This summer, we travelled across England to meet 32 school governors who shared their governor story with us. We learnt that while there’s no one type of school governor, what unites every volunteer is a desire to improve education for children. Follow the #GovernorStories campaign and find out what governance means to each volunteer, and why we’re calling for more people to support their community by becoming a governor.
“I worry that the next generation in the area have a belief that there’s nothing to be proud of around them, and nothing to work towards. A lot of people here are in their third generation of unemployment now and it’s not going to get any better without an actual plan for the children growing up. Lots of the young people see this place as somewhere to get through their teenage years and then move on, but that’s the biggest tragedy of it all. If we lose people with ambition, with ideas, with creativity, we lose any hope of this place moving forward. The more I’ve moved forward in my career, the more I’ve figured that I owe it to people who gave me opportunities, who wanted to make me realise that there’s more than allowing fate to take over, to give back. I hope that by seeing someone who isn’t that much older than them showing pride in the local area, the children are motivated to see their community as something they can take ownership and be proud of.”
“Manchester’s got some challenging environments, but what I see from my experience of being a school governor is how resilient and motivated the kids are. They might have come from difficult backgrounds but they’ve got masses of aspiration and ideas and get up and go. A lot of the young people I meet don’t have the natural networks many children of professionals do – they have to make their own. Businesses have a role to play in helping them access ideas, opportunities and jobs. I think we have an obligation to the communities we live and work in to provide that. I was at a point in my life and my career where I was doing well and I wanted to give something practical back to the community that I was part of. I lived next to a secondary school that needed school governors with connections to the city and it felt like a good way to support young people.”
“Everybody’s lives have been touched by education at some point. Although I never went to university, I believe education is the foundation of our lives and schools play a huge part in exposing kids to the many different life paths out there. It’s not just about university. It’s about developing life skills, being employable, and thinking about other options, like apprenticeships. If you’re interested in education, if you want to support children, if you want to give something back, become a governor. I wanted to get involved in my community, but I needed whatever I did to fit around my life and work. I’ve got kids and the role of a governor fitted well with my other commitments. But, equally, you don’t need to be a parent to be a governor. I wanted to be involved with education – so supporting schools to me seems like a brilliant thing to do. You’re helping schools shape our future citizens.”
“When I tell people I’m a school governor, they ask whether I feel like I make a difference. And I say yes, I do. The best thing about being a governor is that I actually get a say. And my say is listened to, it’s noted, and that’s refreshing. I come home after a meeting and tell my children what I said, and how my points could translate into actions. My advice would be don’t think about becoming a governor for too long. Just make the application. I thought about it for over a year, then when I finally did get round to applying I heard back straight away that a primary school was looking for someone like me.”
“Even though I left teaching a few years ago, I knew I wanted to stay involved in education. I want to engage people with the issues surrounding educational inequality and social mobility. That’s a big part of the reason why I became a governor. It’s fun, interesting – in terms of the work you do – and rewarding. My favourite part of the role is going into schools and meeting the kids. With every difficult decision you make, you know you’re affecting real people, and helping make positive change.”
“Often people look at me and they see my age and they might be a little bit judgemental about my inexperience. But I actually think that’s what governing bodies need. They need a diverse group with various talents. They need people with different backgrounds to have effective debate. I’ve found that the more diverse the governing body, the better conversations and arguments that take place. Ultimately that means better outcomes for the children, which is what really matters. I work in marketing so I bring skills around communication, which is often a massive problem in schools. I enjoy making the difficult decisions because they actually matter. Making them doesn’t just impact the children, but their parents too and the wider community.”
“I became a governor when I moved to London. I started a new role that meant I was no longer based in a school and I missed the pupils and the school environment. Being a governor means I can still get involved, which really appealed to me. I work in education policy, which is useful to the role of governor. But I’ve realised that almost all knowledge and experience is helpful to bring to the governing board. Diversity of experience makes for strong governance. I think it’s even more important for people to become governors outside of London. Schools are crying out for governors. I used to work at a school in the North East so I know first-hand how critical good governance is. Everyone can be engaged in providing the best education for young people, no matter where you live.”