Alright Gov? Why as an OSH professional, you should become a school governor!

I’ve been a school governor a little over 3 years now.  When I was thinking about applying, I was often asked by friends, “You’re already busy enough with a young family and other voluntary commitments, why do you want to add that on top Scott”. 

So why did I become a governor? 

I wanted to give back and make a difference in my local community.  Communities are struggling and if I can help, then I will.  Schools struggle for support, they struggle to recruit governors and they struggle to manage all the various demands that are placed upon them.  Therefore, if I can help support and reduce that struggle, then I will.

So why should you as a busy OSH professional become a governor?

Well, the National Governance Association (NGA) have shown that school governor vacancies are the highest in six years, with an estimated 20,000 vacancies overall throughout England.  Here’s some of my thoughts on what you can give and what you can gain:

  • If you are just starting out in OSH or are thinking about OSH as a profession, being a school governor is a great place to learn and apply your skills.
  • Being a school governor is a great way to build and prepare you for future roles, whether paid or voluntary.
  • You may already be a logical person.  Schools need logical people, of whom are going to help make logical and sensible decisions for the children and staff.  Schools can at times be overly cautious and rightly so to an extent, but a well place OSH professional can help them steer through what they must do, should do and could do, thus taking the right path for all.
  • You have an opportunity if you haven’t already to work strategically and with a board.  This is great experience for you if you have never does this whilst giving your support and direction to the board of governors.  You may also, have an opportunity to educate the board about their OSH roles and responsibilities, thus improving the culture of the school going forward.
  • You have the ability to open up your experience in other areas, such as finance and HR amongst others. 
  • You may be part of making decisions about contracts that affect the school – such as cleaning or catering contracts.
  • You may have the opportunity to get involved further in other local community activities and to support these.
  • It is great for your CPD and expanding your competency – thinking about how you can learn more and becoming a better all rounded OSH professional.  You have the opportunity to widen your stakeholder engagement.
  • Volunteering is great for your own mental health – providing you are not over doing it – so you need to know your limits and what you can and can’t do.  Schools will and do utilise their most invested governors, so make sure you know your why.  Why did I want to do this and help in the first place. 

The NGA survey, revealed that there was a particular lack of young governors, 6% being under 40 and only 1% under 30.  Whilst there may be many reasons for this, I would encourage anyone under 40 to not be put off by being young.  This was certainly something I did (and at times still do), wrestle with.  If you have the capacity, don’t let age be a factor to put you off school governance.

You don’t have to be a full governor either, there are other options such as co-opted or as an associate governor.  You can find more information about the different types of governors

here, put simply a full governor plays a part in the leadership and management of the school.  As a full governor, you may be called upon to be part of hearing or disciplinary panels, or be part of recruitment.  You will have to attend 5-6 full governors meetings throughout the year, along with attending sub committee meetings – whether that is finance and premises (or some schools call these resources), standards and curriculum or other sub groups.  You will also have to read minutes and approve policies, which can be time consuming. 

Therefore, being an associate governor is a great fit, whereby you can utilise your OSH skills, however there is less demand on your availability and time.

I wouldn’t overburden yourself or add additional stress to your life (I’ve learnt that the hard way), but if you think that being a governor is for you (and you have the capacity to support), I really would encourage you to have a think about signing up, even if it is for a short period of time.  The best people to speak with are the schools headteacher, or by writing to your local authority governor services.

Scott Crichton is a Senior Risk Management Consultant at Endsleigh Insurance, a School Governor, a HSE People Champion and much more! Connect with him on LinkedIn here.

Amazing insight Scott, thank you so much!