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What it means to be a school governor

Article Govenors Awareness

Melissa Cummings-Quarry, 35: ‘Knowing that I'm making a difference really does mean a lot.”

4FD32CD1 2B8A 4EA6 B2EA 1A830CEE9A66 1 201 a modifiedGrowing up, we knew governors were these people behind the scenes who were important, but we didn't really know who they were.

There were a few instances in school where people got expelled, or weren’t allowed to come back, and it was always, "Oh, it was the governors’ decision." But we didn't really know what that meant.

As time progressed, I was thinking about what I could do as an individual to support my local community and how I could give back.

I realised I have a different voice and a different way of thinking as well. Sometimes, it's age, it's culture and background, and I really wanted to bring a fresh way of thinking, to ensure that all children have the best start in life.

It's quite beautiful to see the pupils just being inspired.

Becoming a school governor

I knew that I wanted to be involved in a local school initially, so I went online and found out what you need to do to become governor. I went through the steps and they paired me with different schools that they thought would be interested once they reviewed my CV.

book coverI went and visited a few, and in the end I chose Robert Barclay Academy, in Hoddesdon, not too far from me. There's a range of ages on the board of governors. We're predominantly women, and there's another black girl around my age who joined around the same time.

You need to have a seat at the table in order to make a change, and I think essentially that was our way in. You can't just talk about things and complain about things. If you really actively think there is an issue you do need to be involved. And for me, that is through being a governor.

I wrote a book, Grown: The Black Girls' Guide to Glowing Up, which essentially was a guide for secondary school age children to give them the tips and tricks that I wasn't given at that young age. And one of the main reasons I wanted to be a governor was that social aspect, ensuring that children are catered for, and thought about.


Being a critical friend

I’m always wanting to speak up for those who might not have a voice. I’ve grown to be quite a confident person, so for me it was never about, "There are not very many black children in this school, so I have to be the voice for them." I’m there being the voice for children as a whole, and essentially children don't have much power. As a section of society they are marginalised because they don't really get to make choices, so we make the choices for them.

Sometimes they don't really understand why we're doing things. I really wanted to ensure that I was not only supporting the children, but that I also was being that critical friend, ensuring that the school was thinking about children as individuals, and how to best support them, which I feel like I'm doing.

Seeing the bigger picture

As a governor I know that I'm contributing to the development of a school, not just as a business, but for children and their futures. There are so many children I can remember growing up. It was those children that you thought, "Oh, why did they do that? Why do they react like that?" It's not just that child is rude, or that child doesn't listen. Being a governor, you see there’s so much more to it, and I think it allows me, especially as an individual, to think of the bigger picture.


Making a difference

You go to work, and you have your things with friends, but there's always something that I want to do that’s a little bit more. Volunteering was great, but I still felt a bit empty. But I think, knowing that I'm really supporting children, knowing that I'm having a voice, knowing that I'm making a difference, it really really does mean a lot. So, I feel fulfilled. And when I see things in the media and the way that things are happening in different schools, you know, horrible, terrible things. I always think to myself, "I wonder what the governing board is doing?" Which I wouldn't have thought before.

We have a really, really big job. We all take it very seriously, and knowing that I'm in the room so if something does happen, I can be supportive, and be that critical friend, is a really big deal.


An environment to thrive

For me the best time is attending any kind of assembly, or if they're putting on a big performance - it all makes it so worth it. Often we're in governor meetings until quite late, hearing reams and reams of things. But then you go in to an assembly, and see them in action. It's quite beautiful just to see them being inspired, and it takes you back to when you were younger, and not knowing who you were, trying to find your identity, and you'll see them dancing and putting on these shows. For me, that is the kind of thing that just puts a really, really big smile on my face.

I know that we're creating an environment where they can really thrive and that is everything to me.

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