At Governors for Schools, we believe that recruiting governors from across a range of sectors can strengthen school boards and ensure children receive the holistic education they deserve. Indeed, our ‘All pupils, every ambition: Enriched education’ campaign is all about showing potential and existing governors how they can support learning outside of the classroom and help young people become well-rounded citizens.
To illustrate how governors can apply their specialist skills to improve pupils’ soft skills and diversify cultural education, we asked Vickie Butcher, Community Fundraising Manager for the NSPCC, to share her experiences of volunteering as a governor. Below, we’ve published Vickie’s insightful answers to a range of questions, covering everything from the governor application process to how she applies her specialist knowledge of the charity sector to her governance role.
Why did you decide to become a school governor?
I currently work in the charity sector, so I understand the vital role volunteering plays in supporting organisations, charities, and schools, as well as the constant need for fresh volunteers. I’ve always been keen to support my community and, as a mum of two girls, I wanted to give something back to a local school as a co-opted governor.
How did you find the application process for becoming a school governor?
I was very lucky. I attended a business fair and met Emma, a lovely, friendly person from Governors for Schools. After chatting to Emma about the role, I was inspired to offer up my knowledge, experience, and skills to help a school in need. As a fundraising manager for the NSPCC, I am familiar with the kinds of information organisations need from volunteers, so found the application process relatively straightforward.
Did becoming a school governor benefit your career/personal life?
It has enhanced my life. I continue to meet people with a diverse range of skillsets, including business professionals, stay-at-home parents, and carers. I enjoy interacting with these people and hearing their opinions on a range of topics. While we may disagree from time to time, we all share the same common goal – to find the best solutions for all children.
Working in the sector you do, is there anything about your organisation that you wish school governors knew?
As an NSPCC employee, I was surprised to hear that the school was aware of our existence but didn’t engage with us. Some of the work we do encourages children to “speak out, stay safe” and confide in trusted adults if they’re struggling with difficult issues. I’m pleased that the school has now started engaging in fundraising activities for the NSPCC within the school and the wider community. This is not all down to me, however! We now have a new head teacher, Mr Chris Bolton, who is fantastic and very child-focused.
What advice do you have to someone who is thinking about becoming a school governor?
Do It! As well as equipping you with new skills, governance allows you to make new friends and observe how the school community works to make a difference in young people’s lives. It’s very rewarding! If you’re keen to stay up-to-date on issues affecting the education sector, a governance role will also help you stay abreast of hot topics. If you have children in the school, you’ll get to know about upcoming activities, initiatives, and changes to the curriculum. Perhaps most importantly, I’d like to stress that becoming a governor isn’t overly time-consuming, even if you have a full-time job. Plus, it’s fun!
Do you think ‘soft skills’ (empathy, negotiation, emotional intelligence, confidence) are important in schools? If so, why?
Yes, developing and honing these skills is certainly beneficial for pupils. They’re also vital skills for governors. Skills like empathy and emotional intelligence allow you to offer genuine support to the teachers, children and SLT. If you’re confident and approachable, people will feel comfortable approaching you for advice on sensitive topics.
As a governor, what positive changes do you hope to make in your school?
As governors, we dedicate our energies to helping the children and teaching staff. We’re there to support them with the school’s business plan and drive positive change. I hope that we, as governors, can act as critical friends. Each one of us has strengths and skills developed across a diverse range of settings, which can be harnessed to support students and teachers and work towards maintaining an outstanding school.