Why you should consider becoming a school governor

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There is a continuing demand for school governors and financial experience is one of the key skills that school governing bodies are now actively seeking.

This voluntary role enables you to give back to your local community and also gain valuable experience for your CV. It’s hard work, but incredibly rewarding.

What does being a school governor involve?

The day-to-day running of schools is left to the head teachers and their staff. The governors’ main purpose is to help their school improve and its pupils to achieve their full potential and excel. “The governing board has a strategic role with three key functions,” explains Charlotte Coleman, director of governance programmes at Inspiring Governance, a national online matchmaking service that connects skilled volunteers interested in serving as governors with schools and colleges.

“The governing board approves the budget and oversees financial performance to make sure money is well spent; it appoints and holds the headteacher to account for the educational performance of the school and its pupils; and, it ensures clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction for the school.”

Governors must commit to attending a few meetings a term, usually in the evening, they must read reports and literature regarding the school’s operation; and they will be expected to occasionally visit the school during the school day to offer support and see how their advice is being implemented on the ground.

Why is it so useful for governors to have finance skills?

Schools are increasingly focused on balancing their books and they now find it incredibly beneficial to have some governors with experience in finance and commercial acumen.

“People with a background in finance and accounting are uniquely placed here to bring their particular skills and experience to support schools, helping them to manage the challenges of prioritising within tighter budgets,” says Louise Cooper, CEO of SGOSS Governors for Schools, school governor recruitment experts.

“School budgets range anywhere from approaching £1 million in a primary school, to upwards of £10 million in a large secondary school. In addition, more and more schools are working together in multi-academy trusts (MATs). These organisations can be involved in the education of thousands of pupils and command multi-million pound budgets,” explains Coleman at Inspiring Governance.

“The school’s leadership, which includes the governing board, is accountable for how this significant amount of public money is spent to achieve the best possible education for young people.

“Governors with finance skills are extremely valuable in providing knowledge, challenge and support to the headteacher, finance director and/or business manager when approving and monitoring the budget. This is an incredibly important role.”

How can being a school governor further your career?

The professional development opportunities to be gained from working as a school governor are immense, emphasises Cooper at SGOSS Governors for Schools. “Someone working in finance in a big organisation probably doesn’t have an overview across their whole organisation, but a school board of governors gives a well-rounded experience, encompassing strategy, disputes, budgets, policies and senior performance reviews, for example. Very specifically, governors learn to be team players and gain experience of an element of ‘cabinet responsibility’, which will be useful throughout your career.”

For those looking to take the next step in their accountancy career and move into a more senior role, perhaps stepping up to board level, volunteering as a governor allows you to gain useful management experience.

“Being a governor brings valuable experience of working at a strategic level and the opportunity to learn and practice skills that have a direct relevance to employers. These include strategic leadership, staff recruitment, building relationships and networks, effective team-working, communication and influencing and negotiation to name a few,” reveals Coleman.

Some employers actively encourage their staff to become school governors in a bid to build links to their local community. Inspiring Governance provides support for employers wanting to run programmes to encourage their staff to serve as governors.

How do you become a school governor?

Most schools require some of their governors to be parents of their pupils. If you have a child at a school with a parent governor vacancy you can volunteer for the role. If more than one parent expresses an interest in a governor vacancy the other parents will be asked to vote for their preferred candidate. To find out about other vacancies, you can contact your local authority or visit Inspiring Governance or SGOSS Governors for Schools, both of which work together to help to match potential governors with schools. Volunteers fill out an online form and then are taken through an interview process.

“Volunteers who find a role through Inspiring Governance also have access to free training and support from the National Governance Association (NGA), the charity that supports and promotes good governance,” adds Coleman.

Anna Tobin is a freelance journalist and interiors stylist. She frequently writes for The Guardian, The Times and The Telegraph.

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