Sign Up to Step Up: why I govern in schools and why you should too

The second week in January is traditionally the peak week for people searching for a volunteering opportunity! Perhaps the ‘new year, new me’ effect (combined with a sobering first week of work) leads more people to seek greater meaning in their life by giving something back to their local communities.

It’s been incredible to see an army of people step up to volunteer to support the NHS’s booster vaccination campaign, but what we need alongside this is more brilliant volunteers in 2022 to support our other front line workers – headteachers and schools –  supporting them to tackle the tough challenges that the Covid pandemic continues to throw at them and our young people.

250,000 fantastic school governors/academy trustees already do this, helping schools to set their vision, supporting and challenging headteachers to achieve the best educational outcomes for children, and ensuring money in schools is well spent.

Schools get a huge amount from these governors giving their time, skills, and expertise… but governors also get huge rewards from this strategic role too. Dominic Judge, Director of Governance programmes at Education and Employers explores these rewards, by looking at what has kept him governing for the last 15 years…

My first governing role: I didn’t envisage overseeing the closure of the school!…

When I worked at the National College of School Leadership in Nottingham a small group of staff volunteered weekly to attend a reading club with pupils at a local primary school up the road. The school was 100 years old, the alma mater of legendary Newcastle and Man Utd striker Andy Cole and served a hugely diverse, inner city catchment with a large percentage of (EAL) children who had English as a second language.

Reading with pupils was rewarding but when the school asked for volunteers to make a more strategic contribution as part of the school’s governing board, I took the opportunity immediately. Over the next three years the governing board had to recruit a new headteacher, undergo an Ofsted inspection, celebrate the school’s centenary, and oversee the closure of the school itself due to a challenging ‘surplus places’ capacity review by the local authority.

I learned a huge amount from being part of my first governing body: how to reach diverse audiences; discussing and advancing a common cause with an eclectic mix of fellow governors (parents and local professionals); showing support to executive teams through uncertainty; the need to communicate changes clearly to vested stakeholders; how to work effectively with politicians and the school’s parents; and how to ensure you value all your people when subject to the most challenging of circumstances.

In short, I learnt about leading change; invaluable grounding and lessons I was able to translate into my professional career in the public and charity sectors, where change has perhaps been the one constant over the last two decades.

Find out how arson played a part in Dominic’s second governing role in tomorrow’s installment!

Schools need your help – sign up to step up…

Feeling inspired to explore volunteering as your new year challenge? If you want to step up then please sign up. Schools need you!

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