As veterans receive awards, county needs dozens more school governors

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Members of the governing bodies at three Crawley schools have been recognised for their work.

West Sussex County Council organised a Celebration of Governance, in Chichester, at which men and women who had been supporting the county’s schools for more than 25 years were honoured.

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The celebration was also used to mark important milestones for some of the newer volunteers. Among them was Howard Oyns, of Milton Mount Primary, in Pound Hill, who received his certificate of governance.

He was joined by his colleague Susan Beedell, who received her clerk’s accreditation alongside Samantha Bryant, of Manor Green College, Ifield, and St Francis of Assisi Primary, Southgate.

When it came to the longer-serving governors, seven of them had volunteered their services for a combined total of 219 years.

Graham Tovey, of Elm Grove First School, Worthing, had 35 years under his belt; Gloria Kendall, of St Wilfrid’s Primary, Haywards Heath, had 26 years, as did Brian Boggis, of North Lancing Primary. Then came Ian Tompkin, of St Nicholas and St Mary, Shoreham, with 29 years; John Bowd, of Seaside Primary, Lancing, with 28 years; and Michael Chater, of Birdham, with 25 years.

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By far the elder statesman, though, was Ray Knight, who has been a governor at Funtington Primary School, in Chichester, since 1965. Not only has he spent the majority of his adult life at the school, he was also a pupil there during the second world war.

The 80-year-old has lived in the village all his life, apart from two years when he was on National Service. He started at the primary school in 1940, at the age of five, and has been part of the fixtures and fittings ever since.

Explaining why he chose to volunteer as a governor, he said: “I’ve always just been there because it was my school and I’ve always been interested in looking after it.”

The role of school governor has changed a lot over the years – something Mr Knight has experienced first-hand – and West Sussex County Council is looking for more people to step into the role.

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There are some 3,700 governor positions across the county and, until recently, 400 of those posts were vacant. That number fell as of Tuesday (September 1), when new guidance from the Department for Education to streamline the process came into effect.

It stated governing bodies “should be no bigger than necessary to secure the range of skills they need” adding “smaller governing bodies are likely to be more cohesive and dynamic”.

Governors are involved in decisions about all aspects of managing the school, such as running budgets, supporting staff and setting standards of school discipline. They support the head while making sure she or he is taking the school in the right direction.

You don’t have to be an education expert or hold any qualifications; just have commitment and a willingness to learn.

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A council spokesman said: “School governors are volunteers who give up their time to offer support to our schools. They are a key part of the overall system for school accountability and have a vital role in ensuring that the children of West Sussex are given the best possible start in life and receive the best possible education.”

To find out more, log on to www.westsussex.gov.uk, email Jackie.gatenby@westsussex.gov.uk or call 0330 222 4080.

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