As governors we are always seeking the views of all stakeholders and to that end in February we held the first of our new governor led group meetings for parents. As outlined in the school newsletter the governing body plan to hold focus group meetings half termly to discuss important school issues. Although the focus group does not decide school policy the views raised in group meetings will be listened to and then considered when making future policy decisions. The focus for our first meeting was the subject of homework.
The group was well attended and proved to be a successful way of engaging parents and gauging opinion regarding homework. Parents were asked to consider a variety of areas concerning homework. Full minutes from the meeting will soon be available for all parents to view on the schools’ website.
The focus group concluded that homework was a necessary part of school life, and that the way the school gradually increases the amount of homework for each year group helps to prepare children for the homework they will receive when joining secondary school. Parents and the leadership team felt that the focus of homework should be upon the core subjects – times table targets, spelling, reading comprehension and mathletics. There was also agreement that where possible homework should be less time consuming for teachers to mark.
During the session it became apparent that there has been some confusion as to how mathletics and lexia online learning helps teachers to measure pupil progress, therefore the school will soon be sending out a letter to all parents addressing this issue.
We hope to build upon the success of our first focus group meeting and will be inviting two parents from each year group at random to attend our next focus group shortly. The next topic for discussion will be the curriculum. The governors would like to thank you for supporting our new initiative, if you have any questions, comments or suggestions for the governing body regarding focus groups or other areas regarding school development please post comments into the comments box in reception.
The school has seen many changes in the last 18 months and it was felt that as the school is entering a new phase that it was an appropriate time to reconsider the school aims and the current motto 'Enjoy, Encourage, Excel'. Such an important decision needs to have input from the whole school community!
The children on the Worship Committee were asked what was important about their school. They came up with some very insightful and mature ideas which they then took to their peers. The staff then voiced their opinion before a panel of governors, ensuring representation from both parents and the Church, made a final decision. All governors agreed that the 'motto' should reflect the views of the school community as well as the Christian distinctiveness of the school....but importantly should also be easy to remember. So watch this space for the final decision!
There are 3 core strategic functions for Governing Bodies .....one of which is 'overseeing the financial performance of the school and making sure that money is well spent'
As you can imagine an annual school budget is a considerable amount of money and it is the responsibility of the governors to ensure that this money is spent wisely to the benefit of all children.
The Chair of the Finance Committee meets regularly with the School Business Manager for updates on how the money is being spent and generally monitor expenditure. It is the role of the Finance Committee to agree the annual budget prepared by the Business Manager before it is sent to the Local Authority; monitor spending throughout the year and ensure that spending remains within prescribed limits. Governors need to ensure that the principles of 'best value' are applied to services purchased with delegated monies.
Larger single expenditures such as major building work; purchasing new computers; internal refurbishment; repairs to the boiler; new playground equipment etc has to be agreed by governors but clearly smaller items and day to day curriculum expenses are delegated to the head teacher as are day - to - day financial management.
Funding for schools is largely determined by the number of pupils...so as we grow so does our budget. however more pupils of course means we need more space and more staff.
One of the issues identified by the inspectors at our last inspection was that 'Leaders and governors do not always check how money allocated for the pupil premium is distributed for the benefit of all eligible pupils'.
One of the governors is now responsible for ensuring that the children who receive this additional funding are clearly identified and that the grant is used to their benefit and that it has a positive impact on their learning...whether it is used to fund extra staff to support their learning; help pay for music lessons; subsidise residential trips; purchase school uniform or enable the child to receive play therapy.
Keeping children safe whilst they are within our care is of paramount importance to all stakeholders at Petworth Primary. Two governors recently attended a training session to clarify the current safeguarding responsibilities of the Governing Body and to gain an awareness of current guidance in regard to safeguarding children in education.
Participants on the training session discussed the following issues
- Definition of safeguarding
- What and who are we are safeguarding children from
- Statutory responsibilities
- Effectiveness of leadership in ensuring all pupils are kept safe
- Which pupils are most at risk
- OFSTED inspection framework
- Governing Body responsibilities
What do we mean by safeguarding?
The Department for Education defines safeguarding as
- protecting children from maltreatment
- preventing impairment of children's health or development
- ensuring children are growing up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care
- taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes
In school safeguarding action may be needed to protect children from a range of issues from neglect; physical abuse; bullying; emotional abuse; racist or disability abuse to name but a few.
What evidence do OFSTED look for when inspecting safeguarding?
Inspectors should look for evidence of the five main aspects of the school's safeguarding arrangements:
- the extent to which leaders and managers create a positive culture and ethos where safeguarding is an important part of everyday life backed up by training at every level
- the content, application and effectiveness of safeguarding policies and procedures and safe recruitment and vetting processes
- the quality of safeguarding practice, including evidence that safe are aware of children who may be at risk
- the timeliness of response to any safeguarding concerns
- the quality of work to support multi-agency plans around a child
It is the role and responsibility of governors to ensure that the school fulfills its statutory requirements to ensure that all children are safe and that there are no barriers to their physical, emotional and mental well being.
In practice this responsibility manifests itself in many ways from ensuring all staff are vetted; that ALL stakeholders including volunteers know what to do if they have concerns regarding a child; ensuring all staff have the necessary safeguarding and child protection training; that children in need receive appropriate support; that the school environment is safe; that children are taught about how to keep themselves safe;that the relevant policies are in place.
As with all training sessions governors invariably return to school with a list of questions or issues requiring clarification, which are then discussed with the head or relevant member of staff, and reported back to the Governing Body.
The main focus for development throughout the school is to improve both the quality of teaching and therefore the quality of children's learning. The current School Improvement Plan / Action Plan reflects this priority and specific targets indicate how the school intends to achieve this aim.
Teachers should for example...
- ensure pupils always produce well-presented work of a high quality and quantity
- have the highest expectations of what children can achieve and set work that is challenging yet closely matched to pupils' abilities
- set precise targets to show what children are expected to achieve
It is part of the role of governors to monitor progress towards achieving these targets through data analysis; speaking to teachers and pupils; receiving reports from senior leaders; looking at children's work in their books or displayed around the school.
Governors often accompany a senior member of staff on one their regular 'Learning Walks'. Both staff and governors are fully briefed before hand and given specifics to focus on, such as
- Engagement of children in their learning
- Use of Teaching Assistants in class
- Evidence of Working Walls (displays featuring children's 'work in progress') in the classroom
- Use of displays in the classroom
Governors and staff spend 10 minutes in each class and afterwards compare notes. Many Governors have had no teaching experience and even those who have find these Learning Walks an invaluable insight as to what is going on in school. We do not go into classrooms to criticise or judge but rather to support, question and challenge.
Welcome back to the new academic year!
Governors are already actively involved in fulfillling our monitoring role even before our first official meeting of the year ....attending staff meetings; meeting with the head; volunteering to hear children read; discussing issues with staff; monitoring lunchtime behaviour; and planning for the forthcoming year.
Last year was a year of change for PPS and we hope that we can now look forward to a more settled 12 months. Governors have met to evaluate their input and impact on the school during 2015/2016, identifying both the positive and negative aspects of their monitoring role.
Together with our new headteacher, governors are becoming more strategic and less concerned with the everyday running of the school; the minutes of our meetings are more concise and focused, questions and challenges are clearly identified and actions, decisions and outcomes clearly noted; our monitoring is more aligned to school priorities and governors are less inclined to believe what we are told...we want hard evidence and facts! A governor with specific responsibility for Pupil Premium monitors which children are eligible for this grant, whether there are any gaps in the performance of these children compared with their peers and how the school is using resources to support these children.
Governors are acutely conscious of the need to raise standards and improve the progress of all our pupils...to challenge senior leaders and monitor all aspects of school life.
Another year over! We are sorry to say goodbye to our Year 6 pupils and wish them all the best in their new schools. We are sorry also to say goodbye to several members of staff and wish them all the best in wherever their futures lie.
The school has seen many changes since John became our new headteacher...visually the learning environment has been redecorated and enhanced...we now have an amazing 'sculpture' tree to accompany our 'ceramic pupils'! Walls have been repainted; interactive displays and 'working walls' are a feature in all classrooms and each class has created their own welcoming and distinctive entrance! During the summer holidays more structural changes are planned....improvements to the outdoor learning environment in the Early Years as well as creating a new classroom in Key Stage 2 and alterations to the staff room.
It has been another busy term for governors. As well as our usual committee and Full Governing meetings, individual governors have continued to take an active role in monitoring all aspects of school life:
- observing lunchtime arrrangements
- reviewing attendance and absentee data
- assessing the impact of classroom interventions
- monitoring the use of Pupil Premium funds to raise pupil attainment
- carrying out Health and Safety audits
- having curriculum discussions with relevant members of staff
- meeting regularly with the headteacher
- attending INSET days
- participating in parent workshops
- analysing attainment and progress data
- participating in Learning Walks around the school
- meeting with the SENDCo to discuss provision for meeting the needs of all children
- attending 'meet the head' coffee morning
- speaking with children about their learning in school
- considering the allocation of funds with the bursar prior to setting the budget for the next academic year
Happy New Year and a very warm welcome to our new head, John Galvin, who joins us from Findon School. The Governing Body look forward to working with John and taking the school forward.
One of the recommendations as a result of our OFSTED inspection last year was that the Governing Body should undertake an external review of Governance and also how we monitor the use of Pupil Premium funding. These reviews have now been completed and governors are implementing the recommendations that the external reviewer highlighted.
''Governors show a strong commitment to the school and are anxious to be as effective as possible.''
'' It will be important for the governing body to re-establish itself as strategic, outward-looking and dynamic as the school moves to a new phase with a new headteacher.''
''In order to impact on school improvement more quickly it is recommended that governors work with the incoming headteacher to ......''
review the school’s action plan to ensure that it is meaningful, directly related to the identified areas for improvement and has clear measurable criteria for success
re-establish a cycle of self evaluation, development planning and policy review in order to cover all aspects of school life in the following academic year and beyond.
The School Action Plan is now in place and clearly identifies areas for improvement. Governors are carefully monitoring its implementation and outcomes.
We have appointed a governor with special responsibility for overseeing the spending of Pupil Premium Funding and monitoring the impact this money has on the children.
We shall be very sorry to say goodbye to Gillian Standing at the end of this term. Gill has been at Petworth Primary School for more than ten years, initially seconded from Fittleworth School as a deputy head, for the last six years Gill has been headteacher at the school. The school has doubled in size under her headship is well on the way to achieving our vision of being the first choice of school for parents in Petworth.
We wish Gill all the very best for the future and a long, happy and healthy retirement.
Governors try to visit the school whenever possible....not just as part of their monitoring role but also for school performances, sports days, curriculum events, assemblies and festivals, special occasions and annual fairs. In October several governors attended the Open Morning and Evening for both interested parents and members of the community. These are ideal oppprtunities for governors to meet with and talk to both prospective and current parents of children at the school. The school ambassdors did a fantastic job of showing us around the school. It always amazes me how knowledgable and confident the children are and how proud they are of Petworth Primary School.
But the highlight of the annual Open Morning for both governors and the members of the School Council is the shared lunch in the staffroom! This is a real chance for governors to chat with the pupils, find out what they think of their school and whether there are any changes they would like implemented. It is also an oppportunity for us to raise our profile and to become 'familiar' faces in school.
A rather belated welcome back to the new term. This academic year seems to have started the way the last year finished.....eventful and busy!
We are pleased to have successfully appointed a new headteacher and we look forward to working with John Galvin when he takes up his new post in January. I would like to thank my fellow governors for their commitment and professionalism during the interview process. It is a huge responsibility for governors, interviewing and appointing a new leader, but we are confident that John will build on the current strengths of Petworth Primary School and take us forward.
We are also pleased to welcome our new Rector, Mark Gilbert. As Petworth Primary is a Church School, Father Mark is automatically a member of the Governing Body. As the interviews for our new head were only a couple of days after Mark's 'licensing' ceremony, he was rather thrown in at the deep end! However it was important that he should be part of the process of selecting the new head of the local Church School.
School leaders together with our LEA advisor have been working on the Post OFSTED action plan. However governors have already started to consider how we might best monitor those issues raised as matters of concern by the inspectors.
- Governors have investigated the allocation of Pupil Premium grant. This additional funding from central government is given to schools to raise the attainment of disadvantaged pupils and close the gap between them and their peers. It is one of the governors' responsibilities to monitor the spending of this grant to ensure that there is an improvement in the performance of pupils in receipt of the grant. Governors considered the allocation of amounts of money on specific projects or items; what were the objectives of this spending and how it was anticipated the pupils would benefit and finally monitoring the actual outcome. Information on Pupil Premium spending can be found on the 'Policy' section of the school website.
- Governors together with parent representatives have observed children in the hall at lunchtime. OFSTED reported that 'leaders have not ensured that lunchtime arrangements are always orderly and behaviour is good'. The group have spent some time together with staff considering how best lunchtime arrangemnts can be improved.
- Data review is part of the monitoring role of the Curriculum Committee. Governors recently reviewed the data from last term which identified standards achieved and progress made. Comparisons were made with local schools as well as against county and national standards. As part of our review we have access to data analysis from outside agencies which clearly identifies the strengths and weaknesses of our school eg are we improving? which curriculum areas are stronger or weaker than others? do boys perform better than girls? do children with Special Needs perform as well as they should? etc
Further updates to follow!
Needless to say it was an eventful end to the year......not least a visit from OFSTED!
The final inspection report acknowledged the many strengths of the school
The school is improving and standards are starting to rise at the end of both Key Stages
The teaching of reading is improved
Marking is more effective
Pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is monitored effectively
Pupils feel safe and well cared for and the school is effective in looking after the needs of pupils with social and emotional needs
Leaders have risen to the challenge of staff turnover
However the key findings identified by OFSTED indicate weaknesses which need addressing in order that the school may 'further improve'. As a result of the inspection the school was deemed to ‘require improvement’ for several reasons
Too few children make ‘good’ progress
Teachers do not always have the highest expectations regarding what children can achieve
Pupils do not get enough chances to write at length
Lunchtime arrangements are not always orderly and behaviour is not always good
Teaching in early years is not consistently good to ensure children make the best possible progress
The findings in the report did not come as a surprise to the school. Many of the issues had already been identified and action plans were in place to address the concerns and further improve the school.
As part of the inspection process governors were questioned and relevant paperwork was scrutinised. Our role in school improvement was evaluated and judged accordingly
Governors rely on data provided by the school regarding progress of pupils and therefore their view is sometimes too generous
Although governors have checked the impact of pupil premium funding, they have not ensured that the money is fairly distributed between eligible pupils in both Key Stages
However OFSTED acknowledged that
Governors are well aware of the quality of teaching in the school and the need to ensure a more stable staffing structure
Governors are aware of the procedures for managing teachers’ performance and have a clear understanding of what to do to tackle teacher underperformance
As governors we are not complacent and constantly strive to ensure that all pupils receive the best education possible, that children make good progress and overall standards increase. OFSTED reported that ‘Governors are aware that the school requires improvement and minutes of their meetings show that they actively challenge leaders to quickly improve the school’
However the Governing Body recognises that the school needs to address the weaknesses identified in the inspection report. Governors play an important role in the school impovement process and our responsibility will be to actively monitor the implementation and outcome of the ‘post OFSTED Action Plan’ to ensure that when OFSTED next inspects the school that Petworth Primary School is deemed at least ‘good’.
Governors have participated in a variety of training sessions recently to ensure that we are up to date with current legislation and developments in the world of education and to further support our role in monitoring the school.
- All governors attended a session on ‘Understanding our Roles and Responsibilities’ organised by the West Sussex governor support team. As a Governing Body we discussed such questions as our vision for the future; our strategic direction; how we gather information; to whom we are accountable; how we compare with other schools; what are our priorities; what we do well and how could we improve; what are our core functions and the role we play in school improvement.
- The use of data and data analysis is a crucial element of governors monitoring pupil progress and achievement. A group of governors attended a training session on ‘Using RAISEonline to Improve Our Schools’. RAISEonline is a web- based system that provides schools, local authorities and inspectors with a range of analyses including attainment at the end of Key Stages; progress from Key Stage 1 to 2; performance of different pupil groups and subjects within a school; data on absences and exclusions and the characteristics or context of pupils and the school. For each type of analysis schools are compared with the national averages for primary schools.
Members of the Finance Committee attended a session on ‘Financial Efficiencies’. Based on a recent report on ‘review of efficiency in the school system’, governors considered how they could balance economy and effectiveness, discussing issues such as developing high quality teaching and teachers; having the appropriate balance between teachers and support staff; having an effective business manager; managing and running the office; making good use of financial benchmarking and comparing our spending with other schools and having governors who challenge the school’s spending.
Recently the government produced a new School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions document. This explains the new arrangements for teachers’ pay and conditions of employment. The document sets out how teacher’s pay progression will be dependent upon their success in the classroom. Clearly this has implications, not only for appraising teacher’s performance but also for the school budget. Governors from the ‘Pay and Capability Committee’ attended a training session on Performance Related Pay to ensure they were fully informed as to how the process should be implemented.
The governor representatives nominated by the Church attended the Annual Deanery Briefing which was led by Ann Holt, the new Diocesan Director of Education. Ann spoke of her vision for the Diocesan Board of Education, the work that had been carried out and what still needed to be implemented to create an ‘education team fit for purpose’ and a Board of Education which is can support and advise its Church schools.
The head teacher and chair of governors attend termly Chair’s Briefings organised by the Local Authority to keep governors up to speed with changes in legislation, policy and practice.
Schools increasingly use a range of data to assess their performance. As governors, it is part of our statutory duty to have a good grasp of this data to enable us to both support and challenge school leaders and ultimately hold the headteacher and senior staff to account for the achievement of our pupils.
It is important therefore that as governors we have access to good quality, timely data to able us to ask challenging questions so that we better understand the strengths and weaknesses of our school, what works well and what we could improve.
At Petworth Primary School governors receive a variety of data from a variety of sources:
regular headteacher’s reports
termly Teaching and Learning report
attainment results from statutory tests eg end of Key Stages
on-going monitoring of pupil tracking progress
OFSTED school performance ‘data dashboard’
Local Authority data
governors’ monitoring visits to school
discussions with staff
attendance at the annual review of data with senior leaders
However our role as governors is not to simply receive the data but to question, challenge and seek clarification.
How does attainment and progress at my school compare to national averages and the government’s floor target?
How do we compare with similar local schools?
Are there subject areas of strength?
Are there subject areas in which pupils do not achieve as well as we would expect?
Are there marked differences in attainment/progress between the sexes?
Do we have any under-performing groups of pupils, or are there wide gaps in attainment between some groups of pupils eg those with Special Needs?
How might the particular characteristics of our school affect our performance?
How does our pupil attendance compare to national targets?
This data analysis allows the Governing Body to inform and support discussion about school improvement rather than just make absolute judgements about the effectiveness of the school.
As most of you are aware the Governors sent out a questionnaire to all parents and carers last term to ascertain views on school-home communication.
Responses were generally very encouraging with many positive comments such as
The school is friendly and welcoming
Class teachers are approachable and genuinely care
My child is stimulated and engages in his learning
Children enjoy topic based activities and learning is fun
Information is accessible
The school is great at giving children confidence so that they can do their best
Education is a partnership.
Concerns are dealt with as soon as they arise
A great holistic education
Emphasis on outdoor learning
The school is good with academic subjects and offers the children new experiences
However there were some areas of concern as well as areas of school-home communication that parents felt could be improved. As a Governing Body we are always seeking to improve the school; we take parental views seriously and value feedback on the school. In response to the issues highlighted in both the ‘communications’ questionnaire and the annual OFSTED questionnaire, we set up a group of governors and staff to specifically address the concerns or questions which parents had raised.
Rather than try to tackle every minor concern we decided to prioritise the issues as indicated by parents
Reading records as a method of communication
Playground behaviour and supervision
After school clubs
Some of these topics have already been addressed, such as the way parent consultations are organised, others will take a little longer for any changes to be implemented and some will be ongoing projects for governors to monitor on a regular basis. Parents will be kept informed as to the progress of any initiatives and as always we as governors would welcome any constructive feedback.
Welcome to the new school year!
I am sure that this year will be just as action packed and exciting as last year.....
There are several changes at Petworth Primary this term. We welcome both new staff and children and of course new parents to our school. The school is also implementing a New National Curriculum....and having been involved in recent INSET days, I am confident that the children will have some fun packed and stimulating learning experiences!
We also have some changes to the membership of our Governing Body. We were very sorry to say goodbye to Anne Dallyn, Andy Rowland and Gary Chandler at the end of last term. We shall miss their commitment to and support for the school and would like to thank them all for being such an important part of PPS for many years and say how much we will miss them.
Welcome to Lisa Whitby and Judy Howard who are joining us as Parent and Foundation Governors respectively. I am sure that they will find being part of the school both rewarding and fulfilling!
As many of you may be aware the Government is encouraging all state schools to become Academies. The Midhurst and Petworth Observer recently reported that Fernhurst Primary School have made the decision to convert to an Academy as from September 2014.
Together with other Governors in our locality, we at Petworth Primary have been exploring the possibility of becoming an Academy, either alone or together with other local schools in what is known as a Multi-Academy Trust.
At the moment we are only at an exploratory stage. We are 'fact finding' and exploring all the options available before making any decision as to whether becoming an Academy is the best option for our school community.
Academy schools are funded directly from central government instead of receiving funds via the Local Authority. This means that as an Academy, a school operates outside Local Authority control and as such has greater freedom than other state schools over issues such as finance, the curriculum, teachers’ pay and conditions.
At the present the Governors are only at a very early stage in considering whether to convert to an Academy. Once we feel we are fully informed as to all the relevant issues and if we believe that is in the best interests of Petworth Primary and that the school would significantly benefit from becoming an Academy, at that stage we would fully inform and involve all stakeholders, including parents, in the decision as to our future.’’
Petworth Primary School prides itself on being very much a community school and a school at the heart of the local community. However we recognise that we are also part of a much wider community, not just locally but world-wide!
We have strong links with our immediate locality through the local Church, Petworth House, Rotherlea and Bushy Leith Copse to name but a few and regularly contribute to Petworth Fete in the Park, the annual fair, Petworth Festival as well as participating in Remembrance Day parade and of course remembering the Boy’s School Memorial service.
However we are also keen to foster links with both other parts of the UK, through our association with Christ Church School in Streatham and the wider world, through our annual Giving Tree and support for Nagybereg Orphanage in Ukraine. Children are encouraged to appreciate and value the diversity of backgrounds and circumstances and develop strong and positive relationships in school and the wider community.
Shirley Baring – Johnstone is the Governor with responsibility for monitoring ‘Community Cohesion’ and ensuring that as a Governing Body we promote and celebrate a sense of belonging to diverse and varied communities.
Petworth Primary prides itself on being very much a community school and a school at the heart of the local community. However we recognise that we are also part of a much wider community, not just locally but world-wide!
Three of Shirley’s recent reports involved
• spending an afternoon in Bushy Copse as part of our successful Forest School initiative ‘’Groups collected water, made origami boats, lit fires in a shell and gathered firewood. There was a boat race later on. Exploring and climbing was part of the programme. All children were focused and interested throughout, there were no instances of unruly behaviour. The children included me in their activities with great enthusiasm and confidence. The class teacher said that it brought out different dynamics and groupings, it was invaluable for her.
• accompanying the children to London to visit Church Streatham School (a multi-cultural school in a very contrasting neighbourhood to Petworth!).
“ The Year 6 class were amazed at the business of London and the multi-ethnicity. At the school we enjoyed a West Indian lunch followed by an impromptu football game on the school’s limited concrete area – local rules prevailed! This was a natural mixer. Brixton Market again assaulted us with unfamiliar sights, sounds and smells”.
• being guided round Petworth House as part of a Young Curators after school club.
''I was impressed by the children’s enthusiasm. They spoke clearly and with self possession. It was not just talking – we were asked to look and find! I learned things I hadn’t known from numerous visits!''