Dawn Whiteley MBE- Governor Case Study
Dawn, a Centre Manager from Kirklees, talks about her experience as being a school governor for 16 years.
Profession: Centre Manager
School: Kirkroyds Infant and Wooldale Junior Schools Federation
What do you get out of the role?
What do I think about governing? We invest a lot of time in the academic education of our children, but also in other activities too – art, sport, drama, creativity etc and those achievements for some students are as important as the academic ones – our job is to find the talents of all our children and provide whatever opportunities necessary to let them shine – not always easy, but not impossible and something which governors can play an important role in supporting the school to achieve.
But don’t be fooled it’s also incredibly hard work, more and more the role is more akin to that of a non-executive director in a company as opposed to just a bit of volunteering and personally I don’t have any problem with that.
Schools are important institutions and need to run effectively, they need to achieve the very best for their children, look after their resources efficiently and deliver results which is no minor undertaking!
What sparked your interest in becoming a school governor?
I’ve gained lots of business experience and having always enjoyed school myself, I recognised I might be able to bring some of that skill and experience to the running of a school at the same time as giving something back to my local community.
But how to go about it, I don’t have children, at that time I didn’t have any family with children in school either and had no direct connection to any schools in my locality – so I did a bit of digging around on the Kirklees website and found that I could apply through them, I completed the form and got a colleague to provide a testimonial to support the application. I submitted and waited……..
What projects have you been involved in as a governor?
I very quickly got involved in the finance and staffing committee, the area where I thought I could bring the most value based on my business experience.
In the early days, I also attended the curriculum and standards committee as that was a great way for me to learn more about the workings of the school, what we’re teaching and how, how the children are progressing etc. Eventually, I became the Chair of the Finance & Staffing Committee and not long after that the Chair of the Governing body, a role I continue to hold today.
We’ve seen lots of change in the time I’ve been a governor, not only at a national level with changes in the curriculum, testing, inspection etc, but we’ve also seen a fair bit of change within our own schools too, we were a stand-alone infant school and in 2013 undertook a federation with the feeder junior school, forming one school, with one governing body and one headteacher. We did an extensive consultation with all interested parties, staff, parents, local community etc and I’m delighted to say whilst it’s still relatively early days things are going very well so far.
More recently we have had to recruit a new headteacher, no easy task! We are also now in the process of a forced academisation at the infant school, following an inadequate Ofsted inspection. There is always something new to experience and something new to learn….
What have you found the most enjoyable/rewarding?
The role of a governor is incredibly rewarding, seeing the development of the children who come through our doors is amazing, and for us it’s not just about academic achievement – clearly that is important and across the school we work very hard to ensure our children achieve the very best they can – but we see our role as also being about developing well-rounded individuals who are not only prepared for the next stage of their educational life, but for their lives in general too.
I would encourage anyone with educational or business experience to consider getting involved, it is really rewarding, you are making a contribution to the education of tomorrows young people and giving them a foundation for life, at the same time as giving something back to your local community – but you will need to work hard, there are meetings to attend, there are papers to read, there are training courses to go along to, there are visits into school to make – so you will need to commit appropriate amounts of time to do the role justice!
What existing skills have helped you in your role as a school governor?
In the main my business experiences, finance, accounting, HR and people management, change and project management, along with leadership skills. But softer skills too, enthusiasm, passion, commitment to the work of the school are also important to bring to bear.
How do you apply to be a school governor?
School governors and trustees make a valuable contribution to children’s education, opportunities and futures. You can apply to become a school governor on the Kirklees Business Solutions website.