Regional Manager Blog- Richard Ellam

I was sat watching the News on TV one weekend during the early days of Covid 19 lockdown. Ignoring the accusatory looks from the dog over the reduction in walks, and the buzz of revelry from upstairs from my 18 years old stepdaughter on a zoom powered “girls’ night out”. When it suddenly hit me, how smile inducingly brilliant people can be. At the reports of all those selflessly signing up to volunteer and help others in the community. 250,000 civic spirited souls and counting.

Then it struck me again.  What about that other 250,000 strong volunteer force? The one we don’t often hear about.  That I work with every day, and which I also happen to be a member of.  I’m talking, of course, about school governors and trustees. (Think 23,000 schools needing roughly 11 governors/trustees each.)

Now, perhaps not everybody knows this, but every state funded school and academy in England has a board of these rocks of the community.  Local people like you and me, governing together, even now, during lockdown.  One big group cog, in that conflated mass of home workers and “give-backers”, beginning to wonder just like everybody else, however did we manage before the likes of whatever go to video communications platform is your poison, came into our lives.

I count myself fortunate to have met many of these special creatures.  Partly on the two boards I’ve served, but mostly in my day job of helping local schools across the length and breadth of England recruit many of these selfless, warm-hearted people as governors and trustees. Unfailingly what I find, is that they are each, to a person, passionate about helping to give our children and young people the best start in life.  Coming in all shapes and sizes, and from all different backgrounds, to challenge, support, and hold Headteachers to account, while helping to set the vision in our schools, in a role which I truly believe is more important than ever.

Yet, what most never realise, is that governance in our schools, despite its volunteers being such a noble bunch, is a transactional relationship like many others.  Except, in this case, everybody really is a winner.  Schools and academies, of which over half each year report difficulties recruiting volunteer governors, benefit from good, committed people, on their governing boards.  Volunteers themselves gain from developing boardroom level skills and experience. Whilst those progressive employers, the ones who actively encourage and support their staff to become involved and support their local schools, report noticeable benefits from a more skilled and happier workforce.  What’s not to like about any of this?

So, as I sit in front of lockdown TV this evening, slightly more frazzled, but definitely fitter, and more tanned than when it all began.  One of the few things I’ll be thinking of, on top of the obvious we all share, is how best to get all the wonderful volunteers giving back during Covid 19, along with the many others still to find their volunteering vocation, to join us? To become one of the original 250,000 and continue giving back as school governors and trustees.

I guess that’s why I wrote this during Volunteers’ Week.  To thank all of you amazing “give-backers” out there from the very bottom of our hearts, while extending you an invite.  You too can join the original 250K in 2020, by becoming a governor or a trustee in a local school or academy.  We’d truly love to have you on board.  Sign up today and begin your journey of making a difference in a local school.

Richard Ellam

Richard is the Midlands regional manager for Inspiring Governance, the national school governor recruitment service funded by the Department for Education (DfE), and a trustee at Denmark Road High School in Gloucester.