Governors “News and Views”

Sissinghurst (VA) Church of England Primary School

10/02/2017 – Amanda Goodchild

This week members of the Strategy team met for the third time this year. As we are now half way through the academic year, we considered the level of progress that is being made on the key areas of the School Improvement Plan, and agreed our monitoring priorities for the upcoming term.

Two of our Foundation Governors, Rev Olney and Penny Durie, also recently conducted a visit on the Christian Character of the school and what impact this is having on the children. Their findings will soon be reported to the rest of the Governing Body.

03/02/2017

Last Tuesday Scott Martin and Amanda Goodchild conducted a monitoring visit into the impact of the Creative curriculum and the opportunities the school provides for children to develop their creativity, including in the arts. We spoke with several teachers and pupils across both key stages, and also looked at children’s work. The visit highlighted that the Creative Curriculum, where core subjects are taught through a unifying and engaging topic, is working very well. It also identified several opportunities to enhance creative learning which will be considered in due course.

The Learning & Development team met on Tuesday to review attainment data across the school and progress for some key groups. We noted improvements in most classes and subjects and discussed areas where more support is being provided. We also looked at various updates to curriculum policies, which set out how we will be delivering the national curriculum in the school and were particularly pleased to note that some of the recommendations from the aforementioned visit will be adopted. The minutes of our October meeting are now available in the school reception and on KLZ

20/01/2017 – Amanda Goodchild

I am pleased to let you know that at the end of last year the Diocese of Canterbury appointed two new Foundation Governors to the Governing Body of Sissingurst School: Peter Denyer and Scott Martin, who both have children at the school. Peter brings his financial expertise to the Resources team, and Scott’s background in the arts sector is a great addition to the Learning & Development team. The governors are delighted to welcome them to the role and are confident they will make an excellent contribution.

18/11/2016 – Amanda Goodchild

Full Governing Body meeting  

On Wednesday 16th November there was a meeting of the Full Governing Body. At this meeting we reviewed the school’s progress across key areas of the School Improvement Plan, as well as feedback from the recent parents’ questionnaire which was very encouraging. The governors have also invited Anna Bourne to join the Governing Body as an Associate Member, specifically to work in the Learning and Development Team. As always, minutes of the meeting will be available to parents in a couple of weeks once they are finalised.

14/10/2016 – Amanda Goodchild

The past two weeks have been very busy for governors. On Tuesday 11th October the Resources team met for the first time this academic year, and the Learning and Development team met on Tuesday 18th October and discussed last year’s academic data in detail. The school’s results were truly excellent, but we constantly examine the data to stimulate thought about where further improvements can be made. The strategy team of the Governing Body also met on Friday 21st October and focussed its discussion on the School Improvement Plan and how well the school is progressing towards “outstanding”.

07/10/2016 – Amanda Goodchild

Full Governing Body meeting 

The first Full Governing Body meeting of the 2016/2017 academic year was held on Wednesday 28th September. Importantly at this meeting, we agreed the school plan for the year, and also the governors’ monitoring responsibilities.

Earlier in September, Mark Lovell stood down from his role as a governor, and the rest of the team wish to thank Mark for his excellent contribution to the governing body over the past two years and his service to Sissinghurst School.

Parent Governor election

On Monday 11th July the ballot papers for the election of a new parent governor were counted and we can confirm that Bonno de Haan has been appointed to the Governing Body of Sissinghurst School. The governors warmly welcome him to the team and look forward to working together in September.

On Wednesday 13th July we held the final Full Governing Body (FGB) meeting for the 2015/2016 academic year. Among other things, the subject leads for Maths and Literacy spoke to and answered questions about the work done in these subjects this year, results and also their plans for next year. All parents will receive a copy of the Governing Body’s end of year report today and we do hope you will take 5 mintues to read it.

SIAMS visit

Rev’d Olney and Mrs Durie visited the school w/c 13th June to look at RE and Collective Worship. They enjoyed seeing the children’s RE work, the prayer corners in each classroom and the school values displayed on the walls. In Assembly the children saw photographs of all the ‘Open the Book’ stories that have been performed on Monday mornings since January and they were asked to draw a picture or write about one of them.

Minutes of Full Governing Body meeting

The minutes of the last meeting of the Full Governing Body which took place on 17th May are now in the blue folder by the office.

The Learning and Development team met on Tuesday 24 May to review progress and achievement across the school in the light of the expected results of recent tests. The results are in many cases still subject to external marking or moderation but we were very pleased that the information available shows continuing progress across the school. Official results from the external tests (SATs) will be available in early July. We also planned our monitoring visits for the rest of this school year, discussed the information that will be available in reports to parents at the end of the year, received an update on curriculum planning for 2016/2017 and reviewed some of the recent and planned enrichment activities and trips. We would very much like to thank parents who have been able to help support, motivate and inspire the children with these fantastic activities and trips. There are many more planned.

Changes to the Governing Body 

After many years’ service as a governor of Sissinghurst School, Christopher Leach has stepped down from the governing body and his role as Chair. The governors and staff extend their sincere thanks to Chris for his dedication and support for the school over the years. On Wednesday the governing body elected Mrs Amanda Goodchild as the new Chair, and she will serve in this role for a term of two years. Amanda is committed to supporting the Senior Leadership Team and to ensuring the governing body continues to make a valuable contribution to the school.

Governor visits to the school

Amanda Goodchild

I came in on Wednesday 16th March, to carry out a routine monitoring visit, this time looking at the ways the school encourages independent learning and also the extent to which pupils have adopted an independent attitude and take ownership of their own learning. I was privileged to speak to a number of children across different year groups and also to several staff. There are a number of strategies teachers use to encourage pupils to work independently and recent changes to the way teachers are marking is making a difference, particularly in helping children to see how they can improve their work. Certainly the older year groups demonstrated a clear understanding that they have a choice whether to engage and learn which was great to hear.

Andrew Chandler

During my visit on 12 January, I monitored the school’s approach to learning and development for more able pupils under the new National Curriculum. Previously, schools have been encouraged to accelerate able pupils at the expense of giving them sufficient time to consolidate and firmly master their skills. True mastery implies rich and sophisticated learning, with opportunities for more depth and breadth of understanding, more advanced application of knowledge, and a greater expectation of independent and collaborative learning.

I wanted to make sure that we do have an environment that encourages more able children to set themselves higher standards and perform to the best of their ability.

This visit was therefore only focused on pupils who are seen as more able than age expected in any academic subject, but the governors regularly scrutinise the achievement and progress of all pupils. I visited several classes to see the work of children working at different stages; I spoke with Mrs Penfold and several staff members and asked several children about their perceptions of their learning. I also reviewed the latest achievement data to scrutinise the performance of more able pupils.

I want to share my findings from my classroom visits that more able children are very clearly performing at a higher level than their peers, even when working on the same tasks. The children I spoke to told me that they enjoy their lessons and frequently used the word “challenge” to describe their work. They told me that, in Maths for example, even if exercises start off easy, they get more difficult or there are extra worksheets or tasks and additional individual challenges, so they have plenty to keep them interested. The same was true in written work, where the examples I reviewed showed that more able children were using far more complex vocabulary, punctuation and grammar when working on the same exercise as the rest of the class.

Follow-up monitoring will focus on:

How we support and encourage children who are more able in PE, music, art etc.

How differentiated tasks operate in practice.

How we handle children who are exceptionally able.

How the achievement of more able pupils is reflected in the data that governors use to review performance.

Overall though, our more able pupils seem to have the opportunity to and are encouraged to develop their abilities in all areas and we must continue to encourage this Growth Mindset.

Amanda Goodchild

Many thanks for a lovely Christmas lunch

“It was a real delight to join with the children and staff for Christmas Lunch today. The hall was filled with happy children who were wearing colourful party hats which they had made themselves that morning. The staff too were dressed in all manner of fun and festive attire and “waited” on the children so they could stay seated. This meant it was fairly calm despite the joyful noise! The food was lovely (and not a sprout in sight), and the children were very happy when their pudding of chocolate mouse and cinnamon Christmas cookies were handed out – complete with a light dusting of “snow”. It was a fabulous time of celebration for the whole school.”

Governors attended Sissinghurst School and had lunch with the children followed by a walkabout guided by the Headteacher on 6th October 2015.

Observations and comments by the Governors:

Penny Durie

Guided School walkabout and lunch with the children

“I attended school lunch with other members of the governing body, each of us sitting on different tables. Members of the staff and Headteacher sat with the children as they ate their lunch. I was impressed by good manners and an excellent cooked lunch. Some children chose to bring their own packed lunch. The children were lively but behaviour was good and the children were very polite”.

“I was impressed by the displays in the classrooms, particularly the prayer corners and the calm atmosphere in each classroom”.

“I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the School Value displays in the corridors”.

 Phillip Williams

I attended school with other members of the Governor’s team and had lunch with the children followed by a walkabout with the governors guided by the head teacher.

“I was impressed by the queuing system and the ordered and disciplined way the children conducted themselves in the queue and at the table. The food was well prepared and tasty. I had an excellent lunch in excellent company”.

“Inside the school the Headteacher showed us various areas where the children had their work displayed and particularly noticeable were the displays at the entrance to the assembly hall where the children had exhibited “work shopped” information about the schools Christian values with quotes and practical examples of how they were being put into action in the school. The examples given for Koinonia were particularly memorable”.

We then visited each classroom with the Headteacher and observed different activities going on. The reading session in Elephants was particularly memorable for its calm atmosphere.

Amanda Goodchild

I spent approximately 15 minutes with individual teaching staff with the simple goal of finding out how well they felt the particular area under discussion was progressing.

Mrs Lyon explained to me the new “traffic light” system of behaviour management which has been recently introduced across the school, and which parents have been informed about.

Mr Boyles has recently found and introduced a new e-safety curriculum which will be used this year. He noted that although a lot of good resources exist to help children understand the risks to their safety online, many still regularly forget them.

This year Miss Ovenden has taken on responsibility for overseeing the School’s Green Flag award and associated work. She is also running Eco Club. The school was recently visited by a representative from the Green Flag scheme, who shared lots of ideas for ways the pupils could engage with their Eco-School ethos. She described how pupils from the Eco Committee on the Pupil council enjoyed showing him around the school and talking about their initiatives.

I asked Mrs McFarlane how well she felt the new school values were being adopted and she was generally very enthusiastic. She took an assembly at the start of the new academic year outlining the four new Christian values adopted by the school following a pupil vote in July. She began by focusing on friendship as she felt this was a value the children easily understood and cared about.

Lunch was an enjoyable experience and met with my expectations of what a large group of children eating would be like. After eating, I spoke with the two head girls who were at my table. I asked them what they enjoyed most about being head girl and they said they like being trusted with responsibility and the way the younger children know and look up to them. They expressed genuine enthusiasm about their role as chairs of the Pupil Council and were passionate about seeing ideas translate into action.

The Learning and Development team met on Tuesday 6th October 2015. We reviewed pupil attainment and progress data from the end of last year and planned our meetings and monitoring for the rest of the year. We also discussed the Kent test and how stressful it can be for children. Mrs Penfold has agreed to provide information about the process and resources to Year 5 parents earlier in the year than previously, so that parents who wish their children to take the test are informed about these in plenty of time.

Some of the Governors visited school on Tuesday 6th October (see individual Governor comments above) for lunch and a walkabout. They said that the food was great and the children’s behaviour, although a little noisy, very good. The tour of the school highlighted the need to revamp the entrance area so that it shows who we are and what we are about! Some Governors were very helpful with ideas and we will be looking to make a variety of changes in the near future.

Inspections! We were visited by both the Local Authority and the Diocesan Board of Education in the week of 5th October! Nothing like having things all at once! The purpose of the visits is to look at the school and talk to me about where we are as a school and what are plans are for the year ahead. They then offer support where they can. Both visits went very well. The diocese have offered help and guidance with some of our church school initiatives and our school improvement advisor was very happy with what he saw and discussed. He felt we have identified our areas for development and know what we must do to move forward. There is a new Ofsted Framework from September 2015. As a good school we will only get a one day inspection, called a section 8, to confirm we are still good. We are likely to receive this visit sometime during the summer of 2016.

On 24th September 2015 we held our first Full Governing Body meeting for the year. Emma Strange, Chair of FOSS, joined us to talk about fundraising and spending plans. We agreed that the Governing Body and FOSS would benefit from more collective thinking and we hope to see greater collaboration with FOSS from now on. We also agreed the new School Development Plan for this year and an updated behaviour policy, which reflects the new ‘It’s Good to Be Green’ procedures. The policy now includes specific examples of different types of behaviour and how they will be treated, which we hope that parents will find helpful.