Claire Carter reflects on her experience as a school governor in 2017
I did not become a governor to watch businesses and moneyed organisations take over schools for their own ends.
I did not become a governor to watch funding meant for new textbooks and teachers’ salaries spent on six-figure boons for corporate high-fliers.
I did not become a governor to meet attainment targets set by ill-advised government departments with constantly changing demands.
I did not become a governor to hear about teachers so stressed they can’t teach, wrung out because they are slaves now to assessments and convoluted grading systems.
I did not become a governor to see professional teachers treated as amateurs who care nothing for their charges.
I did not become a governor to witness my government create a creeping culture that reaches into communities and playgrounds rather than trust in the word of experts.
My school is in an affluent area of the country but one need not look far to realise that many children come from low income or struggling homes. Children at my school have learning difficulties and others are extremely vulnerable. This is the case in many of the schools in our community. But instead of being a priority these children are side-lined and overlooked by our government and its policies. It is a reversal of the kind of ‘shared society’ we aspire for.
I did not become a governor to be a used as a skivvy to administrate the government’s succession of cuts.
I did not become a governor to use my valued relationships with teaching professionals as the friendly face of their unreasonable demands. I did not become a governor to bruise or spoil the education of the young people I wanted to help.
I did not become a governor to tell teachers that their teaching assistant has served his or her last day and watch as they assimilate the news, overcome with fear for the well-being of their charges.
I did not become a governor to watch school buildings and play areas crumble like the biscuits we can’t afford to provide for staff, or tea bags or milk.
I did not become a governor to watch teachers look at me through tears and tell me the years they have spent trying to set up some simple service for our most vulnerable children have come to nothing.
I became a school governor to give something back. I wanted to use the skills I’ve gained in life, including a music degree and an MBA, to stand up for the little school that is often ignored or considered ineffective – especially under Michael Gove. It was and still is the case that our towns need small schools to educate and nurture our primary aged children.
I became a governor because I could help with budgeting and planning and to ensure value for money for the British taxpayer. I believed that could be done while providing an excellent education for children.
I became a governor to ensure that every child was given the best opportunity our school could offer. To question the school and its leaders and challenge them in order to strive for the best education for our children.
I became a governor to ensure school policies adhered to the law and to keep our children safe. To ensure our strategies were long-term and we improved the lives and experiences of our children as they grew within in our school.
To Justine Greening I would simply ask ‘how can I do this?’ As I write I realise the implications of the decisions that lie before me and I am brought to tears.
I regret that I have to consider the effects of our school becoming financially unviable at a time when our community needs our school the most. Because if I make the cuts necessary to ensure financial balance I will rob our children and those most vulnerable of vital teaching, help or services. This will not be a deficit that you will have to deal with, Ms Greening, but I will have to watch our school and community become demoralised, heartbroken and miserable.
The choice I have to make is an immoral one. I could abandon it altogether but how can I? I know too much. I know that despite everything the staff will stay on. They’ll even give my own children an education. No - they need me and my governor colleagues to stick at it and not give up.
Meanwhile the Department for Education (DfE) publishes A Competency Framework for Governance. Do they really want to discuss competence at a time when school budgets are bashed to pay for other government policies like the apprenticeship levy, which is already creaming our budget for 2017? Is it the school’s job to reduce the jobless figures now? And after many years the DfE has got round to looking at a ‘Fairer Funding’ policy - a policy that once again manages to stuff our school. And our county, already in the lowest funded 40 counties in the country, is stuffed too.
Our society and economy will pay in years to come when our productivity is low and our hospitals and prisons are full of those who were once the children we couldn't afford to help or educate. In fact I believe it's already started.
Those with power - please help us, think about us, care about us, listen to us and do something.
Claire Carter is chair of governors at St Anne's Fulshaw C.E. Primary School, Wilmslow, Cheshire.
School governors and trustees oversee the financial performance of schools and make sure public money is well spent. In recent times this responsibility has been getting tougher. If you have a story to share, get in touch.