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Chairs Training – Jo’s journey

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Large, free shiny folder you say? I’m in!

I became a parent governor at my daughters’ junior school six years ago. I recall the first meeting vividly. It was hot. We were sitting round a large table in the food tech room. Our Headteacher was six weeks in to post and her decision to change the school logo was up for discussion – was this worth the money? I barely spoke for the whole two hours but to ask what some of the acronyms meant.

My background is in radio journalism and this was quite unlike any meeting I’d been to before. Our morning news briefings were much more informal – we’d perch around a collection of the newspapers; discussions were fast-paced, full of ideas. We certainly didn’t have policies or agendas to contend with.

I’m now half way through my second term of office and it’s safe to say I’ve learnt a lot. It’s baffling to think some governors serve just one term – you’re only just getting to grips with it, surely? I’m now Chair of the Curriculum Committee and have responsibility for SEND.

Last year, through my role at GovernorHub, I had the opportunity to meet Simon Richards, Chairs Development Programme Lead for the NGA. In conversation, we talked about the Chairs programme and I was persuaded to sign up. In return, I tried to convince him to adopt GovernorHub. Not sure where we are with that (Simon? 😉)… but I’ve just taken part in my first face-to-face Chairs training session in Norfolk.

To prepare for the first session, I was required to undertake a 360-degree diagnostic; essentially an online survey in which my fellow board members (including the clerk and Headteacher) rate my current strength and leadership skills. They could either Agree, Neither Agree nor Disagree or Disagree with statements such as:

Is able to recognise when board member is not behaving as expected and takes appropriate action to address this.

Ensures all options are explored and all voices are heard

Knows when and how to seek external advice.

It turns out this is quite a daunting exercise and downloading the full report led to feelings not dissimilar to opening the envelope for my A Level results (Arggghhhh what will it say?!).

Fortunately, my board and I firmly agreed on my current weaknesses (budget management – I’ve yet to sit on the finance committee). However I was boosted by some of the responses on which I scored more highly (Models and sets high expectations for conduct and behaviour for all those in governance, just so you know).

This was a really useful exercise – the first chance I’ve had to really reflect on some of the skills I’ve developed and some of the skills I hope to gain.

Our first face-to-face meet up was equally useful. A group of like-minded governors and trustees (some existing Chairs, some would-be Chairs) taking an in-depth look at leadership and having the opportunity to network. It was led by an experienced governance expert from Educator Solutions in Norfolk. It was fascinating to get together, to learn and to talk about governance in this way.

Each of us will be putting together a detailed action plan for our board with the aim of improving the board’s governance practice and, as a result, pupil outcomes. At the end of the session, we began to think about what that plan might involve and I’m looking forward to getting my teeth into this.

Interestingly, I felt that bit more confident and composed chairing the Curriculum Committee meeting the next day. Thanks NGA and Simon – I’m already reaping the benefits of the programme and we’re only a third of the way through. I would thoroughly recommend it to other governors and trustees.

And – some recent good news: if you’re interested in taking part, there are now two fully funded places available to all governing boards. You can find out more information here.


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