I recently embraced our flexible working policy to attend a Governor Strategy Day at my daughter Nora’s primary school.
I’m already part of the Parent-Teacher Association at Nora’s school, and I’m also the parent representative for her year group, but last year I decided to take on the role of Parent Governor. Having the flexibility to fit the governor role around work is a real bonus – I felt like I wanted a new focus outside work, and I couldn’t have done it if I was tied to my desk all day every day.
A governor is intended to be a ‘critical friend’ to the headteacher, assisting with key decisions like strategic direction, budget, the curriculum, special educational needs provision, policies, and exclusions. The governing body is made up of staff, external governors, and parent governors. It’s a mixture of face-to-face and online meetings, most in the evening but some in the day so I’ve had to fit them around work. Once a year, the governors attend a Governor Strategy Day – an opportunity to spend a full day in school, learning more about how things are run. You are permitted to take reasonable time off from your job to undertake governor work as it is considered ‘public duties’ – and our policy means that you have the flexibility to fit work around life.
On the day, each governor was assigned a couple of subjects to review – I was allocated Science and PE. I spoke to the subject leads, learnt how the curriculum builds as they progress through school, watched a few lessons being taught (including some that Nora was in), and had a school dinner! It was hard work keeping up with all the acronyms and new names and faces, but it was really insightful and made me feel much more confident about making decisions for the school.
I’ve only been doing the governor role for a few months and I think it will take me a while to work out where I can add value, given that I have no background in education and have only been a parent at the school for 2 years. I’m finding it a little unnerving being so inexperienced, and so far I’ve stayed pretty quiet (hard to imagine if you know me!). While there isn’t a lot of crossover between a Head of Publications and a Parent Governor, there are some work skills that are proving useful in the governor role. For example, there is a lot of reading, and you could really get bogged down with all the details, but work has taught me how to skim-read at speed and pull out only the key information. I’ve also been able to use my writing and reviewing skills to assist with developing and updating school policies (is that a double space I see, Headteacher?!).
I’m hoping the governor role will also give me some new skills I can make use of at work. Part of the role involves thinking about the strategic vision for the school, setting aims and objectives, and making short- and long-term plans to enable us to meet targets. Perhaps thinking of how to do these in a school setting will help me think more creatively when I come to do the same at work. I’m finding that communicating with a school audience needs a slightly different approach than communicating with a healthcare provider or patient audience – different language, different ways of delivering information and giving feedback. Maybe I can bring some of these learnings into my work.
And who knows, maybe I’ll end up being a better parent too!