Honey Clarke is a governor for Quercus Federation (Northiam and Hurst Green Church of England Primary Schools in East Sussex). Honey runs her own management consultancy business after building a successful career in Human Resources. She talks about the professional experience she brings to her schools and why now was the right time to start volunteering.
“After relocating to the UK five years ago I had a strong desire to do some volunteering and give something back to the local community. Education is so important and I felt this was an area I wanted to focus on supporting. My colleagues got me interested in school governance and helped me realise that those of us who work in business have a valuable role to play in schools.
I did some research about the role and within a couple of months was matched with a school in my area. The process was excellent and very efficient and I was given a choice in schools to work with. When I met with the chair of governors, he was honest about the challenges and his experience – and that was something I really liked. The conversation helped me see how I could bring value to the board.
Becoming a governor was my first step in becoming more active in my community. I know balance can be hard to get right – with family, work, and life in general, time is precious. Spare time is scarce but it’s valuable to use some of that time to support schools – they really need and value it.
Three years ago, I stopped working as a traditional employee and set up my own consulting business. The change to my working pattern was the catalyst to get involved – with the increased flexibility I can work my diary around my commitments.
I’ve had a 20 year career in HR and the governing board I joined didn’t have people with skills in that area. Now I’m on the board I can give an immediate answer to questions about HR and people management – saving us time and money. My experience in management consultancy helps facilitate conversations and ensure everyone’s voice is heard – which is vital on a governing board.
Volunteering in the role has given me a different perspective.
When I read about the government’s decisions in education, it’s very real. I see the impact as a governor – I’m in the school, meeting the parents and the children, interacting with the Heads of School and local community, and I see the challenges faced on a day to day basis.
I’ve seen how important it is to have a breadth of knowledge on a governing board. Being able to challenge effectively means schools can maintain a great standard of education.
Schools need all the help they can get – and any business experience will be helpful. Don’t overlook the time, though – it’s a responsibility and you’re accountable for contributing to the group.
I’d encourage anyone thinking about applying to ask questions about the role and be open minded. Think about the skills you could bring – schools need a mix of skillsets on their governing board so you’ll be able to contribute something.