Alwyn Martin

Location: Warwickshire

Occupation: Financial Controller

School: Priors Field, Kenilworth

Please tell us about yourself….

I live near Stratford upon Avon, I’m mum to a teenage daughter and married to a school laboratory technician. I work in finance in a global engineering organisation.

What sparked your interest in being a school governor?

I was lucky to grow up in a town with good schools and benefited from great and inspiring teaching.  I have moved my family around the UK quite a lot through my work and, wherever we were living, we’ve been very conscious of choosing the school that we felt would be the best for our daughter. I am aware that not everyone has the opportunity  to select their childrens’ school  and from our visits it was clear that schools have different personalities or styles  as well as results.  Through reading prospectuses and school websites I’d become interested in how the governors were selected and the role they performed but, conscious of my work commitments, had never made the step up to volunteer as a parent governor.  As we are going to live in the same town for the duration of my daughter’s senior schooling I felt I would be able to make the necessary commitment to a school and when the SGOSS link appeared on an ICAEW newsletter I put in an application.

What have you found to be most enjoyable/ rewarding about being a school governor?

Our wonderful and experienced Head is leaving us at the end of this year to take up new challenges. Although going through the recruitment and selection process for a new Head has involved a lot of time and commitment from the Governing Board it was great to see the interest and input from the parents, staff and children, and I think this task has enabled us, as a Board, to work better together as we realised how important it was, for the school and pupils, that we got the right Head.

Please detail some of the projects in which you have been involved, or hope to be in the future?

With a finance background it is not surprising that I am part of the Resources committee, helping to set the budget and make sure we are using our funding to  deliver the best education for our pupils.  Some aspects of this process I am extremely familiar with but some of the terminology is new.  As governors we have to make choices and decisions on where, and how, to spend the funding, and ensure that it is delivering the expected improvements.

I helped one of the senior teachers to prepare a business case to source some external funding (from my employer) to buy equipment for school science week.  This enabled the school to replace some broken things but also to expand the learning resources.  I would like to be involved in other business cases like this, trying to obtain specific funding from local trusts or organisations. It is really rewarding to see how well and imaginatively the staff use what resources the school has.

Which existing skills have most helped you as a governor and why?

Coming from an industry rather than an education background brought an opportunity and necessity to ask lots of probing questions, and I think being curious and wanting to learn has helped in the first year. There is a lot of terminology and it is humbling to realise you know so little.  Many of the skills I use every day at work have helped, I’m used to working as part of a multi-skilled team to deliver on common goals, and my finance background enables me to feel confident challenging on the budget and cost decisions. I’m quite organised and methodical which has made reviewing policies and thinking about how they apply to our school easier.

What skills have you developed since becoming a governor?

I’m still learning about the role and responsibilities but I hope, through working with people from different backgrounds and experience, I have become more patient, constructive and open in my questions.  Hopefully I am taking some of this back into my working and family life too.

How important do you think a governing body is to the success of a school?

Very – the Board provides strategic leadership and ensures that the school is providing the best education possible for all pupils.

What is a school governor?

Someone who cares about the education of children and is committed to improving the standard for all pupils irrespective of their ability or circumstances.

If you were to recommend school governance to a friend, what would you say?

It’s a great way to develop on an interest in education and to use your skills, and a healthy dose of common sense, to improve the performance of a school in your community.  The Board will certainly comprise a mix of personalities and experiences but the role brings an opportunity to get involved with setting strategy, looking at outcomes and making a difference.

How have you helped improve children’s education?

By helping source targeted funding to buy science equipment including child friendly planters for Reception. The children have grown the ingredients for their ‘Food for Life’ summer cookery sessions and some basic maths and science skills developed, the seeds germinated, seedlings were watered, and the growth was monitored and measured.