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A sense of place


NGA has always been a champion of the importance of place and local context. The sense of place is sometimes called a sixth sense: belonging to a place – and for some of us more than one place – is very much part of what it is to be human. One of the great motivations for the generosity of those who govern schools and trusts is to put something back into the community, a place they care about.

To be able to represent our members’ voices in any national conversation and to focus our own resources, we need to be mindful of the different ways in which policies impact different places, and the different needs of different communities. That of course changes over time. The last eighteen months have underlined just how important schools are to their communities, those bonds growing stronger as schools have served their families often in ways they had never expected to. It has also underlined more than ever the uneven playing field in different places across England, and we are waiting for the Spending Review to reveal just how much the Government is committing to ‘level up’ in education. Today’s report from the Education Policy Institute provides very useful background to the needs in the next stage of recovery.

At NGA we have lots of ways of listening to the variety of views and experiences of governing boards and their governance professionals across the country. Currently we have our annual membership survey open. We have also extended NGA’s reach this year with virtual networks, but I do miss travelling across the country, hearing different stories, variations on the challenges schools have everywhere and preferred solutions: I am very open to invitations both remote and in person.

To ensure NGA’s board benefits from the diversity of geography, it has a trustee elected from each of the nine English governmental regions. Our trustees do not have an operational role, but the model ensures the strategic discussions at our board gain from the different local and regional perspectives, as most are active within local collaborations, partnerships and associations too.

In early 2020 at its annual strategy day our board decided we could now afford to invest in a regional staff team; this had been a medium-term aspiration for quite a while. The business model is a not complicated: as more and more schools and trusts subscribe to NGA membership and Learning Link, our staff team can grow, and after a bit of a COVID delay, our regional team came into existence this April.

Six months after we created the team, I asked them for reflections on their role:

Janet Myers (part-time): “A real highlight of the role has been meeting governors, trustees, clerks and school leaders in the North West either through video calls or in person. I love talking governance with our members, and hearing about their experiences and how we have already helped or could help in the future.” 

Lynne Fletcher (part time): “I really enjoy and benefit from working alongside all those in governance within the South West. Acting as first point of contact, building regional knowledge, supporting and connecting people. Strengthening governance together, making the challenges easier and in turn ensure we are supporting the young people in all our education establishments.”

Angela Dunkerley (part time): “Becoming regional lead for the East Midlands and South and East Yorkshire, in addition to continuing in my role within the NGA consultancy team, has provided further very welcome opportunities to listen to, and learn from, others involved in governance in various capacities, sharing ideas, practice and concerns. It is a privilege to be part of NGA’s commitment to further developing these partnerships as we all strive to support each other so that effective governance impacts on pupil experience and outcomes.”

Simon Richards (full time): “I am thoroughly enjoying working with key stakeholders across the South East, London and East of England, learning about challenges, successes and ambitions to develop governance practice for the benefit of the children and young people in our schools.  Building relationships and developing regional knowledge helps us to understand the requirements of the governance community at a greater depth which in turn informs our continuous development of NGA services.”

They are joined by Victoria Del Giudice (part time) covering North and West Yorkshire and the North East.

I am really pleased to say we can further extend the team and are now creating a specific regional lead for the North East region too: please do consider or pass on the opportunity to join us a regional lead for the North East.

These are huge patches, and I am not expecting our team to know intimately each and every one of the varied communities within their regions, but to provide a point of contact for any local issues or needs you want NGA to know about and act on. Local governance associations, independent of NGA, play a vital role in sharing experience and providing support locally. Please do draw on NGA’s expertise and resources – we are holding a local associations network meeting to listen you next month.

NGA is better placed than ever to play our part alongside others building local connections, relationships and offers which are vital to supporting volunteers giving to their communities. There is much to be done to ensure all our schools and trusts have the governance they need and their pupils deserve. Thank you for what you do: I am of course aware your time is at a premium, but if there is anything you want us to know, do tell us. We will try to help directly if it is within our gift – or to relay your requests to those regionally or nationally who need to hear your voices.

Emma Knights OBE
Emma Knights OBE

Co-Chief Executive

As NGA’s Co-Chief Executive, Emma promotes the interests of the school governance community nationally with legislators, policy makers, education sector organisations and the media. Emma is an accomplished writer and speaker on a range of school governance policy and practice topics.