Growing up, I was adamant I’d go into teaching. Motivated by the idea that I could shape children’s futures, I dreamt about running my very own classroom full of excited children. However, things didn’t quite work out as I’d imagined, and I was left wondering whether I would ever find my place in the education sector.
As a fresh-faced 18-year-old, I embarked on a degree in Primary Education and was confronted with the tough reality of life in the classroom. While my love of learning and belief in the transformative effects of education remained steadfast, the demands of teaching made me wonder whether I had chosen the right path. So, I switched my degree subject to Education Studies and History and told myself I would retrain as a teacher a few years later.
A few years came and went and, with that, several years of experience in higher education outreach and recruitment roles. In some ways, my interest in teaching was reignited by working with secondary school students in an outreach capacity. However, the timing never felt quite right to get back into teaching. I saw friends train as teachers, some of whom stuck it out and remain in the classroom to this day. Others, like me, left for pastures new despite an unwavering conviction in the power of teaching and learning. My desire to keep up with the education sector sparked an interest in school governance, and I’ve been a governor at a primary school in County Durham since 2019.
Volunteering in the role has delivered a multitude of benefits. Professionally, I’ve gained skills I would not have had the chance to develop in my day job. Governors are commonly tasked with complex responsibilities such as scrutinising schools’ budgets. While such demands can feel a little overwhelming at times, I have quickly become much better at managing finances confidently – a skill I can transfer to other roles. On a personal level, I derive great satisfaction from giving back to my community. Indeed, I feel privileged and humbled to share my ideas and witness the difference my contribution makes to children’s lives.
Working as a governor incentivizes me to keep up to date on current school legislation, which has greatly informed my decisions about returning to the classroom. In 2021, I took up a middle leadership role in a secondary school. However, this was relatively short-lived. Faced with the harsh realities of underfunding within the system, as well as the need for greater flexibility to suit my home life, I decided to leave the role. I quickly accepted a remote position at an organisation called Governors for Schools, an education charity that places skilled volunteers on school boards across England and Wales.
Working for the charity has given me valuable insights into the impact governors can have on children’s lives. We work with so many talented and skilled individuals who use their time and expertise to support our nation’s schools. I’m inspired by the impact school governors can have and find the work challenging and rewarding. I may not be the teacher I thought I would become all those years ago, but I’ve managed to carve out a career path that has allowed me to support children in other ways.
If you are thinking of taking a break from education or looking for a new challenge, then governance could be for you. One of the most important things I have learned in my career so far is that volunteering as a governor has significantly enhanced my skillset. As well as giving you a sense of purpose and satisfaction, it could lead you down professional roads you never would have anticipated. If you decide to take the plunge and apply for a governance role, I hope it enriches your life as much as it has mine.
Governors for Schools is a great place to start if you are considering becoming a governor. Our website is full of useful information, and you would be warmly welcome at our next free governor information session.
About the author
Ashley Callard is the Communications and Engagement Manager at Governors for Schools. She joined the organisation in January 2022 and leads the charity’s annual campaign, conference and communications. She is the Vice Chair of a governing board at a Primary School in County Durham.