A News story by Ellena Schuster-Farrell 14 November 2017

Trustees play a vital role, volunteering their time and working together to make important decisions about E-ACT’s work.

This week is Trustees’ Week, an annual event to showcase the great work that trustees do, so we’ve been getting to know a little more about some of the people who sit on our board.

Today, we’re talking to Jean Scott, Vice Chair of the Board. Jean specialises in governance, school improvement and leadership, and has written papers for the DfE and Education Select Committee. Jean also sits on E-ACT’s Education & Personnel Committee.

How did you first hear about E-ACT?

I knew of E-ACT from my time working for the National College for School Leadership and had done work alongside members of the trust. I also knew of David Moran’s work with the Schools, Students and Teachers Network.

“For me, it’s really important to be involved in something that will help to improve the life chances of students.”

What in particular attracted you to the role of trustee at E-ACT?

What appealed to me was that E-ACT works with some of the most disadvantaged children in the country, and that our academies are in some of the most deprived and difficult areas where children often suffer from multiple problems and issues. For me, it’s really important to be involved in something that will help to improve the life chances of those students.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your role as trustee?

Everything! Firstly, it’s going to the academies. I went to West Walsall E-ACT Academy not long ago and had a tour with the headteacher, and I was just amazed at the transformation. I observed fantastic lessons being taught and met well-behaved, polite students in corridors.  From being such a challenging place, it was really rewarding to see how the academy had moved on.

“I do enjoy our board meetings…some people may think that’s a mad thing to say but actually we’re a very good group of people!”

I also recently went to a Leadership Reference Group with some of our most outstanding headteachers. Talking and listening to them was so rewarding because they’re the backbone of the organisation. I have huge respect for them and their work.

And I have to say I do enjoy our board meetings…some people may think that’s a mad thing to say but actually we’re a very good group of people!

Casting your mind back how would you describe your own school experience?

The one thing my school experience did was enable me to be the first person in my family to go to university. My father was a coal miner and we lived in a small mining village in South Yorkshire, so getting to go to university was transformational for me. And I want that opportunity, or something similar, for every child – regardless of where they live and what their parents do.

How do you think education has changed since you were at school?

There’s much more emphasis now on the whole child, fostering whatever talents they have. We’re getting better at giving children choices: whether they want to be a plumber, an engineer, a doctor or a nurse, it’s important that children have those opportunities and are aware of them. I think in E-ACT academies we’re doing a lot more of that, and are conscious that we want to do even more.

“Whether they want to be a plumber, an engineer, a doctor or a nurse, it’s important that children have those opportunities and are aware of them.”

In my day, unless you went to a grammar school it was very difficult to succeed. Now in many areas of the country where there are outstanding state schools, we have thankfully moved away from that. My own children, for example, went to a good local secondary school and an outstanding sixth form college and have all done very well.

However, we still have a divided education landscape in this country. On the one hand, you’ve got outstanding schools but on the other, you’ve got schools where children struggle, where teaching is poor and classrooms are underfunded. We still have a way to go: we need to ensure that the same opportunities are available to every child.

Tell us about a memory that stands out from your school days.

For me, it’s my geography teacher Mr Hinchliffe. He was an outstanding teacher and he brought the subject to life. He was also the person who encouraged me to go on to further education, helping to set up an interview for me at Durham University. In those days, no working class children really went to Durham. What pushed me was his encouragement, it was him saying to me, “You could do that, you could go.”

“If I could see Mr Hinchliffe now, it would be nice to tell him how important he had been.”

In a way I don’t think I thanked him enough at the time, I was too excited and amazed to be going off to university. If I could see him now, it would be nice to tell him how important he had been. But it certainly shows how important good teachers are and the impact a good teacher can have on their students’ lives.

Keep an eye on our website for the second part of Jean’s interview, where she shares her thoughts on what makes an effective trustee and her vision for E-ACT.