Chair of Governors at Alder Tree Primary: Annie McMaster
Annie McMaster serves as Chair of Governors at our newly launched Alder Tree Primary; the first primary to join our Trust.
Annie, can you tell us why you chose to serve as a Governor and why did you choose the White Rose Academies Trust?
The truth? I had just retired, and I was asked if I was interested in getting involved. Having been asked, I then tried to find out more about the WRAT and the more I learnt the more I liked. I was apprehensive about taking on the chair role as I don’t have an education background. However, I do have other skills that I thought could be useful and I fervently believe that if we get education right for our children then it can set them up for life and make a real difference to them, their family, their community, and our society.
Have you served on other charity boards and what experience did this enable you to bring to the White Rose Academies Trust?
I have previously chaired the Board at PATH Yorkshire which is a fantastic organisation promoting employment for people from BAME communities. I’m currently a non-executive director for Leeds and Yorkshire Housing Association – another amazing organisation which provides social housing, mainly in Leeds. Finally, I am an active member of the Leeds Club of Soroptimist International – an amazing organisation that works to improve the position for women across the world. Between all of these you can see that I have a passion for equity, and believe fairness, housing and education will solve everything!
What do you enjoy about serving as a Governor?
I am enjoying learning about a new sector and getting to know all the people involved – all are passionate about what they do and keen to make a difference in the lives of young people. It is great to feel a part of that.
Can you describe your memories of school and the value you place, personally, on formal education?
I hated school! I was at an all girl’s grammar, had to study Latin and other, to me, irrelevant subjects. I now appreciate Latin is useful in many ways, and I envy other people’s ability to understand language, firmly rooted in knowledge of Latin and grasp of grammar. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
I think the value of education is not so much in the formal subjects taught but in the softer skills, around behaviours, about valuing and respecting others; understanding how the world works and how to navigate that. If we can instil social intelligence, emotional intelligence, and resilience in our children then life will be much more fulfilling and everyone, from all walks of life, will have a better opportunity to achieve their personal potential.
Our community would love to read about your career to date and how you use this experience on the board?
My early background is in HR working for both large (BT) and small organisations (Full Employ). In the 90’s I started work in Leeds City Council in HR and moved into more performance management and service development. These roles covered a very wide variety of topics including, among other things, risk management, complaints, safeguarding, and equality. Just before I retired, I led an aspect of the work to ensure that those effected by the covid-19 pandemic were supported. All these experiences are useful for the board, as is having a can do and flexible approach. I am used to turning my hand to most things and always try to learn and listen to others.
Annie, what hobbies do you have?
I am very proud of my Welsh heritage and have done, and keep doing, lots of work to try and better understand my ancestry. It’s fascinating learning about past lives, how people lived and what might have been.
Retirement has seen me looking at my garden, particularly as covid has put paid to my ambitions to travel. I went to Japan a few years ago, and as I can’t travel there at the moment; I have constructed what is loosely a Japanese garden. Clearly, doing what a retiree is supposed to do – gardening.
Finally, why do you believe that other professionals, should seek to serve on an education board or local school governing body?
I don't think that this is something that only people who consider themselves as professionals should consider. Lots of people have significant skills and experiences that are important to helping us get the best for our children. I would encourage anyone, however they would describe themselves, to think about joining. We need to have people from a wide variety of backgrounds to get involved so that we are more innovative and creative and representative of society as a whole. I don’t believe it is necessarily about a profession or educational qualifications, but more about being curious so that you can ask questions and be committed to improving things for our children.