Clerk to the Governors #4 – Egg Lorry or E-Type?

Ok, you’re still with me and you still want to be a Governors’ Clerk? A quick reminder that this is just my view of the world, and not an exhaustive training manual. I write largely from the perspective of Local Authority Maintained Schools, but the principles hold good across Academies, Free Schools and Independent Schools as well.

Let’s take a look at who you are likely to be working with.

School Governing Bodies are generally made up of three types of people: School staff, parents of children at the school, and people who want to support their local school. The latter of these help out because they have the time available, and are often retired.

What this means is that meetings frequently take place after school, and often later in the evening. This is so that the school staff can attend, and the working parents of children at school can get to the meetings. In other words as a Clerk you will be often be working evenings, and then have to put in a few hours work at home the following day (ideally), and you need to consider whether this suits your lifestyle.

Traditionally, school jobs have been helpful for parents wanting to fit work around childcare hours and school holidays, or returning to work when family ties reduce as children become older. One great advantage of the Clerk’s role is that it can also provide a gateway back into full time work in a school setting, often either in the school office, or as a Teaching Assistant. 

So, have you decided that you can fit the job around children’s football training, ballet, bath and bedtime? Or maybe, like me, you don’t have those ties to bind you anymore, and you are going to press on for yourself. The job looks interesting, you have the right skill set, and it’s part time work that fits what you want to do. There’s one more thing to consider – where are you going to work? 

A few years ago now, it was not uncommon to hitch-hike to save money, especially for students. It was generally a safe way to travel, especially if you were in pairs, and it offered commercial drivers in particular some company on long, boring journeys. One piece of hitch-hiking etiquette was that when a driver stopped, if they were going all or part of the way to your destination, you accepted the lift. This could work marvellously in your favour, when a sales rep with an appointment to keep whisked you to your destination in speed and style. Or not. As on one occasion, when I found myself in an old egg delivery lorry with dodgy suspension, which could not go over 30mph to avoid breaking the eggs, and stopped at four farms on the way, complete with lengthy banter between driver and farmer at each stop.

This is a bit what it is like signing up to a school. When you turn up, you don’t really know if you’re going to get an E-type or an egg lorry. A slick, well drilled Governing Body, or one in need of a bit of an overhaul. 

While there are standard elements to the Clerk’s job in every setting, it is not an off-the-shelf role because there will be different agendas and priorities, strengths and weaknesses, on every Governing Body. Every school is different and, especially if you sign up to more than one school, you need to be prepared to adapt yourself to your surroundings. 

You need to be able to cope with the impact of these differences on your time, your planning, and your workload. If you find yourself with an egg lorry, be patient. With time and confidence building on both sides, you can encourage a Governing Body to improve their ways of working, and it is very satisfying to do so, because you will have made their lives easier and their Governance better in the process, and they will always be grateful to you for that. 

There is much more job satisfaction on offer than just producing a set of minutes which need no amendments, and I’ll say more about meetings next time!

If you're thinking about becoming a Clerk to the Governors, or applying for another role in a school setting, here are 5 Interview Tips to Help You Get That Job. 

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