Published: 18 October 2016
We held the first meeting of the Full Governing Body for this academic year in one of the magnificently refurbished classrooms. For new parents – our role as governors is threefold:
Set and guide the vision and strategy for the school
Hold the Headteacher to account, supporting and challenging
Ensure prudent financial management.
Every year, the Governing Body is required to re-elect the chair and deputy. I am continuing the role of chair this year, but now with the assistance of two deputies. Simon Horner is the Deputy with responsibility for ensuring the Governing Body does the right things to support the school. Katie Weig is the deputy charged with ensuring that we monitor the performance of the school effectively.
Other changes to the Governing Body include welcoming Vidya Sujalini as a full governor (previously an associate) and Sophie Russell as a staff governor, helping us relate what we do to the teaching staff.
We have said farewell to Joe Smith, a doughty campaigner for the sports and technology aspects of our work, and to Louise Aikman who has performed her role as Chair of the Teaching and Learning committee with great professionalism and charm. We would like to thank both Joe and Louise for their contribution to the Governing Body and to the school.
The appointment of two deputies is the first in a series of changes we are making to reflect the larger campus and journey towards becoming a two-form-entry school. We are working on ways to ensure how we monitor the school’s performance matches the expanded senior leadership team at the school and that our work is time efficient – for governors and critically for teaching staff whose time remains under enormous pressure.
We continue to interview prospective governors to ensure that we have the right skills for the challenges ahead. Do contact me via the school office if you would like to be considered.
Many parents will have seen first-hand the fantastic results of the summer building project. We now have a magnificent asset in the Early Years building with a spacious hall and a well equipped kitchen capable of producing high quality lunches. The refurbished classrooms in the main building are bright, well-equipped and create a super environment for the teaching staff and children. The change has been great for everyone’s morale and enthusiasm.
The work has come at no little cost – staff only had access to their rooms at the last minute and so everyone has been on the back foot in terms of preparation for the year. By prioritising the quality of the teaching environment, we have ensured that the children have not been disadvantaged by the building work. However, there is a substantial, unseen, backlog of ‘back office’ activity caused by the delay which will take some time to mop up. The Governors would like parents to join us in paying tribute to the office staff, teachers and teaching and learning assistants who expended so much energy to ensure the school was ready to open on time and with a warm welcome for the children.
The building works continue with another ‘push’ at half term to address the lengthy ‘snagging list’ and to finalise the new office and reception area. The playground is due to re-open after half term; the final phase will see the old Pavilion demolished and a third ‘court’ created on the Multi Use Sports Area. We are promised all this will be done by Christmas.
A key part of our discussions was around pupil achievement. We review the data to ensure that the school remains on track to deliver our expectations. Last year was (another) year of significant changes in curriculum and assessment, with new approaches to marking of classwork in particular. As a result, we have to bear in mind that the year-on-year results are not directly comparable; though we still subject them to the same scrutiny. We saw some uncharacteristic results which were below the school’s expectations. A series of specific actions are being implemented to address the issues raised by these results. While determined to see the actions in place to improve results, the Governors reconfirmed the school’s commitment to a ‘whole child’ approach to primary education whilst also recognising that each cohort of children is different.
This led us into a discussion of the work that has been done to redevelop the School’s Mission and Vision – there are exciting changes coming which are close to being finalised and will be revealed to parents soon. The Governors applauded this as a strong piece of work which draws on input from all of the school’s stakeholders, and facilitated by insightful support from Richard Addy.
The revised Vision also underpins the strategy for the year – contained in the School Development Plan. This document, produced to reflect the Senior Leadership team’s evaluation of performance against Ofsted standards, sets out a comprehensive plan across all areas of the school’s activities. Progress in delivering the plan is reported back to Governors by the Headteacher over the course of the year. That process is now firmly under way.
In response to the Parent Survey (and thanks again to so many parents for completing it!) we are looking for ways to help parents understand what Governors do and how to help us do it! Next week sees an early morning ‘formal’ introduction to some of the Governors at which we will explain what we do, feed back some highlights from the Parent Survey and the Headteacher and Deputy Head will explain elements of the School Development Plan. On Friday night, I’m delighted that the PTA have asked us to join their ‘Welcome to New Parents’ event where the speeches will be very short and hopefully the conversations long and engaged.
We do encourage parents to use the wealth of information about the school and its governance that is available on the school’s website. We will be looking to improve that over the course of the year.
Chair of Governors
Please find below notes from the Governing Body meeting on 5 July:Summary:· Increased burden on teaching staff this year· Supportive feedback from Merton Educational Partner· Parent feedback- recognising concerns over understanding measurement of progress· Thorough implementation of the School Development Plan
Published: 12 July 2016
· School Travel Plan
· Thank you and farewell to Mrs Bazley
The Governors used the opportunity of the last meeting of the academic year to review all the work that has gone on in the school during the year – and the list was long and impressive.
What is clear to all of us is the dedication of all the staff, particularly the teachers. I simply hadn’t appreciated – and I’m sure I’m not alone in this – the burden imposed by the changes in the national curriculum and in the assessment regimes. Most of our teachers are working an 11 hour day – and are often taking home work overnight and at weekends. Yet the quality of teaching, the detailed knowledge of the potential of every child and the contribution to the ethos of Dundonald has never been better. We all have to find ways to reduce this burden to retain and nurture the talent we have – and I ask parents to play their part in that.
We reviewed the report of the Merton Educational Partner (“MEP”), who inspects Achievement, Priorities and Planning on a termly basis. His comments included favourable discussion of the strength of Pupil Voice within the school, the high profile of science, consistency of classroom practice (especially in giving verbal feedback and using ‘working walls’ in classrooms). Especially pleasing was the feedback that pupils were found to be ‘confident to talk about their learning’ which is a key element of developing a growth mindset.
Over the summer we will review the findings of the Parent Survey. Thank you to all who completed it. We were able to discuss immediate feedback to the comprehensive new report formats. What is immediately clear is that despite the many opportunities provided to explain both the changes in the assessment regime and the raised expectations within the primary curriculum, the change from the old ‘levels’ has caused some anxiety. We are committed to working with the Senior Leadership Team to continue to provide parents with the information they need at a time of difficult transition for all involved – and we welcome ideas about how we can do this in new and better ways.
Child Protection and Safeguarding is a vital yet often unseen part of the management of the school’s operations. We reviewed the reportable data to understand both the trends and to get a sense of the sheer quantity of time and effort involved in managing these issues. We were pleased to see the MEP confirm the effectiveness of the school’s arrangements.
I wrote in the Autumn term about how we work with the Senior Leadership Team to shape and monitor the School Development Plan. The plan drives the implementation of the school’s strategy across six key areas. In our recent session, it was remarkable to see just how much had been implemented during the course of the year and to identify the areas of learning and adjustment to take into next year’s plan. We use a ‘Red-Amber-Green’ rating system to spot issues and challenge progress. The report was a sea of green! We discussed the few areas of amber/red and these items will become part of the planning for next year, which is already underway.
The expansion project remains on track. We know that parents are very keen to explore the new facilities but please bear with us – the builders will still be with us until Christmas! When we have the changes all bedded down, there will be opportunities to tour the expanded campus. Meanwhile, please keep your fingers crossed that good progress is made by the builders and the Council in refurbishing the ‘old’ building over the summer so that it is fit for re-occupation in good time. The timetable is tight!
Governors recognised the large amount of work involved in maintaining the School Travel Plan by Jessica Morton and wished to thank her for this.
Lastly, this meeting was the last to be attended by Joanna Bazley as governor, as she has decided to step down after 20 years of service to the school. I cannot speak more highly of the inspirational way she has conducted herself, courteously challenged the school leadership and other governors, and made a huge contribution to the outstanding performance of Dundonald not just as a school but as an asset within the local community. She epitomises all that is good about public service. We will miss her.
Chair of Governors