Mary Isherwood OBE is the headteacher at Camberwell Park School in Manchester, which is a primary special school. Mary talks about the need for good governors on the board, and the challenges the school faces. 


Special school

“Camberwell Park is a special school for pupils of primary age who have a broad range of learning difficulties – including severe, profound and multiple learning difficulties and autism.

It’s a challenge to find governors with the skills and experience the board needs. There are 14 governors on the board and it’s important that between us, we can support and challenge the school leadership effectively.

As part of the school’s overall leadership and management, governors are vital to the school’s success. The knowledge governors bring from their professional experience has helped our strategic development. Having specialists on the governing board supports the school to be rigorous in self-evaluation. We also learn from the governors as they bring a wealth of outside experience.

Currently, the main challenges facing the school are…

1. Finance! Budgets are getting tighter whilst the demands remain high. It’s crucial to have good financial management. Making sure we see the best value for money is essential and governors with finance experience are key to helping this happen.

2. Changing demands externally – like to the Ofsted framework or curriculum requirements from the DfE.

3. In the context of special education, there’s a lot of uncertainty over assessment – we’ve moved from P levels to Pre-keystage standards for some children, but there’s no clarity as yet about expectations for the children working at the lowest levels of ability.

4. Recruitment and selection. Making sure all our jobs are filled with the right people can be difficult.

If you’re interested in the role, visit the school to find out more – you don’t need knowledge of special education to join a special school’s governing board. A variety of skills are vital on the governing board. Knowledge of areas like finance, HR, and other areas of education are invaluable and are a key part of leadership and management.

It’s always worth a discussion with the school and a visit to find out more. You don’t need to have a knowledge of special schools to come and work on our governing board – just an open mind. Don’t be afraid to ask questions –questions help us reflect on our practice too.”