The Bridge: Tell us a bit about your career and how your work experiences prepared you for your responsibilities as a school governor.
Martin Warne: My whole career was
in social work and I spent 30 years in children’s services in London, Hampshire, Somerset and Dorset. It was front-line work: safeguarding, child protection, fostering, adoption and children in care. In the early 2000s I transferred to the NHS and managed CAMHS (child and adolescent mental health services) in Weymouth, West Dorset and North Dorset – such a challenge, trying to prioritise needs when there were never enough resources to cover the load that referrers sent to the service. I retired in 2010 but went back to social services on a non-contract basis, mostly dealing with child protection cases.
There were always lots of ‘blue light’ emergency cases. Occasionally a particularly difficult one would get to me, but I enjoyed the satisfaction of knowing we got it right most of the time. I have to say there was a buzz in that. I think my personality equipped me to deal well with the stress and the type of work – you’re either suitable for the work or you realise you aren’t and you leave – and a stable home life helped a lot, too.
The role of a school governor isn’t operational but we’re closely involved in the school’s strategic direction. We hold the head and staff to account, challenging and asking questions. My experience means I’m very aware of child protection issues; I’m also used to spotting problems and looking for solutions.
TB: You’ve been a governor at St Mary’s twice: once in the early 90s when your children were pupils there, and now. How has the school changed in those 30 years?
MW: The biggest change is the size: in the 90s it was the biggest primary school in Bridport, with 420 children. Now there are 210. Between the two periods the school went through some rocky times, until about 2010 when it was turned around by the then headteacher and staff. This excellence continues, with high-quality leadership and staff. The school remains a nurturing, caring community for a wide cross-section of families – there’s a real energy about it.
St Mary’s is part of the Minerva Learning Trust, with our partner schools Burton Bradstock, Bridport Primary and Sir John Colfox. This is a thriving, rewarding arrangement and brings huge benefits in terms of the educational achievements of children in our area.
Being a governor is incredibly rewarding and we’re always looking for new people to join us. I’d love anyone who’s interested to get in touch!
TB: What are the greatest challenges facing children and young people today?
MW: It’s a difficult time to be growing up. First, social media can create a lot of bullying, and it gives young people unrealistic expectations, too. Drugs and alcohol are also a big problem, more so than ever. The pandemic has caused real issues for young people – their education has been interrupted and they’ve missed out on a lot of interaction and socialising. All this has caused so much anxiety. There’s a lack of meaningful employment opportunities around here as industries decline and workplace patterns change. And those who go on to further education can end up with huge student debts. There’s a lot for young people to contend with.
TB: You’re very active in community life and are also a member of Bothenhampton and Walditch Parish Council. What motivates you to get involved in this way, and what do you get out of it?
MW: Our society thrives when people give their time and energy to help each other. Sometimes people think things ‘just happen’, but they happen because of volunteers – the parish council’s footpaths officer, for example, who does such valuable work. I believe everyone should get out and help as best they can.
I certainly enjoy feeling like I’ve contributed to the community. As a governor, I want to ensure the school is the best it can be, and that gives me satisfaction.
TB: How do you like to relax between your various commitments?
MW: I absolutely love music and I play in a band called Smile & Wave with my friend Mike Smithwick. We both play acoustic guitar. We do gigs in Bucky Doo Square, including a recent fundraiser for Ukraine, which raised £300 in two hours. I love performing! I also enjoy exercise, particularly walking and cycling.
Governors don’t have to be teachers; the ideal mix is a cross-section of people who are interested in children’s wellbeing. If this is something you’d like to consider, email Martin at email@example.com.