Laura Brown (2010 ambassador) talks about her experience of being a school governor, including the importance of asking questions and learning from others' experiences.
So I have been a governor for almost a year now, and to be honest I still feel like I haven’t got a clue in most aspects of being a governor. I am the youngest member on the body by 10 years compared to a small number, and 30 compared to the vast majority! The first few meetings I attended I just sat there, silently, watching, listening. I felt too scared of not knowing what I was doing to speak up. After the first few I began to see a pattern. This process of sitting and listening was not just something I was doing, but was something that the rest of the governing body seemed to do. The only time I heard their voices was when they proposed and seconded policies (I am still unsure as to what this actually means and why they do this) the rest of the time was spent listening to the Headteacher. And all I ever heard him say was how good the school was. There was something funny going on here!
At this point I had started asking the odd question, and bit by bit the questions kept coming. I soon got a reputation, which led to the Headteacher automatically looking at me once he had finished talking. I began to worry that this wasn’t the way that a governing body operated and that I should be more cautious in my questioning. My worry didn’t last long when another two governors (both parents of children currently at the school) came up to me at the end of the meeting and asked me how I knew what questions to ask, and what gave me the confidence to even ask them!
The following meeting the Headteacher handed us the school improvement plan for the year and promptly followed this with, "you all know why I don’t do plans for more than a year..."
"Sorry, no I don’t, can you just explain it for me?"
"Well, the education sector changes so much that there is no point. The next government is coming in soon and so they will change everything and I will need to rewrite it anyway."
It took all my might to not explode.
"What about the current year 7's? Do you not know what grades they came in on and therefore what you would want them to leave with? And I agree that a detailed plan may be a little too much, but how can I support you as a governor when I don’t know where you want to take this school?"
Three months later was the next full governing body meeting. The school is currently going through a lot of change which will be on-going for at least four years. When discussing these changes the head said, "someone asked me previously about my vision for the school. Well, in 5 years’ time I would like to have a school that is full to capacity and have opened a sixth form."
YES! So if nothing else, in the past almost year I have achieved two things:
- Given others the confidence to ask questions and have a voice (even if it is just two)
- Pushed the Headteacher to recognise that we will ask questions and challenge his decisions (but hopefully he recognises that it is in order to support)
Why am I writing all of this? Well I know there are many ambassadors out there who are also governors, and I know that I still have so much to learn. Very simply I want to learn from your experiences. I want time and space to talk about all things governance. What do other governing bodies look like? What happens in their meetings? Is my governing body ‘typical’? What can we learn from each other? Or maybe you are interested in becoming a governor and would like to talk about how to become one, or what the benefits are.