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Governor Blogs

Making the sums add up- Stephen Ogilby - 24 November 2018

The financial outlook for many schools, including Boughton Heath Academy, is tough, and the problem doesn’t seem to be going away for the foreseeable future.  According to the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies, the impact of inflation and increasing pupil numbers, means that there will have been a real-terms cut of nearly five per cent between 2015 and 2019.    The annual Academies Benchmark Report from Kreston International, a network of UK and global accountancy firms published in 1st February 18, stated “An increasing number of academy school trusts are operating with large deficits and decreasing reserves. If the current trend continues, many academy trusts may be in financial distress within two years.”  This is something we as governors are fully aware of, and it’s more important now than ever before, to ensure provisions are put in place to safeguard the future of Boughton Heath Academy.  The Academies Benchmark Report, now in its seventh year, surveyed 750 academy schools in 360 trusts and multi-academy trusts educating over 300,000 children.  The survey found that the 360 trusts have a combined deficit of over £100 million. The number of trusts operating with a deficit has increased from 21% in 2015, 42% in 2016 and 55% in the 2016/17 survey.

Having attended November’s Governors Board Meeting in which the Financial Report for period 2017/2108 was presented, Boughton Heath Academy financial position looks healthier in respect to many of its other peers facing these similar financial challenges. 

We as a multi-academy trust (MAT) operate on a three-year forecasting basis, despite monies only being ringfenced from the Department of Education currently on a yearly basis. Boughton Heath ended the 2017/18 financial year with a small carry forward surplus of £27,652 and governors have made plans to maintain and, if possible, build on this surplus gradually over the next three years.  Boughton Heath had a deficit of £16,000 when it converted to Cheshire Academies Trust.  This deficit has been paid back to the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), and the school currently has a reserve balance of £15,000.  The school will continue to make payments to the reserve from the annual budget until the level that is set within the CAT reserves policy is reached, which is one month’s salary cost or approximately £33,000.     

This is encouraging considering 55% of trusts in the 2016/17 survey, as mentioned above, are operating with a deficit, and something we as an academy should be proud of, but not take for granted!

More information about the trust’s financial position will be available once the annual report and audited accounts are published on the trust’s website at the end of January 2019. 

Steve Ogilby

Co-opted Governor

Vision and Values- Janet Myers

The next three years – 21 September 2018 – Janet Myers

Welcome back to a new school year! I hope that your children have settled in well to their new classes. It has been lovely to see the pictures of the full reception class on Twitter. Last week I had the chance to tour the school during the school day and enjoyed seeing our newest pupils learning outside and the rest of the school displaying fantastic diligence and concentration in their lessons.

You may remember that last term we asked you to complete a survey to find out more about what you think are the school’s strengths and the reasons that you chose it for your children. We also asked the children, staff and governors similar questions. A group of staff and governors met at the end of last term to identify the key messages that emerged from the responses. They were themes such as academic progress, hands-on learning, deeper learning, and the importance of the moral compass. You told us how important it is that your children are safe and happy and how much you value mutual trust and respect.

On Wednesday evening, teachers and governors met to think about these themes and consider the future of the school and where we would like to be in three years’ time. We explored the school’s mission statement, “One Goal: For Children to achieve theirs” and discussed the importance of “One Space and One Team” and considered what we would like to stop, start and continue with regards to the three key strategic areas of Performance, Conduct and Community. We had some really meaningful discussions and generated lots of ideas. To follow on from the evening, a working group of three governors and three teachers will work together to synthesise the concepts that were discussed into a revised mission statement and three-year vision for the school. We hope to have something written by half term and will consult with staff and children before agreeing on the final wording.

It was so useful as a governor to spend an evening with the teachers talking about the future of the school, and I would like to thank teachers and governors for giving up their evening to contribute to the discussions. The evening gave us a very clear steer about the future of the school, and I look forward to sharing the final wording with you and focussing the whole school community around a common vision.

Janet Myers

Chair of Governors

Governor Blog - 16 May 2018 - Janet Myers

I am now into my second term as chair of the local governing body and have enjoyed several opportunities to meet children, staff and parents, including visits to school, attending an assembly, attending a parents’ information evening, presentations by staff at governors’ meetings, and attending training with members of staff. 

I have been so impressed with every member of staff that I have talked to, and particularly their drive for constant improvement and innovation.  In the first governors’ blog (https://www.boughtonheath.cheshire.sch.uk/cheshire/primary/boughtonheath/site/pages/governance/localgoverningbody/blogs), I quote from our school improvement partner’s report, which states that Boughton Heath is manifesting key learning principles to a greater extent than any other school that he knows.  The latest example of this is the new feedback policy. 

The one single thing that has the most impact on the progress that a child makes in school is being taught by a good teacher and, as a local governing body, it is our priority to maximise the time that teachers are able to spend with children and minimise other calls on their time.  The school’s new feedback policy helps us to achieve that.  Teachers read every page of every child’s book but, instead of writing in comments, which children admit that they don’t read, they collate comments on a whole class feedback sheet.  By noticing where children have applied the principles that they have been taught as well as looking for misconceptions and basic errors, teachers are able to tailor their next lesson to the exact needs of the children.  The feedback is shared with the children at the start of the next lesson and they get recognition for their work as well as a chance to work on the areas that need more practice. 

Parent governor, Helen Patterson, and I were able to attend the parents’ information evening about the new feedback policy.  It was led by Mrs Gell and Mrs Williams, and they talked very eloquently about the benefits that they are already seeing in the classroom.  This was reinforced when governors had a chance to ask Mrs Sumnall and Miss Bladen about the new policy when they presented to the local governing body meeting last week.  They both felt that the new policy was much more efficient and provided children with more effective feedback.  Miss Bladen mentioned that it took her back to why she wanted to teach, and that she understood much better what she needed to do to make a difference to groups of pupils.  I was delighted to hear that the new policy resulted in a 75% time saving, allowing the teachers to spend more time teaching and preparing resources to support lessons.

Teachers will be very happy to answer any questions that you have about the feedback policy and the very useful parents’ information evening will be repeated next term.

Janet Myers

Chair of Governors


New Governor Blog - 19 March 2018 - Janet Myers

Welcome to our new governor blog!  As a local governing body, we are committed to openness and are going to use this blog to give parents and the local community an insight into the work that we carry out.  We will blog once a month, roughly in line with our meetings and will tell you more about what we do in those meetings and what we learn on our visits to school as we monitor elements of the school development plan and areas of school life such as safeguarding and special educational needs.  We will also be providing you with more information about us as governors as we update the local governing body area of the school website.  The trust’s new governance manager will be working on this over the next few weeks. 

I have loved getting to know Boughton Heath Academy over the last few months.  My expectations of the school as a member of the local community were based on the academic excellence that I saw displayed in the Department of Education Performance Tables and the wonderful range and depth of work that I had read about on the Twitter feed.  I have certainly not been disappointed! 

The first thing that struck me was the children’s calm, friendly and polite behaviour in the classroom and around school.  I have been fascinated to learn about conscious discipline, the wealth of research behind adopting it as an approach, the positive impact that staff have seen when adopting it in the classroom, and the work that staff have done to help parents and children to understand and adopt it. 

It has been great to meet staff when I have been in school.  We have been very fortunate to have Mrs Woods and Mr Lucas as staff governors.  Mrs Woods has reached the end of her term as a governor and we are hoping that another member of staff will volunteer to join us.  The perspective that staff governors provide is really valuable when making decisions, and it is an opportunity for them to be involved in the strategic direction of the school.  Beyond meetings, I have been informally introduced to most people now, but I have had a chance to talk in detail to Mrs Gell in her role as the special educational needs co-ordinator and Mrs McCarthy in her role as learning mentor.  Both members of staff have also attended local governing body meetings to update us on special educational needs and the impact of pupil premium spending.  Mrs Walley has updated us on finance, and Ms Jones from the trust has provided us with the wider trust perspective.  Mrs Sumnall and Miss Bladen will be attending our local governing body meeting on Wednesday to provide us with information about maths and reading. 

I was also able to attend the parents’ information evening about the new marking policy.  This had been fully discussed at a local governing body meeting as well as being the subject of a comprehensive report by the link governor, Muriel Breugelmans, so I was aware of the planning and research that supported the change, however I was so impressed with the compelling reasons given by Mrs Williams and Mrs Gell and the evidence of the impact that teachers are already seeing in terms of children’s learning.  This direct information is vital to governors as we have a responsibility to triangulate the information that we receive from the senior leadership team with information from other sources such as other members of staff and data about children’s attainment and progress. 

Information from outside experts is another important part of triangulation and the governing body commissioned an external advisor to provide us with independent confirmation of the quality of teaching and learning.  The local governing body will discuss his report on Wednesday but I thought I would share some excerpts with you before that meeting:

 “The children were entering the school ready to start their day as the School Improvement Partner (SIP) moved around the school. He commented to the principal that the way in which they did so was the very best he had ever seen; children came into their class area and without having to be told, immediately sat down quietly, took out a book and began reading. But this was not, as is sometimes the case, an exercise in lip-service to the task. The pupils were ALL fully engaged, even engrossed in their reading activity, resulting in a most disciplined and calm entrance and start to the school day. Well done!

“As part of a fairly wide-ranging discussion both at the beginning, as well as throughout the day, various topics were discussed… It seems that the SIP shares a common view of the nature of learning with the Principal, but Boughton Heath is manifesting such key learning principles to a greater extent than any other school the SIP knows.

“The school is a delight to visit and has a continuing belief in its own ability for further improvement. The high expectations of pupils come from the extremely high expectations of the principal and his team.”

I hope that you have found our first blog informative.  If you would like to reply to the blog or have any ideas for topics that you would like us to blog about in future, you can contact me at chair@boughtonheath.cheshire.sch.uk. 

Janet Myers

Chair of Governors

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