Chair's Report - Spring 2021
As we approach the end of a difficult term, it is good to see light at the end of the tunnel. Nationally, the retreat of the Covid virus offers all of us the prospect of a return to normality, or at least near-normality. Most immediately, it has resulted in a full reopening of the school and the reassuring sight of students being taught face to face once again.
Governors have already placed on record, and are happy to do so again, our unstinting gratitude to our Headteacher, Mrs Heard, and to her Senior Leadership Team. They have coped superbly with the twists and turns of this crisis – a public health emergency which has threatened to become an educational emergency. We extend our thanks as well to the whole teaching and non-teaching staff for their magnificent work in keeping our school going, maintaining our students’ education and caring so far as possible in the most difficult of circumstances for their welfare.
I am also personally grateful to Governors for maintaining their commitment in spite of our not having been in school now for a year. We have held a full programme of Governing Body and committee meetings and by now have all become masters of Zoom. We have also welcomed one new Governor this term – Rita Patel, who has replaced Lise Charmillot, and who brings to the Governing Body a wealth of financial experience and expertise.
As usual, progress for the term is recorded here under the headings of our Forward Work Programme for the year, which we agreed at our September meeting.
1. Challenge and support for the Headteacher and Senior Leadership Team (SLT) in devising and implementing recovery plans to restore the school to full-time attendance in line with Department for Education requirements; and to enable students and staff to catch up with the curriculum, so they are back on track and in line with the School Improvement Plan objectives and timetable by December 2020.
This has been the major piece of work for Governors this term. The plans were drawn up by the SLT and approved by Governors in the autumn, but they have been updated and revised as the crisis developed. We are particularly grateful for the work of teachers in devising and implementing remote learning for their students, and to our non-teaching staff for stepping immediately up to the mark to carry out the school Covid testing programme. It means that the school was ready to open for business in early March. Work is now in hand to implement a catch-up programme for students. This is already being rolled out and will be further developed in the light of Department for Education (DfE) requirements over the coming months.
2. Challenge and support for the Headteacher and the SLT in implementing the School Improvement Plan, particularly in delivering its objectives; and in meeting the performance targets for the year agreed by the FGB.
The School Improvement Plan was reviewed and modified, and agreed by our Standards & Quality Committee in March. The Government’s decision to abandon GCSE and A-level examinations in favour of teacher-assessed grades has placed fresh importance on the performance targets agreed by Governors at the beginning of the school year. In spite of the loss of academic impetus resulting from the restricted educational opportunities, we have been reassured to learn that our results this summer should be broadly comparable to those our students have received in previous years.
- Monitoring the agreed budget for 2020/21 to end the year to plan, husbanding the resources available while maintaining so far as possible the scale and scope of the curriculum.
Our Business Committee have monitored expenditure against budget closely, including the additional costs associated with Covid and the extra provision made by the DfE to meet them. We remain on target to end the year in line with our original budget. This is a considerable achievement given the current pressures on the school budget and one for which Governors are grateful to Ms Marino, our Director of Finance, and her team.
- Continuing the drive to improve teaching and learning outcomes in the school
Governors were pleased to note the scale and scope of the curriculum that has been made available to students online and the provision of laptops to students where necessary. We pay tribute to our teachers for their willingness to adapt to the new ways of teaching, which were demonstrated to us at a special meeting where we were given a virtual Maths lesson (we did not do very well.....!) Lesson observations, the bedrock of teacher development, have not been possible during lockdown, but we note that senior colleagues are now dropping in to lessons now that school has resumed in order to offer support where needed.
- Continuing to raise aspiration at all levels and with all pupils across the school
This has been a difficult area to cover while students have been away from school. We know that nationally student re-engagement is proving a problem and we commend the way Mr King, Deputy Headteacher, has overseen a survey of student opinion and is implementing a follow-up programme with those students whose confidence may have suffered as a result of their isolation at home.
- Closing the gap for Pupil Premium students’ progress and attainment at the school
We have been pleased to note the progress that is being made to close the gap between the attainment of Pupil Premium and Non-Pupil Premium students. Again, the implementation of our plans has been made difficult by the absence of face to face teaching but we are confident that they will be given fresh force as part of our post-pandemic catch-up strategy.
- Maintain the school’s deserved reputation for excellent Safeguarding and for maintaining students’ welfare.
Governors have been very pleased to note the particular care that staff have taken to keep in touch with individual students throughout lockdown by means of regular phone calls. It has been especially heartening to note that special attention has been paid to vulnerable students, including those who would not in normal circumstances be classed as vulnerable and/ or in need of monitoring for Safeguarding purposes. Student welfare has been in the forefront of our preparations for their return to school and will need to remain a particular focus over the coming terms. We have every confidence that RPHS’s high reputation for pastoral care will be borne out by the work of our staff.
- Continuing support for the development of a sports strategy for RPHS.
It has not been possible to take forward our sports strategy because of Covid restrictions. However, we note that as lockdown eases, restrictions on sport will be progressively lifted. Meanwhile we note with pleasure the continuing high number of students applying for places at RPHS, primarily in our Sixth Form, as a result of our links with our Premier League partners, Fulham FC.
- The marketing of RPHS.
This has been a difficult area to address because the restrictions have further prevented our work and visits to primary schools in the area. It is therefore very pleasing to note that the number of Year 6 applications to join RPHS next year is only slightly below last year’s levels (and this due in part to a new secondary school opening in Wimbledon and the Royal Borough of Kingston declining to mention RPHS in its transition literature to their Year 6 parents); while applications to join our Sixth Form are almost three times as many as many as at this stage last year. Clearly, now that the primary schools have returned, marketing with their students and parents can start again.
- Increasing parental involvement
We have been pleased to see that the school has continued to maintain regular contact with parents during the pandemic. The readmission of their children to face-to-face education must be a joint initiative. We were also pleased to learn of the high rates of engagement at the online parental information evenings this term. We hope this is an area that will develop further now that students are back in school.
- Access Centre
Governors have been very happy to see the special care that our Access Centre team have continued to give to the students in their care. In line with DfE guidelines, some students have been attending school throughout the pandemic and all have demonstrated great resilience in meeting the particular challenges that the lockdown regime has presented to them.
- Improving the school’s profile within the community
Opportunities to raise the school’s profile within the wider community have been limited. But we continue to work with local residents in opposing the Redrow development, proposed for a site overlooking RPHS and which was the subject of a planning appeal on which we await the outcome.
Chair of Governors