Annual Governance Statement for the Governing Body of Settle College
There are three core elements in the Department for Education’s charge to all Governing Bodies:
• Maintenance of strategic vision and direction;
• Performance management of the Head Teacher;
• Oversight and stewardship of school finances.
These involve not merely holding the school to account, but offering the informed support and encouragement which will enable it to thrive and secure the highest levels of success for all the students entrusted to us.
A. Governance arrangements
The Governing Body of Settle College was reconstituted in March 2015, both to meet statutory requirements and secure the combination of skills and experience most suited to the school’s needs. (Please click http://www.settlecollege.org.uk/about/governors/ to view current membership).
There are eleven places in total on the Governing Body, as follows:
Status Number of posts
Headteacher (ex officio) 1
Local Authority appointed Governor 1
Members co-opted by the Governing Body 6
Parent governors 2
Staff Governor 1
Total membership 11
There is a range of requirements placed upon all governors:
• Commitment to the school’s vision and ethos, and the success of all our children;
• A willingness to learn, and a capacity to engage forensic curiosity and analytical skills;
• Good inter-personal skills, the ability to work professionally as part of a team and take collective responsibility for decisions;
• Adequate skills in literacy and numeracy to interrogate critical data.
Both individually and collectively, we are well informed, undergo induction and ongoing training and have clear areas of responsibility. Our skills audit – used to map governors’ necessary competence, knowledge and experience – shows that individuals bring high level expertise to the board in critical specialist areas:
• Health, welfare and safeguarding
• Informed insight into the needs of the local and regional economy.
• Understanding of Governance and senior management in schools;
• Expertise in strategic planning and project management;
• Specialist knowledge of Human Resource Management and legislation;
• Performance management and appraisal;
• High level budget planning and strategic financial management;
• Management of premises and facilities;
• Links with the local business and community organisations;
The full Governing Body meets in plenary session five times a year (these meetings are preceded by a period of training) with additional termly meetings of the full board to focus respectively on Quality & Planning or Finance & Premises.
Our commitment to ongoing personal and corporate development draws on training provided by the Local Authority, by members of the school’s leadership team, and by access to provision (particularly in respect of welfare and safeguarding) offered online by the DfE and other government agencies. We are also required to declare our business or other personal interests for reasons of transparency.
The Register of Business or Pecuniary Interests can be viewed at http://www.settlecollege.org.uk/about/governors/.
B. Attendance record of governors
A record of our attendance at meetings is kept by the Clerk to the Governing Body: summary details of attendance during the current academic year are as follows:
• Full Governing Body meetings: 90%
• Full Governing Body (Quality & Planning) meetings 80%
• Full Governing Body (Finance & Premises) meetings 100%
Meetings need to be ‘quorate’ to ensure that decisions can be made (this means that more than fifty per cent of voting members must be in attendance). To date no meetings have failed to meet this quoracy requirement.
C. Central themes ongoing from year to year
Issues identified in the 2015 Ofsted report continue to inform our focus on essentials:
• On going whole school improvement and consolidation of the gains we make;
• Rigorous and on going analysis of Pupil Premium and Year 7 Catch Up funding, particularly funding allocation and the impact of this on student outcomes
• Detailed analysis of and dialogue with the Senior Leadership team on their successful work in closing the gap between identified groups.
• Detailed tracking and analysis of Post-16 predictions against outcomes
External advisors and Improvement Partners were welcomed into the school to ensure continued improvement and progress, both to support our Head teacher during his acting tenure and as part of the new headship induction process on formal appointment, with valuable support from the LA’s advisory service.
Members of the Senior Leadership Team regularly attended Governing Body meetings to brief on their specific areas of responsibility, with Governors both supporting and challenging information given and initiatives to ensure continued progress and use of best practice. Reports and presentations on a variety of subject areas allow detailed projections on future results, which remain very encouraging.
The College Improvement Plan and SEF (Self Evaluation Form) were also regularly reviewed at full Governing Body level both to understand strategy and to evaluate progress against priorities. College policies and procedures were regularly reviewed and updated throughout the year, in accordance with new legislation, to ensure full compliance and of course to update nomenclature
These policies are available http://www.settlecollege.org.uk/parents/policies/
The Safeguarding Link Governor met regularly with the Designated Safeguarding Officer, with a standing Safeguarding item being included on full Governing Body agendas for generic reporting as appropriate.
We undertook training to improve our own skills as identified by the completion of skills audit initiatives. Training included the new Ofsted Framework and understanding and analysing data, with internal training taking place before full Governing Body meetings, at least once a term.
Approved minutes can be obtained by contacting the Clerk, Mr. Christopher Davey, at email@example.com, or via the school telephone number: 01729 822451
D. Change and Continuity
We have lived through a turbulent period both of change and consolidation.
When our previous Head left mid-year to join OFSTED as an HMI, the governors at that time – who had already pursued links with Upper Wharfedale School – entered a service agreement for the UWS head to be seconded as part time Executive Head at Settle, with a view to closer collaboration and the possibility of developing either a multi academy trust or a formal federation of schools within the Local Authority of North Yorkshire County Council.
At the time this was intended as an interim arrangement until there was greater clarity about our possible future as an Academy, and indeed the government’s policy on forced “academisation”: whether we would remain as a standalone school or part of a federation, who our likely partners might be, how we maintain high-quality offer Post 16 provision in Settle, how chronic underfunding might be resolved. There were (and remain) substantial unresolved issues with non-selective education in the Skipton area which continue to impinge on us.
Also at this time Mrs Rosemary Rees, our long-standing chair of governors, stood down. We owe her huge gratitude for able and visionary leadership sustained over many years to our great benefit.
In the months that followed, governors spent time evaluating the competing claims off multi-academy trusts, and commissioned a report to evaluate joint arrangements with Nidderdale High and Upper Wharfedale schools. During this interim period, ably led by our Executive Head and Head of School, great strides were made in defining roles, refining the SLT structure, strengthening pastoral care while maintaining continuity and momentum in all aspects of the school’s life.
We are immensely grateful for the contribution during this period of Mr Andrew Taylor and wish him well in his continuing role as Head Teacher of Upper Wharfedale School.
However, with a largely reconstituted governing body, lessening pressure towards academisation and our scepticism about the models of collaboration on offer, governors reaffirmed that our single focus must be upon the success and wellbeing of our learning community in Settle.
We therefore terminated the arrangement with UWS, designated our Head of School as Acting Headteacher during the further interim period, and set about appointing a substantive head for Settle College through national competition (to which there was a gratifyingly strong response).
E. Finding a new head
Following these decisions, we conducted a national search and appointment process for our post as Headteacher. In this, your governors wanted a leadership that was focused on Settle College, its long-term sustainability and the success of all our young people. We have an able and committed staff, who deserve to be ably led.
During the weeks we advertised, there were forty seven headships offered nationally at the same time as ours. Despite this (and highlighting the attraction of Settle) we received strong levels of interest which pleasingly translated into twelve serious and viable applications.
Of these, we invited five people to interview.
With our North Yorkshire advisory team we spent many hours of scrutiny and assessment, scrupulously evaluating all candidates against each of our agreed criteria. After two days of interviews and assessment, the unanimous decision of the selection panel – ratified by the full board of governors – was that we appoint Mr Gareth Whitaker to the permanent substantive post as Headteacher of Settle College, with immediate effect.
The post is not without challenges, especially in the current financial and political climate, so there are three central themes to which Mr Whitaker and his colleagues (whether teaching or non-teaching) – and we as governors – will bend our efforts:
• to maintain and continually improve academic outcomes for all students and the quality of their experience across the whole formal and informal curriculum – grounded in consistently excellent behaviour for learning;
• to secure the numbers, breadth and quality of our post 16 provision;
• to ensure that our school remains solvent and financially viable, and that we make efficient and purposeful stewardship of scarce resources.
We are immensely grateful to Mr Andrew Taylor, whose able tenure as part-time Executive Head helped bring our school to the point where we could follow a coherent strategic direction and appoint again our own Headteacher with a single focus on Settle College.
F. Engagement and Challenge
As governors, we are tasked to focus on the things that matter most for our school.
In support of this, our headteacher and senior leaders regularly brief the board on current issues and underlying trends. There are national benchmarks against which we are judged, and like all schools, we capture enormous amounts of data which this dialogue helps us understand and benchmark:
• student progress;
• trends over time both within subjects and across specific groups;
• comparisons with national data and comparable schools
• the match between predictions and outcome;
• ensuring not only that funds allocated for Pupil Premium are properly spent but being able to track impact and outcomes for the young people concerned;
This presentation and analysis of data helps us engage with the underlying reality, and agree with the Head and senior leaders on the strategies and interventions necessary to ensure the success of all our students. From time to time also we are involved in disciplinary issues, especially where exclusion is deemed appropriate.
G. Finance and strategy: planning for the future
With specialist governor advice, a strategic Financial Stability Plan is now being implemented with a view both to reducing in-year deficits and ensuring that we do not squander a substantial capital reserve. We have invested in software and training to balance the stewardship of resources against the needs of our curriculum model, and looked carefully at class sizes and planned admission limits to ensure we do not pass key thresholds.
In support of this, our finance governor has developed for the College interlinked spreadsheets which let us model a range of independent variables, and track their impact upon key aspects of College finance – vastly increasing the control and insight we have over the process.
Based on this work too, the SLT are closely involved in developing a Strategic Financial stability plan which will help us exercise informed and responsible stewardship of our crucial – but limited – resources to the benefit of all our students, and ensure these resources are targeted where they matter most.
This long term strategic plan is driven by the school’s need both to live sustainably within its resources and to secure the quality of provision and outcomes which we want for our children. We know that as a provider of high quality, comprehensive education in a selective area we are an attractive option for families both within and out with our immediate catchment area, with many pupils making the daily journey from Skipton and further afield, and take account of their needs for transport and support.
Governors recognise the crucial importance of Self Evaluation in our ongoing cycle of review and planning. Working with the headteacher and the school’s Senior Leadership Team, we draw on this self evaluation document (in education speak “the SEF”) to inform our thinking as we monitor progress against the College Improvement Plan, and continue to exercise support and challenge in all areas to ensure the highest possible standards for the benefit of students and value for money.
But we are governors – not inspectors.
While holding our senior team to account – whether we are watching lessons, looking at students’ work, taking part in experiments – our role most crucially is to support all they do to maintain and improve the quality of education our children receive.
Equally, the life story of the school is told not only in academic statistics but also in the huge range of opportunities our staff create. Sport, music, drama (the stunning recent performance of Peter Pan filled the hall for three nights in February and engaged close to a hundred pupils).
Governors attend and support these events, we talk with parents (and potential pupils) at open evenings and award ceremonies, both to know and be known. In our link roles, spend time as individuals in school (by invitation and by prior arrangement with the Head) in meeting staff and pupils, ensuring our meetings are informed by first hand knowledge and not just statistics.
H. When “all change” means “no change”
Our ambition is that a student’s experience of the school remains what it always has been: a safe and stimulating place to learn and to grow up.
Our A Level results and percentage of high grades remain within a whisker of the North Yorkshire grammar schools. Our record of university placement (in terms of entry to Russell Group or other highly ranked universities, and to very competitive courses) is on a par with independent schools in the region – and theirs incidentally are excellent.
In addition, it is our job as governors to make sure that this remains true year on year – for students in years 7 and 8 as much as for these in 12 and 13: to ensure that when their time comes there is a vibrant and successful Sixth Form in place.
Many years ago, on a bleak Monday morning in a huge London school, a conversation was overheard between two elderly OFSTED inspectors as they drank their tea and geared up for a difficult week.
“I’m sure we’ve worked together before somewhere: where was it now?”
A pause for thought and a soft digestive biscuit.
“I know: up north, Settle!”
“Settle – yes, that’s right. Lovely school, wasn’t it?”
That was then: this is now, but it is still true and our job as governors is to ensure that we conduct our stewardship in such a way that it remains true well into the future and that our stewardship secures the success and sustainable future of a school in which we all take great pride.
How to contact your Governing Body
Information about the board is available http://www.settlecollege.org.uk/about/governors/. Our Clerk to Governors, Mr Christopher Davey, can be contacted via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or through the school portal at email@example.com or by mail via our postal address.