Message from Chair of Governors July 2020

This has been an extraordinary year for both the school and the Governing body. No one could have predicted that halfway through the academic year, life would change so dramatically. My thoughts go out to everyone who has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. I hope that you all keep well and continue to view the school as a safe and appropriate place to send your children, once government policy allows for a full reopening. There are many functions a governing body needs to deliver, but health and wellbeing have quite rightly been at the core of our obligations this year.

I would also like to highlight that the LGB responsibilities extend to staff as well as students. We have teachers and members of staff who may be vulnerable themselves, have caring responsibilities or have relations that were impacted by the pandemic. It is a testament to the culture and dedication of the school, that it remained open to all students right up until government policy changed and that the school stayed open to children of key workers and vulnerable children, including during holidays. Remote study materials were provided with an initial necessary focus on those studying for GCSEs and A-levels. Malmesbury was part of the 20% of schools that did provide some remote face-time lessons for students during the first phase of lockdown, and opened its doors as soon as it was able to, to those in years 10 and 12. We knew that remote schooling could never replace actual classroom lessons and we look forward to the school reopening when it is safe to do so.

Rather than take the year chronologically, I would like to start by reflecting on lockdown and the impact it had on the Local Governing Body (LGB) activities. The opening and closing of the school, and approval of risk assessments were taken by the Trust Board. LGB extra-ordinary meetings were held around both the closure and the partial reopening of the school as inputs to the board and as a part of our own good governance. A further extra-ordinary meeting will also be held in August with Rupert Moreton, our new Headteacher, to discuss the planned full reopening in September.

Many of the decisions that have needed to be taken have, by necessity, been delivered at pace. The LGB has been supported positively by the National Governance Association, including providing guidance and webinars to ensure we focused on the right issues and asked appropriate questions. It was important that as a group we developed the skill set and clear understanding of the external context, to deliver effective governance. The NGA updates and recommendations were welcomed and acted upon. Like many of you, the LGB have also learned new ways of working, with all meetings post March held on Microsoft Teams. To deliver on all our obligations, we held more frequent meetings, but of shorter duration, to ensure that we have been dynamic and responsive to the environment in which we have found ourselves. This has meant that the LGB were able to respond to evolving Government policies as well as discharging our planned activities, as agreed at the start of the school year.

This year has again seen a significant change with the leadership team and I would like to take this opportunity to give my personal best wishes to John Barrett, in his retirement, for the excellent leadership he has provided this year as Associate Headteacher, which builds upon his appointment as Head of Science in 1997. John has left the school in good shape to face the challenges the next year will bring and demonstrated his skills as a leader to improve the school and bring it through the current crisis. What a year to go out on!

A key responsibility this year has been the appointment of a new Headteacher. Myself, along with other governors and representatives of the Trust were involved in the recruitment. The interviews took place over two days. Candidates were observed in how they performed with students and staff, as well as more formal interviews. The school attracted a wide field of high-calibre candidates and I look forward to welcoming Rupert Moreton formally to the LGB for the new school year, but note he has already joined us for meetings over the summer.

Prior to lockdown, the LGB carried out a review of the school counselling service. The review was conducted by an external expert, with experience in both education and counselling. The service in its current form was established 5 years ago and the review concluded that the offering is still fit for purpose. The report noted that Malmesbury is a caring school, dedicated not just to helping young people to leave with excellent results, but to each individual as a whole person. The LGB will continue to monitor and follow up on the review to ensure the service continues to help and support current and future needs.

We have also looked at the school improvement plan, faculty reviews, SEND, child protection, safeguarding, Equality, Diversity & Inclusion and equality objectives, staff well-being and staffing. We also reviewed the mental health provision at the School; We have also reviewed our policies on Disability Equality Scheme, Admissions 2021/22, Sixth Form Progress, Guidelines regarding rewards criteria for students, Induction Programme for Members of Staff joining Malmesbury School, the Procedure for Intake Arrangements for Year 7, Relationships, Sex and Health Education and Careers Education, Information, Advice and Guidance Policy. In addition to reviewing policies the Trust Board requested each school in the Trust look at three policies ‘in action’ to see if they were fit for purpose. Our school looked at the SEND policy, the Freedom of Information policy and the Recruitment Policy.

Effective governance does not just review documentation. A pre-lockdown highlight for myself and other governors was dropping in to join students invited to the Friday Head’s Breakfast. This was an opportunity to speak informally with students, over a croissant, about their feelings about the school, any issues they contend with and anything they would like us to think about. It is important to remember that we are here to provide positive outcomes for our students and being able to engage them directly remains a priority. I was also bowled over by the interest and passion displayed during the year 8 science competition. I was able to judge entries ‘remotely’ and I am encouraged by the number of budding scientists that have managed to pursue their interests and find out answers to their questions whilst working from home.

Prior to lockdown the LGB continued with a standing agenda item to consider how Malmesbury School fares in relation to national news items. We considered statements made in the press on the marking of French and German nationally, as part of our review of exam results. We also looked at an article that questioned why students from poor households fail to get into the universities that their grades deserve. It was noted that the article was mainly looking at areas of deprivation, such as inner cities. It was reported that Malmesbury School does have a good record of disadvantaged students going to excellent universities, but more work was needed to encourage more students from disadvantaged backgrounds to choose Malmesbury for their A-level provision.

This year we were also given presentations on exam results, Communication, Expression and Tier 2 vocabulary and ethical leadership.

Over the year there have sadly been some governors leaving the LGB, Kath Derby’s term of office ended at the beginning of the school year, but she continues to support the school as a Board Trustee. Her experience as a retired Headteacher and former county adviser have been invaluable and we thank her for all her contributions. Ruth Whitehouse has also reached the end of her term and steps down as Vice-Chair, I want to personally thank her for all her contributions and wise council, in particular for all the work she has done in support of science and mathematics. Tony Corscadden has also stepped down as parent governor. We will be looking to recruit to the LGB in the coming year with a particular focus on increasing diversity. If you are interested in potentially becoming a governor, I would be delighted to hear from you.

Condolences were also sent on the sad news that a former Governor, James Yorke Moore has died.

These are the governor Link responsibilities:

SEND Sue Poolman
Data & Pupil Premium Ruth Whitehouse
Child Protection Deborah Gray
Equality Claire Graves
Health and Safety Hayley McCoy
Creative Arts Sharon Millar
Sixth Form Mark White
English Deborah Gray
Maths Ruth Whitehouse
Science Tamsyn Luggar
Humanities Rachael Jenkins
DT Tony Corscadden
MFL Sharon Millar
Student Voice Jennifer Rowe
Careers Justin Davies

If you want to learn more about the governors, please see their profiles which are found under ‘Composition of the Governing Body’ on the website.

Dr Claire Graves

Chair of Governors