Volunteer Blog – Isabel Churcher

Are you looking for a unique professional development opportunity where you can make a difference to your community and meet amazing people…that costs nothing? Try being a School Governor! Isabel Churcher, Senior Manager, Museums, tells us how she has been enjoying the experience and how you can get involved.

I became a governor for Holyhead School in Handsworth, Birmingham 18 months ago. It’s a deprived community that is being supported by community cohesion projects, and has an incredibly ambitious secondary school at its heart.

I have been on Boards before and I was keen to contribute to another one to give something back to society. But working at the Arts Council often creates conflicts with so many of the cultural organisations I want to support, so I had to look elsewhere.

When an opportunity arose to become involved in a school only 3 miles from my home but very culturally different, I was delighted to get involved.

What do I enjoy about being a School Governor? I feel I am making a real difference for the 1300 pupils. Besides all the usual Governor responsibilities, I wear my ‘arts and culture hat’ to influence what the school does. I give the arts staff a lot of moral support, access to networks and I am currently supporting their application through Artsmark. Giving out awards at their annual Presentation Ceremony held at the prestigious Birmingham Town Hall is a highlight, partly because it’s a showcase for the many arts and cultural activities at the school.

I get involved in a wide variety of issues: such as contributing to the vision for the school, strategic decisions and budget planning. This gives me valuable experience that I couldn’t get at work and supports my professional and personal development. I am improving my breadth of perspective and my ability to make effective judgements, in line with our behaviour framework. I particularly enjoy the stimulating conversations I have with other Board members when we get together at meetings.

It’s fascinating getting to know a different sector and a different sort of Board.  We are encouraged to ask great questions and to challenge the senior staff, as these are noted in the minutes to help inform their Ofsted rating. This helps develop my ability to ask challenging and supportive questions to senior staff.

It’s not all fun. For example, sitting on exclusion panels is probably one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had. You see a young person struggling to cope and yet there is relatively little the school can do to help. But it enables me to meet people and experience situations that I wouldn’t do in my normal day to day life. And it has made my life much richer.

If you are interested in finding out more you can access resources and a role description for a school governor on both the Inspiring Governance and the National Governance Association (NGA) website.

Alternatively, email Inspiring Governance or email the NGA with any questions you may have.

This blog was published with the permission of Isabel Churcher.