Profile of TCA’s Chair of Governors
David Bailey, the Chair of Governors at Thomas Clarkson Academy, brings a wealth of experience to his role as he works alongside equality, diversity and religious groups in a professional daily capacity.
His passion for making a difference, and his understanding of the needs and expectations of different community groups, means he is realistic about the challenges and rewards at Thomas Clarkson.
He has seen major improvements since becoming a governor eight years ago: ‘The behaviour and culture of the school has changed totally. One of the good things is we now have the correct behaviours and attitudes within the school for the students to create a learning environment. That has been one of the highlights of my time as governor.’
Another cause for optimism has been the foundation of the Sixth Form and the growing aspirations for students: ‘We have been on a steep progression, as evidenced by the fact that we are having students going on to Russell Group universities and, we hope, one person going on to Cambridge this year. That will be a first for us as a school and it certainly doesn’t do any harm to our reputation in the community, so people can start to see that what we talk about, we actually do.’
David’s full time role is Equality and Diversity manager at Fenland District Council which involves him in projects with national and local partners including charitable, minority and religious groups. His remit is to promote tolerance and understanding within the community and integrate diverse strands into a cohesive whole.
He works alongside the Gypsy and Traveller communities, immigrants and faith groups and believes that Thomas Clarkson Academy reflects the diversity of the Wisbech population as a whole: ‘I work with partners to aid integration, stop tensions in the community and try and get people to work well with each other. Thomas Clarkson Academy is quite representative of the community and we are seeing a very large increase in Eastern European students coming to the school, which means we really have to address issues of integration and cohesion.’
He sees the school as being a pivotal hub in the community with the remit to integrate cultural differences and raise expectations for all: ‘As a governor you are looking at building the trust between the school and the community so it is very rewarding. You are there as a custodian of young people’s futures because many people do not get second chances. I understand people’s issues and also interpret that to see how we can make things more even-handed.’
David, who has been Chair of Governors for 16 months, said: ‘This role has given me a different perspective. While I have reasonable knowledge of how communities work, until I was involved in the governing body I didn’t realise the hoops and hurdles around the education system.
‘I am very good at project management and strategic working. I have worked with a number of national bodies with strategies that have an impact on the community. We have got some challenges and the good thing is that the school, working alongside other people, can look to address those because, if it is not done in partnership across the board, it won’t move forward.
‘People think that becoming a governor is a good, aspiring thing but they have to fully understand what they are letting themselves in for and ensure that they can meet that commitment and have the time to do it.
‘Everybody tries to help because it is a one-team approach, whether that is Brooke Weston Trust, the schools or individuals. Governors are not there to be involved in the day-to-day running of the school but are there as a helpful friend and someone who can use their professional skills from outside the education sector.
‘You have to be flexible to offer support to the Principal but you also have to make sure that you can ask the right questions to challenge as a critical friend and get the information required because obviously Ofsted want to know how you are holding the Principal to account.’
David has seen leadership changes during his time in office and believes that Thomas Clarkson is on course for a bright future: ‘There have been long standing issues at the academy and those things don’t go away with a magic wand. It takes a while to turn things around and get it going in the right direction. We are very fortunate to have Anne Hill as our Principal. She has vision, knowledge and experience and those three things together, given the time, will lead to upward trends in the school. That is starting to happen, so to go from where we were, to where we are now, is a good news story.’