Sally Sibley has been a Foundation Governor at St. Barnabas Church of England Primary School near Bristol for two years and explains the positive impact she makes to the development of the school and the education of its children.
A strong, well-led governing body, supportive of the school, its staff and its mission makes an important contribution to a Church of England school's well-being and effectiveness. Being a governor involves time, energy and a willingness to become involved in the life of the school on a regular basis. Sally says:
"St. Barnabas is a warm, welcoming and friendly school on the outskirts of Bristol that lives up to its Vision Statement: 'To be a community in which individuals are valued and children supported in achieving the highest standards of education in a caring, Christian environment'. "
"I was asked by my Vicar to consider taking the place of a Foundation Governor who had sadly died. I agreed to do this as I felt it was a very worthwhile use of my time. Having worked in Education Welfare for 15 years I also thought that my experience would be helpful to the Governing body, school staff and ultimately the children that attend the school."
The Governing Body and its work
The running of the school is the responsibility of the Headteacher and on a day to day basis the teaching staff are responsible to the Headteacher. However, the whole school staff are accountable to the Governing Body for the performance of the school.
The Full Governing Body membership consists of the Headteacher, school staff, parents and representatives from the local authority and community. As a Governor you have a statutory strategic role in implementing and monitoring policies relating to the school. There is a duty to ensure that the school is run effectively with a broad and balanced curriculum and that high standards are achieved. Governors are also responsible for appointing the Headteacher and deciding the numbers of teachers and pay policy.
In a Church of England School, Foundation Governors should take an active role in helping to develop the distinctive Christian character of the school and ensure that its values help to develop a spiritual awareness within the whole school community.
I am very keen to ensure that Christian values are explicit for the whole school community and recently asked the Headteacher to ask the children what they thought their school values are. As a result of this the school council have been at work and will soon report back to the Governors. Additionally the Headteacher is in the process of developing visual aids to to ensure that the school's Christian values are embedded throughout.
At St Barnabas, the door is always open and Governors are actively encouraged to meet with children, staff and parents. All Governors are also invited to school celebrations and events. I have been part of 'learning walks' which means going into the classrooms, talking with the children about their work and looking at their books. Amongst other things, I have also sat in on Collective Worship and lessons and attended staff training for Safeguarding.
Foundation Governors do not have a formal role in the delivery of the teaching of RE but they do have a role in ensuring that it is effective, that teachers are confident and receive appropriate training. Governors can also support the school to think of different ways to support their teaching.
I am particularly keen to help further develop the already good links with the Parish Church by encouraging children to plan and lead their own worship and explore the Anglican Faith through more regular visits. To help foster good relationships I recently reported back to the PCC to ensure that church members are aware of the work of their Foundation Governors and school staff.
I am pleased to have been instrumental in helping to raise the profile of Christian Distinctiveness within the school. We have recently set up a Christian Ethos Committee that comprises of 3 Foundation Governors, R.E. co-ordinator, the Headteacher and Chair of Governors and we report back to the Full Governing Body. We have an agreed Terms of Reference and implemented a Monitoring Schedule to allow us to fulfil our tasks effectively.
More is now expected of Governors
I think that, like everyone else, school governors have become more accountable in the last few years and much more is expected of us.
The process for Inspection is now more intense and Ofsted are no longer happy for a school to be Satisfactory. Whilst this could be seen as being in the best interest of our children and young people, the extra demands can also create a bigger work load and more stress for the teaching profession and all who support their work. This is coupled with a more rigorous approach of the Statutory Inspection of Anglican and Methodist Schools (SIAMS).
There is a much higher profile for the Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural (SMSC) aspects of the curriculum and Inspectors now look for evidence of this to be embedded throughout. Therefore as a Foundation Governor I believe I should not just be observing spiritual awareness in Collective Worship and RE but in all aspects of school life.Whilst this may create more work, I believe it also ensures that the 'whole' child is educated and gives spiritual development a rightful place alongside academic progress.
A commitment to education
I would encourage others to become a Foundation Governor as I believe it is a very important act of Christian service. It is also a privilege and can be very rewarding and I am pleased to be able to support the dedicated school staff that do such an amazing job. Governors are offered training via the local authority and sessions are invaluable to help support us in our responsibilities. I believe it is important to be proactive and as well as attend meetings become part of the school and its community.
I am not sure that you need particular qualifications but I think you do need to have a willingness and commitment to wanting to ensure that children receive a good education and that this encompasses spiritual development. I also believe that it is important to offer the Headteacher and school staff support to achieve their aims by offering guidance and challenge in a balanced way. St. Barnabas CofE Primary School sum this up by their statement of: "In Our Hands We Hold the Future."
About St Barnabas School
St. Barnabas is in North Common, Warmley, on the outskirts of Bristol. The school has good community links with all sections of the local community, including St. Barnabas Church. The staff and governors at St Barnabas work hard to provide a caring ethos for the children and offer a wide range of learning opportunities through an exciting and engaging curriculum based on the IPC (International Primary Curriculum).