When governors start out, they wonder how they can add value. Luckily Stanbridge pays a subscription to allow its governors access to a wide range of training. It also holds internal governor development days which help governors to fulfil various aspects of their role and allow them more time together than their usual shorter, official meetings.
Children might think that homework stops when you are grown up but, no, governors had to do their homework for this day. We reread government safeguarding information, as keeping the children safe is paramount. We reread the plans for school development and raising attainment and progress in our link areas. We even had writing homework as each governor produced a short review of a favourite book to add to the reading tree and support the efforts of the CLL team.
Six non-staff governors attended, an excellent turnout, and Miss Bertham was on hand to steer us through the day - when not called away on urgent business with children, which is the lot of a Headteacher. That is safeguarding in action! She also led a refresher session on safeguarding as it is important we are all highly aware of this area.
Outside training is useful for individuals but even better when it is shared, so two governors spoke to their fellows about their recent training on the link governor role and how to get the best out of learning walks, pupil conferencing and looking at children’s work. We circulated one Stanbridge governor’s write-up of a meeting for the subject area he monitors, as an example of excellent strategic practice in this area.
This training was directly relevant to what we went on to do during the day. Learning walks should have a focus and this time governors looked specifically at efforts to help SEN and more able children, as we wanted to check that the broad range of need is being catered for and all children are being stretched and also supported appropriately. We could see this happening in all sorts of ways: in challenges being set by teachers, in the skilled ways they have for supporting some children, in the way children are now increasingly challenging themselves, in displays and work. Along the way, we were impressed to see how team teaching works – seamlessly, it appears – and also how the school’s recent focus on growth mindset is being taken to heart by the children.
Resilience and a “can do” attitude are major components of future success.
We had to summon up our own confidence and resilience when we were put in the hot seat and interviewed by children for Stanbridge TV, with Mr McGovern directing. It’s surprising how being in front of a camera seems to wipe your mind of all coherent thought.
The opinions of the whole school community – children, parents, staff and governors – are important, so a questionnaire had gone out to all these groups. One of the governors had collated and gone through all the information in detail on our behalf and we were able to discuss the findings in depth; these were revisited in shorter form in a later committee meeting and will be followed up. It was great to hear that 99% of children say they have friends at school – though of course it is sad that the figure isn’t 100%. We want the children to look forward to coming to school to learn and also to socialise.
At lunch we had the chance to eat in the staff room or with children and governors did both. The children are possibly more forthcoming than the staff and we had interesting informal conversations. For example, two or three children talked excitedly about the special day they had coming up on the Romans. They hadn’t even been asked about this, so it really showed that these carefully planned days are very motivating, much appreciated and an important part of the exciting, world class curriculum we aim to provide.
After lunch, governors participated in official pupil conferencing. This is a real privilege where a small group of children show and talk to governors about their books. The books are a good way in to talking to children about their experience of school, and governors see how children are responding to the tasks they are given, the marking of their books, the way they are taught. As well as reassuring ourselves of the quantity, presentation, quality and content of work and progress - for it can be very evident in a book used for months, as children grow apace - we see softer aspects of the school such as the open way children speak, their interesting opinions and their obvious pride in their work. It is not our role to judge the work but this gives us a good feel for what is happening in classrooms and gives a context for the information we receive from the staff and outside advisers.
Paperwork is important for adults too, and of course we capture everything by feeding back our findings for a governor to write up. Governor Learning Walk Report.
Stanbridge governors were later invited to give a short presentation on their development day at an evening training session run by Nexus, to encourage other governing bodies to follow suit. Luckily this time there was no camera!