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Durham University

Staff Volunteering and Outreach

Case Studies

Simon Morris - Physics Head of Department

“I am a strong supporter of the University’s Staff Volunteering scheme. It allows everyone to volunteer, knowing that the University culture actively promotes it. I don’t feel guilty volunteering because it’s just a normal part of what the University does – on a moral level I find that satisfying”

Simon’s story

My name is Simon Morris and I am Head of Department in Physics. I currently volunteer as Chair of Governors at Durham Johnston School – and have been a governor there since 2008.

I didn’t initially set out to be a governor – my wife had been a governor at our children’s primary school but when the kids moved to Durham Johnston I decided to put myself forward as a parent governor as I have a lot of HE experience. It’s a four year position if you are elected and two years in I became Vice Chair and two years later was then co-opted and became Chair, the role I still hold now.

The commitment is undoubtedly significant – with a minimum of six governors meetings a year but there are also numerous sub-committees plus, as Chair, I have to go in when the Head needs to see me. Much of the work is in the evening but the University’s volunteering scheme also allows me the flexibility to attend in working hours.

The personal impact for me being a volunteer has been very positive and, despite the commitment, it is very fulfilling. There is lots of training available for being a governor, some of it quite technical, e.g. safeguarding and finance, but others quite broadly applicable. Additionally the range of groups and committees helps to give me ideas that are directly applicable to my work back in the department. It has also encouraged me to take the time to read up on a good deal of educational research, particularly that from the CEM Centre, as it is very relevant to my voluntary role. All of this allows me to bring more knowledge and experience back to work. It’s also allowed me to see the difference in teaching approaches between secondary schools and Higher Education. It’s interesting to see how professional teachers work in schools without the distractions for academics that come with research