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Chair's Report - Summer 2017

The Governors have had a very full summer term. We are determined that our school should be one where the best in every student is developed, so that their potential can be fully realised. Social coherence and social inclusion are only policy-makers’ phrases unless comprehensive schools like ours can be given the scope and the resources to do our work.

In the course of the term, Governors conducted our biennial Self-Evaluation Framework (SEF) exercise. This gives us a chance to review our own ways of working against the criteria prescribed by Ofsted and to assess how we might do things better. It was a very useful opportunity to reflect on our effectiveness as a Governing Body and on how we can continue to challenge and support the school in improving outcomes for our students. We also agreed a new training policy for Governors and conducted a skills audit to identify any gaps in Governors’ knowledge and experience.

In addition to our programme of Governing Body and committee meetings, the Governors conducted one Strategic Visit during the term, concentrating on the Access Centre and our work with pupils with Special Educational Needs. This is an area where RPHS has a high reputation throughout the borough and beyond, and we were pleased to test our work and to find the results so good and in many cases so inspirational.

During the course of the term, I also attended the London Borough of Merton’s School Improvement Steering Group, which is focussing on how partnership working between schools can improve, and their termly briefing for Chairs.  Closer to home, I also attended a number of school events, not least the excellent production of Blood Brothers at the end of June.

We have had no changes of Governing Body membership this term, but at our meeting at the end of last term we were delighted to “upgrade” our two Associate Members, Ben Bennett and Professor Graham Orpwood, to Co-Opted Governors, in recognition of their contribution to our work. In July we shall be saying good bye to two of our members. Rebecca Costain has been a Governor for 5 years and has been Vice-Chair for three of those years. She has been a great support to me personally, and is a never-ending source of shrewd and common-sense advice. She has equally made her mark in devising our performance targets – and in a readily accessible form – and in marshalling the large number of school policies that we must have. Christian Mba has been our Staff Governor for the last year. He has performed this role very well and given us the benefit of his highly professional approach. We wish him well on promotion to his new post in a school in the West Midlands. To both Rebecca and Christian, we say a big thank-you.

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 have continued to monitor the implementation of the SIP. We challenged and supported the Headteacher when she brought her termly report to our Full Governing Body meeting, and we examined the Plan objectives and the school’s performance against the targets we set in more detail in our committee work, most notably in our Standards and Quality Committee. We are very aware of the challenges our senior leaders face in meeting their targets, not least because of the changes that the Department for Education (DfE) has introduced this year. We are very grateful to all our staff, teaching and non-teaching, for their professionalism and dedication in the course of the past year.

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 continued to monitor the national position, but we still see no case at present for academising the school. The financial incentives have long since disappeared and we feel our business is to concentrate on educating our students and to leave as much as possible of the support function to the local authority. As indicated above, we continue to work with Merton in finding ways to strengthen partnership working with other local schools so that we can together identify synergies and savings.

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 ended the 2016/17 financial year to target, as a result of sensible and cautious budgeting, and the Business Committee have recently approved a three-year budget plan for submission to the local authority. This again was produced on a prudent basis, given current political and financial uncertainties.

It is worth pointing out that the DfE’s proposed New Funding Formula will benefit RPHS, and we wrote in its support in the recent national consultation. But the fact remains that even with the NFF, the school , like most others in the UK, will face a real terms reduction over the next three years, once the combined effects of inflation, teachers’ revised pension provision and the apprenticeship levy are funded.  Our task as Governors is to support the Headteacher and her team in mitigating as far as possible any detrimental effects these cuts (and they are cuts) might have on our curriculum.

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

We continue to press the school to raise aspiration levels, especially for our Gifted & Able students. We wish every lesson to contain extension tasks for them to tackle. We are pleased that regular extra-curricular events are now taking place for them. It is always heartening when students go to university who are the first in their families to do so. Education can open doors, but sometimes students feel inhibited in going through them. The school is doing a great job in giving its students, especially in the Sixth Form, the confidence to progress in this way. The Governors have an aspiration of their own - to see our first Oxbridge entrants in quite some while.

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

We are looking closely at the school’s very considerable work in hand to improve Pupil Premium students’ results. We had a presentation on this in the course of the term, at which we asked the tough questions about outcomes. We believe the school are on the right track, but we shall continue to scrutinise the area both in terms of results and the expenditure of Pupil Premium funding to obtain them.

6. Improving literacy levels throughout the school.

Governors are very pleased at the evident success of this initiative, with real improvements in students’ reading ages taking place. Literacy is one of the cornerstones of education, and it is one from which students can obtain much pleasure. The demand for books from the school Library is one sign of the success of this initiative, and long may it continue.

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

We debated with the Headteacher her plans for revising the House system and we were persuaded by her arguments for its re-structuring. We will monitor the implementation of the planned changes over the next year and judge how they have added to the success of the school.

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

As noted above, we devoted an entire Strategic Visit to this issue, given the importance of SEND and the Access Base in RPHS’s success. We were pleased to find the changes made over the last year are proving successful and that we now have the right basis for moving this work forward. We have a very strong reputation for our work in this area and we are glad that it is on track.

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

We have been very pleased to note that this, one of the key elements in the Headteacher’s plans for the future, has been developing at pace. The involvement of BECS Link and Wimbledon Hockey Club are beginning to yield real benefits for our sports development. We are also pleased to note our new links with Fulham FC. Sport is one of our key marketing areas and builds on our excellent facilities. We believe the initiatives in train will strengthen our position.

10. Increasing parental involvement.

The Parent Governors have played an important role in the renaissance of the Parent Teachers Association, and this is now providing very useful additional funds for the school. We look forward to its further growth and development. We also continue to be pleased at the changes that have taken place to parents’ evenings at the school, which are now easier to plan and where it is now easier to circulate. We are sure these initiatives will increase parental engagement.

Michael Ross

July 2017