Chair's Report - Autumn 2017
The autumn term is always a very full one, as the school beds into the new academic year. This term has been no exception, but it has been a pleasure to be part of a vibrant school community, growing in strength and endeavour and confident in our future as a place where parents want to send their children for an excellent all-round education.
In addition to our programme of meetings, we conducted two Strategic Visits to the school, concentrating respectively on two key groups – our Year 11s, as they approach their GCSEs, and our new entrants at Year 7. We were pleased to examine the data, to challenge and support the Heads of Year and to see for ourselves in a series of Learning Walks what is happening in the classrooms, and above all to hear from the students themselves how they view their experience at RPHS. We were delighted at what we observed and learned, and at the dedication of teaching staff and students in their pursuit of excellence.
During the course of the term, it was also great to attend events at which the school presented itself to the local community. We hosted the annual Celebrating Merton event, where the best of the borough’s students were feted, and we also took part in the Raynes Park Christmas Festival, where our music, drama and dance have become regular and much-admired annual features. Governors were also present for the school’s Remembrance Assembly, and at the annual feast of House Plays and the PTSA Christmas Fair.
In terms of Governing Body membership, we said farewell to Ben Bennett and were very happy to welcome Gill Crowe as the new Staff Governor.We also welcomed Olivia Brooks as a new Parent Governor, following an election – itself a happy sign of parents’ interest in the well-being of the school.
The work of the Governing Body has progressed broadly under the headings in our Forward Work Programme:
1. Reviewing the vision and values of the school in order to plan, in concert with the Headteacher and her Senior Leadership Team, the strategic positioning, approach and marketing of the school over the next five years.
All schools face a series of challenges both local and national. Governors held an awayday with members of the Senior Leadership Team at the school in November. This considered RPHS’s position and our vision and values. This then fed into the SLT’s own awayday the following week. These occasions were very useful in clarifying our views on the future direction of the school in an increasingly competitive environment. Its results will be reflected in the initiatives and policies that we adopt over the coming few years.
2. 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.
Governors reviewed the School Improvement Plan with the Headteacher at our September meeting and agreed a number of changes. The Plan is our operational route map and a key tool in plotting and tracking school development. Governors subsequently reviewed last summer’s examination results and set new and challenging targets for outcomes at Key Stages 4 and 5 in 2017. We are now tracking students’ progress against these through our Standards & Quality Committee.
3. Monitoring the agreed budget for 2017/18 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.
Our financial position remains tight, although through prudent budgeting, it remains much better than in a lot of schools in the UK. Our Business Committee and the School Business Manager have worked hard to keep expenditure on track, but pressures remain. We are also already looking at the likely position next year, when as foreshadowed in my last report we will have the first fruits of the Government’s New Funding Formula, which will benefit the school.Pressures will remain and grow, however, and we will continue to work with the local authority to mitigate their effects on our curriculum offer to students.
4. Continuing to raise aspiration at all levels and with all students across the school.
We welcome the continuing thrust of the school’s efforts to raise aspiration levels among all students. We recognise that this was a concern raised in both the two most recent Ofsted reports on the school. We are pleased to see the programmes that are in place for our More Able students and the opportunities in and out of the classroom offered to all our students. We consider it is of the utmost importance that these are maintained and grown. We shall continue to support and challenge the school to do more.
5. Continuing to close the gap for Pupil Premium students’ progress and attainment at the school.
We were pleased that the summer examination results showed good progress in closing the gap between the performance of PP and non-PP students. We have tracked the success of the programmes in place with interest, and will continue to examine the value for money of the way Pupil Premium funds are spent in the school.
6. To monitor the development of provision for SEN and Access Centre students
As recorded last term, Governors have been pleased with the progress that the school has made with its SEN and Access Centre students. RPHS has a well-deserved good reputation with these groups and this is one of the school’s strengths. We devoted some time at our awayday to considering our position and debating whether this is an area of potential growth for us. Problems remain however in obtaining adequate funding and we need greater clarity from the local authority before any firm plans can be made.
7. Challenge and support for the development of a sports strategy for RPHS.
Our sports strategy continues to develop. It has been very gratifying to welcome our first cohort of Fulham FC students to the Sixth Form, where they have quickly settled in and excelled. We have through our BECSLink status procured new opportunities for our students to obtain experience of sport at the highest levels and we are sure that allied to our sporting facilities this is now one of our key marketing tools. We are also pleased to note the improvements to our sports pitches which we hope will lead to the resumption of their full use.
8. Increasing parental involvement.
Governors attended and spoke to potential RPHS parents at the Open Evening in September. We remain perhaps the only school locally where our Parent Governors can speak openly and honestly to Year 6 mums, dads and carers in this way. We also noted with pleasure the increased numbers attending the school’s Open Mornings this year. Parent Governors have also been active within the Parent, Teachers & Students Association, not least in serving refreshments at parent information evenings for the different year groups. We were also happy to note that sustained parental interest was reflected, as mentioned above, in a contested election for a Parent Governor vacancy during the course of the term. Many Governing Bodies struggle to get any candidates to stand for such places.
9. Improving the school’s profile within the community
Governors are firm in our belief that a school must be at the heart of its local community. This is affected both by what we do in the area and by the behaviour of our students in the streets of Raynes Park and Wimbledon. We are pleased to note the very high standards exhibited by students and by the way they, as much as their teachers, condemn the rare instances of poor behaviour by their peers. As noted above, we were pleased to note – and enjoy – the contribution students were able to make at the Raynes Park Christmas Festival, and we will continue, through our Business Committee, to encourage such participation in community events. They can only be of benefit to the school.