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Chair's Report - Summer 2016

This has been another busy and productive term. As I write, we are approaching the school’s 80th birthday celebrations. I sometimes wonder how RPHS today would have struck our founding Headmaster, John Garrett, and that brilliant coterie of intellectual friends – W H Auden, Rex Warner, Claude Rogers, C Day Lewis, TS Eliot, and Benjamin Britten – that he brought here to speak and sometimes to work as teachers. I like to think they would approve our achievements and our continuing drive to bring out the best in all our students, whatever their talents.

The focus for the Governing Body this term has been on the restructuring programme that should permit us to continue delivering our outturn expenditure within the constraints of a reduced budget. We approved the programme that was brought forward. We have also kept an eye on its implementation and have been pleased to note the restructuring of the Senior Leadership Team, which took place at the beginning of term, and the way our new Assistant Headteachers have settled rapidly into post. Restructuring is never an easy or painless process but feedback from staff is that they understand the issues and appreciate the transparency of the SLT and their willingness to listen to the views of others.

This is of course also the major term for public exams and as recorded below, the Governing Body has been monitoring in particular the progress of Year 11 and Year 13 pupils as they approach their GCSE and A-level examinations. These are the acid test of the school’s progress.

Looking to the future, at the end of the spring term the Governing Body established an Academies Working Group to examine the issues around possible academisation in the light of the Government White Paper Educational Excellence Everywhere. This group has begun its research. The Governing Body also hosted a meeting on academisation with a speaker from the Co-operative Schools Trust. This was also attended by members of the Senior Leadership Team and by representatives from the London Borough of Merton, Ricards Lodge and Rutlish Schools.   

On a personal note, I was pleased to attend meetings with our new neighbours, Next Home and Fashion, and our prospective new neighbours, the Bushey Retail Park. Both offer job and work experience opportunities for our students. Their local managers are keen to work with us in the school and to contribute to the learning and experience of our Business Studies students. I also attended the London Borough of Merton’s termly Chairs of Governors briefing, and met with the AFC Wimbledon Foundation to explore the possibility of their establishing an Education Football Programme at RPHS – a potentially exciting part of our strategy for extending sporting opportunities at the school.

On the membership front, we must say goodbye at the end of term to Alex Pull, who has been our Staff Governor for the past year. Sadly, Alex is leaving RPHS for a new job in Leeds. We thank him for his work and welcome Christian Mba, who will take up post as the Staff Governor in September.

The following relates the progress made under each of the headings in the Governors’ Forward Work Programme for the year.

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

We have been pleased to see that the implementation of the SIP, approved at the beginning of 2016, has begun. We will continue to monitor progress.

A particular focus this term has been the development of plans for extending sport at RPHS, using our excellent sports ground, the sports hall and the Astroturf. In April, we appointed RPHS’s firstDirector of Sport, who will take up post in September and who will develop sporting opportunities for all our students, whether they have particular sporting talents or not.

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

The Governors have received regular performance information reports against the targets we set in the autumn. We have been pleased to note the progress towards these targets particularly at Key Stages 4 and 5. We have also been pleased to see the continued progress on non-academic targets such as attendance and behaviour. We have challenged the school to do better in those few areas where we believe our results at GCSE and A-level last year were disappointing.

Governors have continued to gain first-hand knowledge of the school by holding two Strategic Visits this term. The first of these concerned numeracy and literacy, and the way these vital topics are covered throughout the curriculum. The second focussed on assessing the planning and evaluation of school visits and on the all-important question of student attendance, where the school has made very considerable progress over the last four years. On each occasion, we were pleased to see the school in action in classrooms, and – ever a highlight – to talk to groups of students at first-hand.

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 remain concerned that the new measures introduced by the Department for Education (DfE) will not be readily understood by parents. Nevertheless, we have to live with them and we have included them in our performance targets. We also devoted a section of our April Standards & Quality Committee meeting to Governor training on how the targets are constructed and what they mean.

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

Governors have been pleased to note that the school is continuing to work to close the gap between PP and other students. We have given this particular attention in looking at performance information, and have also sought to ensure that in both planning and evaluating our expenditurePupil Premium funding is spent so as to provide PP students with maximum value for money.

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

Governors are concerned to maintain the impetus of the Highly Achieving, Highly Skilled programme that was established last year. We also agree strongly with the conclusion of the last Ofsted report that able students, both inside and outside the programme, should be challenged in every lesson. We have pressed the Headteacher and the Senior Leadership Team on this and have been pleased to note their actions and their plans. This is an area we will continue to monitor closely.

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.

The financial outturn for the year ended the year to plan, and the Business Committee agreed three-year budget plans for taking the school forward.

As outlined above, a major contributor to this was the restructuring exercise, overseen by our Restructuring Committee. We agreed the Headteacher’s proposals and have overseen their implementation. We again commend the work of the Headteacher and the Head of Finance and Resources in tackling the difficult issues and choices involved. We also commend the wider staff in RPHS for their patience and understanding in what is always a difficult exercise.

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

At both Strategic Visits made this term, Governors have met Middle Leaders. They are always in the front line in making change happen and it is important that Governors hear from them direct. We were pleased to receive from them much positive feedback about the way restructuring has been handled. But Governors are in no doubt about the challenges that staff face, particularly given the constant curriculum changes and other initiatives which the Department for Education is quick to impose but slow to resource. We are grateful to those Middle Leaders who have given up their time to meet us.

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

We have been pleased to note the work of the Parent & Carers Forum and the Parents, Teachers & Students Association. Our Parent Governors attend all the meetings of both bodies, and we are discussing with the Headteacher means by which they can be better promoted. We hope further progress can be made on this in the autumn term.

In ending this report, I must record the thanks and appreciation of all the Governors to Kirsten Heard for her excellent leadership throughout her first year in post. We should also record our similar appreciation to her Senior Leadership Team and to all the staff, teaching and non-teaching, at RPHS. They always go the extra mile for our school and its students. Finally, we must record our appreciation of the students themselves – always inspiring, always amazing, always surprising us in new ways with the talents they show.

Michael Ross
Chair of Governors

July 2016