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Volunteer as a school governor – make a real impact on education

Article by: Claire Williams | Published: 17 July 2017

As an HR Consultant I work as a business partner with over 50 different schools and head teachers across Cumbria and Blackburn with Darwen – and this is what sparked my interest in becoming a governor. Claire Williams, ACIPD, explains why she enjoys sharing her professional skills by volunteering as a governor at St Bedes Catholic Primary School in Chorley, Lancashire.

As a qualified member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), I wanted to use my skills in a voluntary capacity, working to support a local school by sharing my knowledge so that ultimately we have the best outcomes for the young people. I have previously worked in business, for a large retailer, so I also have a business/commercial mind which I think adds a positive slant to my advice and proactively encourages schools to deal with issues in a timely manner.

From working with governors in my role, I noticed there was often a skills gap on their boards. As a specialist in human resources (HR) and employment law, I could really see where my skills could help in what can sometimes be a grey area for them. So a few years ago I contacted SGOSS  Governors for Schools and they put me in touch with St Bedes Catholic Primary School near my home in Chorley, Lancashire, where I have volunteered as an LA governor since 2015.

During my time there, I have supported the school with recruitment of teachers, including advising on pay scales, job descriptions, short-listing and being part of the interview panel. I have also advised the head on the staff  appraisal process and performance management – including long-term absence and capability issues such as how best to support and develop teachers. There have also been discussions about teachers’ terms and conditions and their obligations in respect of information on the school website.

As well as advising on HR issues, I have responsibility for Special Educational Needs (SEN) and Literacy. This involves working with the teaching staff to understand the school’s processes and identifying areas for improvement and development – this has been a very interesting learning experience for me. From the school’s point of view, I think my advice saves time and helps to ease the workload. I usually speak to the head once or twice a month outside of formal meetings to advise about on-going issues, which I know is appreciated.

Professionally, I believe that volunteering as a governor has brought added insight to my work.  I have learned a lot about how schools make decisions and I’ve been able to spot areas where we could do more, for example identifying a training need. Personally it’s been good to volunteer within an area that is important to me. I have learned a lot – not least about SEN funding!  I’ve also been able to network with a different variety of professionals, people outside of my usual range of contacts who I may never have come across otherwise. It’s been a really positive experience. You get back what you put in for sure. Claire works as an HR Consultant at Capita HR solutions. Capita actively supports employees engaging in voluntary work and recognises the skills that volunteering brings to the organisation.

www.sgoss.org.uk