Mili Malde: Department for Education and volunteer school governor

Mili Malde works in the Teaching Workforce Directorate, part of the Department for Education and volunteers as a school governor at Southgate School in North London. We spoke to Mili about her motivations for volunteering as a school governor, the experience and insight she brings to the governing board as well as the valuable skills she brings back into the workplace.

“My name is Mili Malde and I’m currently a Product Manager of the Teaching Vacancies service at the Department for Education. I’m a governor at the Southgate School in Barnet, North London (but officially it’s considered an Enfield school). It’s a coeducational, secondary academy with a sixth form and has a student population of around 1500. At Southgate, I’m the Teaching and Learning link governor, careers link governor and I sit on the Equalities Committee.

What made you initially decide to volunteer as a school governor?

I have always been really passionate about education and recognise the importance of having role models that students can relate to. My former CEO of an education-focused social enterprise was chair of governors at school and recommended that I become a governor. He said he became a governor at the age of 25 and that schools were looking for young, as well as older, governors. I thought you needed to have kids at the school to be a governor but he said I was wrong.

When I got my current job at DfE, I noticed that we were allowed up to 5 days of paid leave a year if we were a governor of a school. Furthermore, while I enjoy working on education policy and delivery at a national level, being a governor of a school allows me to connect more with an individual school and understand the challenges they face, and have a more meaningful impact on a local level within my community.

What skills and insight have you brought to the governing board from being part of DfE?

Working at DfE also gives me context and therefore allows me to bring a more in-depth knowledge of what is happening in the broader education space that other governors don’t have. In my role, I am constantly observing user research sessions with teachers and hiring staff at schools in order to develop my service and ensure it is user-centred. This gives me really good insight into other schools, how they are set up, the challenges they face, as well as teachers’ views, anxieties and preferences.

Working within the Teaching Workforce Directorate means I know first-hand new policies or frameworks are being rolled out across the teaching profession and how they might need to be adopted by schools, including the one I am a governor of. This additional insight means I don’t have to rely on what the leadership team at my school report back to the local governing body, but I can be more proactive in asking questions about these matters.

What skills have you taken from volunteering as a school governor back into DfE? How has this helped you in your role and possibly how has it led to better policy and delivery understanding?

Knowing how schools operate on the ground and having learned all the acronyms within schools enables me to understand some of the issues or problems we are looking to solve on my service, Teaching Vacancies. It gives me a baseline of understanding to then build on through more focused research and analysis that other colleagues don’t necessarily have. This informs how we prioritise and scope out problems or areas we want to look at more effectively, rather than spending more time exploring the problem space and having to do a lot of initial research.

Most of all, it has given me a real awareness of how much pressure there is on schools and how much they have to take on every day. Whenever we are making updates to our service and planning communications to schools, I bear this in mind and encourage my team to think very clearly about the message we are trying to convey and how it can best be articulated; we want to ensure they absorb the right information as efficiently as possible.

Would you recommend the role of school governor to others working in DfE or the Civil Service?

I would recommend the role of school governor to anyone at DfE as well as the wider Civil Service. While working at DfE gives you a better understanding of the policy and delivery issues at play in the school landscape, the value I bring to the governing body is engaging with the school, the data and the reports, and asking questions. It’s the time I put into reading everything, meeting with staff and other governors at the school, and constructively challenging the school to help them deliver the best possible education for the students.

The school leadership team view me as a ‘critical friend’, and I believe anyone with the skills we develop as civil servants and the time to volunteer is able to be one.”

Interested in joining Mili to make a difference by volunteering as a school governor?

Read more about the role of school governor here