Annual Governance Statement from the Chair 2021-2022
Chair’s Impact Statement for Academic Year 2021-22.
For the second year in a row, we had high hopes that we would finally see school life return to relative normality following another year of Covid-19 disruptions. We are delighted to say that we largely achieved that, and it allowed us to get back to some semblance of normality from a Governance perspective.
The first, most noticeable, sign of this normality was that we were able to return to face-to-face Governance. This was a huge milestone for us and our September meeting was the first time some of our newer Governors had enjoyed the opportunity to be on-site for our Local Governing Board meeting. We took that opportunity to have a walk around the school for the first time in 18 months and really bring to life some of the plans we had in place for the coming year.
During that first meeting, Matt Stephenson was re-elected for a second term as Chair of Governors, and we welcomed Sarah Stafford into the role of Vice Chair, both for a 1-year term from 1st October 2021.
As the year progressed, Governors were able to bring positive impact to strategic and operational aspects of the School. Our role is to support andchallenge the School Leadership Team to shape the best strategies, put in place the best plans, and make best use of the funding and other income available to the school.
During academic year 2021-22 we challenged the SLT to make discussion of Covid a much smaller agenda item than it was through necessity in the previous two years. We asked Mrs Armstrong and Mrs Sach to really prioritise getting parents and guardians of the students back into School and closer to their children’s learning.
The School team really stepped up in this area. They expertly balanced onsite parent events with their other priority of the safety and well-being of staff and students, and some of the highlights of the year were:
- Parent’s Open Afternoon to visit children in their classrooms and look at the work they have been doing.
- Parent Forum – an evening event where parents were shown around school by the Year 6 students and heard from the Head Teacher and Chair of Governors about some strategic building plans. This was particularly important for parents of children up to Year 2 who had never experienced a “normal” year. Some had never actually set foot on school premises!
- A summer event in the school grounds for parents to socialise with staff and see their children enjoying the OPAL play equipment.
- The return of the school Nativity, and end of year performances that had been very much missed by parents in the previous two years.
- Sports Day for all children with parents in attendance once again.
- The Christmas Lights event around the Trim Trail.
It would have been very easy for the SLT to remain very cautious about holding these events in the wake of the Pandemic, so the LGB is grateful to them for recognising the benefits of getting these events back in place and doing the appropriate risk assessments to make them safe and successful.
Governors continued to play a pivotal role in the management of School budgets, through direct involvement in prioritisation of initiatives, allocation of budget funding and governance of delivery of strategic plans. Some examples this year include:
- Involvement in the shaping and execution of an Invitation to Tender for the School catering contract. This has resulted in a new catering provider, a refurbishment of the kitchen and serving areas, and provision of a new food offering for staff and children that is improved over the previous offering.
- Support for the successful Capital Bid that has provided funds to replace the Infant roof, which was in disrepair. This work was completed during the school summer holidays this year and paves the way for further refurbishment of internal areas which were previously not possible due to the risk of damage from the leaking roof.
- The Multi-Purpose Building project is gathering momentum. Through careful budget planning and management, we are largely able to self-fund the building work to provide a fantastic new facility for the benefit of all of Bexton’s children. Originally this was to be an After School Club facility, but a timely challenge from Governors that the facility should benefit all children, not just those in Wrap Around Care, meant that the plans evolved and we are excited to see that project progress in the coming year or two.
Governors were able to resume full duties following the return to face-to-face Governance, with a full schedule of Link Governor visits. Link Governors have spent time talking to staff and children to regain a deep understanding of life in Bexton. The Chair of Governors was delighted to be able to visit children in every classroom and spend time talking to them about the work they were doing and what they liked or didn’t like about school life. It was fantastic to see how much the children love Bexton, and how resilient they have been to the Covid Pandemic. We should all be very proud of them.
Governors have also supported the Cheshire Academies Trust team in their growth (which ultimately benefits Bexton through being part of a thriving Trust) by meeting with the leadership teams from two schools that were thinking of joining CAT. We talked about our experience of Academisation and gave some guidance on how to make sure that joining CAT was the right choice for them. Both schools have subsequently joined the Trust.
We have continued to evolve how the Local Governing Board operates. Last year we took the decision to make every meeting a full Governing Board meeting, moving away from the individual Curriculum and Resources Committees. This has proven to be the right decision, with Governors overwhelmingly agreeing that they feel closer to all aspects of Governance and with less time wasted in repeating discussions for the benefit of Governors not in those Committees.
A further part of our evolution has been to create opportunities for closer links with the broader staff body. At each of our LGB meetings in 2021-22 we invited teachers and other team members to join us and talk about their areas of interest and expertise. We heard the staff talk passionately about History, Geography, the wider curriculum more generally, SEND, EYFS and the important work Bexton is doing to become a Dyslexia Friendly school. I was also privileged to be invited to join over 50 of the school’s team members at an INSET day at the University of Chester just before the start of the new academic year. It was fantastic to see the passion for giving our children an outstanding education runs through the entire team. The children are in safe hands!
Although this annual Chair’s Statement is intended to highlight the role of Governors and Governance in the operation of Bexton School, I wanted to take this opportunity to touch on the impact that Covid has had on the academic performance of our children. In 2019, before Covid struck, Bexton was ranked in the top 1% of schools nationally for academic performance. Those league tables have not been published since then because of Covid, and the Government has made a decision not to publish them again this year because so many schools are still battling to recover from the effects of the pandemic.
Academic performance is measured using lots of data, but ultimately it boils down to two things – Attainment and Progress across Reading, Writing and Maths.
Attainment is the absolute score achieved by a child. Whether they score at a level below, at or above expectations for their age. Progress is a measure of whether a child is improving compared to previous years at an expected or better than expected level. In many ways, Progress is the more important measure of academic performance because it is a measure of how well teachers and children have worked together to exceed expectations.
The picture at Bexton is very positive in terms of a comparison with our own pre-pandemic performance, and against the national average figures for the last academic year.
In Key Stage 2 (our older children), 95% of our children achieved the expected standard of attainment across all of Reading, Writing and Maths, with 37% achieving Greater Depth (above the expected standard). Our own figures for 2019 were 91% and 41% respectively. The national average figures for 2022 are 59% and 7%.
Our KS2 progress for 2022 is also great. We are in the top 20% nationally for progress in Reading and Maths, and in the top 5% for Writing. For a school with high attainment, this is a fantastic outcome because starting at a position of high attainment, it is harder to achieve above expected levels of progress.
In Key Stage 1, attainment results are also very good, but down slightly from 2019, and we don’t yet have a national figure to compare against. What we can say, however, is that our 2022 performance is still significantly better than the 2019 national figures, so we are not concerned. We should remember that our KS1 children have never enjoyed an undisrupted year of education, and we are very confident that those children will get to where they need to be by the end of their time at Bexton, because of their willingness to learn and our teaching staff’s unwavering dedication to getting the best outcomes for those children.
I think you will agree that considering how fearful we all were of the impact that Covid would have on our children’s education, we have weathered the storm, and as I said earlier, we should be very proud.
I wanted to highlight some of these academic achievements in this Chair’s Statement for two very specific reasons:
- To celebrate how amazing the children at Bexton School are for showing such resilience in the face of unprecedented challenges. The staff tell me often how blown away they are by the grit and determination of our children to work hard and be the very best versions of themselves.
- To demonstrate that the decisions taken by the team at Bexton with regards to how best to deliver, in very difficult circumstances, a remote learning provision that gave the best possible experience to the largest number of children were good decisions. For Bexton children to be progressing and achieving at the same levels as pre-pandemic is an incredible achievement and testament to the ability of leaders, teachers and children to adapt quickly to an ever-changing picture of remote learning, back to the classroom, and back to remote learning again. Throughout this period, it was clear to see that the Bexton team cares passionately about giving all of our children the best possible education. I am delighted that the academic results for 2021-22 are as good as they are.
On behalf of the whole Local Governing Board, I wish you all the best for 2022-23. Here’s hoping for an uninterrupted year with lots of fantastic achievements and exciting experiences for the children of Bexton!
Matt Stephenson (Chair of Local Governing Board) September 2022
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