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Chair's Report - Spring 2017

This has been an unusually busy spring term, and the Governors have had a lot to do. In addition to our regular programme of Full Governing Body and committee meetings, there have been two Strategic Visits to the school, one in each half-term, focussing on Modern Foreign Languages and Personal, Social and Health Education in February and an entire session in March on the important topic of how the school engages with parents. These visits are vital in permitting Governors to see the school at work at first hand, to consider individual topics in depth, and to hear directly from groups of staff and students.

On the membership front, there were no changes on the Governing Body, but our two Associate Members, Ben Bennett and Professor Graham Orpwood, were elected full Governors at our end of term meeting. We were also delighted to welcome one new arrival – Bukky Maybank’s new baby, Gbemi, and even more delighted to welcome new mum and baby to our meetings.

I have attended a number of meetings and events as detailed below, but particular mention should be made of the Dance Show and the excellent Sixth Form production of Alice, which gave a new twist to an old tale.

The work of the Governing Body has progressed broadly under the headings in our 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.

We continue to support the Senior Leadership Team and their staff as they get to grips with the new Key Stage 4 performance measures of Attainment 8 and Progress 8 prescribed by the Department for Education (DfE). We continue to think these new measures lack the transparency of the grade-related targets used previously. These were easier for students and parents to understand. It is still unclear how the new targets will work out for RPHS and we will continue to monitor and challenge where necessary the interim data on progress produced by the school.

At Key Stage 5, we are heartened by current predictions that our A-level results this year are on track to set new records. 

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

We have been encouraged by the London Borough of Merton’s continuing commitment to local authority-maintained schools, now that the Government no longer intend to proceed with enforced academisation. Instead, Merton is encouraging the formation of partnerships between its schools, secondary and primary, and Mrs Heard and I have attended a number of meetings of the School Improvement Steering Group to this end.

We are also concerned about the creation of a new Harris Academy in South Wimbledon and the possible effect this might have on existing schools, particularly in relation to the start-up arrangements which involve the use of the former Adult Education Centre in Whatley Avenue. We have recorded our concerns in responding to the consultation exercise about the opening of the new school.

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.

We continue to monitor closely the budget position, and are encouraged that prompt action by the school seems very likely to result in a much reduced deficit this year. We are aware that our Sixth Form funding has been reduced and this remains a concern for the next two-three years, given that the low Year 7 admission numbers of a few years ago have now fed through to current Sixth Form numbers. We will be considering closely with the Senior Leadership Team the action we need to take on this, and one encouraging initiative is detailed below (section 9).

We are also monitoring how the DfE New Funding Formula will impact on us. DfE figures suggest that the school will benefit and we are pleased that our needs have been recognised. But we are also conscious that schools now face additional financial burdens on teachers’ pension costs and the new Apprenticeship Levy, which will tend to offset the gains.

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

This remains a key topic for Governors. We welcomed the appointment of our Staff Governor, Mr Mba, to co-ordinate the programme of events for our Gifted and Able students, and we look forward to him driving this with his usual verve and energy. It should sit well beside the existing programme of ensuring our G & A students are especially challenged and supported in the classroom. The university offers that so many of our Key Stage 5 students received in January were very encouraging and a great motivator for them and for students in KS3 and KS4 aspiring to the same levels.

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

This remains another key focus, and Governors were pleased to receive a presentation on the school’s plans for narrowing the gap between the attainment of PP and non-PP students. We will be looking closely at its implementation and monitoring as ever the way the school uses its Pupil Premium budget to enhance the life chances of disadvantaged students.

6. Improving literacy levels throughout the school.

Governors are pleased with the progress of this initiative. We took the opportunity of our Strategic Visit in February to see students’ reading time in action and were impressed with the variety of material being read and the quiet diligence with which it was being studied. Well done, Raynes Park High, and keep it up!

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

We are aware that Mrs Heard is to conduct a review of the current arrangements, and we look forward to hearing and considering her conclusions.

8. To monitor the development of provision for SEND students.

We are pleased at the changes made to SEND provision, and intend looking at these as part of a Strategic Visit next term.

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

Governors are happy with the development of the strategy this term. Two initiatives are especially pleasing. First, the emergence of RPHS as the first state school in the country to become a BECS Link Centre. This exciting initiative with an educational charity will enhance the range of sporting opportunities available to our students, using the excellent faculties that we possess. Second, our planned link with Fulham Football Club, which will see a group of their Academy students joining our Sixth Form and raising the school’s profile and hopefully the standard of our football.

10. Increasing parental involvement.

We are pleased to see the renaissance of the Parent Teacher Association and the Parents Forum, to which several of our Parent Governors have contributed. We are very appreciative of the work of Assistant Headteacher Ms Lach, and we wish her well as she departs (temporarily!) on maternity leave. On the wider front, we devoted our entire Strategic Visit in March to the issue of parental engagement, which is so important in driving forward students’ prospects. We are very supportive of the school’s work here and are keen to develop this wherever possible. 

Michael Ross

March 2017