Rhian Harris governor

Being a governor is such a rewarding experience

On School Governor Awareness Day, Rhian Harris, Chair of Governors at Edward Worlledge Ormiston Academy in Great Yarmouth shares her rewarding experience of being a governor.

I’ve been a governor at Edward Worlledge Ormiston Academy for just under a year. In that time, I’ve already learnt a huge amount about primary education whilst also being given the opportunity to develop a range of new skills. 

How I became a governor 

I currently work for an education charity and had felt for a while that I wanted to belong to a school community and have a more direct impact on the lives of young people. I felt I had something to give and knew it would also be an opportunity to develop my leadership skills and in turn, support my career.

I knew colleagues who were governors and having read more about the role I decided to register with the Inspiring Governance recruitment service. Feeling passionate that all pupils should be able to access a great education regardless of their background, I particularly hoped to find a school with a high ratio of pupil premium funding. 

Initially, I was open to joining a standalone school, but once I’d been contacted by Ormiston Academies Trust (OAT) and had spoken to the team, I realised the benefits of the support offered by a large trust such as OAT. 

There can be a misconception that governors need extensive prior knowledge about how to run a school, but that’s not the case at all – the role of a governor is to support and challenge the school leadership at a strategic rather than operational level.

My experience so far 

The only thing you need to apply is a commitment to wanting to make a difference for the young people at the academy you govern.  

Rhian Harris, Chair of Governors at Edward Worlledge Ormiston Academy

I am always keen to ensure I am playing my role in the oversight of the academy. One of the key skills of an effective governor is the ability to ask succinct, incisive questions, and I challenge myself before each board meeting to identify the key questions I want to ask about for example the principal’s report. 

One of the most important things to be a successful governor is knowing your academy, and it’s been so rewarding getting to know the Edward Worlledge community- whether it’s through meeting teachers at parents’ evenings or feeling the festive joy at the Key Stage 1 nativity.

Receiving the support to become chair 

I recently became the chair of governors for my board, and while I know I have a lot to learn, I also know I have the support of the principal, the clerk and the trust itself. Though I’m still a relatively new governor, I felt I had the passion and commitment needed for the role and it was made clear to me when I took on the role that I didn’t need to know absolutely everything immediately.

In fact, there are lots of opportunities to develop your knowledge, skills and experience. In addition to formal training events, inductions and access to a training platform, OAT has a governance newsletter and holds monthly webinars designed specifically for governors to deepen their knowledge around a particular topic. 

I’ve also found there’s a wonderfully supportive governance community on Twitter, and I’ve joined the National Governance Association’s Young Governor Network, for governors under 40. There are lots of groups like this to get involved with. The OAT governance team members are also there with help and advice should you need them. 

Furthermore, I was fortunate to attend OAT’s annual conference back in November 2022. Hearing from passionate speakers, attending workshops and proudly watching our boys’ choir perform, crystallised my identification with OAT’s mission and the reasons I became a governor. 

I’m aware there’s sometimes a perception that governors are older and perhaps retired, but that certainly doesn’t apply to all of us. I hope more people from a range of backgrounds feel inspired and encouraged to get into governance. I’ve enjoyed it so much that I’ve persuaded my partner to become a governor at another OAT academy.

By Rhian Harris

Rhian Harris is chair of governors at Edward Worlledge Ormiston Academy in Great Yarmouth, and works as head of school partnerships for Teach First.

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