By Ali Brown, Strategic Knowledge Transfer Manager at NSPCC
Being a school governor is hugely rewarding. It's an opportunity to shape children's futures and give something back to your community. There's real satisfaction in knowing that you're playing a role in ensuring children feel safe and looked after so that they can learn - and learn well. It can be demanding, but governors play a big role in helping children flourish and keeping them safe.
In today's changing environment, schools need a governing body that is diverse and brings skills from outside the education sector to lead on its strategic direction, from human resources (HR) and finances to a school’s premises. But they also need a governing body that takes a strategic responsibility for safeguarding, that helps shape the school's policies and procedures, and plays the role of a "critical friend". Governors need to ensure that all policies and procedures are being met and carried out consistently and that concerns are logged and dealt with appropriately. And they need to be able to challenge when necessary.
But this can be difficult, especially for governors that don't come from a background working with children or safeguarding. Indeed, this is one of the things I hear often in my own role as a school governor - "how can we feel confident in challenging the school on safeguarding matters?" The answer is always to challenge from a position of knowledge and confidence.
Know your school
Make sure you have a thorough understanding of your school's policies and procedures, the school environment and your safeguarding responsibilities. As part of your induction you'll need to read the statutory safeguarding and child protection guidance for schools, but you should also have an in-depth knowledge of all your school's policies and procedures - from intimate care to how children are protected on school trips.
Understand what's happening in your local area
What's happening outside of the school gates has a huge impact on children. It may be that your school is in a deprived area or there may be issues with child sexual exploitation (CSE), gangs or knife crime. Children may be experiencing cyberbullying or online abuse. Make sure you know what's happening in your local area so you can ensure your safeguarding policies and procedures are robust and meet your school's specific needs.
Take the opportunity to get involved with other activities that the school is doing to help keep children safe - for example, any events that are being held around Anti-Bullying Week in November or Safer Internet Day in February. It can be a great way to understand more about your school and the pupils as well as taking an active role in safeguarding.
Keep your training up-to-date
Although safeguarding is covered as part of your induction, it's important to keep those skills up to date. Our elearning course for school governors packages up everything to do with your safeguarding responsibilities in bite-size chunks. Using film clips, checklists and reflection and testing of knowledge it's really useful for new governors to understand roles and responsibilities, but also as a refresher - especially when preparing for or undergoing a school inspection.
As school governors, we play an important role in keeping children safe. And by having the knowledge we need about safeguarding and confidence to challenge when appropriate, we can ensure that we're helping keep children safe and shaping their futures.