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Is gaining experience on a school governing board CSR or CPD – or both?

 

Author: Governors for Schools

Our CEO Louise Cooper talks about the benefits governance brings to volunteers and the organisations they work for, arguing that joining a governing board isn’t just CSR – it’s also an excellent CPD opportunity.

Fifteen years ago, I joined my first board for a charity called UnLtd. Like doing anything for the first time, it was a huge learning curve. I made mistakes during that first year, but I also developed quickly – both personally and professionally – and made a positive impact. I’m now a member of a governing board of a North London primary school, influencing decisions that affect the futures of 750 children.

Gaining board-level experience is invaluable for career development. At Governors for Schools, we recruit a significant proportion of volunteers from our business partners. These organisations, such as Lloyds, PwC, and KPMG, recognise that alongside the Corporate Social Responsibility aspect of volunteering as a school governor, joining a board gives their employees valuable experience that they then bring back to the workplace.

This year, we launched our Governor Stories campaign to encourage diversity on school governing boards. We held launch events in cities across the country to encourage local businesses to promote the opportunity as part of their employee development strategy.

Josh, a young governor who works in marketing at PwC in Leeds, spoke at our Leeds event about the professional benefits of being a governor, and how PwC has supported him in the role. Josh said that “PwC has recognised that governance is great for development and been extremely supportive. I’m in the early stages of my career but being a governor gives me the opportunity to play a key role in strategic decision making at a board level. If I wasn’t a governor, I wouldn’t get experience in these areas until a much later stage in my career.”

In my opinion, becoming a school governor is one of the best CPD opportunities there is. Joining a governing board plays a big part in building confidence and giving insight into new areas that might be outside the remit of your day-to-day role – and that’s on top of the fact you’re making a difference to children in your community by volunteering your time and skills.

Our corporate partners share this belief. We’ve partnered with Deutsche Bank for over 5 years, and in that time have placed 87 governors from the organisation. Nicole Lovett, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at Deutsche Bank’s UK operations, spoke at our London Governor Stories launch about the role governance plays in developing the bank’s employees, supporting the community, and developing the future workforce. Nicole also explained that Deutsche Bank gives staff two volunteering days a year to give back in all these ways.

James Jarvis, Corporate Governance Analyst at the Institute of Directors and also a panellist at our London event, said this policy doesn’t go far enough. James argued that employers should formally recognise volunteering on a school governing board as CPD, not just as part of CSR. By acknowledging the value being on a governing board brings to employee’s development, their company, and the community, employers benefit in many ways.

It’s an angle we spoke about at our event in Ipswich, where we partnered with Suffolk Business Women to encourage businesses to promote governance as a development opportunity to female employees. According to a McKinsey study of 1000 public companies, female representation improves company performance, and getting women into governance plays a role in helping them reach senior leadership positions.

Sarah Howard MBE, Vice President at the British Chambers of Commerce and a governor at a college in Suffolk, spoke about the importance of getting women into governance to help improve female representation at the highest levels in business. Sarah said that “The number of women on company boards is far too low. We need to change that. I became the chair of the school governing board quite quickly, which has served me well in having the confidence and experience to join company boards later. Becoming a school governor gives you all the right skills necessary to progress, while making a difference to children’s education.”

Phil, a young governor and trainee teacher who spoke at our event in Birmingham, said that “When I became a governor I realised how great a professional development opportunity it was. I’ve developed all these different skills and gained experience I wouldn’t have otherwise from my own role. The school and children will benefit from your contribution, but you will too.”

It’s precisely this element of governance that I think is so valuable. It’s not often people in their early careers are making important strategic decisions at work. But by becoming part of a governing board, you can do just that.

It was rewarding to hear from governors we’ve placed about how their role on the board has helped them at work. Following on from this and our impact study, we’re looking at how we can substantiate our beliefs that governance is good for development. We look forward to sharing the results of this new project with you in 2019.