With School Governors’ Awareness Day approaching, we’re celebrating the story of young governor Alex Langford-Pollard, who volunteers at Kings’ Academy Prospect in Reading and is a Manager within the Large and Complex group at Deloitte.
Alex chatted to us about what inspired him to become a school governor, why governing boards need more volunteers under the age of 30, and how he helped his school change from ‘Requires Improvement’ to ‘Good’ in its most recent Ofsted report.
What motivated you to become a school governor?
A key motivation was that through all the training I have received, I had the knowledge and useful skills that are in high demand within the governance space, and I knew I was in a position to give back and make a positive influence on my local community. From having a number of friends who are teachers, I was very aware of the challenges schools face today, including the impact of COVID-19, and knew that my skill-set would be beneficial in helping overcome some of these difficulties.
Deloitte were really supportive of my interest in becoming a governor. I spoke with my people leader and they put me in contact with senior members of the team who helped bring the role to light and further my interest in taking on the role.
Why do you think it’s important for people under the age of 30 to take on school governance roles?
A balanced and diverse board with a range of ages and backgrounds brings the most effective form of governance, benefiting both the school and the community. The importance of under 30s taking on board roles provides a different perspective and helps secure a solid platform for the future of governance. From a personal perspective, this role has developed my strategic experience and increased my involvement of working with key stakeholders from a variety of backgrounds. I believe this exposure will help benefit my career both short term and in the long term.
When did it become apparent you might be a good candidate to become Chair at the school?
After joining the board, it was clear from early interactions that there was a strong working relationship between key members of staff, the trust, and me. Having developed this relationship, it was clear that we all shared the same ambition in making great strides for the school in terms of vision and putting this into action. After discussing and gaining advice from leaders at my current employer, I decided it would be a great opportunity to support the school to help it achieve its future success.
As one of the younger Chairs of Governors in the country, is there any advice you’d pass on to someone else considering taking on the role in their 20s?
The key advice I would give is to speak to the leaders that you admire both internally at your employer and at the school. They often have insightful advice that will allow you to springboard into being a successful Chair of Governors. Advice I received included; ensuring that I developed a strong team with expertise that I trusted and developing a strong relationship with those at the school. Finally, I would say that I enjoy the role. From being the Chair of Governors, it has allowed me to be more exposed and acknowledge the great work performed by the staff, students and other governors where I can therefore celebrate their many successes.
What were your initial priorities when appointed into the Chair? Where was the school in its journey from ‘Requires Improvement’ to ‘Good’ at that point?
My initial priorities were to gain a more diverse knowledge of the school as my previous role was focussed on finance and operations. I took the opportunity to gather knowledge from the leaders within the school on specialist areas such as SEND, in order to have a better understanding of the school.
Secondly, my priority was to gather a team of experts within the board that I can trust upon within their specialist areas. As a result, we managed to recruit a specialist in Safeguarding and SEND, and Diversity and Inclusion, which have both been successful additions to the board and helped diversify our knowledge base.
Finally, with the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, I was aware that an Ofsted inspection would be around the corner. A monitoring visit in July 2021 came to the conclusion that the school remained ‘Requires Improvement’ with one of the reasons due to the quality of local governance. On my appointment one year later as chair, I knew the above two points were key in ensuring that local governance supported the school in its ambition for becoming a ‘Good’ school.
How did you go about building an effective, diverse governing board at the school?
Initially I considered where there were gaps within our board and I then discussed with senior leaders and my contacts who would be interested in joining. I found it was important to first consider those that I believed would add value to the board, and reached out to them personally. Diversity within the board is a continual goal and a top priority, as I believe this brings out the most effective board.
Talk us through your experience of Ofsted? How did the school prepare? How was it on the day?
When I had the initial call for Ofsted, I was apprehensive as I knew it was a big undertaking and I wanted to ensure I represented the school in the best light. The school had a clear Ofsted ghost plan and alongside this, I had been preparing my own for the governing board. The best preparation I found was reading the latest board minutes, Academy improvement plan and headteachers reports. These three documents brought to life the successes of the school and the challenges that we are working hard to address.
On the day itself, it felt like an exam day, however the team spirit and sense of ‘we are all in this together’ was high. It was great seeing all the students, staff, parents and governors pulling together in order to truly show the greatest aspects of the school.
How did it feel to receive confirmation the school was now ‘Good’ after 7 years of being considered ‘Requires Improvement’?
The moment that we were told the news, there was a huge sense of achievement and relief. The effort put in by all of the community was appreciated with the tangible output of a ‘Good’ rating. Further to this, by achieving an ‘Outstanding’ rating in Leadership, it confirmed that the decisions we are making as a group of leaders has the best interests of the future of the school. From a personal perspective, I felt immensely proud as it reflects that the students of the school will have improved outcomes and the community will benefit as a whole.
What’s next for you and the school?
Our aim now is to continue to build on these successes and to ensure that the students at the school have improved outcomes over their life at Kings Academy Prospect. When Ofsted next arrive, we aim to be in the position to be going for the ‘Outstanding’ status, which I personally believe is an achievable target.
Ready to start your governor journey?
If you’re keen to try your hand at governing, don’t forget to sign up for our introductory webinar – part of this year’s free webinar line-up for National School Governors’ Awareness Day. We also encourage you to check out the other sessions, each of which explores a key theme affecting today’s governance landscape.