Educationalist and Teacher Tapp founder Laura McInerney became a school governor for the first time last year and we’ve been asking her what she makes of it so far and whether she would recommend it to friends and colleagues.
How long have you been a governor Laura?
Less than a year.
What type of school are you in?
What made you decide to become a governor?
It’s the school where I trained, and then later worked, and it’s my local school – so I am very dedicated to it and already knew and respected the leadership team.
What governor training, if any, have you completed?
I went to an initial training day but I found a lot of it quite slow and difficult to follow.
What have you learnt from the role so far/ what observations have you made about governance?
The more I’ve done it the more I think it’s a bizarre way to run a £30 billion public service. Most governors are sharp individuals but it’s hard to really hold people to account when you are relying on them for information and when the intricacies of education policy are hard enough for those of us immersed in them all day. The average person who takes on a school governor role is really being thrown into a massive deep dark cave and asked to map its insides using nothing but a lighter.
Is your board doing a good job of holding the school to account? Are there any particular actions taken which have had a positive impact?
One process I really respect is the way that exclusions are reviewed by governors. Exclusion figures are getting higher across England and there’s much consternation about the reasons for this, but I think most governors take the responsibility of reviewing these decisions incredibly seriously and put a lot of effort in. That heads have to get the decisions past governors is an important check.
Has your experience in Education helped with your governor role? Has becoming a governor given you a new outlook on education/schools?
Having lots of prior education experience is helpful because I know specialist terms and am used to the data (which many people find baffling). On the other hand, I’ve found the governor role is totally outside my experience as I haven’t sat on a board before. I can imagine if you’ve worked in business then that aspect is more natural.
How diverse is your governing board? Does it represent the school community?
The school community is very diverse and the board has a range of ethnicities, ages, interests. One of my favourite things about the school is how open it always has been to a wide range of people. Newham is one of the most diverse Boroughs in Europe- it’s exciting!
Finally, would you recommend becoming a governor to friends/colleagues?
Yes. Also I am willing to goad, moan, heckle, and prod people into doing it. Schools need support from bright people who are willing to be the blood transfusions to senior leadership teams who spend day-in and day-out grappling with tricky problems. A good governing body can replenish enthusiasm and reset focus by using good questions and challenging conversations. Who wouldn’t want to be involved in that?
Teacher Tapp is an app which asks thousands of teachers up-and-down the country three questions at 3.30pm each day. The information gathered is a fascinating insight into the current thoughts and feelings of the teaching community. There’s something in it for teachers too who receive a daily update of helpful tips and ideas in exchange for taking part. Recently Teacher Tapp reached out to its users to find out about school governance – asking who also sits on a school board (findings below). You can get the app here.