I’ve worked in Athene’s Education team for several years now, and been an Academy Councillor at Nene Park Academy in Peterborough for three.
My first full meeting in this role was in January 2020, held in person at school. This would be the last time I was able to go to the building until more than a year later, due to the restrictions of the Covid pandemic.
In the three years since, I’ve had the opportunity to gain a close understanding of the school and its community of more than 1,300 students and hundreds of staff.
But what is the role all about? And what have I learned in my time?
What is an Academy Councillor?
An Academy Councillor is a volunteer position, that provides support, oversight and scrutiny to a school and its operations. You may know the role better as a School Governor.
The position is usually filled by members of the community with a connection to the school or academy. Their day-to-day job may not be related to education, but their expertise might bring helpful insight (for example in finance or in my case, communications and PR).
I find the title Academy Councillor is less stern than the more historic School Governor. To me, this has an authoritative tone and brings up images of prison management! Whereas Academy Councillor has a supportive feel to it, which is ultimately the main driver of the role.
What does an Academy Councillor do?
This can differ from academy to academy. At Nene Park Academy, each Academy Councillor has a key area (such as curriculum or safeguarding) that they oversee and ‘champion’.
As the Academy Council Champion for Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND/V) and Careers, I advocate for students with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.
This involves meeting once or twice a term with the school’s SENco and review the work that has taken place to support the students at the school with special educational needs.
In my Careers capacity, I meet with the Careers lead to talk through the activity run that includes career fairs, guest speaker events, and industry-focused workshops.
Is it hard to be an Academy Councillor?
The commitments for an Academy Councillor aren’t extensive. So if you’re looking to do your bit and support your local school and wider community, it can be a great opportunity to do so.
A recent highlight of my role was being invited to the school production of “School of Rock”. It was a fantastic opportunity to witness the immense talent and passion of the students.
However, there are responsibilities and challenges within the role. Alongside the areas I champion, I participate in exclusion panel hearings.
Participating in these hearings has given me a deeper understanding of student behaviour and discipline complexities. Working with fellow council members, we carefully review individual cases and make informed decisions to ensure a fair and just process.
This experience has reinforced my belief in the importance of restorative practices, where the focuses not only on the consequences of actions but also on helping students, and their families, learn from their mistakes and grow into responsible individuals.
Can I be an Academy Councillor?
The short answer is yes! Schools and multi-academy trusts are always keen to have new Academy Councillors, so if you’re interested, it’s worth contacting your local school directly.
Over the journey so far as an Academy Councillor I have witnessed firsthand the positive impact the school, with the support of the Academy Council, can have on the lives of our young people. Helping build a brighter future for the young minds entrusted to our care.
If you have any questions or would like to know more about what it’s like to be an Academy Councillor, please feel free to get in touch with me (firstname.lastname@example.org).