Sally Barrett volunteers as a governor in Wythenshawe, South Manchester.
“I recently retired from teaching after 33 years and during my time in education had various roles – working my way up to headteacher. I had experience of being a staff governor and also as the headteacher on the governing board, so I’ve seen it from all angles. When I retired I thought I was done with education – I imagined myself learning a bit of Spanish, maybe working in M&S – but my interest in education didn’t go away.
I felt like I had something to contribute. Becoming a governor this time around was a balance between my own interests but also feeling able to give something back.
Now I’ve got the time to be a governor and contribute effectively. After I retired from my full time job I did supply work for three years which kept me busy. But once I’d been retired about six months I reconsidered. With the time to spare, I knew it wouldn’t feel like too much on top of my other commitments.
We’re living in challenging times and I’ve seen the impact on schools. I worked for Manchester City Council for most of my career and spent my first three years teaching in Wythenshawe. I’m now a governor back in Wythenshawe and it’s interesting to be working in a different context to what I was used to – the school I was headteacher at was very diverse with 25 languages while in Wythenshawe it’s largely white British. It’s a new challenge for me to work in a different context to where I spent the bulk of my career.
Being flexible means I can step in last minute when I’m needed, but in return, the trust publishes the full range of meetings for the year with plenty of notice so I can plan ahead. When I started the role last year I had holidays booked and they were understanding that I’d made plans. But now I can fit in meetings around my life – I’ve aligned my schedule with when I’m needed as I know the expectations. We have a fantastic clerk who gets papers to us well in advance. When I go to a meeting, I know it’ll be productive and finish on time. Lots of the other governors have more responsibilities than me – they work in business or education, so we’re aware of the need to respect their valuable time and make sure it’s used well.
Education’s important and a school’s relationship with governors is key. It needs to be positive and constructive. Pupils and their families are the reason we all do what we do. When it’s public money being spent, there needs to be accountability and schools should welcome challenge.
Being a governor is interesting and highly rewarding. It gives you a sense of belonging to the community. I’ve been able to challenge my own learning and understanding. You don’t need to be an expert in education or have knowledge about schools – it’s about the skills you can bring.”