Tracey Leeson of Callidus tells us how she gives back to the community with the support of Callidus by volunteering as a co-opted School Governor with health and safety skills at Sitwell Junior school in Rotherham.
I am currently in the first year of a 4-year tenure as a co-opted School Governor with health and safety skills. I volunteered for a number of reasons:
1. To primarily make a difference by bringing about a positive change to the life chances of children.
2. To critically examine the school leadership and provide assistance to them.
3. To get to know the community as schools are directly representative of the communities that they serve.
4. To develop my skills in health & safety through work experience as I had a plethora of ideas to offer and more importantly enthusiasm following the completion of my Post Graduate Diploma in Occupational Health & Safety.
5. To be enlightened as to how schools work, the role of teachers and the leadership of the school and the challenges schools face.
6. To embrace the challenge of learning new policies and procedures and working with new people.
7. To help the pupils, teachers, the leadership and the community to be all that it could be.
I currently volunteer at a junior school that is part of a Multi-Academy Trust. In 2010, legislation in the form of the Academies Act was introduced that made it possible for all schools to become academies. Academies are publically funded independent schools that are free from local authority control. On conversion to an academy, the school becomes legally responsible for health and safety and no longer automatically receives a health and safety service from the Local Authority.
The Head-teacher as the employer must abide by the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 which places a general duty upon an employer, ‘to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of all his employees’ and requires ‘the provision of such information, instruction, training and supervision as is necessary, to ensure that employees can carry out their work safely.’ In the case of Wilson and Clyde Coal Company v English (1937), a civil duty in law for employers was said by the House of Lords Appeal Court to include the employer having to provide competent workers and a safe system of work for employees.
Additionally, the Head-teacher must follow the requirements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, which specifically requires a competent person to be appointed to assist the employer in meeting his health and safety obligations.
The Head-teacher as the employer has three options regarding the academy’s health and safety provision: buy back a risk management service from the local authority, deliver it in house by an appropriately trained employee or deliver it externally by another specialist provider. Consequently, without the correct service in place, there may be limited knowledge and experience of managing health and safety within the school and that knowledge may only revolve around the safeguarding of children and not the health and safety management of employees or facilities.
The Department of Education (DfE) document entitled Health and Safety: Advice on Legal Duties and Powers 2014 provides advice for school employers and Head-teachers on their health and safety responsibilities. It states that school employers should take a common sense and proportionate approach to health and safety, specifying that risk assessments and risk management are tools to ensure that children are not prevented from carrying out activities but should undertake them safely.
As a consequence of the de-centralisation of controls from local authorities to schools, there is a growing need to recruit people from business with the right skills, experience, qualities and wide ranging capabilities to improve the strategic leadership and accountability of schools by effective governance.
Employees can get time off from their employer to carry out public duties such as being a school governor, however employers can choose whether or not to pay them for this time off. Furthermore, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has stated that there is a business case for supporting staff who volunteer for governance roles.
The CBI Report: Leading the Way – Improving School Governance and Leadership 2013, explains that businesses should be encouraged to work together with schools and support their employees to become governors. It is a win-win situation for the business and the school: employees are able to apply their knowledge and expertise in a different context, whilst the school also provides training to governors which enables personal development. This can in turn have a positive impact on the employee’s performance in their workplace role, as the role helps develop problem solving and strategic skills.
As a school governor with health and safety skills, I have assisted the school by carrying out an accessibility audit and a health and safety audit within the school. I have also made recommendations to improve health and safety which have been enacted upon. I have become a critical friend of the school and I ask challenging questions of the School Leadership Team.
The role has helped me to apply and develop my skills in a different setting from my workplace whilst being of benefit to the school by improving their health and safety management and understanding of their responsibilities. I have also attended a number of school governor courses which have improved my understanding of the governance role within academy schools and have recently been selected as a trustee on the Multi-Academy Trust Board which will further develop my strategic management skills. The knowledge and experience that I have gained and will continue to gain can be related back to my workplace.
Callidus supports me in my school governor role by allowing me to carry out the audits and spend time reviewing the health and safety management in the school during work time. I am also able to utilize their knowledge bank of information and documentation and tap into the wealth of experience and advice provided by my colleagues all for the greater good.
Being a co-opted School Governor is a rewarding personal experience that has enabled me to grow in confidence in the knowledge that I am providing a valuable service to the school. The role continues to fulfil all the reasons why I volunteered as a School Governor. I would encourage others in business to follow suit and volunteer their valuable time and expertise to schools for the good and benefit of the community and our future working population.