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Experience of being a school governor…

(16 Posts)
LifeIsBetterInFlipFlops Mon 25-Mar-13 18:07:41

I?ve been asked if I would consider being a governor at my son?s primary school, and I?d love to hear of any experiences you can share with me, good, bad or indifferent.

Are there any particular qualities or personalities which particularly lend themselves to the role?

Is it a very political role?

I?d be grateful for any insights.
Thank you!

jennybeadle Mon 25-Mar-13 18:12:48

I did it and loved it. Lots of work, and if you are keen, in our borough lots of training.

At our school it wasn't at all political (apart from the actual politician who was doing it for her cv), everyone just wanted to do their best and do their bit, but I've heard that's not always the case.

If you have skills to offer (I think finance is always welcome), and think you can work as part of a team, and have the time to do it, I would heartily recommend it.

LifeIsBetterInFlipFlops Mon 25-Mar-13 18:24:45

Thank you much time did it take up and how long did you do it for?

LifeIsBetterInFlipFlops Mon 25-Mar-13 18:59:52

Odd...apostrophes turned to question marks blush

DontCallMeBaby Mon 25-Mar-13 20:53:49

I was a parent governor at DD's school for four years, and am now a community governor (I lost the election in September, I have only one child in the school and my opponent has two!)

The basics I do are 4 x main governing body meetings per year, 6 x committee meetings, a planning day, and the staff & governors social at the end of the year. Meetings are all two hours each - they're well run and do NOT overrun. I don't do a vast amount of prep, though I'm doing a bit more now as I'm vice chair of my committee.

Qualities I think are valuable:
- specific expertise, eg we have associate governors who look at energy use and premises maintenance, an accountant, a project manager with interests in eco stuff and IT
- willingness to learn, and openness to the concept that you don't know it all - and an understanding that your role is not to bring every playground whinge to the table
- reliability - I was surprised the head and chair wanted me to come back as much as they did, but it turned out to be mostly down to how reliable I am - looking back I did realise that while some people may have said more in meetings, if they only turned up to half the meetings, it wasn't so great

I've found it a long, long learning curve - one of my main reasons for wanting to do a second term was that at the end of four years I finally felt I was getting the hang of it!

sittinginthesun Mon 25-Mar-13 21:00:00

I'm a governor. I really enjoy it, and imagine it's something I will continue to do in some form or other for a long time.

Time wise, it varies. We have six meetings a year, committee meeting when necessary, and I also get a fair amount of paperwork as its my thing. We also have training (we all start with a 6 hour induction course!) which takes up time. I think it's estimated you spend 52 hours per year.

It's not at all political, but I think it helps if you're able to be diplomatic, and able to listen to a lot of different points of view.

Worthwhile, if you can commit to it. smile

mamadoc Mon 25-Mar-13 21:39:25

I was asked to be a governor and agreed in the spirit of doing my bit.

It has been a lot harder work and more time commitment than I thought it would be but very interesting. I do two committee meetings and two full governors per term and I really try never to miss them otherwise what's the point volunteering.

I've also done quite a lot of training courses. I'm governor for child protection and sen. There is also a lot of reading which I do think you need to take seriously to fulfil the role.

I've also found its taken me years to understand what it's all about. I like knowing how the school works and its given me a lot of confidence in the staff and their approach.

When I talk to other parents they never seem to understand that it's all quite high level strategic stuff and I have no role in deciding which teacher little Johnny will get next year! It is mainly altruism as it only benefits your own children in a very indirect way.

I have got a lot of enjoyment from understanding a new area and actually some transferable skills and ideas and I can see myself doing it for a long time to come if they'll have me.

DanFmDorking Mon 25-Mar-13 21:43:50

Being a Governor varies slightly from school to school. The main thing is ‘time and commitment’. You should think of the Governor meetings as meetings that you must attend and arrange your social/work life around them. You should attend the training sessions that your Local Authority provides.

School Governors are the biggest volunteer organisation in the UK. We estimate that it takes up about 35hrs per year although, of course, it depends on how involved you want to be.

Governors deal with Budgets, Policies, Targets and things which are 'a step away' from the 'day to day' running of the school.
Any question like 'My child doesn't ... isn't ... can't ...' is not for a Governors meeting. Sometimes one can get involved with sacking/redundancies and discipline matters.

School Governors do not run the school; they are there to take an overview and see that it delivers.

Some useful sites: ukgovernors and Governor Line and Being a school Governor

I enjoy it and I've learnt a lot. I like being involved with the school and making a contribution - watching and learning how others deal with and solve problems. I have gained in self confidence and speaking up in meetings.

Are there any particular qualities or personalities which particularly lend themselves to the role?, I would say having the self confidence to speak up and ask questions where relevant

Is it a very political role?

I’m sure you can Google ‘being a school governor’ yourself but:-

The Role of a School Governor

1 To Provide a Strategic View
2 To Act as a “Critical Friend”
3 To Ensure Accountability

Good Luck

mamadoc Mon 25-Mar-13 21:50:36

Now I'll actually answer the question blush

The main thing is that you are scrutinising and holding the HT to account so you need to be committed enough to put in the time reading and training to understand what you are looking at eg attainment data, attend regularly and speak up to put your point across.

If you already have skills eg finance or HR or whatever that is a bonus.

As parent governor you are not supposed to be necessarily representing parents as in consulting about every decision but I have found it is appreciated if you let people know what the playground vibe is eg about homework policy.

You also need to be able to keep confidential things confidential!

MerryMingeWhingesAgain Mon 25-Mar-13 22:50:57

I have been a governor for nearly 18m now, since just after DD started at school. I joined (elected unopposed, not many parents are keen at my school) mainly because I was really worried about the school, between places being allocated and school starting it went into special measures.

It is quite time consuming and mentally demanding at times. Lots of training available in my area. I have taken on extra responsibilities for areas I have relevant skills for . Totally agree that you need to be able to be assertive at times - a big part of the role is to challenge various things. I quite enjoy it overall, and I do enjoy being able to challenge the HT (politely!) in a formal setting where the HT has to be polite back personality clash If you try it and hate it you can stop grin

LifeIsBetterInFlipFlops Tue 26-Mar-13 04:55:49

Thank you all for taking the time to reply...much appreciated.

RaisinBoys Tue 26-Mar-13 07:30:55

I tried it and eventualy hated it and stopped after 3 years. I would still recommend it as I can see how it could be a rewarding experience in many ways.

I was elected as a parent governor, attended meetings, asked relevant questions re. school data, read papers (there is a lot of reading), took on extra responsibilities, attended training etc.

However, what I joined was essentially a fan club of the Head, with a couple of chocolate teapots who contributed nothing.

A key part of governors' strategic function is to provide appropriate challenge so that school leadership can evidence their Self Evaluation.

If governors are reluctant to challenge the Head and just rubber-stamp everything and the chair of governors is an offensive buffoon, the experience is not a good one.

jennybeadle Tue 26-Mar-13 08:59:29

Just, back, to answer your question, I did it for about 2 and a half years, till we unexpectedly moved away from the area. As everyone says, the meetings are really important, and some people depending on the roles they undertook needed no more commitment than that.

I ended up chairing the PPC committee, and Inclusion, which meant a lot of additional reading - though for me thoroughly enjoyable. I also undertook to write from scratch a couple of policies, which because I had no background in the areas meant a couple of weeks working on it all day when the DDs were at school. It was worth it though, and the policy I wrote on Disability went on to be adopted by the local council as an example of good practice, which I was really proud of. I think that is the sort of thing you get back from it long term. I'm a SAHM mainly (part time study too) and I think that that will give me a good demonstration of skills and commitment to hard work, that I can use to demonstrate that I haven't wasted my years at home.

Other parent governors who were not SAHParents didn't have as much time to commit, but brought invaluable skills, such as finance, or in our case an architect and surveyor when the school was being re-built. I think you can put in pretty much as many hours as you have, but meetings would be a minimum, and your HT will be able to tell you how many of those you have (usually one main one per month at our school), and how many additional committees you's be expected to sit on.

XBenedict Tue 26-Mar-13 09:10:32

I've been a school governor for 3 years now and I think your experience will very much be determined by your current governing body. Our GB is full of older, very knowledgeable, experienced people who don't like change and that can be difficult and frustrating at times. Also we have a very defensive HT which again can be frustrating.

Our current problem is our sub committee meetings are not being very well attended and we got a bit of a dressing down from the HT at our last meeting however at the beginning of this term we trialled new start times because the teachers were complaining it made too long a day for them. This has been unworkable for me and quite a few others hence the poorer attendance. When it was suggested we change the start times she blew. hmm

On a more positive note I have learnt loads about my childrens school, staff, education, how children are assessed, what they are learning, how I can help them at home. It's been a valuable experience but I will let another parent stand at the end of my 4 years!

Good luck, you'll get a lot out of it but prepare for frustrations along the way.

jennybeadle Tue 26-Mar-13 13:14:48

That's a pity XBenedict.

Our committee meetings were held at different times of the day. eg finance always early am, because the committee all had to go on to work. PPC was afternoons, to fit the shift patterns of two members, and Inclusion at lunchtimes, so the staff involved didn't have to stay late (they all lived well away from school).

Your chair should be working to make it easy and productive for people to attend, not difficult. angry on your behalf!

DontCallMeBaby Tue 26-Mar-13 15:46:06

I do think governing bodies are a bit self perpetuating - a good one is a pleasure to be part of, but a weaker one is very hard to turn round. My mum's also a governor and has had a far more challenging time than me, due to some, um, difficult personalities.

It's worth finding out practicalities like meeting times before you go for it. Ours are all out of school hours 4.30-6.30 for MGB, 6-8 for committees - used to be one committee 4-6 and the other 6-8, same day, but that was REALLY hard on the head, chair and clerk. My mum's meetings are almost always in school hours, which I wouldn't be able to do at all.

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