I was presenting an induction training course to new governors recently and someone asked me how and why I became a governor. Shortly afterwards someone suggested I share some of my experiences from over 20 years of school governance.
So this is the first of a planned series of ‘blogs’ about my experiences as a governor at both primary and secondary level, in schools that each gained Outstanding status. It will cover the trials and tribulations of being a school governor in an ever changing education world, chairing committees and being Chair of Governors, the transition to Academy status and some of the other challenges faced along the way.
How it all started……..
I guess my route to becoming a school governor was similar to many parents. My eldest child started at the local primary in the early 90s. A neighbour was a leading light in the PTA and, before I knew it, I was helping out with social evenings, fetes and, most memorably, the school disco!
To see a hall full of 10 year olds dropping to their knees to play air guitar to ‘Bat Out Of Hell’ was a sight to behold. Unfortunately the flipside was that, one evening whilst providing ‘security’, I heard the opening bars of what I knew to be Chubby Brown’s version of ‘Living Next Door To Alice’. I thought: “Please tell me he’s not playing this!” Still, I hoped we might get away with it. That was until these so-called innocents joined in en masse with the chorus. Following the second full volume rendition by the newly formed ‘choir’ I was approached by the head, advised of the unsuitability of such songs (as if I needed telling) and challenged to find a new disco!
This incident obviously enhanced my reputation as somebody who ‘gets things done’ but also has ‘an edge’ and, shortly afterwards, I was nominated to stand as a parent governor.
My first few meetings came and went with – as I recall – most of my time being spent sliding bits of paper around the table asking what various terms and acronyms meant. This was way before any induction programmes or information for new governors, something I changed when I subsequently became Chair. I also found out that being a parent governor didn’t mean that you were the mouthpiece for the parents in the playground!
This was an interesting period for governors, as some of you may recall. It was the time of LMS*, which was brought in on the back of the Education Reform Act and was widely regarded as the most important single piece of education legislation for over 40 years. The Act also introduced Key Stages and the National Curriculum.
Governors certainly didn’t have as much power and responsibility as they do now but, compared to what went previously (being just ‘box tickers’ for the then LEA**), these were indeed heady times.
It also meant that governors had to change, by being willing to ‘challenge’ the Head and be a ‘critical friend’. Some governors and governing bodies were slow to embrace this, being uncomfortable with the brave new world and preferring the old way of doing things – turning up for meetings, partaking in coffee and biscuits, and being seen as pillar of the community as a ‘school governor’, but not actually doing much!
Boy, how things were about to change!
*LMS – Local Management of Schools
**LEA – Local Education Authority
We would like you to be Chair, falling out with the LEA and being a governor at two schools.