Jon Stanton is the chair of governors of a primary school in Essex, he shares his story about how he got involved in local education and what that has led to.
“A letter came home from the junior school where our children go saying that there was a parent governor vacancy and they were looking for nominations. I discussed this with a few friends from our church who also had children there as I was keen that one of us should get involved. The other two had good reasons why they wouldn’t be able to do it whereas I was able to be available for the role. So I was duly nominated and seconded by the other two and my name went into the mix. I hadn’t heard for a few weeks, nor seen any voting papers, so I called the school to ask what was happening. I was put through to the headteacher whose opening sentence was, ‘Ah, hello Mr Stanton. Welcome to the governing body.’ It turned out I was the only nomination.
“I am passionate about quite a number of things. I like to make a difference in any area where I might be able to. For me volunteering is an incredibly rewarding thing to do and it’s in this non-paid role where I can really make a difference. I think it’s all too easy to just plod on with your daily job and lack passion in it whereas getting involved in other organisations can give a real buzz. Yes, it can have its stresses but they are, or should be, very much the minority of the role.
“I think there should be more and more involvement of Christians in the local area – just getting involved. That could be with other churches, with organisations, businesses, sport or many other ways. I feel God has called me to be mixing with the general community.
“Becoming a governor turned out to be fairly easy, in my case anyway. Within a year of being appointed, I was asked by the chair if I would consider becoming chair in the new academic year. This came as a complete shock and I took a few weeks mulling it over. I said I would on the condition that she would be vice-chair, which she agreed to, so I quickly found myself chairing the governing body and getting a great deal more involved. It didn’t take very much to turn my passion into a reality.
“Since joining the governors, and becoming chair, the last couple of years have been very busy. The school where I am chair shares it’s building with the infant school of the same name. For many years the question has been asked whether they should amalgamate and become a primary school. Each time there has been a good reason why it’s not the right time to do it. However, a number of governors felt that now was that right time so we started along the route of consultation and discussion to see what everyone thought on the idea. This has led us to the point we’re at now where we have agreed to amalgamate, set a date of September 2015, appointed the new headteacher and we will spend the next year working towards that date. Despite its stresses I have remained convinced that it’s the right thing to do.
“The school has also forged stronger links with the church and that is really pleasing to see as that was the main motivation to get involved in the first place. I’ve certainly learned a great deal about governing and education. I’ve also learned how to do the practical things like chairing meetings, interviewing for senior members of staff including head and deputy head. Another element I’ve learned is communication. It’s key to keep people informed and to listen to their concerns. I’ve tried to do this throughout the process. It’s been very difficult at times but we’ve got there.
“The church can do a lot to help Christians take more responsibility. For one thing, their encouragement is key. If someone looks right for a role, speak to them, encourage them, ask for their take on it. And then support them as they perform that role.
“A number of people think I take on too much, and they’re probably right. But there is a definite personal satisfaction and reward for doing it. And I love having a close relationship with the school where my children are attending. I would certainly encourage more Christians to consider school governing.”