Latest NewsPosted on: 03/09/2019
Message from Les Craggs, Chair of Governors, DGSB
So What Did the School Governors Do in 2018-9?
The DGSB GB is a relatively small team, just nine core members with three additional members plus a professional clerk. We are a mixed bunch - several with rich educational experience of running schools but there are also governors who work in sectors such as business, commerce and the civil service. The parents of children at the school whom you elected are important members as are those who were chosen by school staff. All governors get involved in all governor business but they have specialisms too, covering topics such as safeguarding, careers, health & safety, finance, teaching & learning and leadership. We fulfil our roles in a number of ways but the most tangible are via meetings and through visiting the school. Across the eight GB meetings in 2018-9, average attendance was 88%, demonstrating the commitment that my colleagues have to our mission to both challenge and support the school. And the pattern of governor visits bears this out too, with every governor visiting at least three times during the year to look at a specific aspect of school life and see the school at work. Many conclude with a written report going to the school; there were 37 such reports in 2018-19. One change we made this year was to have at least one governor available during Parent Consultation Evenings in case anyone wanted to have dialogue with us; we intend continuing this initiative into the new school year. Like any team, members leave and others join; we had two such changes earlier in the year.
A major focus for us at this time is the learning environment. First and foremost is ensuring the site and buildings are safe and comfortable for pupils and staff alike - quite a challenge given the ageing nature of the current school. We have scrutinised the purchase of a new minibus, overseen contract developments with the school’s caterer and approved the changes to our security fencing and gates. And, of course, all the preparation to seek brand new premises for our school at a time in the not too distant future has engendered a plethora of meetings, plans and tasks that we have addressed with growing excitement.
Pupil Progress and Care
Naturally, a key topic for any GB is how well pupils are doing so we have spent a lot of time, looking at examination results and other performance data, interviewing subject leaders and monitoring the school’s plans for ensuring optimum progress possible for each and every learner who attends DGSB. But we are a caring community too so have, as an example, involved ourselves in the important work staff are doing to support Young Carers and we have agreed the move to ensure that our oldest students (in the sixth form) are aided in becoming independent learners and more adult members of the school community, for example, in changes to the dress code. And as the world changes so too must the curriculum on offer at DGSB as well as the manner in which it is presented to our pupils and students. Hence, we have engaged actively with staff about changes to the school day, enhancement to our programme of Careers Education and attended with pride events held by our Combined Cadet Force to mention just a few.
Financial integrity is another heavy responsibility for all who work in the public sector and this GB does all that it should in overseeing how the annual budget is established, how money is spent across the year and how best value is sought in all its purchasing and use of resources. Clearly, the school’s most precious resource is its staff; whilst we do not directly manage teachers or other staff - that is the headteacher’s role - we play a part in overseeing their employment and development. For example, in offering an exit interview to each and every member who moves on, be that to a promotion elsewhere, to retirement or to other life pathways. The feedback we glean from such conversations helps us in ensuring our school continues in our unending quest for improvement. The one member of staff whom we do manage directly is the headteacher himself and we have in place secure and appropriate systems to ensure he is professionally supported and supervised.
Keeping Up To Date
As a GB, we recognise our own limitations and need to keep learning. Attending district as well as national meetings, linking with neighbouring schools’ GBs and using national and international internet based resources help us in the quest. This year we have made judicious use of a particular web-based set of resources specifically available to GBs called The Key, which has been helpful. Late in the year we have started to change our IT systems and make better use for communication and storage the Microsoft Office 365 software purchased by the school; early days but we are already appreciating the greater efficiency this offers. The main mechanism for how the GB seeks to move forward comes from our self-evaluation and self-improvement processes which, last year, saw us combining closely with our partner school, Dover Girls Grammar School. Both schools’ GBs felt so positive about this project that we have just started a suite of meetings for a wider group of local secondary schools’ governors so we can support each other in finding solutions to the problems and challenges we all face.
Like any public institution and large organisation, the school frames its work through a suite of policy statements, some statutory, some elective. It is the role of the GB to agree formally all such policies and this has been an ongoing piece of work across the year, scrutinising a wide range of matters, from how staff pay decisions are made to how we provide for pupils with additional needs and from how we go about admitting new pupils to our school to how we would implement a “lockdown” procedure in the event of an intrusion or other emergency. Of course, our website is the most transparent window for parents and others to view our policies so we not only ensure they are available there but also deploy a governor to make sure that the website is maintained in accordance with need and is fit for purpose.
2018-9 has been, as others before it, an extremely busy and demanding year for the DGSB GB. We do not anticipate that this will change as we go into a new academic year with a new intake of pupils, exciting prospects for school development and an earnest desire and intent on the part of governors to work ever more closely with and through our key stakeholders - pupils, staff, parents and members of the local community. If you would like to know more about this report or the work of the GB, do not hesitate to ask.
Les Craggs Chair of Governors August 2019