Tom Gardiner

School: Cheney School

Location: Oxford

Occupation: Medical student at Oxford University

Favourite pastime: I’m directing this year’s Tingewick pantomime at the hospital – it’s put on by 5th year, and stars 4th year, medical students. It’s a light-hearted, satirical and, hopefully, hilarious (tbc) production. It’s all in aide of this year’s two fantastic Tingewick charities: the Against Malaria Foundation and the International Rescue Committee.

Why did you decide to become a governor?

Our state education system is something to be immensely proud of and I’ve wanted to give something back ever since arriving at university.  I think there are a lot of insights and ideas that us young folk can bring to the table so, as well as volunteering on the ground, I wanted to see if helping govern the school from a strategic perspective might be something I’m suited to and can contribute to positively.

Thinking back on your time as a governor, what are you most proud of?

If I’m honest, making that first step to apply to, and then integrate with, the governing body. I had my preconceptions about what it would be like but it’s a lot more accessible than I ever imagined. In the short time I’ve been at Cheney I’ve been privileged to contribute to important discussions about how the school is run, including a re-vamp of the leadership team structure and the selection of a new Head of School. Most of all, interacting with the students as a governor has reminded me just why I’m doing this, so long may it continue!

Funniest moment as a governor?

Clearly I haven’t aged too much during my time at university because I’ve been told off a couple of times now for loitering around in corridors, having been mistaken for a student. It’s always a good laugh, though a little awkward, when I tell them I’m just waiting to head into the governors meeting…

Why would you encourage individuals in their 20s to become governors?

I think people my age have a unique perspective on education. This provides a significant, untapped opportunity to develop the governance of our schools. What’s more, volunteering as a governor is a tangible way for young people to develop a broad base of transferable skills, regardless of the career they wish to pursue.

What advice would you give to young adults about to attend their first meeting as a governor?

Be bold and break the mould. I’ve found the governing body at Cheney to be immensely welcoming and I’ve been encouraged to get stuck in at meetings and when engaging with students. Don’t be afraid to let your voice be heard because, I promise you, whilst we might be younger, we have a lot to offer. It’s about helping create an environment where our opinions are valued and respected.

Anything else you’d like to add?

One of my guiding principles when it comes to education is that, regardless of our background, race, gender, sexuality, we should all be afforded equal opportunities to learn in an inspiring, unprejudiced environment. Nothing should have to hold us back. That’s the message we should be sending to young people and, if I can contribute just a bit to that, then I think it’s worth doing.

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