Because volunteers are worth it, not worthies
Published by Phil Morgan on Wednesday, July 18th, 2012 at 15:56 pm
Michael Gove's incoherent rant against school governors is, to use his own phrase, influenced by fads and anecdotes. But more worryingly, coming from one of the self-professed ‘thinkers’ in the Conservative Party, it marks a new low in one the more engaging parts of that party’s agenda – the Big Society.
I’m particularly exercised by the description of school governors as “local worthies who see being a governor as a badge of honour, not a job of work”. Well having been a school governor at 12 schools (I gave up about four years ago but like any worthy addict I came off the wagon last year for one final puff of worthiness) I am presumably more of a worthy than most.
For four years I was a super worthy – Chair of a School Governing body. Just after I became Chair the school received a particularly bad inspection report and was placed in special measures. Eighteen months later, after much partnership working with the Head, staff, parents, Leader and Deputy Leader of the Council and HM Inspectorate the school came out of special measures.
It got funding to become a pioneering community school combining education and social services support for children between 0 and 11. The School then got praised as one of the top 250 improved schools in the country. I even, as a worthy, got a letter praising me as Chair of Governors addressed to Mr Moran.
I must admit to being single minded. No ‘sprawling and proliferating sub committees’ and certainly no concentration on ‘peripheral issues’. Instead Governors focussed on the Heads Report and the Improvement Plan.
When I hear about the Big Society I do welcome the recognition that volunteering can play in our modern society. I’ve been a volunteer, worked with volunteers and spent much of the past 13 years as an advocate for volunteering.
Over the past 25 years I’ve worked with hundreds of other schools governors, including many members of Michael Gove’s own party. Without their contribution the schools our children attend would be less well governed, weaker and more expensive to run.
So let’s truly celebrate volunteering – be it in schools, social housing or the Manchester Jazz Festival (where I'm currently helping out).
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