I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had that circular feeling, that life is all about the clock. Tick, tock, an endless countdown to the next place to be or chore to do.

It took a pandemic for some of us to learn more about ourselves and re-evaluate whether our lives felt fulfilled. 

We had time to think about all our life skills and experiences we acquired, and whether we could use them to contribute to something bigger.

My lightbulb moment came two years later, courtesy of an advert in our local school newsletter. Here was an opportunity for me to make my world bigger and do something rewarding. 

By just being myself and volunteering my time, I could help young children to get the best start in life. I never imagined I would become a school governor, but I’m so glad that I did.

School governing is an area I didn't know much about. The idea of a school governor used to conjure up notions of very important people, having meetings in suits, slightly untouchable and a little scary. 

As a young child, I had the preconceived idea governors were like the school police. They were in charge and they had the final say. In fairness to my younger self, I had no idea what the role of a governor was and I wasn’t educated to learn more about it. 

I hope by the time you have finished reading this feature, you will learn more about what a school governing body does, and why becoming a school governor is a great opportunity.

In searching for purpose in my life, I climbed Snowdon with three other like-minded women. We each had a reason to climb the 3,560ft mountain and there was a life-changing sense of achievement. 

Becoming a school governor is like a mountain climb. You don’t need qualifications to climb a mountain, only a level of fitness and suitable gear, but the mountain accepts anyone from any background, and no one is discriminated against. 

School governing boards actively try to balance their members, to represent many different people. There is a small amount of learning at the start, just like plotting your path up the mountain, and when you sit at your first meeting, you might feel that you have no idea what’s going on. 

But after a few meetings, just like that mountain climb, you reach a point where you see your way forward and realise your contribution to the group is invaluable. With every step forward you are reaching the same goal, you are on a life-changing experience. You are helping many children to get a good start in life.

It’s a great feeling to know that you are doing something that is bigger than yourself. Climbing a mountain is challenging and it takes teamwork. Equally, now that I am a school governor I can see how important teamwork is in running a school. 

The governors are not like the judges on “X Factor”. You don’t get paid to climb a mountain to realise your true potential. You also don’t get paid to be a school governor, but similarly you do realise that your contribution in being yourself is your own reward. 

School governors are the largest volunteer group in the UK and each school has its own school governing body. This group of passionate volunteers is made up of: Parents, Staff, Co-Opted and Local Authority governors. 

A school governing body that is diverse in thought is a fair representation of an equal society. A diverse governing body enables the best strategies and outcomes for the school. So just be yourself. 

Herne Junior School Petersfield sign
Maria is a governor at Herne Junior School in Petersfield (Tindle/Paul Ferguson)

But remember, the seat at the table isn’t the solution for diversity, instead it's the table that you create together built upon a foundation of equality, that will better serve the needs of the children and your community.

Diversity is based on characteristics, and the protected characteristics in 'The Equality Act 2010' if you’re looking for a legal definition. But diversity can also be based on factors such as social status and work experience. For a school governing body to achieve diversity it must be accessible to all in your local community.

Media coverage throughout the end of 2023 reported a rise in racist and prejudicial language in schools. At the same time, the Department for Education instructed schools to publish governing board diversity data on their websites. 

The recruitment process for new school governors must be made accessible to all members of a community, which provides equal access to all groups including, underprivileged people, ethnic groups, retired people, people who don't have children, and even students who attended the school but are now in higher education. 

Diversity is only established when equal opportunities are encouraged through positive actions, especially within under-represented groups.

So what does a school governor do? A governor's top skill is the ability to question. A governor will read policies and headteacher’s reports, look at data and metrics, listen to staff and pupil voices, monitor subjects and different areas of a school's improvement plan and ask questions. 

Governors are not there to ask questions for the sake of it, but to ensure children’s best interests are met, to meet their educational and well-being needs in the care of the school. To translate that into guidelines, a governor ensures clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction. 

Governors hold the headteacher to account for the educational performance of the school, and its pupils and performance management of staff. Governors oversee the financial performance of the school.

A governor will attend meetings and attend training such as safeguarding and keeping children safe in education. That training will also help a governor to learn or enhance skills such as chairing, finance, Ofsted, questioning, and recruitment - a plethora of skills that cover all aspects of governance.

Herne Juniors Take over PTC
Herne pupils also ran Petersfield Town Council for a morning in an innovative exercise last year. (Tindle/Paul Ferguson)

There are many different reasons a person may have to become school governor. We each have our passion for wanting to make a difference. Essentially we each draw on our own experience growing up, our access to school and our educational journey. Whether it was a good experience or possibly a bad one, either way that is reason enough to want to help our next generation to become the best they can be. 

So, if you are looking for a volunteer role that gives you the satisfaction of giving something back to your community, helping the school and the children, acquiring new skills which may be transferable in your career, broadening your horizons, making new friends and colleagues and that gives you a sense of achievement, please get in touch with any school of your choice. 

You don’t have to live in the same town as the school you would like to support, as it's beneficial to the governing body to have residents from other areas to avoid groupthink.

If you would like to learn more about life as a school governor, or if you are interested in joining the team I am part of at Herne Junior School, please feel free to get in touch at: [email protected]. You could visit our governors page on our website at: www.herne.hants.sch.uk