I became a Governor in one school after a few years of waiting until I reached 60 and effectively “retired” from the front line, having been invited onto the Governing body a few years before. It was a body in need of bodies, to ensure that meetings were quorate.
I’d like to think that it was for my lifetime in front line education and continuing involvement in specific areas, such as inclusion and parent partnership, as well as initial teacher education. Governors bring a wealth of expertise into a school and can act as critical friends as well as supporting the school in the development agenda.
Getting a “good” after an Ofsted inspection was testament to the hard work of the staff and management, including the Governing body. It also bought further time for necessary continuous development.
After a few years, a second school identified itself as being in even greater need of support, so I did a transfer having worked with the recently appointed Executive Head and Head of School in my ITE role. We had enjoyed many interesting exchanges of ideas, which they felt would help their new agendas, in a school with a very chequered history.
As Governor with particular responsibility for coordinating with SEND and inclusion, pupil premium and vulnerable children, I have been able to spend quality time with different staff, enabling them to articulate their developmental focus and actions, clarifying our joint understanding where necessary and occasionally offering areas where additional thought might be useful.
All visits to the school in any capacity as a Governor are written up and shared with the body, to ensure everyone is aware of what’s happening.
Where I am still involved in education, I also buy, receive and read a wide range of books. Where these could add something to the school, they are offered and have evidently been of value. I would especially mention Paul Dix, Jarlath O’Brien and Mary Myatt’s recent books on behaviour and ethos as having been well-thumbed. I have struggled to get the books back on occasion…
Twitter occasionally throws up interesting reads, too, so these are forwarded for information. This did occasion the school’s involvement with the Maximising the Impact of Teaching Assistants process, led by Rob Webster, which over the past year has developed significant conversations within the staff as a whole.
The Governor role is an interesting one, in that, while Governors are included in the Leadership and Management area of Ofsted, we are always at one remove from the day to day realities, which is why I feel that my school visits are essential, to fit the imagery with the reportage. It would be easy to take everything at face value, especially if you value the management and their work. I know that both the Executive Head and HoS value the conversations and the challenges that arise. This has been noted in discussion with the allocated LA inspector.
For all that, though, I am probably one of the quieter members of the Governing body, preferring to reflect before speaking. Governor meetings can become reactive in nature, and we all know that “stuff happens” in schools, but a reflective Governing body is more likely to support progress, avoiding creating “busy work” and distractions from the day job for already pressed managers. A reflective body is also more likely to look at itself and the roles, to add some value to the journey.
The education system is a bit like an Airfix kit; the bits have to go in the right place, with the right amount of glue, if the finished model is to look like the picture on the box. As in many reorganisations in education, there isn’t always a very clear picture on the packaging, so bits are in danger of being put in the wrong place.
With an emphasis in 2019 on the school curriculum, keeping sight of the school picture will be even more important.
Strong Governance needs to be a part of every school, but it needs a strong local base, supported by a supportive, easily available, local centre of information. I’m lucky that my LA still retains a Governor Service providing up to date training opportunities.
Like all school development, it never ends, simply because it is a human system, subject to human frailty as well as strengths. It only achieves through the efforts of others. It’s my pleasure to be able to continue offering support and occasionally some mentoring based on experience.