Meet Tanzila Samun: accountant and school governor volunteer

Research from the DfE into school and academy governance has highlighted that school/academy governing boards are continuing to seek volunteers who bring professional skill sets to the governing table, with one of the most sought after being finance. We spoke to Tanzila Samun, chartered accountant and volunteer school governor, to find out why she became interested in the role, what her financial skills bring to the board and why more accountants should consider the role.

My name is Tanzila Samun, I’m a qualified chartered tax accountant working for the Civil Service, based in Bradford, West Yorkshire. I joined Peel Park Primary School, which is local to me, as a governor just over a year ago, where I sit on the governing board as well as the Finance Committee because of my background in finance. The school were specifically looking for someone with finance expertise, and the rest is history!

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

One of the key reasons why I thought it was so important to volunteer as a school governor is that as a person of colour, it is important that children are able to see themselves in such roles. As a child growing up, I remember that when a governor came into school, you knew it was somebody important, and so I think it is essential that children can see themselves reflected in positions of seniority and understand that they too can achieve and become anything they choose to. I really think being in the role, and being visible, can help to inspire the next generation.

Alongside this, it’s equally important that the Board represents the community it serves to ensure the challenges of the community are considered when making important decisions that impact the school. I believe the Board should sufficiently represent the local community, whilst capturing a diverse range of age groups, backgrounds and experiences to ensure it provides sufficient challenge to senior leadership; the ultimate goal being to ensure the best possible educational provision for children.

I’ve always been really passionate about education and ensuring that children get the best start in life – prior to my governor role, I was involved in a schools outreach programme arranged through the Civil Service, going into local schools in areas with challenging socioeconomic backgrounds and volunteering wherever I could to support children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Bradford is my local community and where I’ve been born and raised, and I felt a governor role could provide me with an opportunity to represent and be the voice of my community, and give back.

What skills and insights have you brought, or beginning to bring to the governing board from your professional accounting background?

I’m a chartered certified accountant with eight years of finance experience across the public sector, so I’m quite accustomed to understanding government funding and how it works, which has also tied in nicely with understanding the funding structure in education. Being an accountant, you come to the table with a deep understanding of how finance is at the heart of every business, no matter whether it’s commercial or otherwise, and so with that in mind, I am able to contribute by providing financial insight, data analysis and contribute to strategic planning and decision making.

Are there any skills that you’ve taken from volunteering as a school governor back into the work setting, and has this helped you in your role?

Absolutely, the opportunity for growth has been amazing, not just in my working life, but also as a person. One of the key things I have learnt in the governor role is developing the confidence to challenge senior leadership and the ability to deal with challenging stakeholders and dealing with difficult situations in a constructive way.

If you could bust one myth about being a governor, what would it be?

I always wanted to volunteer as a governor but I didn’t anticipate that it would be at this stage in my life, I thought it was something for the future and wondered whether I was too young – I remember having this idea that the role is for more experienced people, but when we went into lockdown, it gave me that bit of a push to do whatever I could – I thought now was the time to get involved, and I’m so glad I did as I found that governors are a whole range of ages!

Would you recommend the role of school governors to other finance and accounting professionals?

Absolutely, I would definitely recommend it as it’s been an amazingly rewarding experience for me. It can sometimes be challenging, but I always feel such a sense of achievement after a governor meeting – knowing that the decisions you’ve made as part the governing board will directly impact 600 students at any given time and shape their current education experience, it truly fills the heart.

Want to join Tanzila and find out more about the role? 

Read more about the role of school governor here