My name is Liam Anderson, I am head of design and technology at a large comprehensive 11-18 academy and have been teaching for 8 years. I am also a co-opted governor at a local state-maintained primary school and have been in post for just over 12 months.
What first inspired you to volunteer as a school governor?
I think what first got me interested in being a school governor was my thirst to further develop my professional knowledge as a teacher and educator and saw becoming a governor as a great way to do this. I am also an aspiring senior leader and before becoming a governor, did some research into what school governance was all about and I could see that governance was a brilliant way to develop my knowledge and understanding of strategic and operational work within schools, that would benefit my career progression to becoming a senior leader. The primary school I approached when a role became available is also the primary school that I attended as a child! So, for me, it was also about getting involved with my local community, which I obviously know really well. This primary school in particular is a special place to me that I wanted to support with their ongoing development for all of their young people they educate.
What skills and insight have you brought to the governing board from your professional background as a teacher?
As an experienced teacher and head of department, I feel that I have been able to bring particular insight and expertise to the school’s work on supporting the development of their teaching and quality of curriculum. Being somebody with ‘boots on the ground’ as a teacher in my own school, I also believe I am able to offer different perspectives and insights and compliment those of others on the governing board who may not be from an education background themselves. This has allowed me as a governor with supporting others on the governing board to provide appropriate and necessary questions, challenge and support to really help drive forward the work of the school and be honest, open and reflective between the governing board and the headteacher and other senior leaders. This has helped me personally to develop the confidence to ask questions and have a better understanding of the school’s current position and how they can further develop. One of the other insights I feel I have been able to bring is the understanding of the school community, having attended the school myself as a child and also living very locally, I understand the demographic, which can again support posing the right questions and challenge when discussing key matters for the school’s strategic direction and understanding the context and backdrop of the school’s position.
What have you taken from volunteering as a school governor back into your work setting and has this helped you in your role?
In my day to day role as a teacher and head of department, I have been able to take so much back about the wider 360 view of school life and how organisations work and operate at the top level. I suppose I had not really fully considered or understood this before and was only ever really focused on the department that I worked in. But since being a governor, I have better understood the wider level decision making in schools and organisations and the factors that play into operational and strategic decisions beyond my own immediate remit as a teacher within my classroom or department. It has also grown my professional knowledge of teaching and education, including management and leadership of schools and school accountability such as interplay with organisations such as the Department for Education, Ofsted and working with local authorities that then influence the work of schools and top level decision making.
What have been the benefits of volunteering as a governor to you on a personal level?
On a personal level I have found the most rewarding and beneficial aspect to be knowing that I can play a small part in, and have an impact on, giving young people within the school community the best start in life and best possible school and education experience. Also, being able to meet and network with new people on the governing board and staff within the school has also been great and has allowed to me have some really interesting conversations and connections that I would not have otherwise had.
What are the benefits of being a governor for young people?
So many…! I remember when I first started exploring being a governor and was unsure whether, as a young teacher at 28 years old, I would have enough experience and the right knowledge for the role. However, I wanted to challenge myself and push beyond my comfort zone and could also see this as a great opportunity for my own professional development, which I would say is the biggest benefit for young people becoming a governor. I believe the skillset and knowledge gained from being part of a team on a governing board can help to kick start professional development and opportunities for career progression at a young age, with the new knowledge and skills gained to put on applications and CVs. Governing boards are also made up of so many different people from different backgrounds – not all are from education – so there is also lots you can learn from the different voices and experiences of those on a governing board too, for example, for me about safeguarding and finance; two things I did not have very deep knowledge on previously, but was able to learn about this from others.
If you could pick one highlight of your time as a school governor, what would it be?
The highlight moment for me so far, was being involved with a workshop to redevelop and relaunch the school’s values. All stakeholders at the school – pupils, support staff, teaching staff, parents, governors – all were involved in these discussions. For me as a governor, this gave me my first opportunity to meet with staff and parents and be able to really discuss what’s important to everyone at the school when considering what the school’s new values would be. It was so insightful to hear from parents in particular about what they believe are important for their children and what they saw as being important for the school community and I felt really privileged to be involved in these discussions and understand even better the diversity and inclusivity of the school in 2023. It created a real sense of belonging being immersed in the culture and community of the school and it was a delight to be part of that experience I would otherwise would perhaps not have had, if I was not a governor.
Would you recommend the role of school/college governor to other young people?
Absolutely! Particularly for young teachers and leaders in schools, but in fact, any career, school governance will give you that high level insight into organisational leadership from both strategic and operational perspectives, which I believe can be so empowering to help develop and progress your career as a young person. Also, diversity is super important for school communities and particularly on governing boards and having young voices can bring new energy, insights and ideas that will be valued and listened to. Take a risk and give it a go… you will not regret it – it has certainly been a fantastic step and choice for me!
Huge thanks to Liam for sharing his story with us!
Young people bring so much to the governing board, and there are so many benefits to getting involved. If you’d like to find out more, sign up today and view vacancies in your local area.Read more about the role of school governor here