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It takes a community to educate a child

Posted on: 21/08/2019

I am in the privileged position of having been a governor of Didcot Girls’ School since 2012. During these last seven years there have been considerable changes and developments both locally within the school and its community and nationally within the role and responsibilities of school governance. Under the impressive leadership of Rachael Warwick, Didcot Girls’ School has achieved an outstanding judgement from Ofsted, is regularly over- subscribed, has promoted high quality leadership at all levels, including within the student body, and supports its students to achieve really excellent outcomes. The school acquired academy status in August 2012 and has subsequently joined with St Birinus School and, more recently, Sutton Courtney Primary School to form the Ridgeway Education Trust (RET).

This period of development and achievement has been supported by the changing role of the governing body to reflect its greater accountability and responsibility. The three schools in RET have their own governing bodies but there is also a Trust Board charged with oversight of the whole organisation. As a Vice Chair of Didcot Girls’ School and a Director of RET, I have to be fully aware of how well each school is doing and what is needed to improve standards and outcomes still further. I share with my fellow governors in all three schools responsibility for fulfilling the purpose of school governance as described by the Department for Education:

The purpose of governance is to provide confident, strategic leadership and to create robust accountability, oversight and assurance for educational and financial performance.

(DfE 2017)

A weighty task indeed! My professional background in secondary education has made this easier for me than for some of my governor colleagues, and I hope I am able to bring some specific professional understanding to the role, but I cannot emphasise enough how valuable it is to work with people who bring a very wide range of experience and expertise to this increasingly responsible volunteer role.

There is some fine balancing to be done as a school governor – to be strategic but not operationally intrusive, to be there but not too much, to be supportive but also to provide challenge, to know the school well but to retain an objective view. Not always easy to achieve, especially when navigating the slalom of political initiatives that education is so prone to (why do politicians always seem to feel that they know what is best for education because they have been to school themselves?) but there are few things more important than supporting and developing the aspirations of young people. If it takes a village to raise a child, it certainly takes the whole school community to educate her - school leaders, teachers, administrative and support staff, parents and, of course, school governors.

I began by saying that being a school governor is a privilege. Yes, it can be demanding. No, it isn’t always easy. But it is, nearly always, a very great pleasure!

Jill Judson

Director of Ridgeway Education Trust

Published in the Oxford Times Educating Oxfordshire column - Thursday 15 August 2019

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