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Chair's Report - Autumn 2016

The first term of the school year is invariably a busy one for Governors as we set the direction and tone of our work. At our first Steering Group meeting, we agreed a Forward Work Programme for the year, which as usual is a blueprint for where we intend to concentrate our efforts over the following twelve months.

Once again, I am very happy to record my thanks for the support of our hard-working Governors – in particular Rebecca Costain, our Vice-Chair, and our three committee chairs – Margaret Tulloch, Marina Szanto and Hamish Dowlen. I am equally happy to record our thanks and appreciation of our Headteacher, Kirsten Heard, our Deputy Headteacher, Tyrone Myton, and their Senior Leadership Team, all of whom have supported our work. We have also been equally pleased and impressed by all the other members of staff and by our students, who work so hard to secure success for themselves and for our school.

We were very pleased during the course of the term to welcome three new members to the Governing Body. Christian Mba joined as the Staff Governor in succession to Alex Pull, who left the school for a new appointment in Leeds at the end of last term. Professor Graham Orpwood and Ben Bennett joined us as Associate Members: Associate Members are appointed for the particular skills they can bring to the Governing Body, and in particular to the work of its committees.

During the course of the term, Governors were pleased to staff a stall at the school’s Open Evening, where prospective parents were able to talk to our Parent Governors about the transition of their sons and daughters from Year 6 to Year 7 – a unique perspective that we were able to offer them. Governors also attended the Remembrance Day event at the school on 11 November, as well as the House Plays on 1 December. I was also very pleased to attend the borough’s Celebrating Success evening in November, where our students were represented as Merton celebrated their achievements.

Our work has progressed broadly under the headings in the Forward Work Programme:

1. Challenge and support for the Headteacher and the SLT in reviewing and delivering the objectives in the School Improvement Plan and in meeting the performance targets for the year agreed by the FGB.

The Headteacher has been reviewing the three year SIP in the light of the very good progress made in the past year. She gave her conclusions to the September meeting of the Governing Body and presented a draft revised Plan to the December meeting. This inter alia reflected the comments made by Governors. We share the Headteacher’s concerns about the Government’s revised systems for assessing progress and attainment at secondary schools and the issues of transparency that these raise for Governors and parents. We have set new and challenging targets for the school along the lines prescribed and we do not under-estimate the work that will be necessary to meet them. We will continue our dialogue with the Headteacher and the Senior Leadership Team in this first difficult year of their operation.

2. Continuing to explore the case for academising RPHS and to bring forward proposals for the future status of the school when appropriate.

Governors welcomed the Government’s abandonment of forced academisation in their Education Bill. But they consider that this is an option the school needs to consider further, if only in case Government policy reverts to coercion at some point in the future. The Headteacher and I have attended borough-wide meetings with the local authority to explore options, and held a separate meeting with the Assistant Director of Education at which we re-stated our commitment to remaining a local authority maintained community school for the present and set out our wish to continue developing working partnerships with other schools in the borough.

3. Monitoring the agreed budget for 2016/17 to end the year to plan, and to produce draft budgets for the following two years with the aim of reflecting the resources available while maintaining so far as possible the scale and scope of the curriculum.

The school has done very well this term in keeping expenditure within budget and we have commended the work that has gone into this. Our Business Committee will continue to monitor the financial position closely, not least because pressures are likely to continue in the next couple of financial years, and the school needs to be prepared for this.

4. Continuing to raise aspiration at all levels and with all pupils across the school

Governors have received presentations on the work that is continuing both in the classroom and via new programmes aimed at raising aspiration across target groups. We have welcomed these initiatives and we have challenged the school to do more and to get their initiatives under way quickly. We also met groups of our more able students at a Strategic Visit and discussed with them how this work was of benefit to them personally. We were able to feed back their generally favourable conclusions to the Headteacher.

5. Continuing to close the gap for Pupil Premium students’ progress and attainment at the school

Governors were alarmed that the difference between PP and non-PP students had widened in the GCSE results in August. We were pleased to note the steps that the Headteacher has taken to strengthen the school’s work with PP pupils and we discussed and challenged these at a meeting of our Standards & Quality Committee. We will continue to monitor the effectiveness of the school’s programmes in this area.

6. Improving literacy levels throughout the school

We have been pleased to note the new drive on improving literacy and the way in which a new emphasis has been given to structured reading in the classroom. It is good that nitiatives are taking place across the full range of subjects, not just English, and that good spelling and grammar are recognised as key tools for pupil achievement.

7. To monitor the effectiveness of the revised House system in maintaining the strong pastoral work of the school.

Governors continue to support the very effective pastoral work in the school and the key role that the House system plays in this. We are continuing to monitor its effectiveness in supporting good personal and academic outcomes for our students.

8. To monitor the development of provision for SEND students

The necessary reorganisation of our SEND provision has taken place and we note the local authority is pleased with its early results. We are giving the new arrangements time to shake down, and will be looking at their effectiveness next term.

9. Challenge and support for the development of a sports strategy for RPHS.

 Governors have welcomed the appointment of the new Director of Sport and the inclusion of so many sporting opportunities in the new enrichment programme. We were disappointed that the continuing poor condition of the sports ground has made it necessary to curtail its use for commercial hire while repair work is carried out, but we are glad that the school is still able to make use of it. We have also been involved in the ongoing development of a football academy at the school in partnership with AFC Wimbledon: two trials have taken place and it is to be hoped that more will be held to get the academy under way. There is a further exciting initiative in prospect to widen sporting opportunities for our students and we hope to be able to make an announcement about this in the near future.

10. Increasing parental involvement.

We share the school’s belief in the importance of securing parental engagement in the education of our students. We shared their disappointment at the numbers of parents attending some of the information evenings at the beginning of term. But we were pleased to note the interest and informed questioning of prospective parents at our Open Evening and Open Mornings. We have also been very pleased to note the re-launch of the Parent Teacher Association, whose members have organised another Christmas Fair.

Michael Ross

December 2016