Meet Fatema Mulla: civil servant and volunteer school governor

Fatema Mulla is a HO compliance officer at HMRC and volunteered as a school governor at Hyrstmount Junior school in Kirklees, West Yorkshire. Fatema tells us about what inspired her to get involved, her favourite moment and the skills she brought to the governing body – and the professional gains she brings back to her role in the civil service.

What initially inspired you to become a governor?

I wanted to help my community and give something back to improve the life chances of the next generation and leave a legacy. I had the time to commit, and I felt this was an ideal opportunity to do something worthwhile.

How did you find out about the role?

The role was advertised through the school website and a letter was sent to the parents of children who attended the school. I knew a little bit about the role and gradually as I attended more meetings the understanding developed. I was a critical friend to the SLT and was there to support and provide strategic direction.

The role was at a school that I had attended as a child and where all my children attended too. The area had seen an influx of children who had English as a second language and had poor attendance. This was affecting the key stage results as their attainment were lower than national averages. Reading had been an area of improvement highlighted in the previous Ofsted and as the current longstanding head was retiring, I was concerned the new head would not be able to meet the challenges as they would be new to the role and still inexperienced.

The school’s strength is that it is a hub for children from different backgrounds to learn and develop their understanding of each other. It’s central in the local area and has staff from different ethnicities which allow the school to draw from their expertise and promote better cohesion and instil a love of learning regardless of their abilities.

How long have you been a governor and what has your personal journey been like?

6 years. It has been a wonderful experience from the onset and the respect and appreciation I receive from parents and staff alike was heart-warming. I have been recognised when out and about and parents have approached me on many occasions, not just to applaud but to also share ideas for improvement, which I was always very interested to hear.

Have you taken on any additional roles in your time at the school?

I started as an elected parent governor, attending training sessions and networking to learn more about the role. I also shadowed a fellow governor for 3 months to understand at first-hand what was needed and develop my own understanding and confidence to challenge the senior leadership team. When the previous chair stepped down after 6 months I was voted in as the chair of the governing body, as well the finance lead. My mentor had recognised my enthusiasm for the role, and I knew I could also commit the time needed to fulfil the duties.

How manageable is the role with day-to-day life?

As I was a homemaker at the time the commitment was easily absorbed, and I could arrange meetings around my family routine. For those who work there is some adjustment needed but nothing that can’t be managed, and the rewards are worth it!

What’s been your most favourite moment so far and where do you feel your board has made a positive difference?

Receiving a Good rating in the Ofsted despite the many challenges on the way. The school also had the best stage 2 SAT results at the time, so it was the culmination of everyone’s hard efforts which was wonderful to see being fruitful. I also arranged for additional funding from local council members to refurbish an outdoor football pitch.

What skills do you think you have brought to the board and what personal and professional gains do you feel you’ve got from the role to bring back into your Civil Service role?

I have extensive local community knowledge and understand the needs and backgrounds. Knowing local council officials and businesses who can support the school was invaluable. I also used my mosque links to establish conversations around interfaith and cohesion.  All this has raised my own profile in the community and brought me immense personal satisfaction. I have developed my own leadership, recruitment, and performance management skills. I have also learnt to develop others to recognise their own potential and be a source of guidance.

Want to join Fatema and find out more about the role?

Read more about the role of school governor here