ruth blog
By Ruth Exelby, Assistant Principal - Employer Engagement 26 October 2017

Why become a governor at your local college or school?

If you answer ‘So that I can interfere and find out what my children are up to’ this is probably not for you.

Perhaps the answer ‘To do something meaningful, contribute to my local community and get a great sense of satisfaction’ is not the first thing to spring to mind, but when was the last time you volunteered to do something meaningful which would support your career development and possibly even make you happier?

As Jonathan Haidt writes in his book The Happiness Hypothesis, the voluntary activities you undertake make a significant and sustained difference to the level of your happiness.

Joining a school governing body as a volunteer governor or joining an academy board as a trustee is a fantastic way to develop yourself, learn new skills, broaden your experience, and improve educational outcomes in your community.

So, what does a school governor actually do?

School governors have three main roles. They:

· Set the strategy and ethos of the school

· Hold the head teacher to account for educational outcomes of children

· Ensure financial accountability.

Given this context, schools benefit hugely from the experience that business people bring to the governing body, not just any specialist skills that you happen to have such as finance, HR or facilities management but also the broader understanding of the world of work.

As well as bringing expertise, volunteers also gain skills. Being on a board, appointing the head teacher, approving budgets, and scrutinising performance data for a whole organisation is invaluable experience for your learning now, as well as laying the foundations for non-executive director roles later in your career.

On a personal level, I have spent 10 very happy years as a governor. Firstly as a business governor in a busy inner London school and then five years as a parent governor in my children’s primary school where I rose to the dizzy height of vice chair and chair of the finance and personnel committee.

As the children grew up I realised I was benefitting enormously from my time as a governor and when a position came up in their secondary school, I leapt at the chance to continue volunteering.

stunned the Head of English by turning up at a lesson to review teaching styles and immediately formed a long friendship with the teacher who became Deputy Head and moved onto a Headship of her own.

The promotion and support of skills-based volunteering is becoming a bigger part of what companies do to make a difference in local communities. This aligns with the movement for companies to be more socially responsible.

“Millennial” employees often consider the moral purpose and social responsibility of their employer to be as important as their products and services. There are clear business benefits to supporting volunteering as well as the benefits for employees described above.

These include developing an understanding of curriculum issues, offering valuable work experience, shadowing staff and giving teachers the opportunity to shadow in the company and gain an insight into career opportunities for their students.

I hope the answer is now very much:

‘To do something meaningful, contribute to my local community and get a great sense of satisfaction.’