‘If you get on the governing body, you can do some good...’

Julien Kramer, head of education at Portsmouth City Council
Julien Kramer, head of education at Portsmouth City Council
The Highfield Campus at the University of Southampton, which is home to the George Thomas Building. Picture: Geograph

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Earlier this year we revealed there were dozens of vacancies for school governors in this area. Ruth Scammell speaks to some of the people who rose to the challenge and took on the role.

School governors play a crucial part in the running of our schools.

Earlier this year, The News launched a campaign to try and recruit more governors to schools after Portsmouth City Council admitted it was very short on numbers.

And it’s been hailed a huge success.

Starting off, the city council had 135 vacancies.

But since the campaign launched in March, that has fallen by 52.

There have been 71 applications to date, and a further seven people are being interviewed.

Julien Kramer is head of education at Portsmouth City Council.

He says: ‘We’re really pleased with the results from the governor campaign and are delighted with the number of new governors that have come on board as a result.

‘We’ll continue work on recruiting new governors to manage the natural turnover and also so that we can offer schools a good range of skilled professionals to assist in this important work of governance.

‘We thank The News for its brilliant campaign and will continue to welcome new governors.’

The campaign was initially launched in Portsmouth, but was then extended to Fareham and Gosport

Governors are drawn from all walks of life and work to set the direction of a school, appoint the headteacher and hold him or her to account, and try to ensure the school is improving.

Candidates need to be aged 18 or over, and a term in office lasts four years.

Governing boards are made up of parent governors, staff governors, authority governors nominated by the council and community governors.

School governors are typically asked to devote an hour or two a week to fill a role, but this can vary depending on commitments and meetings that take place at that particular school.

Each school can have between 10 and 20 governors.

Today The News speaks to some of the newly-recruited governors and finds out 
why they wanted to get involved.

Alistair Gray

Alistair Gray, 54, works in the HR department at Blake Morgan in Port Solent. He is yet to be placed in a school as a governor.

He says: ‘We want to encourage people to get involved in several ways in the community. That could be volunteering or raising awareness for local charities or doing something else that helps put something back in some way.

‘We think some of our lawyers and other professionals will become school governors, learning and developing new skills and extending their professional network.

‘I was quite keen to get involved.

‘I expressed an interest and went through training and I look forward to being a governor.

‘Anything we can do to help in terms of the way a school is run to help raise the aspirations of children has to be seen as an objective of any part of the business community in Portsmouth.

‘We are keen to support schools in all sorts of ways. We encourage our employers to get involved.

‘We have people with a whole range of skills which might be beneficial to schools.

‘Some of our young employers bring a certain skill set. They get to develop their general management skills by being involved.’

Kieran Murphy

Kieran Murphy, 28, from Southsea, is a governor at Manor Infant School.

He says: ‘I wanted to start occupying my free time. I moved to Portsmouth two years ago to take on a new role.

‘This is something that’s constructive. It has some benefit to others.

‘I have got a lot of interest in politics on all levels.

‘It’s quite important to me that as somebody who is young, that we have got generations coming up the line to take more of an interest in how our children are being taught,

‘I pick up on the problems that we have got in the city.

‘Schools have a critical part to play in getting young people out into the world.

‘For me, being a governor gets me a chance to have some influence in some way.

‘We have all got a responsibility whether we are parents, employers or general members of the public.’

Rosalyn Anderson

Rosalyn Anderson, 61, lives in Drayton and is also a governor at Manor Infant School.

She says: ‘This is to fulfil a professional gap in my life. I had to take early retirement years ago because my mother fell quite ill and needed care.

‘Sadly she died a couple of years ago. I’m not going to go back to work because it was too long ago but I wanted to get into something that was meaningful.

‘I saw The News article about school governors and I thought it was brilliant and it really does meet what I am looking for.’

Rosalyn says it’s her passion for learning that drew her to get involved in the governing campaign.

‘I love learning about new things. This seemed to fall in with my own interests,’ she says.

‘It’s so important that children do have a caring and nurturing environment to learn.

‘I want to use skills that I have developed over the years in my professional life that I’m not using at the moment.

‘It’s about wanting to contribute something back to the city that I have lived in all my life. It’s very much a personal challenge, doing something that’s quite different.

‘It’s a delightful school. I have been there a few times now.

‘I am impressed with the new headteacher - he’s relatively new. Him and the staff have set a clear vision for what they feel the school should be.

‘Their motto is to inspire children to achieve - that’s absolutely marvellous.’

Cheryl Morris

Cheryl Morris, 52, from Baffins, is a governor at Manor Infant School in Fratton.

She says: ‘I went to school in Portsmouth and I wanted to give something back. The school that I’m working with has set itself some pretty high targets.

‘I’m excited by the prospect. It’s a chance to make a real difference.

‘I know that school governors can make a difference and I know that it’s about challenging and working alongside staff, but also not being afraid to ask questions and to challenge if you don’t think something feels right.

‘There have been cases where Ofsted has failed a school because of the leadership and management of the school. Governance is an important part.

‘It’s a partnership with the headteacher and the people who work in the school day in and day out.’

Cheryl is hoping her experience working in the banking sector will help her at Manor Infants.

She adds: ‘I think business has a part to play. People in business can bring something to the table. I think I am going to see that more as I get more into it.

‘The main part of this is to give the children the best education and to give them aspirations.’

Stephen Smith

Stephen Smith, 64, lives in Paulsgrove. He is a retired teacher who is now a governor at Moorings Way Infant School in Milton.

He says: ‘I want to have a say in how a school is run. When you’re a teacher, sometimes you disagree with the way things are run and you can’t do anything about it.

‘If you get on to the governing body then you can do some good.

‘The school has a good Ofsted report and I want to help maintain that and get it even better, up to outstanding.

‘I want to do whatever I can to achieve this.’

Stephen says he hopes to give back as he found teaching a very rewarding profession.

‘In teaching the kids give you the satisfaction on their faces when they learn,’ he adds.

‘I just want to give something back from all the pleasure I have had seeing the kids pass exams and come through my classes.

‘I don’t want to retire fully. I want to stay within the education field.

‘School governors are very important. Without them, schools won’t run properly. School governors are the ones that hold the purse strings.

‘The money that the school is given goes to the governing body and we decide where the money will be put to good use. It’s a good way of achieving that.’