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Chair's Report - Summer 2019

The Summer term has passed with surprising speed but there has been plenty to occupy the Governing Body in challenging and supporting the school to provide the best outcomes for all our students – the bottom line in our vision for RPHS.

The Summer term has passed with surprising speed but there has been plenty to occupy the Governing Body in challenging and supporting the school to provide the best outcomes for all our students – the bottom line in our vision for RPHS.

The Governors have had their planned programme of meetings throughout the term. In addition, we held two Strategic Visits. The first focussed on the House system, now that it has had a chance in its revised form to bed in. We were impressed by the presentations we were given, particularly in terms of students’ enthusiasm for the competitive and charitable aspects of House activities. In the same Visit, we also looked at the development of Student Voice and staff wellbeing in the school – two very different programmes where a lot of innovative work is under way. There is already a Link Governor for Student Voice and we decided to appoint one for staff wellbeing too. Our second Strategic Visit concentrated on Year 9 and it was good to hear about and see the progress they have made since we last saw them.

Outside of RPHS, I have been pleased to attend Board meetings of Attain, the Merton school improvement partnership, and, separately, meetings about Merton’s Apprenticeship Levy funds, which offer schools new and additional resources for staff training.

On the membership front, we said farewell to Ginny Toubal, who has been the Parent Governors’ “shop steward” for the past couple of years. Ginny contributed a tremendous amount in spite of the many other pressures on her, and Governors are very sorry to see her go now her son is moving on from the school. During the term, we were pleased to welcome Tracey Benzecry as a new Co-opted Governor with a wealth of legal experience as a solicitor (and a former Primary School Governor), together with Dean Murphy, our new Parent Governor. Both recruits are already participating very constructively in our work.

Progress this term falls under the headings agreed by Governors in our Forward Work Programme at the beginning of 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 reviewed with the Headteacher our School Improvement Plan in the light of last term’s Ofsted report. We will consider a fully revised Plan in September, and we anticipate this will provide a route map towards the school obtaining Outstanding status. 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 steady progress towards their achievement at Key Stage 3, 4 and 5 level.

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 have monitored school expenditure very closely and were pleased to note that we ended 2018/19 with a small in-year surplus. At a time when so many schools are struggling with deficit budgets, this is a great tribute to the tight control our Finance team have exercised over expenditure. Governors have also approved budgets for the current and future years. There is no doubt that the increased demand for places at RPHS will put a strain on our finances because of the much-rehearsed disadvantages posed by the Department of Education’s policy of lagged funding; but with continued prudent management and the first tranche of lagged funding from last year’s increased intake now being paid, we are hopeful of keeping our heads above water while maintaining the quality of student education.

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 teaching and learning outcomes still further. This concerns not only the quality of teaching and marking but the elimination of any low-level disruption in the classroom. There have been marked improvements in this area and we support the SLT’s continuing work on behaviour, which can have such an impact on students’ learning.

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

This continues to be an area of high priority for Governors. It is the basis of students striving for excellence at all levels. We know progress is being made and we continue to challenge how aspiration is encouraged among all our students according to their skills and abilities.

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

We remain concerned at the challenge posed for the school by the high numbers of PP students relative to the national average. RPHS has ben successful in recent years in narrowing the gap between the outcomes for PP and non-PP students and we continue to monitor and challenge the school’s record through our Key Performance Indictors. We also continue to monitor and evaluate expenditure from the PP budget, as this is rightly a concern for the Department of Education; and we are satisfied that the school is deriving good value for money from our allocation.

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

The school has an excellent record on Safeguarding and Governors continue to monitor this closely. Our designated Safeguarding Governor attends a safeguarding meeting every term and reports back summary and where necessary anonymised information to the relevant Governors’ committee. The Headteacher’s Report to the Full Governing Body each term also contains Safeguarding data for the school and she is questioned on this at our meeting.

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

We are pleased that the Sports Strategy continues to be rolled out with high participation levels among students. We received reports on the renewal of our contract with Fulham FC whereby their Academy students obtain their education at RPHS. We are also optimistic that the formal launch of our new Astroturf pitch will take place next term – hopefully in time for the Open Evening and Open Mornings - with a celebrity match organised by our partners in Wimbledon Hockey Club later in the school year. Governors are also pleased with the uptake of hockey among our students as a result of our partnership with WHC, adding to the school’s sporting offer to its students.

8. The marketing of RPHS.

We are coming to the end of the first year of our Marketing Plan. It has been disappointing that in spite of advertising the post on a number of occasions we have been unable to appoint a Marketing Officer. We are hoping the school will have better fortune in the future by offering the post on a part-time basis.

Our Business Committee has reviewed the success of the Plan. In spite of the absence of a dedicated Marketing Officer, good progress has been made. The outreach programme in particular has again been successful and it looks likely that the number of students entering at Year 7 in September will be at or close to a record 240. In line with the Plan’s emphasis on attracting students from neighbouring boroughs as well as Merton, it is interesting to note that two of our top three feeder primary schools are now in Kingston.

However, there is still work to be done, particularly on our website and in relation to social media. This is reflected in the second Marketing Plan, which was approved by our Business Committee in June.

9. Increasing parental involvement.

We fully support the school’s work in encouraging increased parental engagement. We were pleased to see Year 7 parents becoming involved in supporting the school’s activities. But we were disappointed that when an election was called to fill two Parent Governor vacancies, only one nomination was forthcoming. This is clearly an area to which we will need to give renewed attention next year.

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

We think it is important for RPHS to retain and strengthen its appeal among the local community. The school has a growing good reputation and it is important that students’ behaviour in the area and our involvement in local community festivals and events supports this. We will look for opportunities to strengthen and deepen the school’s local appeal.

Michael Ross

July 2019