We’re delighted to bring you our first governor story of 2023. We are always keen to showcase the dedicated work of our volunteers, and this month, we shine a spotlight on Vice-Chair Will.
Will Bellamy is a governor at a primary school in the South West of England and currently an apprentice within a professional services company. While only 1% of school governance volunteers are aged under 30, Will became a governor aged 18, going on to become the Vice-Chair on his board age 20.
Will took some time to talk to us about his experiences over the past two years, including what he has learnt and why he believes it is important for more young people to take on school governance roles.
What motivated you to become a school governor?
I wanted to try something different to my day job that would benefit my skillset. As an apprentice, I’m still learning and plan to continue doing so, and I believe that volunteering can be a great way to develop both personally and professionally. I knew that my employer offered volunteering days I could use to get involved in rewarding projects that would benefit my community. I was also looking for a consistent, long-term volunteering opportunity rather than a one-off initiative, so school governance felt like an excellent fit for me.
Has there been a particular highlight in your governance journey so far?
I am currently halfway through my term of office at the school and had my first experience of Ofsted in July 2022. We were pleased that the school continues to be considered ‘Good’. It was really interesting to see how the Ofsted process works and to support the school through this. I would say it was a really worthwhile experience. Sitting down in front of an Ofsted inspector as a 21-year-old vice-chair was quite daunting, but I was able to represent the school effectively and speak about its plans and approach, as well as how these positively impacted outcomes for our children.
Why do you think it is important that younger people volunteer in school governance roles? Have you had any positive or negative experiences based on your age in your role?
As a young person, you’re at the foot of a steep learning curve with a multitude of opportunities to learn and improve yourself. Becoming a governor gave me the opportunity to learn and grow as an individual while supporting a school I’m proud to be associated with. I learnt how an organisation utilises funding and other resources within both stable and unstable periods such as COVID-19. I now have valuable board experience and have absorbed knowledge about education and many other aspects from the school’s exceptional staff and my fellow governors. There is much more I can take away from my roles for the remainder of my career making this a very worthwhile experience.
How relevant are your professional skills to what you contribute as a governor?
I had fairly limited professional skills when I joined as a governor, having only finished my A levels a few months prior. Currently, I have much greater knowledge around balance sheets, which allows me to be an effective member of our Finance & Resource Committee. However, I believe the presence of young governors is highly appreciated at the school, meaning there are no specific skillset requirements and people shouldn’t be put off if they haven’t developed years of professional expertise.
Has your governance role helped sharpen any of these skills?
In my department, we use the financials of the target company to carry out analysis and produce a report for our client to assist their decisions around the deal in question. I am familiar with seeing reports and financial analyses on deals as part of my day-to-day role. While this is very different to the governor role, it has improved my understanding of how finances work at the Primary School.
As the Chair of the finance and resource committee, I am required to scrutinise the budget and spending. We look at expenditure and forecasts for the budget, and I am able to look at this from a third-party perspective. I aim to support the school’s finance and leadership team with a continued governance mind-set, asking various questions about the finance and resources of the school.
There are lots of topics I am not familiar with, so I’m continually challenged to navigate uncomfortable situations and trust in my ability to challenge effectively and ask questions.
What would you say to someone thinking about becoming a school governor?
Taking on a school governance role provides you with a new skillset and gives you the opportunity to assist a school that really needs you and your input. It isn’t a walk in the park, as you do need to be committed to the school and is not an ad hoc or once-a-year commitment. While demanding, it is really rewarding. At the same time, it is very flexible and works around your work life.
Want to know how you could use your skills to support a school? Find out more at: About the role – Governors for Schools.