Sarah Amissah is a Vice Chair of Governors at Laycock Primary School in North London and works as a Computing Curriculum Coordinator within Islington. Laycock Primary is a three form mainstream primary with a specialist provision for children born profoundly deaf, with one form of each year group consisting of children with hearing impairments.
Sarah took some time to talk to us about her experience of working in education both inside and outside the classroom, including what she has learnt and why she believes decisions from a diverse governing body help to benefit all students.
What inspired you to become a school governor initially?
I am deeply committed to education and firmly believe that schools play a crucial role in shaping our collective future. As someone who grew up in inner London, specifically Hackney, I am particularly attuned to the needs and experiences of the community I serve. My background and personal journey through the education system has also given me a unique vantage point from which I can address the social inequalities many of these children face. I believe that it is essential for children to see individuals from their own gender, ethnicity, and background in senior roles as it allows them to envision and strive for possibilities. The underrepresentation of black governors, especially women, is particularly concerning given the disproportionate high rates of exclusion and lower academic attainment amongst black children. I believe that it is crucial for a governing body to reflect the diversity of the community it serves, and to have representation from all backgrounds in order to make informed decisions that benefit all students. Furthermore, as a teacher, I have a keen understanding of the day-to-day realities of teaching and hope to be an effective advocate for strengthening the relationship between the governing body and the school.
How have you found your governance role so far?
The school governance role has been an enlightening experience, especially considering the challenges faced by many schools. It has required me to be more organised and efficient with my time in order to fulfil my duties. The process has also been a steep learning curve, but I have been fortunate enough to have met many amazing people and feel part of a supportive community. The most rewarding aspect of this role has been contributing to the decision-making process, this has given me the opportunity to make a positive impact on the future generation and I am proud to be part of a team that is committed to making a difference in the field of education.
What’s been a key highlight for you?
Personally, the key highlight for me has been the opportunity to thrive in an environment that encourages critical thinking and allows me to initiate change. One of the most notable experiences was my participation in the headteacher recruitment panel, where I was able to play a vital role in the selection of the current headteacher. The experience was incredibly fulfilling as it gave me the opportunity to contribute to a crucial aspect of governance and to collaborate with like-minded individuals in selecting a leader who shared our vision for the school.
How important do you think it is for people with teaching backgrounds to be involved in school governance?
As educators, one of the key highlights for me has been the ability to engage with a diverse range of perspectives and voices. Each of us brings our own perspective to the table, and it is through this collective sharing of ideas and experiences that we are able to gain a deeper understanding of the issues at hand. This is particularly important when it comes to our role as members of governing bodies, as we are able to see the broader impact of our day-to-day work in the classroom and the potential for education to drive change on a wider scale. From our teaching backgrounds, we have the ability to see first-hand the power of education and the influence that we can have beyond the walls of our classrooms or departments. By sitting on governing bodies, we can leverage this insight to work towards creating meaningful, long-lasting change in our communities and beyond. It’s also immensely fulfilling to act as an advocate and challenger without fear of negative repercussions.
How has it been fitting this in alongside your career in education?
Being a school governor while also working in education can be challenging, particularly when it comes to balancing the demands of both roles and the time restrictions due to school hours. However, with the help of technology and a supportive employer, I have been able to effectively manage my time to fulfil my responsibilities as a governor. Despite the challenges, it has been incredibly rewarding as it allows me to apply my professional knowledge and experience to the governance role, and to bring a unique perspective to the table. I have also had the opportunity to learn more about the broader education system and contribute to making a positive impact on students, staff, and the community.
Has your school governance role helped with your professional development? If so, how?
My role as a governor has been a positive contributor in terms of my professional growth. I’ve been able to gain insight into the strategic vision of the school as a middle leader, and having the potential to advance into senior leadership roles has been particularly rewarding. I have more understanding on what makes schools work well, the need for accountability, and maintaining and fostering good relationships.
When did you decide to become a Vice Chair of governors, and how are you finding the role?
With the departure of the previous Vice Chair, the opportunity arose for me to assume the role. Initially, I was hesitant, due to feelings of self-doubt. However, upon reflection, I remembered my initial motivations for becoming a governor, which were to make a positive impact and contribute to the betterment of the school. With this in mind, I decided to put my apprehensions aside and put myself forward for the role. It was a bold move but my desire to be a part of the change and make a difference in education outweighed any doubts.
I am finding the role of Vice Chair of Governors to be incredibly fulfilling, particularly in regards to the influence it has on the children in our school. Being part of a dedicated and passionate team that is committed to shaping the direction and success of our school is an honour, and I am impressed by the level of expertise and commitment of the other governors and school staff. I find great satisfaction in contributing to the decision-making process and on the future of the school. I am continually learning and growing in this role and I am excited to see how our collective efforts will benefit the children in our school, now and hereafter. Overall, I am thrilled to be a part of this dynamic collective, where the well-being and education of the children is at the forefront of all decisions made.
What would you say to anyone thinking about becoming a school governor?
I highly recommend becoming a school governor as it allows you to shape the direction and success of a school. You can make a positive impact on the education and well-being of children, and have the opportunity to influence students, staff and the community. It’s a challenging but rewarding experience that develops professional skills and knowledge while giving back to the community and gaining a deeper understanding of the education system.
Want to know how you could use your skills to support a school?