Finance professionals: did you know that your skills are in high demand on school governing boards?
We spoke to Shiv Chowla, a senior manager at the Bank of England and Chair of Governors at Cleeve Park School in Sidcup, Kent, where he has been volunteering for almost three years. Read on to find out what inspired Shiv to get involved, how he has used his professional skills in the role, the benefits he has experienced – and why others with a background in finance should consider getting involved.
What inspired you to volunteer as a school governor?
I was keen to find a way to give back to the local community, and whilst thinking of how best to do that I was reminded just how much of a positive impact my experience at school had on me when I was growing up, so looking into volunteering as a governor was a natural thing to do. I registered my interest on the Inspiring Governance website, Cleeve Park School had a vacancy and I was contacted by the then Chair of Governors. We had a bit of a chat about the role and it seemed like a good fit. The school is actually close to where I lived as a child and I was really drawn to the fact that it was a role where the governing body could have a genuine and positive impact on the lives of the students.
What skills and insight have you brought to the governing board from your role at the Bank of England?
I work a lot with numbers in my role, which helps me interrogate and examine data in our governor meetings, finances, attendance or behaviour figure and charts for example. More generally, I’ve been trained in my day job to be comfortable asking challenging questions and I think that has come in really useful in the governor role, asking the right questions of the head teacher and the team to make sure we support the school in the best way.
What have you taken from volunteering as a governor back into the work setting and has this helped you in your role?
After 18 months on the governing board, there was an opportunity to fill the role of chair of governors and the head teacher encouraged me to go for it. That was quite a big step up as the role requires a whole new set of skills, with the ability to chair meetings obviously an important one! Managing a large group of people, each of whom want to have their voices heard, coupled with a sometimes complex agenda to get through – this has been really good training for me in my day job as well.
What have been the benefits of volunteering as a governor to you on a personal level?
It’s a really positive feeling to know that there is a group of a dozen people in the local area, all from very different backgrounds, who are united in wanting to make a difference, and that you are a part of it.
If you could pick one highlight of your time as a school governor, what would it be?
A couple of times a year we visit the school to meet the students. What has been really rewarding is seeing a dramatic change in the school since I started in the role – you can see the teachers providing increasingly engaging lessons, the students listening and responding positively, engaging with the subject matter and being tested on what they’re learning in real time. Seeing how that has changed and got better in just a few years is really satisfying!
Would you recommend the role of school governor to others?
Definitely! You can learn new skills, meet new people and take on a responsibility that directly impacts young people. Everyone can offer something of value to a school. You may not have known the impact of the governing body when you were at school yourself, and I think it’s a great way to pay it forward to help young people today get the best possible start.
Could you join Shiv and pay it forward?Read more about the role of school governor here