Fact file:

Name: Maria Heywood

Job: Vice chairman of governors at Abbey Gate College and semi-retired occupational psychologist

Born: Cheltenham

Lives: Chester

Education: Charlton Park Convent School, Cheltenham, Liverpool University (BA Hons in Psychology and German)

Family: Married to Kelvin with three children and five grandchildren

Maria with two of her grandchildren

The day starts reasonably early as we have a puppy who doesn’t like a lie-in! The first task of the day is to work out if I am needed at Abbey Gate College where I have been a governor for 21 years and where my daughter studied. I still do some work in the business world although I am semi-retired.

My role as vice chairman occupies a lot of my time, whether it’s attending board meetings, attending school events or reading up on the latest legislation and compliance on safeguarding, which is my role as a governor and means I am responsible for ensuring the safety and well-being of all our pupils. With so many changes coming out constantly from central government on this issue, it is a major task for us all in the college to ensure that we comply with all the safeguarding regulations. Ultimate responsibility for all this lies with the governors, who are accountable and responsible by law for every aspect of the running of the college.

Maria with former England player Michael Owen and headteacher Tracy Pollard opening the AGC sports pavilion

School governors are all volunteers and come from many different occupations, but we all share the same passion for education and for helping young people to reach their full potential. Governors are there to question, challenge and support the educational tasks, and of course in an independent school like Abbey Gate College, we are also running an organisation.

A couple of years ago I spent a day in school as a pupil – a great experience. What with computers, smartboards, and various other technical supports it was all very different from my day, and so much more effective. I decided I could easily go back to school and start all over again!

When I’m not working at the school, I am a beekeeper and I often compare the school to the hive – everyone busy working hard for the sake of the overall organisation and to ensure a good supply of either honey or successful pupils. It’s a fascinating hobby and I am currently the training co-ordinator of the North Cheshire Beekeepers’ Association. The association’s objective is to promote and further the craft of beekeeping in Cheshire and it’s something my husband and I are passionate about.

Maria in beekeeping mode

When I do have some spare time I love nothing more than to spend it with my friends and family, particularly my grandchildren and our puppy who between them are always guaranteed to keep me busy and entertained.

Maria with her family

What do you wear to do your job? Depends on what I’m doing. Normally smart business wear or smart casual.

What is the favourite part of your job? Meeting the pupils and the staff and spending time with them to hear about the current educational issues

What is the least favourite part of your job? All the administrative paperwork linked to the compliance regulations.

What would be your dream job if you weren’t doing what you do now? I have always loved the job I do, both as a psychologist and as a school governor. Both involve meeting people and trying to help them to achieve a happy and successful life.

How do you relax when you are not working? I love gardening, cooking, we keep bees and also have an allotment. I also sing in a choir, and, of course, my children and grandchildren visit frequently which is lovely. I also help with a couple of other charities as well.

What is your favourite film? Always the last one I saw!

What is your favourite book? The Lord of the Rings.

What is your favourite song? Anything by Queen and any classical music but especially by Mozart or Beethoven.

If a film was made of your life, who would you like to play you? Either of Dames Maggie Smith or Judi Dench.

Have you had your 15 minutes of fame yet? Possibly! In June when I was honoured to receive the British Empire Medal in the Queen’s birthday honours for my services to education.

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