The school year 2016/17 was a very busy one for the school’s Governing Board. As in previous years, governors continued to be involved in developments to improve student performance, seeing a strong focus on skills for learning threading through all of the school’s activities. During the year, we were always impressed by the drive shown by senior leadership and by the hard work and enthusiasm of staff. This was matched by excellent student attitudes to their learning and behaviour.
Alongside our regular duties and activities, we made key appointments and took part in the school’s Ofsted inspection in April 2017. In addition, we spent time looking at options for the school’s future, conscious that we needed to identify a secure future in the context of Government policy that all schools should become academies and the diminishing budget of the local authority.
The two most senior staff, the head teacher and his deputy, moved on to pastures new at the end of the school year. The head teacher, Mr Doug Pettitt, left us to take up the headship of a large school in Dubai. Christine Brennan retired from teaching and her deputy head post at the end of the year. They had both been exciting and challenging leaders, moving the school on and embedding its very good support for students. We were very fortunate to secure two excellent replacements: Mr Domenic Volpe as head teacher and Mr Mark Barratt as deputy head teacher. Governors, staff and students were involved in both these appointments. We were also involved in some other senior staff appointments.
We made key decisions during the year about the school’s future, realising that the best way to secure the school’s future while preserving its vision, ethos and place in the local community would be to become an academy. The school has had excellent support from Gateshead Council for many years but budget cuts and government policy make it very hard for the Council to continue to provide this. We therefore applied to the Department for Education to convert to academy status as a member of Consilium Academies. This multi-academy trust allows its schools a good deal of local autonomy while providing oversight and accountability. The full process for this change, including consultation with parents, staff and trade unions and detailed work on the school’s membership of the multi-academy trust will take place during 2017/18. We will make a final decision on whether to convert when we get to the end of this process.
We visited the school many times. The full governing body held its regular meetings once each term; and had a number of special meetings to do with the academy process and for the senior appointments. Committees and panels met twice each term; and our informal ‘learning walks’, when we visit lessons and talk to students, also took place twice each term. Our School Improvement Group, which is a sub-group of governors and local authority officers, met four times during the year to gain in-depth understanding of the school’s challenges and the progress being made. We held our governor annual conference in January 2016, to look in depth at options for the school’s future. We also attended school events, for example awards evenings.
Students achieved very good A-level results in summer 2017. The GCSE results were more mixed, partly because of national changes to the curriculum and to assessment. However, we could see that the hard work and investment in new ways of teaching and learning were producing results, especially in English.
Ofsted inspected the school in April 2017. An inspection is a stressful and challenging process for any school. Kingsmeadow’s staff and students rose to the challenge; governors also talked to the inspectors. Although the result was not as good as we hoped, we were pleased that the inspectors could see many of the strengths of the school and we will work with senior staff to address the areas for improvement that they identified.
We continue to be very proud of the school and see it going from strength to strength. We discussed the expansion of the REAL project-based learning initiative in Years 7 and 8 after the great success in its first two years. The pastoral system continued to be very strong, as we could see from our involvement in some aspects of it. Mrs Sarah Maher, the Director of Pastoral, left the school in December 2016 for a promotion; she left the pastoral arrangements in the very good hands of the team led by Mrs Claire Richardson. We continued to be involved in attendance, behaviour and achievement panels, to try to address problems where students are not meeting the school’s standards.
The Football Academy had a good year; its students are a positive addition to the school and its teams were successful in matches and competitions. We monitored the contract and were pleased to see good performance by the providers.
In all our work, we have to be mindful of the budget, which is tight as in all schools. We received detailed information on the school’s financial situation, in the form of reports on spending and projections for future budgets. Our Finance and Staffing Committee scrutinised the budget and helped to make sure that school priorities are funded. The committee approved staffing structures and changes presented by the Head Teacher.
Kingsmeadow’s governing board will continue its work in 2017/18 on our key tasks of overseeing the strategic direction of the school (including continuing to improve student achievement), supporting the head teacher and holding him to account and monitoring the school’s budget. We will work diligently to lead and support the school as it moves forward towards being an academy.
Chair of Governors