Ruth Boaden is a governor at Camberwell Park Specialist Support School, Manchester. Ruth shares her experiences of governing at a special school, and how she got involved.
“I’m a governor at a special school in Manchester. Our pupils face a lot of challenges but the staff know the children well and are devoted to them. The children are at the centre of everything. Everyone at the school is dedicated to supporting each child to be the best they can be.
Initially, I became a governor because my children were at school and I thought my professional skills would be useful. After having a break from being a governor due to work, I then enquired about the role again through my employer, The University of Manchester.
Although I didn’t specifically ask to be a governor at a SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) school, when it was offered, the idea of joining a special school board was very appealing.
I’d become disillusioned with the national policy’s emphasis on academic progress in education. I’d seen in previous governor roles that this emphasis was sometimes at the detriment of developing the whole child. I knew enough about special schools to realise that academic achievement wasn’t at the forefront in the same way.
Members of my own family experience learning difficulties and I have friends with children who also experience difficulties. These personal connections were another motivation to support a special school.
The school faces all the usual challenges of money, staffing, resources, and finding governors. But on top of that, the school is in a relatively deprived area and parents don’t have the resources to make extra contributions, both in terms of time and money.
Not all of the school is in the shiny new building – some classes are still on a separate site but the facilities there aren’t as good. There are plans for a new building on the main site, but there are delays and the project is subject to the local authority’s financial challenges.
So there’s lots for governors to support with – I never fail to learn and be impressed when I visit the school. The pupils and the staff are inspiring.
I’d recommend becoming a governor at a special school because you really can make a difference. Special schools need people to volunteer their skills and help out. It makes you realise how fortunate you are when you see the challenges others face on a daily basis. The children make it all worthwhile. Seeing them develop in whatever way is appropriate to them is rewarding and makes me proud to be a governor at the school.”