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Teenager breaking down barriers by being offered role of governor at Norfolk school

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An 18-year-old is proving age is just a number as she has been appointed to help manage a West Norfolk school she attended as a child, making her one of the youngest of her kind in the country.

Olivia Morris, who is communications officer for North West Norfolk MP James Wild, has been offered the position of school governor at Ashwicken Primary School where she enjoyed her first steps on the education ladder herself.

The ambitious teenager aspires to be a county councillor and has spoken about why being so young makes her an ideal fit for the governor role.

Olivia Morris has been offered a position as governor at Ashwicken School at the age of 18. Picture: SUBMITTED
Olivia Morris has been offered a position as governor at Ashwicken School at the age of 18. Picture: SUBMITTED

She said: "The great thing in my opinion about being a young governor at just 18 is that my experience of the education system will be similar if not the same as the children I will be responsible for.

"I feel that I will be able to reflect on my experiences and to help to shape their experiences imputing ideas I would've liked to have seen when I was at school.

"Although people may oppose me being so young, I feel that I am more in touch with the modern-day education system and the needs of the children of today such as mental health support and welfare services than such of the typical middle-aged governor."

The latest statistics from the National Governance Association [NGA] show that out of a quarter of a million of governors in England, one per cent are under the age of 30 and 10 per cent are under the age of 40.

A spokeswoman for NGA said Miss Morris would be at the very bottom end of this one per cent, putting her in a "tiny minority" at her age. The bulk of governors and trustees who took part in the survey were aged between 40 to 49 years.

The NGA spokeswoman added: "Things we hear all the time is 'I though you had to be a parent or a certain age to be a governor'. From a board perspective having different views and opinions just makes for really good decision making.

"Of course, it also makes her a role model for young people in that school and shows they do not have to be an older person.

"Having that connectedness to the kids is a great reason. It's important to have that diversity so it is not just the same kind of people around the table."

Miss Morris, who became Mr Wild's communications officer this summer, lives in Ashwicken and is currently studying a law degree.

She said the village has a special place in her heart since her great-grandfather helped to build part of it, including the house that her family still live in today.

"The school itself is the one that both myself and my mother's side of the family all attended so, we have seen the school develop massively over the years," Miss Morris continued.

"It was lovely to see that many of the members of staff who taught me over 10-years-ago are still at the school, as well as some of the programs such as Forest Schools in which I have very fond memories of building dens on the playing field.

"I hope I can thank the school by giving back to them by being a governor and ensuring that each child takes away fond memories of their time at the school as in my eyes academic achievement is just as important as personal development."

Her interest in becoming a school governor first arose when she realised she could put her skills from her job into good practice.

As part of her voluntary role, she will be helping to set the vision and strategy of the school, and the governors board effectively hold headteachers to account when looking at pupil performance.

Miss Morris attended Holly Meadows and Springwood High as well as Ashwicken, and said she applied on "the off chance" after noticing a vacancy at the school online.

She added: "I am delighted to have been offered the position and will endeavour to help the school, parents, and pupils in any way I can, helping to ensure that the pupils leave school as well-rounded, happy individuals."

Sophie Dickson, head teacher at Ashwicken Primary School said: "It was wonderful to receive the application for school governor from Olivia especially as some of the staff remembered actually teaching her.

"Young people under 40 are significantly underrepresented in school governance. I believe that having a range of people in the community sharing their views, gives a much broader perspective in discussions and decisions and helps to challenge stereotypes.

"I am hoping that Olivia will be able to share her views and insights from a pupil’s perspective because she has only recently left school.

"I also hope that it will highlight to our pupils at school that all views count, no matter what your age and engage them further with decision making within our school through School council and Eco council. I am looking forward to working with her very much."

The Department for Education’s Governance Handbook 2019 states that effective governance requires “sufficient diversity of perspectives to enable robust decision making”.

And the National Governance Association has also been attempting to reach out to the Black, Asian and other minority ethnicity backgrounds who are also underrepresented on governing boards.

The NGA survey showed 94 per cent of governors and trustees surveyed identified as white people as opposed to just one per cent black, African and Caribbean respondents. Only two per cent were Asian.

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