How a role as a school governor can complement your work in the education industry

In this interview with Oriel Square Publishing Delivery Leader and school governor Lyn Roberts, we discuss how working with a local school gives her an insider view of education that supports her work at Oriel Square.

Seeking out an insider view of education: Lyn shares her motivations for becoming a governor, what’s involved with the role, and what she has learnt from the position. 

How does being a school governor support your work at Oriel Square?

I would certainly recommend volunteering as a governor, especially as someone who works in the education industry. It has made me see my work at Oriel Square from a different perspective and helps me understand the impact of what we do. It has also given me insight into how a school is run and influences how I digest education pledges in political party manifestos. Schools need our support and are, more than ever, in desperate need of adequate funding. 

What made you decide to become a school governor?

Several different things! I’d been working at Oriel Square for a couple of years and was keen to gain an insider view of school education, especially as I don’t have children. Some of the team also had experience in school governing, so I was intrigued to explore this option. Because Oriel Square works a four-day week, I also had some time to give. I heard that a primary school near where I live had a vacancy for a co-opted governor position – an opportunity not to be missed!

What do school governors do?

To quote the Oxfordshire County Council website, ‘School governors and trustees are strategic leaders.’ Whilst this sounds daunting, the fundamental role involves attending six regular full governing board (FGB) meetings a year where we look at the big picture. We review the school’s progress against its development plan and look at the current challenges and how we can best support the headteacher and teaching staff. 

Before the meetings, we receive the agenda and reports on various standing items (such as the headteacher’s report, the safeguarding lead’s report and the finances committee report). Other ad hoc issues are discussed as well – anything relating to the efficient running of the school.

What has been most rewarding about the role? 

As a school governor, you are also expected to visit the school occasionally. This is the most rewarding part in my view! I am the governor linked to English and literacy, so I recently sat in on an EYFS class to see how pupils learn phonics. But it wasn’t just the phonics that was fascinating. I was impressed seeing 4-5 year-olds taking off their coats and boots, putting away their bags and settling themselves down on the big mat with minimal shepherding by the TA. This reminded me how schools are about so much more than reading, writing and doing maths.

Are you given training?

Yes. Safeguarding training is mandatory for all governors, and I also enrolled on the local authority’s Introduction to Governing course. This helped give me the theoretical basics, but applying this to practice was a bit of a leap. Other types of training are available, and their suitability depends on what role or responsibility within the board you plan to take on.

I definitely had impostor syndrome for my first couple of FGB meetings, but now I no longer need to look up acronyms such as ‘PAN’ (planned access numbers), WA (working at the expected level) or GD (working at greater depth).

What have you learnt? 

First, how hard teachers, headteachers and TAs work. 

Second – and exemplifying what I read and hear in the news – how incredibly stretched school budgets are. 

Third, the increased needs of certain pupils, and how to best cater for those needs in small school settings. 

And finally, a bit too much about the cost of roof repairs!