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Chair's Report - Spring 2019

The Spring term is the shortest of the year, but a good time to judge the school.

The Spring term is the shortest of the year, but a good time to judge the school – when students have settled into their new Year groups but before the pressure of public examinations begins to bite in Years 11 and 13.

Undoubtedly the major event of the term was our three-yearly Ofsted inspection – in this case a full 2-day inspection rather than the single-day one we were expecting. As usual, the school had less than 24 hours notice, but our plans were all ready to swing into operation. I am very grateful to Stephen Benjamin, Marina Szanto, Margaret Tulloch and Moira McGarr for joining me for our discussion with the inspectors. As we all know, RPHS had its Good grading renewed, but the tenor and text of the inspectors’ report showed that we had a sharp promotion within the grade – in degree terms, a move from a lower to an upper second. It was especially pleasing that the report had warm words to say about Governors’ own performance and the width and depth of their knowledge of the school. We are all delighted that the inspection has given us the platform for the next step – to get the school to Outstanding status.

The Governing Body has had its planned programme of meetings throughout the term. In addition, we held two Strategic Visits. The first focussed on the school’s development of its sport and PE opportunities. These are areas which have seen considerable progress and achievement over the last three years and owe much to the Headteacher’s personal initiative and the work of Chris Wilson-Boyle, our Director of Sport. The second Strategic Visit focussed on Year 8, where again we were pleased to note the progress made by this Year Group since we last saw them just over a year ago a couple of months after they joined the school in Year 7.

On the membership front, we welcome Sam Kuti as our new Staff Governor. Sam is Head of the Access Centre at RPHS and has been at the school for 17 years. In addition, we have elected Tracey Benzecry, a retired solicitor who lives locally, as a Co-Opted Governor. We also said goodbye to Cllr Adam Bush and Bukky Maybank, both of whom tendered their resignations because of other pressures on their time. Currently, we are holding an election for two Parent Governors to fill one existing and one upcoming vacancy.

Progress this term falls under the headings agreed by Governors in our Forward Work Programme for the year.

  1. Challenge and support for the Headteacher and the SLT in putting a new School Improvement Plan in place; in delivering its objectives; and in meeting the performance targets for the year agreed by the FGB.

Governors kept the School Improvement Plan under review at each of its meetings, and have just approved a revised version to take account of the Ofsted conclusions and to begin moving RPHS onto the next stage in its development. Governors have also received performance reports against the targets we set the school at the beginning of the year, and have been pleased to note projected improvements in Sixth Form results and in narrowing the gap between Pupil Premium and non-PP students.

2.Monitoring the agreed budget for 2018/19 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.

Governors continued to monitor spend and have been please to note improvements in the projected outturn for 2018/19. SEN and Sixth Form Funding at national level continue to be matters of concern but we have been pleased to support the prudent financial management of the Finance Officer and her team. In the coming year, we will receive the first tranche of lagged funding for our large Year 7 intake in September 2018, and the good news is that the first figures from the September 2019 recruitment round suggest demand remains very high, which will provide further additional funding.

3. Continuing the drive to improve teaching and learning outcomes in the school.

Governors have continued to challenge and support the measures taken by the Senior Leadership Team to improve the consistency of marking across the school. We are fully supportive of the SLT’s work, and were especially pleased to note the positive comments of the Ofsted report on this front. We have also monitored the further improvement in teaching standards across the school, where again we receive written reports from the Headteacher based on the targets we have agreed with her.

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

This is an area of high priority for Governors and one where past Ofsted reports have indicated room for improvement. It is a tough challenge because so much is about students’ attitude to their own potential, which in turn can be influenced by parental attitudes which can be much harder to change. Accordingly, we were pleased at the comments in the latest Ofsted report. We continue to receive regular reports on the Scholars’ Programme and about the level of challenge that students of differing abilities can expect in the classroom and on the sports field.

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

We were pleased to note the progress that the school continues to make in narrowing the gap between our Pupil Premium and our non-Pupil Premium students. We monitor this regularly through our performance indicators. Because of the nature of our intake, the school’s PP budget is a large one and Governors have reviewed its spend in order to be satisfied that students are getting value for money from it.

6. Maintain our reputation for excellent Safeguarding and for maintaining the welfare of our students.

Governors have received regular reports from our designated Safeguarding Governor. It is clear that our robust procedures have been successful in maintaining student welfare, but we are conscious of the challenges that schools constantly face in this area. Again, it was good to see that the school’s Safeguarding was amply recognised by Ofsted.

Separately, we have reviewed as a Governing Body the number of Governors who have received Safer Recruitment training. Perversely, this is the one sort of training for which the London Borough of Merton makes a charge – and a hefty one at that – and we have sourced equivalent training on-line from the NSPCC which will be to the same quality but which is considerably cheaper.

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

As recorded above, we devoted one of our Strategic Visits to a review of the strategy and our PE provision. We have been very heartened by the advances that have been made – from the provision of a single very smart PE kit to the spectacular delights of our Astroturf pitch. We have also been pleased to note the increasing success of RPHS teams in a variety of sports.

Our relationship with our Premier League partners, Fulham FC, continues to go well, and we have good reports from both the club and the students themselves. There is no doubt that both in and out of the classroom the Fulham students model behaviour that does them and their club proud.

We have been a little disappointed that ongoing difficulties with water provision have meant that the formal opening of the Astroturf pitch has been put back. But the pitch has been in full use by the school and the Wimbledon Hockey Club and looks especially impressive at night under its floodlights.

8. The marketing of RPHS.

Competition among schools for students is growing, which makes the marketing of RPHS an important part of our work, in which Governors have taken a special interest.

This is the first year of operation for our marketing plan, which was reviewed by the Business Committee towards the end of the term. It has been disappointing that the school has been unable to recruit a new marketing officer, in spite of several rounds of advertising. Nevertheless, our new website continues to give a very good online picture of the school, while our outreach work in local primaries continues to be very effective in making RPHS the first choice for graduating Year 6 students. Initial indications from the current recruitment round are that our strategy of broadening our recruitment base in Kingston and Wandsworth is again proving very effective. That puts the school in a good place when the current demographic bubble in Merton deflates in the way it is predicted to do.

9. Increasing parental involvement.

We continue to support the school’s efforts to increase parental engagement, both in relation to their own children and more generally. We were very pleased to be given a Parents Forum at which Ginny Toubal, Olivia Brooks, Stephen Benjamin and I were able to explain Governors’ work, and more particularly the work of Parent Governors. As noted above, there is currently an election for two Parent Governor vacancies in train, and we hope the PF will have produced some interest in this.

10. Improving the school’s profile within the community.

We continue to encourage the school to have a higher profile within Raynes Park and its surrounding area. As Governors living in the community, we are aware of the school’s good reputation. We are strongly committed to RPHS maintaining its place at the heart of Raynes Park, and we hope the school will continue to look for opportunities to broaden its appeal.

Michael Ross

March 2019