Q&A with Mrs Joan Christie CVO OBE

Mrs Joan Christie is Chair of Sandelford School and has extensive experience of contributing to school governance. She kindly spoke to us about her involvement and what the role of Governor means to her.

Q. When did you first become a school governor?

A. I have been a school governor for almost 50 years now! My first three positions were all at the same time when I was a board member on NEELB. I have served on five different primary schools and now I am Chair of Sandelford School and it’s a position I love.

Q. That’s an incredible amount of time. What has made you continue to volunteer as a school governor for so long?

A. The truth is I find it incredibly addictive. When I first started I had a real thirst for knowledge around the position, I wanted to learn how to be the best governor I could. When you realise the impact you can have on your local community and you see the children’s progression it spurs you on.

I have always encouraged volunteering, I believe if you are in a position where you can give your time to others then you should.

Q. What does your role entail?

A. I attend board meetings and committee meetings of course as well as school events. As Chair, I come into the school frequently to stay as involved as I can in school life.

I like to think I have played a part in opening the school to the wider community and raising the profile by inviting guests and organisations in.  

As governors we are in a unique position to promote our school. I talk about Sandelford everywhere I go. It is a big part of my life, as it is for all of the governors. You don’t compartmentalise, it becomes part of who you are and I feel very fortunate to have that.

Q. You have been a governor at primary schools and a special school, are there any differences in the positions?

A. The role of a governor is very similar in both settings.  You do your utmost to ensure the best possible outcomes for pupils. There are committees and board meetings and some really fantastic experiences working with the staff, the children and their families.

In Sandelford I find the relationships built between governors and families are very close. It’s a unique relationship and a very special one.

Q. What do you find most rewarding about the position?

A. Sandelford is a family and one which I am incredibly proud of. The governors, staff, children and their parents all add to the family life of this school. I still see and speak to past pupils in the local community and seeing how they have progressed gives me a great deal of satisfaction.

I think it is wonderful to be involved in the life school and to get to know individual characters and to watch them progress. I can’t imagine not being involved if I am honest.

Q. What do you find most challenging about being a school governor?

A. You have to accept that not everyone can be an expert in everything and not every governor can be trained in everything they need to be.

Each governor brings transferable skills from their own occupation and personal experiences and the board of governors works through these individuals coming together sharing their skills and experiences for the best of the team.

We are also very lucky to have Sharon Tennant as Principal. Her knowledge is phenomenal and she really understands the needs of each of the children in the school. We have all been very fortunate as she shares her insights and experience with us.

Q. What advice would you give to someone considering applying to become a governor?

A. I can’t understand why someone wouldn’t want to. Everyone can contribute their own talents to the role sometimes without even realising they will be applicable.

It is important to be honest and impartial and to accept the responsibility that comes with the role but it is worth it when you see the results.

If you are committed to the position and you want to help your local community then I would absolutely recommend it.

Visit our website to learn more about becoming a governor: http://www.csscni.org.uk/governors/