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Governors’ update September 2016
2015/16 was our first full year as part of the Athelstan Trust (consisting of Malmesbury School, Bradon Forest School and The Dean Academy), so the first full academic year when the Governors of Malmesbury School have been answerable to the Trust’s Directors. This has taken some getting used to; new ways of working have developed over the past months as the new roles and responsibilities of the two tiers of governance have become apparent.
The most obvious change for us as “local governors” has been the off-loading of many of our previous responsibilities to the Directors. They now have overall responsibility for the finances of the Trust, for instance, and while it is still important that the local governors scrutinise the school budget and expenditure on a regular basis, the finances are signed off by the Trust. Similarly with staffing issues; the local governors still approve the staffing quota for the school and are still responsible for the wellbeing and efficacy of Malmesbury School staff; however, the overall employment contacts and HR issues now rest with the Trust. In the fullness of time, most of the school’s policies will also become common to all three schools in the Trust.
In the summer term the local governors held a self evaluation meeting at which we were able to spend time examining how we had handled the changes and agreeing ways forward to improve our governance for the upcoming academic year.
Teaching, learning and work scrutiny
The academic data is explained and discussed during the year as various data sets become available. The governors question and hold school leaders to account. Despite the positive sets of results, we are not complacent and the day to day focus continues to be on quality first teaching with in-house triangulation and cross curricular collaboration.
Several governors have attended the Senior Leadership Team’s meetings during the year to hear them discuss feedback from the unannounced drop-in visits that senior staff have made to observe the teaching and learning in the school. This has proved enlightening. It is heartening to hear about the many examples of good practice that the senior team have noted during their observations of lessons and reassuring to hear rigorous discussion about how they will tackle anything that does not meet with their expectations. In the words of one governor “I was very impressed with the level of debate and challenge about the quality of teaching and I am satisfied that the oversight is effective.”
This is backed up by governor visits to the school. Not only are lessons impressive when we call in, but the general impression of calm, of purposeful noise and the general good behaviour and politeness of our students that we observe, never fails to impress. That is not to say that the school doesn’t encounter challenging behaviour, but the governors are aware of how the policy on behaviour management translates into practice.
Child Protection and Special Needs
Over the past year, Governors were given access to the Child Protection audit from Clark Harrell who highlighted and discussed with them the reasoning behind his judgements on Child Protection issues.
Our SEND governor, Sue Poolman, assured us with an extremely positive report on the Special Needs provision in the school. SEND is a whole school priority. All staff are aware of the requirements of the new SEND Code of Practice and of their responsibility for the learning of SEND students, which is to be driven by high expectations and challenge. We have a very able SENCO in Jessica Abel-Goldbin and Paul Loveday was appointed as Second at Easter. Many of our Teaching Assistants are extremely impressive and the care taken over recruitment is paying dividends in outcomes for students. There is an impressive balance within the Faculty between the academic and the pastoral side. Sue reported that governors can be satisfied that students, with complex needs in some cases, are well supported.
Staff recruitment and retention
Many of the governors were active in staff recruitment and it is pleasing to note that all of our posts were filled with specialist teachers again this year. The recruitment policy states that a governor should be on every interview panel for teaching and support roles as well as internal appointments. This is quite an ask for busy governors and I would like to thank those who gave so freely of their time to achieve this.
An interesting dimension has been the possibility of retaining good staff within the Trust. It is acknowledged that for career progression or for broadening experience some of our excellent teachers wish to move on to other schools. This year we have been able to offer a few teachers, who might otherwise have left us, the opportunity to further their careers within the Trust moving to The Dean Academy on either a full or part-time basis. We are always sorry when staff move on to other schools but it is good to see that our staff are being offered high quality promoted posts either with us or elsewhere. In particular, it is wonderful to be able to promote Tom Beveridge, one of our Assistant Heads who shone through as the outstanding candidate for The Head of School position at The Dean Academy. We wish Tom every success in this role. This also heralds the return of Deputy Head, John Barrett, who has been Acting Headteacher at the Dean this year.
Firth Edy has resigned as a governor due to his increasing commitment to other school roles (Duke of Edinburgh Leader, Academic Leader, Head of House). Natalie Kenyon’s term of office expired in August. She will be remembered especially for her contribution to the new school uniform. I would like to thank both Firth and Natalie for their time and their contributions to the governing body.
The Budget Monitoring Report for Malmesbury School was circulated at the July 2016 meeting. This has been an extremely difficult year financially and has needed close monitoring.
The financial position for 16/17 is difficult. Local Government Pensions are being revalued and employer’s contributions will increase but we don’t yet know by how much. Another example of the challenge we face was reported in May when we learnt that the National Insurance bill has increased by £8,000 per month while the whole EFA budget increased by only £28,000. We are in a difficult position when it comes to making savings to compensate given that all our maintenance, catering, caretaking and energy contracts are arranged through the PFI, on a fixed fee basis, over which we have no financial or consultative input (the contract is with Wiltshire Council). The governors are grateful to Jane Nicholls for her financial acumen and her close tracking of the wider national picture with regard to school finances.
Kirkland Rowell feedback
The governors were given a presentation of the key findings of the Kirkland Rowell surveys, as well as the parent’s feedback, staff and students are surveyed. Most of the results were either in the expected category, as indeed they should be if we as governors know our school as we should do. However, there are a few areas where our thoughts have been challenged and which have provided us with areas for scrutiny and consideration in the coming months.
School improvement plan
The 2016/17 version was circulated at the July meeting. It is a working document that will be added to throughout the year. There will be a big piece of work on Curriculum Review, which several of the governors will become involved with. Parents, students and staff will also be asked to contribute to the review.
School visits by governors
Governors have also contributed in a variety of ways, developing the Teaching School Alliance’s website and brand, interviewing students for involvement with the School Bank, reviewing Child Protection, close discussion of data, judging competitions and giving out prizes, participation in careers days and in many other ways.
All faculties are given a thorough annual review when results are discussed in detail and strategies for improvement are discussed. Governors participate in all of these reviews.
Teaching School Alliance
Alison Simpson has done an amazing job of setting up the Teaching School Alliance which has been a huge success. It is important to invest in the on-going training of teachers and by offering these courses we are able, at the same time, to attract income that supports the Trust. We are gaining a growing reputation for excellent professional development, particularly in the fields of science and maths. Next year Languages will be added to the portfolio.
Staff presentations to governors
School Counselling service – Sarah Lawson & Annabel Honeyborne; outlining the way the school counselling service is accessed, the number and type of referrals and examples of the support that is offered.
Core Maths Programme – Ruth Gibson; this programme is offered to all sixth formers who are not taking Maths at AS/A Level. The course supports the whole curriculum. We are one of only 34 lead schools nationally and no one else teaches it to so many students. We have a constant stream of visitors and it strengthens our chances of recruiting excellent Maths teachers.
Literacy across the Curriculum– Samantha Heron; Margeruite Jepson, Lisa Liddington (Maggie Beggs is also in the team but she was unable to attend); An initiative to improve the literacy of pupil premium students.
Pupil Premium and Looked after Children – Jennifer Howe; the strategies and support we offer for Pupil Premium students and Looked After Children.
Prevent – Clark Harrell; a presentation that included training using WRAP (Workshop to Raise Awareness of Prevent) and all governors present completed the delegate feedback form.
Other topics included:
Health and safety (each meeting)
Policies (as they arise for revision)
Admissions and student numbers
GCSE and A level options
The bungalow facility (excluded and challenging students)
Medicines in school
Changes in GCSE and A levels
Strategy day for Trust Directors and Chairs of local governing bodies
Music and drama concerts
Sporting prowess and endeavour
Chair of Malmesbury School Governors