IT is seeing the children smile as they enter school which makes Ned Solanki’s role as chairman of governors at SS Simon and Jude’s CE Primary so rewarding.

The thought of becoming a chairman of a body, which is effectively an unpaid director of a board, had never really crossed the father-of-two’s mind.

But he stepped up to the mark and has helped take the school from special measures to one of the best in the country.

Now he is one of the first — if not the first — in Bolton to be made a "national leader of governance".

These are highly effective chairmen of governors who use their skills and experience to support another governing body leader to improve their school’s performance.

Mr Solanki became a governor 12 years ago — he had been a pupil at the school and his daughter Meera, aged 16, also studied there. His other daughter Puja, aged ten, is still a pupil.

The 45-year-old IT manager found himself in the driving seat when the school was going through a tough period, which saw it fall into special measures.

He said: “I never thought of becoming a chairman, I was quite happy in the background, but the opportunity came up and because of the circumstances I wasn’t opposed.”

Mr Solanki said the success of the school today is down to the headteacher and the quality of the governors the school has.

He added: “If they were not in the position, the school would not be in the position it is now — it is oversubscribed.

“Seeing the smiling children near the entrance, that’s what makes it worthwhile.”

Mr Solanki said he understood how some people would be worried about attending meetings, but his school worked around that.

He added “We do have a vacancy, but we do not want to fill a space for the sake of filling it, we want good quality governors who can use their expertise, so we now co-opt governors to work on specific projects where they have the skills and if they want to go on and be a full time governor then they can, but if they don’t that is fine too.”

Governance is said to be key to the success of a school, setting the agenda, policies with the headteacher tasked with carrying that out.

Mr Solanki said: “As long as I am effective in this role, I will continue being a governor.” Headteacher Simon Bramwell described the Mr Solanki as a “critical friend”.

He said: “The governing body sets the tone and policies for the school, and ensure the school is going in the right direction Ned’s title is a just recognition of the journey the school has made under his leadership.”

There are currently 130 primary and 30 secondary school vacancies throughout Bolton.

Kevin McKeon, Bolton Council’s Executive cabinet member for schools said: “School governors play a vital role in setting the strategic direction and policies in schools and challenging school leaders to improve results.

“It’s an extremely rewarding job and Ofsted emphasise the importance of sound governance on the performance of schools and the difference it makes to children’s education.

“Bolton schools are very good at recruiting and retaining governors who come from all walks of life and backgrounds.

However, new recruits are always welcome and I would urge more people to get involved — they’re nearly 2,000 school governors in the borough.

Anyone interested in becoming a school governor can find out more here or by calling Governor Services on 01204 334005.