Mike Simmonds is Director and Education Consultant of Go Ministries
Inspirational headteachers make a significant difference in a school or Academy. Behind every good leader there must be teams of ‘good and inspirational’ people.
In England and Wales every school has a governing body. Academies have a Board of Directors or Governing Body. They are judged as part of the leadership of the school and should provide inspirational leadership. In partnership with the head teacher they set the strategic direction and annual budget, as well as holding the school to account for its performance.
Gone are the days, when I first became a governor that a governing body meeting was a cup of tea and biscuits and a report on how well the school was doing. Which it often wasn’t, but what did we know? And more importantly there was little we could do about it.
Successive governments have increased the responsibilities of governing bodies whilst little has changed about who could become a school governor. Training has not been mandatory and literally anyone with a good heart and desire to make a difference in education could become one. In a climate where this is changing here are 4 aspects of school governance that might challenge you to get involved.
1. Skills and strengths
The unschooled fishermen who led the growth of the first century Church have been an inspiration to me as I unexpectedly found myself in school leadership as a governor, and training and supporting governing bodies. Until recently becoming a school governor was a great way to develop capacity and ability.
Government guidance is for smaller more focused governing bodies with recruitment of people who bring necessary skills and strengths. If, for example, you have business experience, are a strategic thinker, or can analyse data and/or budgets then you have something to offer the work of school governance.
However, we should look wider than these skills and explore some of the characteristics that define a person and ensure the governing body is made up of different but able people, perhaps identifiable from roles they lead in the local church or community.
2. Commitment to building relationships
One of the key roles of a governing body is ‘holding the school to account’. This involves asking challenging questions, exploring assessment and attainment data and carrying out the performance management of the head teacher. Clearly there are skills needed, which can be developed, to fulfil these tasks.
All too easily this can become confrontational. Governors are needed who are committed to building the kind of relationships that enable frank and open discussion. There is a time commitment to being relational and growing trust with key people but it is worthwhile, if it is good friends (often described as critical friends), that best secure fruitful accountability.
3. Willingness to learn and a commitment to training
Learning for your personal development, as well as the technicalities of the role, should be a priority for all governors. A disciple of Christ is by definition a lifelong learner and what you will develop intentionally through training, and intuitively through experience will impact your involvement in church activities and leadership as well as the work place.
4. Raising the profile of Christian faith in the education context
More controversially this will be an opportunity to put your faith to work. Christians have a particular view of the world, people and the future which, sensitively informing their contribution, will make a difference to the lives of both adults and children in the school community. In the context of ‘collective responsibility’ this is one way in which you can contribute vision and inspirational leadership.