Daran Harding: Balancing work with family life – and why I’ve spent two decades as a school governor

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Daran Harding, Business Development Director at Dains Accountants, talks to Daily Focus about his experiences balancing the priorities of being a parent with building a successful career, and why he continues to volunteer as a school governor after two decades of service.

“Excelling at business can mean dedicating a huge amount of time, and for many business professionals, combining it with family life can often mean balancing conflicting priorities.

Recent research revealed that one in five people in the UK say that childcare or caring responsibilities has prevented them for applying for a job or promotion at work, or has driven them to consider leaving a job altogether.

Pursuing my career when my son was young for me meant that having a strong support system in place was fundamental – and I was fortunate enough to have that.

As my son reached school age, we took a considerable amount of time searching for somewhere where not only he would excel academically, but most importantly be happy in his environment. As a busy professional, flexibility beyond the standard school-day was paramount.

This is where my role as a school governor began. We looked around a number of schools and discovered St Joseph’s Preparatory School in Trent Vale. There was a focus on nurturing qualities that extend beyond the classroom. It seemed like a game-changer for us a family and we completely embraced the school ethos, and it was then that I stepped up to be a school governor.

Squeezed budgets means that many schools have 30 or more students in a class, but as one of only 12 in his class we felt the teacher knew him, almost as well as us. As a school governor, I believe that a tight-knit community can enrich the educational experience for everyone involved, creating an environment where every child can thrive and succeed. 

From a business perspective, I found that there was an abundance of opportunities for my professional development, too. They say that every day is a school day and that is certainly true for my experience as a governor. I had the opportunity to present on behalf of the school and made some amazing business contacts at the same time.

Working long days with the business, the school’s activities beyond the typical school day, which also supported his well-being and development, was hugely valuable. This level of support not only eased my workload as a parent but also gave my son the chance to experience activities that we might not have had time to squeeze into our busy family life.

As a governor, I was proud to see St Joseph’s take a holistic approach to education. When my son moved on to high school, he wasn’t just academically proficient, but also morally grounded, emotionally resilient, and socially adept.

I would wholeheartedly recommend getting involved as a school governor to other business leaders who have the capacity to spare the time. Bringing experiences from a range of commercial backgrounds adds a richness to conversations and is certainly welcomed by the staff within an education setting.

Education has changed fundamentally over the last 20 years and continues to do so. 

However, what does not change is the commitment of the teaching staff and the value they place on individuals like me willing to support them. 

My son is now of an age where he very much looks after himself, and I continue to lead a busy, professional life; taking time out to volunteer as a School Governor and support a school that had such an impact on his – and our – lives enables me to give something back.

Tom Hammersley

Digital Content Officer at Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce. BA hons journalism graduate.

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