“There are audience ratings in TV but the importance attached to data in schools really took me by surprise.”

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Sue with some of the pupils at Sibford Gower Endowed Primary School following their Nativity performance.

For many years, Sue Cook was best known as the face of BBC Crimewatch however she can now be found supporting the work of a small primary school in Oxford, fulfilling a lifelong interest in education and young people by volunteering as a school governor.

Sue has responsibility for early years and joint responsibility for literacy at Sibford Gower Endowed Primary School in Oxfordshire, part of The Warriner Multi Academy Trust.

Sue, how did you become a governor?

I heard on the grapevine that one of the governors at the school was retiring and they would be searching for a replacement. I’ve been a governor now for exactly two years.

How are you finding the role?

It certainly surprised me what was involved in being a governor. I don’t know if it’s changed over the years but I get the impression it’s more of a hands-on job than ever. I was very ignorant about modern expectations for primary school learning.

I’ve been so impressed with the children, how they understand aged just 7 or 8 about their learning, what they’re there for. I can see how hard the staff work and how much they care. It really shows in their results and the enthusiasm and behaviour of the children.

Being a school governor is quite a contrast to the world of television – did you find it a culture shock?

Yes by definition in the creative industries you’re not measuring things as much. Yes you have audience ratings but the importance that’s attached to data and targets in school now really took me by surprise. When I was at school, we did our year’s work and had our report at the end of the year and that was as much measurement as you got!

Do you have any specific roles or responsibilities?

I have the role of Early Years – I’ve always related well to little children. I was a Sunday School teacher for a couple of years and so I’ve always got on with little kids. When I finished my schooling, I did want to be an Educational Psychologist but in the end I’d had enough of academic work so I became a journalist. 

So you nearly had a career in education. Are you pleased to be back in the sector?

Yes I am. It feels like the end of a very large circle. It does feel right that I’m now working as a governor in a primary school.

Would you recommend the role to anyone who has an interest?

Yes I would, if you’re interested in children and the world of education and you’ve got more time than you think then definitely. There is quite a lot of training to undertake. I like to take part in events at the school too, so it can be quite time-consuming. 

What’s been the hardest part of the role so far?

Getting to grips with the acronyms! Also reading the bar charts and graphs to interpret the data. We’re a very small school and it’s quite hard to interpret the data in percentage terms. I have actually asked our board if we can have actual figures as well as statistics so we know how many children each percentage represents. I’ve also asked, because I’m so data dyslexic, for a brief line from the leadership about what they think each chart is showing and what they think has changed. They prefer us to interpret the data, but I do think it’s helpful to see their position as well in the first instance.

Finally, what’s harder presenting Crimewatch or keeping up with current education policy?

Definitely keeping up with Education Policy! As you know, the Ofsted framework has just changed again…

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