Name: Nii Tagoe
Job: Procurement Officer at Transport for London
School name: Unity Academy Trust which includes Gravel Hill Primary School and Uplands Primary school, Belvedere, London
Time as governor: 3-4 months
Despite being relatively young to be a school governor, Nii Tagoe, 27, fully believes that children deserve the best possible education and he is keen to contribute to that.
“I’ve always been interested in education,” says Nii. “Borrowing a phrase from Whitney Houston, ‘I believe the children are our future’. I’ve always been a believer that children should have the best possible education. I’m interested in education as a whole and this is a starting point. I’m trying to understand the future and direction the Department of Education is moving in and to see if I can help in any way to provide real and sustainable education that prepares children for life.”
Nii has been a governor for four months and is still learning how the schools in his academy trust can benefit from his expertise. But he has already pinpointed a clear way to help through his training as a mental health first aider.
“There’s been a big push on mental health awareness,” says Nii. “It’s all about creating a healthy environment to discuss any concerns and issues, and provide a supportive environment for them to also deal with any mental health issues. That of course goes hand in hand with their ability to teach the children and also look after themselves as well.”
Nii is a qualified mental health first aider, something he gained through Transport for London.
“I went through my training and I’m able to have informal conversations with my colleagues who are able to trust me and talk through any concerns or issues they may have.
“I’m able to transfer that into my role as board of trustees and I’ve tried to push that on to the agenda for the school as a whole as much as I can.
“I realise the impact mental health can have and if you take it seriously enough, it will make a massive difference to the feeling in the school. People are there to listen to you if you are open. That’s been vital for me. I’m just happy to pass on my experience.
“There’s a good system in place for safeguarding but it’s not the same for mental health so I’m just trying to put mental health on a par.”
But that’s not the only area Nii hopes to effect change. His skills in stakeholder management and also his commercial awareness thanks to a previous career in retail all help him to look at the schools’ needs and give pertinent advice.
“I work in stakeholder management, so I can help managing the main stakeholders that make up the academy trust. This includes everyone from teachers to parents to governors to the children themselves. I understand there is a commercial element to the school in terms of securing certain projects, and also doing marketing and advertising too.”
Nii is throwing himself into the process of allowing more schools to join the academy trust and deciding what the caveats and requirements would be for those primary schools.
However, as is the case with governance, Nii has also taken some key skills from his role on the board to his workplace.
“I’ve really appreciated the whole diplomatic approach and democratic process,” says Nii. “You might have an idea, but the majority vote wins in terms of making decisions. That’s something I really appreciate. People might be very competent in various areas, but being able to vote brings them together, you don’t seem to upset anyone.
“That diplomatic and democratic approach to making decisions is definitely something I’ve taken into my personal life and utilised it at work as well. To make sure we’re all on the same page and moving in the same direction.”
And Nii is keen that others look to governance, but he stresses the importance of understanding the seriousness and responsibility that comes with the role.
“I’m passionate about it. It’s a process that takes a while; you have to declare your interest and there’s an interview stage, then there’s the whole DBS process and then you’re confirmed as a governor. Obviously, it’s good to do and you’re contributing to your community and the future, which is the children.
“I would persuade people to seriously consider it, but they should think about what they want to give and what they want to get out of it. It’s about balance, giving but getting some self-satisfaction.
“The main thing I’d tell them is spend some time with yourself. Have some introspective time and ask where are you are in your life. Do you have the physical and mental time to deliver?”
Nii credits Inspiring Governance as instrumental in creating his awareness of the opportunities available in becoming a governor.
“I monitored the website periodically for opportunities and had to create a personal profile, upload my CV and state why I was interested in the role. Schools on the Inspiring Governance platform had access to my personal profile and could contact me via the platform to arrange a meeting eventually leading to an interview.”Sign up to be a governor