my own, and other children, for the better. I’m at the heart of the decision-making body and have access to all the internal information which makes the school tick. That inside information and being able to influence gives me the assurance and confidence that my children are being taught at a high standard.
If you could bust one myth about volunteering as a school governor, what would it be?
Many people are put off as they think they need to invest a lot of time and energy to be a governor, this is not the case as you can decide on how much or little you want to take on.
If you could pick one highlight of your time as a school governor so far, what would it be? Tell us about it…
I’m equally passionate about Equality, Diversity & Inclusion inside and outside of work and I wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity to bring my whole self as a governor to ensure the school was inclusive.
The school has a diverse mix of children in terms of race, ability and social mobility which means it has a relatively high percentage of children who qualify for free school meals and children where English is not their first language. The school was already providing as much support as they could, but more was needed to ensure these children reached their attainment levels.
I advocated for a holistic approach by supporting the parents of these children. Using my stakeholder engagement skills, I persuaded external providers to work with the parents to develop their English and maths skills and I influenced the school to provide sessions on teaching the parents modern methods of learning maths and English so that they can support their children at home.
The strategy resulted in positive attainment levels for the majority of the children and I was so pleased at how receptive the school was to the idea of surrounding the child with a positive holistic learning experience. I demonstrated to the school that with the right strategy, and the willingness to do more, meant every child had the potential to thrive.
Would you recommend the role of school governor to other professionals with a background in education? Please tell us why….
Absolutely. I don’t even think having a background in education is necessary as you pick up education terms and acronyms over time as you would in work. We all have skills we can share and we all have a voice we can use to be that critical friend to a school so that they are accountable for the decisions they make which may have a huge impact on the future of our children. So yes, I’d recommend being a governor. I enjoy it so much that I’m doing a second term!
Interested in joining Eileen as a volunteer school governor?Read more about the role of school governor here