Joining the governing board of a different school or trust is a long-term professional development opportunity that will add value to your career.
What are the benefits?
Over the past year, the National Governance Association has spoken to many teachers, middle leaders and senior leaders who have chosen to join the board of another school or trust. Their reflections on the role are consistently complimentary.
Some choose to volunteer to develop the skills and experience to move into a leadership role. A board is the perfect place to extend strategic leadership skills, personal skills and job-related skills in an education environment. It provides the opportunity to be involved in discussions and decision-making that you usually would not be involved with until further into your career. Aspiring leaders will get exposure to matters such as budgets, human resources and long-term planning and have a view of how everything works together across an organisation.
For others it is about seeking a new way to use their skills outside of the classroom and taking professional pride in supporting other children and communities.
Being involved in a school/trust with a different context or culture gives an opportunity to use your expertise to solve new challenges and to experience different ways of working. This could be by governing in a different phase of school, a different type of school or within a different community. Wherever you volunteer, governing covers a diverse range of subject matter and lets you work with lots of different people.
Educators we have spoken to all have different reasons for choosing the boards they did – a senior leader working in a pupil referral unit chose a mainstream primary school to understand how they could better help pupils integrate into mainstream education, and to contribute expertise on behaviour and SEND. A middle leader in a secondary school who wanted to understand more about transition and pupils’ earlier experiences of education chose a primary school.
What you can bring to a board
Boards need a balance and diversity of skills, experiences and backgrounds in order to govern effectively. Education expertise is a valuable part of this mix. You will be able to offer robust challenge and support to executive leaders with your working understanding of education. Your specialisms and skills – whether that be data, safeguarding or something else – will add knowledge and perspective to the board’s discussions and decisions. As someone who knows what working in a school is like, you will also be able to shape the culture for other educators, as well as bringing new ideas and insight.
What is the role?
Boards have a strategic role in school leadership – think ‘eyes on, hands off’. It is about offering support and challenge, and asking courageous and constructive questions in the interest of children and young people. Formally, boards are responsible for ensuring vision, ethos and strategic direction; holding the executive leader to account; and overseeing the financial performance of the organisation. They also have responsibilities for stakeholder engagement and as the employer of staff.
How to apply
Visit NGA's 'Be a volunteer' page to find out how to get involved.
About the author
Kirstie Ebbs is the National Governance Association’s public relations manager. Her role includes promoting campaigns, resources and policies to help improve governance in schools and trusts. She also provides communications expertise across the organisation. Prior to joining NGA, Kirstie worked for a large multi academy trust and in financial services. Kirstie is a CIPR Accredited PR Practitioner.