Orchard Lea Infant School
In the most recent Ofsted inspection, in October 2016, Orchard Lea Infant School was confirmed as a good school. There is every reason to be pleased with this judgement including, as it does, mention of “high standards, strong leadership and sharp focus on what could be even better.” This was at a time when the assessment processes had just changed significantly and results from the summer of 2016 were neither moderated nor officially confirmed in relation to other schools.
The Headteacher, Alison Pratt, and her staff have steered a steady yet progressive ship throughout the turbulence of 2015-16, relying on their experience and expertise at a time when national initiatives and directives have come and gone – and the new assessment starts to stabilise.
The funding a school receives is determined by numbers of pupils, social demographics and the decisions made by local and national government. The financial year runs April to March, the school year September to August, and funding can change significantly during the year. School finances are, year on year, a major challenge to all involved.
One of the governing body’s main duties is “ensuring financial solvency and probity with effective management of financial resources…” This covers day to day practice as well as wider management, ranging from belt-tightening in difficult times to deciding priorities when funds are available. This year, the school faces the challenge of reduced funding, caused by cuts to the education budget and changes to the ways in which funds are distributed. The school has been able to delay the worst impact of the cuts thanks to careful management and shrewd investments in recent years.
Although governors do not play a daily role in financial matters, members of the Finance Committee carry out a number of checks throughout the year as part of the annual financial self assessment known as the Schools Financial Value Statement (SFVS).
The Pay and Personnel Committee participate in pay policy decisions and undertake a performance management audit annually.
Longer term planning can be helped by knowing likely numbers of pupils. An extra class was accommodated recently – that class left the school in July 2015. The impact on staffing and finances has been carefully managed, in light of this and the likely funding cuts in the next few years.
Mrs Pratt gives regular reports to the full governing body about how Pupil Premium Funding and Sports Funding are being spent.
Although governors play a significant role in the strategic financial management, nothing would be possible without the meticulous care with which Mrs Pratt and her staff approach all financial matters.
A project was launched jointly with the Junior School to develop the site to achieve improved safety and greater opportunities in many areas of the KS1 and KS2 curricula. The summer holiday in 2015 saw the main site entrance and car parking areas redeveloped to further segregate vehicle traffic from pedestrians, making the site much safer for pedestrians.
Impact of the Governing Body
When a school is performing as well as Orchard Lea Infant School, the governing body is not faced with overseeing drastic measures or remedial action. There is still much that a governing body can do to support the school in its pursuit of improvement.
Ofsted praised the governing body in many areas although included the statement
The school’s analysis of progress information is now easily accessible to leaders and managers, who use this information well. However, governors do not interrogate the information quite so sharply.
This was quite strange as governors have monitored closely progress and performance data throughout, even though official data has not been available. Nevertheless, whole governing body training in January 2017 was on school performance data and governors will continue their thorough approach. The benefit of this detailed monitoring is that governors are aware of progress and performance throughout the year and can ask what has led to improved performance or what is being done to address any underperformance.
In order to maximise governing body effectiveness, governors do far more throughout the year other than attend meetings. For example, they do the following
|Training||Governors attend training courses and briefings to keep their skills and knowledge up to date. The Governing Body does an annual self-assessment and an annual skills audit.|
|Monitoring school initiatives and attending events||Governors come into school to see new teaching and learning initiatives in action. They also attend assemblies, performances, Stay and Create/Play sessions and parents’ evenings as well as acting as R Factor judges and helping at Christmas dinner! In January, a new and comprehensive catalogue of items for monitoring is compiled.
Individual governors have specific roles in monitoring areas of curriculum and school procedures. Terms of Reference for these roles are revisited each October.
|Educational Visits||One or more governors go on almost all school trips. This has a dual impact – governors can observe the benefits of the visits and also provide adult helpers who have clearance and safeguarding awareness.|
|Health and Safety||Our Buildings Committee works with the school’s Site Manager and Health & Safety Representative to complete checks and audits each year in accordance with the Health and Safety Policy. There is a very proactive approach to Health and Safety in the school and a governor regularly assists the staff H&S Representative and the caretaker with site inspections|
|Safeguarding||Safeguarding is a top priority to Orchard Lea governors. In the Spring of 2015, the whole governing body had a training evening on Safeguarding. The Safeguarding Governor helps the Headteacher to complete an annual audit of the child protection procedures throughout the school and safeguarding is discussed at every meeting of the governing body|
|Governor Recruitment||We are so grateful for the amount of time governors give to the role. We have been delighted to recruit three new governors in 2016 and we still have vacancies. A notice in the Highlands Hub has created a good amount of interest and we continue to promote our vacancies with Hampshire Governor Services and School Governors One-Stop Shop (SGOSS).|
The word “turbulence” has featured earlier in this statement. Indeed, the key aims are to keep the school on a steady course during continued turbulence, namely
- To monitor closely the progress towards the school’s performance targets as the new assessment system stabilises and results undergo full moderation
- To monitor closely school expenditure and the predictions for future funding
At Orchard Lea Infant School, we are blessed with a happy and positive family, from the children all the way down to the governors. This is not down to luck.
In an age when performance is expected to be intensively measured, the school is a high achiever. There is much more to this success than can be expressed in bare statistics. The staff and children receive constant praise from those hosting school trips about behaviour and enthusiasm. Visitors to the school, whether they are prospective parents or education professionals, remark on the warm, happy and friendly atmosphere.
When success is achieved, it should be celebrated and then built upon.
Please see below our Governor Newsletters: