Five great podcasts for governors

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GovernorHub joined The Key in April (we wrote about that here) and our small team of seven became part of a much bigger team of more than a hundred. One of our lovely new colleagues is Caroline Doherty who hosts The Key’s podcast, Key Voices.

Caroline speaks to many of the movers and shakers in the education sector as well as people who’re less well known but doing really innovative and interesting work. She has a real feel for what’s happening in schools and which way the wind’s blowing (at the moment – a tornado?). 

About Caroline

Caroline started her career as a maternity cover teacher and after stints as a researcher at Buckingham Palace, The Charity Commission and the charity, Business in the Community, she’s back in education, as Head of Education Strategy at The Key.

Caroline is also a school governor and scores full marks for commitment – she’s been a governor longer than she’s had any paid role – and for longer than she’s known her husband! Bravo.

We wanted to find out which of The Key’s podcast episodes Caroline would recommend to fellow governors and trustees – and why. We urged Caroline to whittle it down to five, but we’ve slipped in a few extras (sorry!).

Why podcasts?

Well, you may have read a few blogs on governance and you might keep up-to-date with education news – but there is something very powerful about listening to people who work in or with schools, sharing their experiences in a conversation, as Caroline explains. 

“It’s a really different medium to print. People share more of their thoughts in the moment and they’re more relaxed. Things come out much more naturally. The podcast allows for context and for people to really explore their thinking”

Caroline says she gets a lot out of every single conversation but here are her five top picks for governors:

  1. Governance, Challenge, Chairing and COVID-19 

This podcast was about how governors can balance support and challenge and not get bogged down in operational matters. Pete Crockett’s been a headteacher and is an experienced governor. We talked about what you’re supposed to be doing on paper and the reality of the situation at the moment – how Headteachers are looking to governors to help them prioritise. It’s a good one for understanding how to be an effective governor right now.

  1. Research into the challenges of school business management during COVID-19

This podcast was with our friends at The Institute of School Business Leadership about the challenges of being a school business manager during COVID-19, also drawing on the research we did here at The Key. It’s a good listen for governors who’re trying to understand the nuts and bolts of where money is being spent in schools at the moment. If you’re new to governance and your SBM is a super helpful person but also looks like they haven’t slept for a few years – this might explain why!

  1. Rehumanising headship with Darren Morgan

This was a great and very honest conversation with Headteacher Darren Morgan reflecting on the role of headship – and why it’s so difficult. He talks about his experience of the pandemic, but also about how he’s improved wellbeing for his staff.
Darren believes we need to rehumanise headship and stop thinking about ‘hero heads’ who’re superhuman. He says what heads do really matters and they can’t say staff should be doing one thing, and do something else themselves. A useful insight for governors.

  1. Leading Academy Trusts: why some fail but most don’t with Sir David Carter and Laura McInerney.

This podcast was with David Carter, who’s been a national schools commissioner, and Laura McInerney, who’s a former editor of Schools Week about their book on Trusts – and how a group of schools should exist as more than just a group of schools. A Trust set-up should add value which they refer to as the ‘trust dividend’. If you’re a parent sending your child to a school in a Multi-Academy Trust, what additionality do you get? What are the benefits? This could also be a really good listen for governors who don’t know much about trusts or for maintained governors whose school is considering joining a trust.

  1. Putting Staff First with John Tomsett and Jonny Uttley

In this podcast, I talk to John and Jonny about their book, Putting Staff First, which is a revelation. By suggesting leaders ‘Put Staff First’, they’re not saying that children don’t matter but rather that if you let staff be the best teachers they can be, as opposed to distracting them with lots of other tasks, then everyone benefits. It’s a refreshing way to look at the issue and there’s a lot in there for governors to think about and talk to senior leaders about.

A few other Key Voices podcasts that are worth a listen

Caroline recommends any of the podcasts on alternative provision and special education – notably the podcast with Dr Adam Boddison or with Karen Wespieser on governance and SEND. Also recommended is the podcast with Tiffany Beck about her experience of founding a MAT from a governor’s perspective and the podcast with Naureen Khalid on the role of governors.

Caroline’s favourite ever podcast? 

“Well this is very hard to answer … but maybe it’s the episode of the podcast I’ve just recorded with Dr Emma Kell and Adrian about wellbeing and self care for teachers. They’re such brilliant sparky people and fab communicators. I always read the books when I speak to people on the podcast and I loved their book. Although the conversation is about teacher wellbeing and self care, it’s relevant to everyone – no matter what sector you work in.

With all this knowledge, will Caroline head back into the classroom?

“Well, when I started teaching – I really didn’t know what I didn’t know. Now I have a passing grasp of teaching practice and I think it might paralyse me, to think, “I’ve just asked a question – how should I be checking understanding?” At the moment, I’m really happy in my governor role.”

Key Voices podcasts are available on iTunes or Spotify – so when you next have a long-ish drive – or you’re taking the dog for a walk, do tune in!

If you’d like to feature on the Key Voices podcast – please contact Caroline at

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