I’ve been meeting prospective governors recently (we retained two places for governors of the middle schools which are closing, having already offered places to two more last year) and one of them asked me how long I’d been a school governor and how it came about. And then someone else, I can’t remember at the moment who, asked the same thing. When a third friend asked what motivated me in that respect and how my own schooldays influenced what I did, I thought that maybe I should give the matter a bit of thought. So I did.
The third question was easy – or, that is, its second part. I don’t think I’m in the least influenced by my own schooldays. I do wish I’d been to a better school – it wouldn’t have been hard – but I was quite happy there, if rather disengaged. And as for motivation, now it’s simply that I’ve become quite good at it and will keep trying my best until I stop altogether and resign. Motivation in the first place – look, I’m really sorry to be so flaky, but there wasn’t any. It was chance, in that I was asked.
Back in 1988, the then Rector phoned me and asked if I’d be willing to be proposed as a governor for the village school. Ro had just had his fourth birthday, though he wouldn’t start school until Easter the next year (now most schools take children in the September after they’re four, but then it was in the term they were five). And, naïve little creature that I was, I was quite flattered to be asked and I agreed straight away. Then he asked if I’d be Clerk to the Governors. Now, I have to give him credit – if I’d said no, he would still have had to honour the offer to make me a governor … on the other hand, if he’d started by asking me about the clerkship, I might well have turned it down. But anyway, I agreed. Nowadays governors are not allowed to be clerk, but it was different then.
At that time a new system of school management was starting (and quite a number of long-term governors standing down as a result) called Local Management of Schools. That is, schools would run themselves rather than Local Authorities – gradually, more of the budget would be handed over, schools would appoint their own staff and so on.
Our village school had become very small over the years in terms of its pupil numbers. When Ro joined it, he was the 25th. It had been scheduled for closure, like a number of other small Norfolk schools, but there was a campaign by local parents to keep it open. It was and is a Church school – that is, the building belonged to the Church of England but it was run by the state and free to its pupils. The village church happened to own a bit of land in the middle of the village and a local landowner owned the adjacent allotments. It was at the time of a housing boom and the land was sold with planning permission for 40 houses for a lot of money. It wasn’t just the money, it was the fact that family houses were to be built, thus providing more pupils for the school. But the church was able to pay for improvements to the school buildings, its future was secured as a going concern and, well, it worked. Under a very good Head, the school went in Ro’s time there from 25 pupils to 76.