Supporting a school in difficult circumstances

This deployment was to support a very new Chair of Governors
in challenging circumstances.

This average-sized infant school was inspected by Ofsted and placed in special measures in November. A sponsored solution was sought but no sponsor could be found to sponsor the school to become an academy.

The nearby Junior School (to which most pupils at the Infant School transfer) was willing to expand to include EYFS & KS1.  The LA, in consultation with the DfE, proposed to close the Infant School and expand the Junior School to become an all-through primary school with effect from September.

The required period of public consultation began on 26 January and many of the governors, including the then Chair, at the Infant School resigned.  This left the school with no effective governance for the Spring and Summer terms.

New governors were appointed or elected (as appropriate) but the only person willing to be Chair had very little experience of governance.  The LA asked me to support her to ensure, as far as possible, that governors continued to hold the school to account and continued to drive up standards. I assisted the Chair and the Governing Body to focus more closely on raising standards and leading improvement and helped them to understand and interpret strategic school data by attending meetings and providing advice to the Chair on procedures, protocols and behaviours as well as supporting them to carry out effective governor monitoring visits to the school.

The support of an NLG enabled an inexperienced Governing Body to continue to hold the school to account during this period of transition.  The Chair reported that the support, advice and information she received had given her the confidence to ask challenging questions and that she had a better understanding of the answers and information she was given by the HT.

The Local Authority Implementation Group reported that there was a positive atmosphere in school, staff felt supported and were keen to work hard to do the best for the children. Governor visits had ensured that staff felt valued during the difficult time leading up to the closure of the school.

HMI visited and the report stated:

Governors have risen to the challenge of ensuring that school leaders tackle the key issues from the last inspection effectively during a period of staffing instability and imminent school closure. Individual governors have embraced their respective roles in monitoring the school’s work through specific school visits. These are formally recorded and shared with the governing body to measure the impact of the action plan priorities on the outcomes of the pupils. As a result of good training, they make better use of data to monitor school improvement and ask challenging questions of school leaders about the progress made.