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Chair's Report - Spring 2018

The Spring term this year has been uncommonly short, but it has still contained plenty of activity for the Governing Body.

We have had our regular programme of meetings, both of the Full Governing Body and our committees. We also held two Strategic Visits to the school and continued our 2017/18 schedule of Year Group studies by learning about progress in the Sixth Form (Years 12 and 13) and Year 9. As usual, we combined presentations from staff with our own Learning Walks to see the classes in action. We also had discussions with a group of students to hear at first-hand how they feel their education is progressing and their ideas on what more we can do to help them. Our role as ever is to challenge and support, with the aim of keeping the school on a course of continuous improvement. We were pleased at the progress of the students and reassured by what they told us about life at the school. They are clearly being stretched and challenged but they are also being supported by the pastoral ethos that is so important in the RPHS experience.

The Governing Body has retained its membership this term and filled our one vacancy, for a Co-opted Governor, at our March meeting by appointing Stephen Benjamin, who lives locally. Stephen has spent his career largely in the property business, where he has previously run a surveying and commercial property management company.

In detail, the work of the Governing Body has progressed well 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.

We have built on the work done at our Awayday last term. We commissioned a marketing plan and were pleased to note that in the Year 7 recruitment round, both our overall total of applications from primary school students and within this, the number of first preferences for RPHS, have grown considerably. We were particularly struck by the transition mini-website, aimed at those students and their parents joining RPHS next September (its launch nicely coinciding with the arrival of their offer letters). Would that there was in our day such a helpful and user-friendly guide to the trauma of secondary school induction!

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.

The Headteacher presented some minor modifications to the School Improvement Plan at our Standards & Quality Committee meeting. These were discussed and approved. The Committee also took reports from the Senior Leadership Team on student performance at all levels in the school. A revised table of performance indicators was devised and was used for this analysis. Most groups are on track, but Governors questioned and challenged staff to do more where performance was currently shown to be below target.  This discussion will be followed up at the Full Governing Body when the Headteacher presents her termly report.

Governors also received training in the Government’s new ASP (Analysing School Performance) system, and will be using this in looking at data in the future.

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 Business Committee took reports on our budgetary position, which remains tight. The Chair also held regular monitoring meetings with the School Business Manager. Governors are firm in their determination not to fall into deficit as so many schools are now doing, and to this end they appointed a Business Planning Committee specifically to devise proposals and action them. The expected increase in Year 7 numbers next September will pose significant pressures (the funding for the extra students is always paid a year in arrears for reasons known only to the Department for Education). But we are confident that with the planning now in hand RPHS can meet them.

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

So much of our drive is aimed towards further improving results and students’ aspirations. We were particularly pleased to learn from our Sixth Formers during our Strategic Visit about how they were being offered advice and encouragement on their options when they leave school. We also were pleased to learn of steps more generally to grow and sustain our careers advice in line with the new Government initiative on this. Finally, Governors were pleased to attend the BECS Link launch at the school on 16 March. This will expand the range of opportunities for students in so many different fields. It was also a great showcase for the school, with over 200 primary school pupils attending and no doubt taking away a great picture of what will be available to them if they come to our school.

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

As part of their performance monitoring, Governors were pleased to note predictions that the gap will narrow in this year’s KS4 results as a result of the initiatives set out and approved in the action plan they considered in the summer term. Governors also requested and received a report on the items on which Pupil Premium was spent. We satisfied ourselves that the budget was being spent in line with Government requirements. We noted that overall numbers of PP students were showing a decline in the school.

6. To monitor the development of provision for SEN and Access Centre students

Governors were glad to see that the measures taken to reinforce our SEND provision were working under the management of a new SEN Co-ordinator. This is an area to which we will return, not least because it has been historically one of the strengths of the school and fits well as part of our pastoral ethos.

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

We were glad to note that sports participation is both increasing and widening as a result of the sports strategy. As the school’s sports mini-website demonstrates, our results are improving too! Our sports ground, having undergone some remedial work, has survived the winter well and exciting plans are advancing with respect to our much-used Astroturf pitch.

8. Increasing parental involvement.

We continue to work with staff to increase parents’ engagement with the school.We were pleased to note the new series of “Put the Kettle On” sessions, which are offering a new and flexible format in which parents and the school can communicate. They are a valuable additional tool in meeting the objective of increased engagement.

9. Improving the school’s profile within the community

We have referred above to the BECS Link launch, which will enhance our local profile. We were pleased to note that the school issued several “Good news stories” about pupils’ achievements which got into the local press, and which were supplemented by feeding stories of local interest to the local residents’ association magazine, which again enhanced our reputation. Above all, it is the behaviour of our students in the streets, in the shops and on the buses which will maintain our good reputation in the local community, and here the results, though anecdotal, seem very good. In the medium and long term, Governors have indicated that it is important to grow our profile in the neighbouring Kingston community. It is odd that so few Kingston residents think of our school as an option for their education despite our proximity to their border. We have indicated that this should be one of the themes in the school’s marketing plan.

Michael Ross

March 2018