I ended the summer term at an awards ceremony, where I was being recognised for my service to Leyton Sixth Form College in east London.
I had just completed my third term of office and was stepping down from the Board as a governor after 12 years’ service.
What made this a particularly special event is that I attended the same college as an A-level student back in the 1990s, and so it was a time to reflect on some of the reasons why I had volunteered, which for me was about giving something back – not just to the local community, but to a college that had served me so well. The occasion even managed to generate some media interest in the local press!
Volunteering since the age of 19
My governorship at Leyton Sixth Form College marked just a part of a diverse ‘portfolio’ of volunteering activities that have now spanned over half of my life. In fact, I first started volunteering at the age of 19 while an undergraduate at university. In that time, I’ve been a governor at a number of schools in challenging contexts which have included infant, primary, secondary and FE. I’ve also served on an NHS mental health trust board, worked with young offenders in the community for a youth offending team, with elected members in a local authority and was a Games Maker at the London 2012 Olympic Games!
The many benefits of volunteering
What I want to get across are the benefits of volunteering and the skills and experience it can provide you with, provided you choose the setting and context wisely. I first became a school governor just before I started my first teaching post at the age of 21. What I learned in this role in those early years of my teaching career are immeasurable. As a new teacher, you often don’t understand or have access to how the mechanics and running of the school work and its operations, particularly if you work in a large school as I did.
What being a governor did for me was provide insights and understanding of how schools are led, managed and governed, and how to perform that important role of ‘critical friend’ – a skill that is easily done badly! I also developed an understanding of school finance, human resources, recruitment and estates – key aspects of an organisation that, as a classroom teacher, you might not ever gain access to, particularly early on in your career.
I feel that being a governor alongside my teaching, middle and senior leadership roles in schools absolutely complimented each other, and enabled me to understand much more about the school improvement process and how schools work than had I just been a classroom teacher.
An excellent opportunity to develop skills
The skills, experience and expertise that can be derived from volunteering and particularly as a governor, such as holding senior executives to account, asking analytical questions, performance managing the head, determining and approving policies, honing communication skills etc, enhance a CV significantly. Not just because of the experience in its own right, but also because of what it shows and tells you about an individual’s character, commitment and values.
I highly recommend it to you for all of those reasons and more, and know that I will carry on doing as much as I can for years to come.
You can read the press article by clicking here.
David Hatchett is E-ACT’s Regional Education Director for London and Bucks (primaries)