The #ukgovchat topic on Sunday was on Governor Wellbeing & since I find myself unusually with some time to ponder then, dear reader, please indulge me.
I am currently enjoying a spot of R&R which is doing wonders for my wellbeing. Having just returned to our room after a massage I was reminded of the last time I was here & we got ‘the call’. As Safeguarding Governor it was a given that the Inspector would want a chat & I gave my availability from afar to the school. Not between x & y I said, I’ve booked a massage. Obviously I ended up sitting on the couch dressed only in paper pants & a towel talking Safeguarding for 20 minutes with our lead HMI! On holiday, 70 miles off the coast of Africa, I was expected to make myself available at a time convenient only to Ofsted to defend our Safeguarding practices.
Governors are generally pretty positive & resilient types but that doesn’t mean they don’t hit the wall occasionally. Governance, despite the positive spin of ‘giving back’ & ‘doing it for the kids’, can be desperately challenging when courageous conversations are required & difficult decisions need to be made. The burden of governance can weigh heavily when endeavouring to do what is right & I have lost more sleep over school governance than I ever have in all the years of my professional life in primary health care & higher education.
As a Chair, Safeguarding Governor, SEN Governor, governor & IEB member in a variety of settings I have led on academy conversion, chaired complaints & disciplinary panels, authored a Serious Case Review report, appointed Headteachers, dismissed Headteachers, faced down vexatious complainants, supported parents seeking the best for their children & addressed serious whistleblowing concerns. Each of these, outside of my normal working practices, has lost me hours & sometimes days I can never get back ensuring that I have done the right thing with integrity, honesty & clarity.
All of this done as a mere volunteer on top of maintaining a practice, teaching in a clinical setting & being wife, mother, head cook & bottle washer. All of it only possible with support from a network of fellow Chairs, experienced governors, a professional Clerk, LA Governor Services & HR, the NGA and a long suffering family.
Good governance is not always easy and I’m not convinced that the majority of non-governance folk have even an inkling of what we do actually deal with & the toll it can take. I know of Chairs whose mental health has been severely compromised by the challenges of doing right by the school without adequate support and I believe that when we talk about staff mental health & wellbeing we should be including governors not only in the conversations but in the remedies. It’s not all cake & Kumbaya!
I don’t know if it’s the voluntary nature of what we do or a martyr complex that drives governors to keep going above & beyond. I do know that when needs must people should step away with their heads held high and in the meantime we should be actively seeking ways to alleviate the stresses that can be associated with the increasing complexities of governance.
Please don’t mistake this for a ‘woe is me’ post, governance has been one of the most stimulating & rewarding things I have undertaken outside of my own professional work & I don’t regret a moment of it. However, I do believe we need to have more meaningful conversations on how we actively support the wellbeing of the thousands of volunteers who give so much of themselves in support of our schools & do it with humour & good grace, even when sporting nothing more than paper pants and a towel.