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Chair's Report – Autumn 2015

This has been an extraordinarily busy term, with both its highs and its lows. Even before the term began, our A-level and GCSE results, as noted below, gave us an excellent start, with the GCSE results in particular breaking the school’s records and putting us on a par with other local state secondaries. We were then pleased to welcome formally Kirsten Heard as our new Headteacher. She has made an immediate and favourable impact on the school and has won the respect and affection of staff, parents and pupils.

Almost Kirsten’s first major task was to steer the school through its Section 5 Ofsted inspection.  We emerged with a grading of Good, which, allowing for changes in Ofsted terminology, I think is the first “promotion” that the school has had. Kirsten’s leadership and her immaculate preparation were central to the school’s success, and Governors owe her, the Senior Leadership Team and our other staff a big vote of thanks. Nor must we forget our students, whose progress, attainment and behaviour impressed the Ofsted inspectors. Our school now takes its rightful place as one of the leading schools in Merton, and as detailed below our attention is now centred on making the next step up, to Outstanding status.

But the school is nothing if not a large family, and we were shocked and saddened to learn of the death of one of our Maths teachers, Aimee Dexter, in November, at a tragically young age. Aimee had been a bright and enthusiastic member of staff and her passing has affected the school deeply. We mourn her as one of our own. We were also sad to learn of the death of Kate Rechter, our former Head of Design and Technology.

On a personal level, Kirsten and I have welcomed to the school this term Stephen Hammond MP, Cllr David Chung (the Mayor of Merton), and Cllr Stephen Alambritis, Leader of the Council. I suspect the attraction was not me but the chance to meet the new Headteacher, and all of them came away paying tribute to the advances that the school has made in recent years and its contribution to borough life. I was also pleased to attend the Former Pupils Society Annual Dinner, the Remembrance Day Service at the school and the Celebrating Merton event at Ursuline school, where as ever our street dance crew were one of the main attractions.

Following the Ofsted outcome, the Governing Body agreed its Forward Work Programme for 2015/16, and progress during the term under each of its eight headings was as follows.

1. Challenge and support for the Headteacher and the Senior Leadership Team in bringing forward a School Improvement Plan to take the school to Outstanding status.

Governors worked with Kirsten and the SLT in preparing themselves for the Ofsted inspection in October. Following our re-grading to Good, we agreed that the School Development Plan and the Ofsted Action Plan needed to be replaced by a Self Evaluation Framework on which a School Improvement Plan could be based. The aim will be to map the way towards Outstanding status, including a timeline for its achievement. A draft Self Evaluation Framework and School Improvement Plan were brought forward to the December FGB meeting for approval.

2. Challenge and support for the Headteacher and the SLT in meeting the performance targets agreed by the FGB for the school.

Governors noted with approval the school’s summer A level and GCSE results, both of which were improvements on the previous year and in the case of GCSE were the only improved results from a state secondary school in the London Borough of Merton. They have set challenging targets for 2015-16 and monitored the first set of performance information for the year. They have noted that the current KPIs may need to be modified in the light of the new SIP (see above); this should not however mean any changes to the targets they have set.

3. Moving the school towards the use of Progress 8 and Attainment 8 measures in line with DfE policy, including the setting of appropriate targets for them.

Governors set their targets for 2015/16 in line with the new DfE requirements, but asked that a target for KS4 performance should also be set in terms of the traditional 5A*-C including English and Maths in order to provide parents and prospective parents with an easily understandable measure and one which would enable ready comparison with the school’s performance in past years.

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

Governors noted with pleasure the narrowing of the gap evident in this year’s KS4 results. They considered, challenged and approved plans for further progress in 2015/16, including a close scrutiny of planned Pupil Premium expenditure.

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

Governors were anxious to ensure that aspiration remains an important cross-cutting theme at all key stages. They noted comments in the Ofsted report that challenge for able students is not yet sufficiently evident in all lessons and they will be continuing to press for further improvements here. They will also be urging the need to maintain the impetus of the HAHS programme given the personnel leadership changes that will take place in the spring term.

6.Monitoring the agreed budget for 2015/16 to end the year to plan and to restructure the school to reflect the resources available in 2016/17 while minimising the effect on the curriculum.

Governors monitored in-year spend, and attended with school staff monitoring meetings with LBM. They were pleased to note that expenditure remains on course. They formed a Restructuring Committee with appropriate delegated powers to oversee the exercise necessary to keep expenditure in line with the forecast reduced budget in 2016/17, and the committee’s work is now under way.

7.Retaining contact with Middle Leaders in order to monitor the impact of change at Departmental level

Middle Leaders met Governors at both the Strategic Visits undertaken this term. Governors were pleased to learn of their continued enthusiasm for the school and its plans, but noted the concerns MLs expressed about the effect that reduced resources sometimes have on their capacity to run the school to the standard to which we aspire.

8.To raise the level of parental involvement in the school

Governors remain anxious to increase the level of parental involvement. They attended the Open Evening in September in order to talk to the parents of prospective pupils. Parent Governors also regularly attended meetings of the Parent & Carers Forum and the Parents, Teachers and Students Association. We were particularly pleased to note the success of the PTSA’s new venture of a Christmas Fair, which we hope is a foretaste of things to come. Plans are also in place to write to parents with a number of options for increasing their involvement with the school.

Michael Ross
Chair of Governors

December 2015