** Notes for Parents **

We hold meetings of the full governing body (‘FGB’) every half term – so Tuesday 14th March 2017 saw us gathering for the second time in Spring Term.
The agenda tends to revolve around certain staples: an update from the Headteacher on progress against the School Development Plan; reports from the various committees (where much of the detailed work is done) often with challenging Q&A; and approving the myriad policies that we are required to keep current in order to comply with our statutory responsibilities.

Meeting content
Topics we covered at the meeting included:
·Rolling out the new Mission statement, now visible all round the school, to ensure that the children have a good understanding of what it contains and what it means for them.
·Feedback from the new system of meetings between governors and each Assistant Head Teacher, to see how the School Development Plan is being implemented in each phase of the school, in areas such as the school-wide focus on writing, behaviour and reading (guided and individual).
·Discussing the launch next term of the new ‘Own Work Policy’ including how best to involve parents constructively in this activity.
·Acknowledgement of the hard work of Helena Vokos and her team to retain the school’s Green Flag status.
·Safeguarding: confirming that Dundonald has established and maintains a culture which enables children to come forward with any concerns, a core component of good Safeguarding practice.
·Finances, where there was an understandable appetite to understand the exact impact of the national funding changes and how the school can act to offset any shortfall through increasing revenue opportunities (e.g. hiring out the school’s buildings at weekends/evenings).

Stakeholder Surveys
We are extremely keen to understand how the school serves its various stakeholders, so we regularly survey staff, pupils and particular groups such as the parents of children with Special Education Needs (“SEN”).

Staff Survey Commentary
The results of the recent independently commissioned staff survey show that the majority of staff emotions relative to the school are positive; 100% agreed that the school strives for excellence. 89% of staff would recommend the school to colleagues and there are improved perceptions on training, empowerment, school leadership and motivation. The most unifying motivational factor for staff is seeing children’s progress.

However, changes in curriculum and ensuing unrealistic expectations were identified by staff as the biggest obstacles to optimum performance. Teacher well-being continues to be a key objective of the school's senior leadership team and the main issues identified are being actively addressed and have been included in the School Development Plan.

SEN Parent Survey
Responses received to a questionnaire sent out to parents of SEN pupils were very positive, with 100% satisfaction levels in some key areas (such as support received from the school and progress) and also some useful suggestions (e.g. such as to advice for parents) that can inform future practice.

The FGB would like to make particular acknowledgement of the work of Mrs Waters in managing the significant workload that comes with acting as the school’s SEN co-ordinator.

Pupil Survey Commentary
The Teaching and Learning Committee had considered in detail the results of the pupil survey, which was conducted in autumn term. Highlights included the consistently high scores for pupils' general wellbeing, and their positive emotions in relation to the school. Answers also provided evidence that the Growth Mindset message has been absorbed by pupils. One concern from the survey was as to pupils' experience of the playground at lunchtime; steps have been taken to address this with, for example, the recruitment of an additional lunchtime play leader, and the setting up of a lunchtime construction club.

Future topics
Next month, we have decided to clear the usual agenda items and focus on long term strategy and finance. The backdrop to this includes:
·the continuing challenges to do more with less as the government applies the new National Funding Formula, which is likely to see a modest reduction in our funding;
·the FGB’s continuing ambition to remain an outstanding school which provides a broad ‘whole child’ education; and
·the demands of school life for staff vs expectations for parents/carers.

We will report back after that meeting in the first half of the summer term and will doubtless be canvassing your views, which we are always happy to receive via the website.

Roderick Cameron
Chair of Governors

** Notes for Parents **

Thank you and Farewell to Andy Ellam
We welcomed a number of new faces around the table and - in his absence - said farewell to Andy Ellam.  He has been a fantastic and diligent servant to the school as governor and chair of the finance committee as well as applying his IT expertise to support the school in both developing IT strategy and helping implement systems.
We wish Andy all the best and thank him for all his hard work.

Resources Committee
We reviewed the report from the Resources Committee (the newly combined Finance and Premises Committees) and noted the continued pressure on the school’s finances. This year’s budget round is likely to see further funding cuts. Though every year we look to do more with less, this is becoming increasingly challenging.
The school is looking for other ways to increase revenue. Once management arrangements for the new hall are sorted out that should lead to rental income opportunities. In addition, the School Fund appeal will be going out shortly (which you are most encouraged to support if you are in a position to do so) and we can look at other ways to learn from other cluster schools in terms of sharing costs for support services and through Merton’s shared procurement initiatives. Sustainable funding is one of the key areas of concern for the Governors.
In terms of the seemingly endless building work, the playground should finally re-open on 10 February and the MUGA soon after, once works to rectify ‘puddling’ have been concluded. Inevitably, there is a long snagging list to sort out and further work will take place in the school over the half term break.

Merton Educational Partner Report
The meeting went on to review the report of the Merton Educational Partner in some depth.  This is an independent professional view of the school’s performance. It challenges and supports the Senior Management Team’s self-evaluation of its performance against the school strategic plan. Although the content is Confidential, encouragement was taken from the continued progress of the school against the plan and recognition of high quality teaching.

School Development Plan update
That report set the backdrop for the Headteacher’s report on progress against the School Development which touched a number of areas:
·Staff survey results. The most unifying motivating factor for all is seeing children’s progress and there was total unanimity that the school strives for excellence, with a high percentage willing to recommend the school to others as a place to work. Other points taken from the survey include the need to be mindful of staff well-being; the job is a stressful and demanding one.
·Writing. The continued focus on writing has seen a range of measures being implemented, including working with the six other primary schools in the local cluster to attain a consistent understanding of what constitutes above-, at- and below- age related expectations. We discussed how the children feel about writing as an activity; maintaining their excitement and   enthusiasm whilst recognising the curriculum assessment needs. The Governing Body was conscious of its continuing wish to see Dundonald deliver a ‘whole child’ education rather than excluding non-assessed activities to game the assessment system.
·Behaviour. Much work has been done on behaviour, including improved recording systems to provide better quality data and creating a range of activities and supervisory measures to improve behaviour at lunch times.
·The ever thorny topic of school meals. The Headteacher is working with the Council's providers to improve the quality of provision. Those providers will be meeting with the School Council soon to get further feedback from the children directly.
·Parental involvement in learning. The ‘Shared Learning’ days last week on Wednesday and Friday were well supported. The format offers a useful way, along with the new format parent teacher consultations, for parents to get involved with and   contribute to their children’s education.
·EYFS. The new systems and processes for early years in their new building continue to bed down well.

Governor of the Month ‘Learning Walk’
To support Governor engagement with the school, we operate a ‘Governor of the Month’ scheme. Two or three governors each month come into school for a morning on a structured learning walk, devised by Mrs Waters. This includes a discussion of a particular aspect of the school’s work, followed by visits to classrooms to see how the School Plan is implemented in practice. Last month, the focus of the visit was on ‘Writing’ and ‘Metacognition’ (“thinking about one's thinking” – yes, I had to Google it too…) and included a meeting with the School Council and seeing pupil voice and responsibility in action across the year groups. On Early Years, the Governors present commented, “It was striking to see how well adapted the new environment was considering 80 children are now in Early Years.”

Enjoy your half term break!

Roderick Cameron
Chair of Governors
We tested an unusual format this week at our half-termly Governors meeting.  As we have been through a period of reconstituting and reorganising the Governing Body to best meet the school’s changing needs, we are focussing on improving the pipeline of potential new governors. On Tuesday, we were joined (for the first half of our meeting) by half a dozen highly skilled, passionate and curious potential candidates as part of a renewed succession and induction process.

One key skill that we need to replace is George Stokes who has stepped down after over 6 years of service as a school governor. George has taken the lead in overseeing the School’s management of safeguarding issues and has established the school’s reputation as setting best practice in this area. It’s not a glamorous role or one that we discuss much – but it is a key part of delivering our responsibility to the children entrusted to the school’s care. We thank George for all of his hard work and quietly excellent contribution.

In the first half of our meeting we reviewed progress in implementing the School Development Plan (‘SDP’) – and as ever, there has been a lot going on.

·Surveys have been conducted of both pupils and staff to inform the continuing development of the SDP;
·The new Vision and Mission statements have been finalised and are about to be rolled out to the school community;
·Work continues on reinforcing and integrating the ‘thinking school’ and ‘growth mindset’ work across the whole curriculum.

The key committees reported back:
·Personnel committee had been appraised of the changes in the school’s staff complement and the increasingly important role of the Teaching and Learning Assistants. The Pay sub-committee had spent time reviewing the assessment of pay awards to fulfil our duty of ensuring the school’s finances are properly managed.
·Finance continued its review of the school’s financial position. We remain in a position of marginal (as in, ‘tiny’) surplus – every penny is watched and carefully spent.
·Teaching & Learning had spent time in deep review of the academic attainment and performance data with Head and Deputy Headteacher. Using that data, the school is able to adjust resources and create specific strategies to ensure every child’s needs are addressed.
·Premises continues to mop up the practical problems left behind by the Council-run building project over the summer. The snagging list runs to over 200 items. Eventually that list will be cleared down. In addition, the school will submit bids for funding to refurbish two of the unmodernised classrooms next year.
In the second half of the meeting, we dealt with the adoption of a number of policies, as required legally. Much of the legwork on these policies is done in the various committees – and it is hard, painstaking work. At the Full Governors’ meeting, we get a chance to debate some of the bigger issues that arise from the policies – all of which can be found on the school website and are commended to you.

Key policies discussed included:
·Behaviour – as we integrate the Rights Respecting School approach into all of the school’s activities, we will see a move from ‘Golden Rules’ and ‘manners’ to using Rights Respecting based language. Importantly, the children are understanding this language well and adopting the concepts.
·Anti-Bullying – we discussed what ‘bullying’ means and what the school does about it. Reported incidents of bullying are low – though responses from the parent survey indicate a higher level of incidence. This week was ‘Anti Bullying week’, during which this topic has been discussed throughout the school.
·Others discussed include Pay, Child Protection and Safeguarding, and Early Years.
As part of our review of data, we discussed how few eligible Dundonald parents complete the paperwork that allows the school to access extra funding to support their children’s specific requirements. We have asked the school to look at ways to highlight the availability of Pupil Premium funding and ways of making it easier for eligible parents to apply.

It would be remiss not to highlight the fantastic achievement of appearing in the Sunday Times Top Primary Schools survey. (56th= in England). That is a tremendous accolade and recognition of years of hard work by the school’s teaching staff and leadership. However, as a word of caution, the kind of ‘snapshot’ data of a single age group that creates these kind of surveys doesn’t reflect the phenomenal job done by the teaching staff providing a ‘whole child’ education at all age groups – regardless of whether that happens to be the chosen measurement of the month. It is also difficult to repeat year in, year out when the data sample size is so small, so a pinch of salt is required, please!

Lastly, do join me and all your Governors in raising a glass of Christmas cheer to all of the teachers and staff at Dundonald. We wish a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone in the Dundonald community.

Roderick Cameron
Chair of Governors
We held the first meeting of the Full Governing Body for this academic year in one of the magnificently refurbished classrooms. For new parents – our role as governors is threefold:

Set and guide the vision and strategy for the school
Hold the Headteacher to account, supporting and challenging
Ensure prudent financial management.

Every year, the Governing Body is required to re-elect the chair and deputy. I am continuing the role of chair this year, but now with the assistance of two deputies. Simon Horner is the Deputy with responsibility for ensuring the Governing Body does the right things to support the school. Katie Weig is the deputy charged with ensuring that we monitor the performance of the school effectively.

Other changes to the Governing Body include welcoming Vidya Sujalini as a full governor (previously an associate) and Sophie Russell as a staff governor, helping us relate what we do to the teaching staff.

We have said farewell to Joe Smith, a doughty campaigner for the sports and technology aspects of our work, and to Louise Aikman who has performed her role as Chair of the Teaching and Learning committee with great professionalism and charm. We would like to thank both Joe and Louise for their contribution to the Governing Body and to the school.

The appointment of two deputies is the first in a series of changes we are making to reflect the larger campus and journey towards becoming a two-form-entry school. We are working on ways to ensure how we monitor the school’s performance matches the expanded senior leadership team at the school and that our work is time efficient – for governors and critically for teaching staff whose time remains under enormous pressure.
We continue to interview prospective governors to ensure that we have the right skills for the challenges ahead. Do contact me via the school office if you would like to be considered.

Many parents will have seen first-hand the fantastic results of the summer building project. We now have a magnificent asset in the Early Years building with a spacious hall and a well equipped kitchen capable of producing high quality lunches. The refurbished classrooms in the main building are bright, well-equipped and create a super environment for the teaching staff and children. The change has been great for everyone’s morale and enthusiasm.

The work has come at no little cost – staff only had access to their rooms at the last minute and so everyone has been on the back foot in terms of preparation for the year. By prioritising the quality of the teaching environment, we have ensured that the children have not been disadvantaged by the building work. However, there is a substantial, unseen, backlog of ‘back office’ activity caused by the delay which will take some time to mop up. The Governors would like parents to join us in paying tribute to the office staff, teachers and teaching and learning assistants who expended so much energy to ensure the school was ready to open on time and with a warm welcome for the children.

The building works continue with another ‘push’ at half term to address the lengthy ‘snagging list’ and to finalise the new office and reception area. The playground is due to re-open after half term; the final phase will see the old Pavilion demolished and a third ‘court’ created on the Multi Use Sports Area. We are promised all this will be done by Christmas.
A key part of our discussions was around pupil achievement. We review the data to ensure that the school remains on track to deliver our expectations. Last year was (another) year of significant changes in curriculum and assessment, with new approaches to marking of classwork in particular. As a result, we have to bear in mind that the year-on-year results are not directly comparable; though we still subject them to the same scrutiny. We saw some uncharacteristic results which were below the school’s expectations. A series of specific actions are being implemented to address the issues raised by these results.  While determined to see the actions in place to improve results, the Governors reconfirmed the school’s commitment to a ‘whole child’ approach to primary    education whilst also recognising that each cohort of children is different.

This led us into a discussion of the work that has been done to redevelop the School’s Mission and Vision – there are exciting changes coming which are close to being finalised and will be revealed to parents soon. The Governors applauded this as a strong piece of work which draws on input from all of the school’s stakeholders, and facilitated by insightful support from Richard Addy.

The revised Vision also underpins the strategy for the year – contained in the School Development Plan. This document, produced to reflect the Senior Leadership team’s evaluation of performance against Ofsted standards, sets out a comprehensive plan across all areas of the school’s activities. Progress in delivering the plan is reported back to Governors by the Headteacher over the course of the year. That process is now firmly under way.

In response to the Parent Survey (and thanks again to so many parents for completing it!) we are looking for ways to help parents understand what Governors do and how to help us do it! Next week sees an early morning ‘formal’ introduction to some of the Governors at which we will explain what we do, feed back some highlights from the Parent Survey and the Headteacher and Deputy Head will explain elements of the School Development Plan. On Friday night, I’m delighted that the PTA have asked us to join their ‘Welcome to New Parents’ event where the speeches will be very short and hopefully the conversations long and engaged.
We do encourage parents to use the wealth of information about the school and its governance that is available on the school’s website. We will be looking to improve that over the course of the year.

Roderick Cameron
Chair of Governors
Please find below notes from the Governing Body meeting on 5 July:

Summary:
·         Increased burden on teaching staff this year
·         Supportive feedback from Merton Educational Partner
·         Parent feedback- recognising concerns over understanding measurement of progress
·         Thorough implementation of the School Development Plan
·         School Travel Plan
·         Thank you and farewell to Mrs Bazley

The Governors used the opportunity of the last meeting of the academic year to review all the work that has gone on in the school during the year – and the list was long and impressive.

What is clear to all of us is the dedication of all the staff, particularly the teachers. I simply hadn’t appreciated – and I’m sure I’m not alone in this – the burden imposed by the changes in the national curriculum and in the assessment regimes. Most of our teachers are working an 11 hour day – and are often taking home work overnight and at weekends. Yet the quality of teaching, the detailed knowledge of the potential of every child and the contribution to the ethos of Dundonald has never been better. We all have to find ways to reduce this burden to retain and nurture the talent we have – and I ask parents to play their part in that.

We reviewed the report of the Merton Educational Partner (“MEP”), who inspects Achievement, Priorities and Planning on a termly basis. His comments included favourable discussion of the strength of Pupil Voice within the school, the high profile of science, consistency of classroom practice (especially in giving verbal feedback and using ‘working walls’ in classrooms). Especially pleasing was the feedback that pupils were found to be ‘confident to talk about their learning’ which is a key element of developing a growth mindset.

Over the summer we will review the findings of the Parent Survey. Thank you to all who completed it. We were able to discuss immediate feedback to the comprehensive new report formats. What is immediately clear is that despite the many opportunities provided to explain both the changes in the assessment regime and the raised expectations within the primary curriculum, the change from the old ‘levels’ has caused some anxiety. We are committed to working with the Senior Leadership Team to continue to provide parents with the information they need at a time of difficult transition for all involved – and we welcome ideas about how we can do this in new and better ways.

Child Protection and Safeguarding is a vital yet often unseen part of the management of the school’s operations. We reviewed the reportable data to understand both the trends and to get a sense of the sheer quantity of time and effort involved in managing these issues. We were pleased to see the MEP confirm the effectiveness of the school’s arrangements.

I wrote in the Autumn term about how we work with the Senior Leadership Team to shape and monitor the School Development Plan. The plan drives the implementation of the school’s strategy across six key areas. In our recent session, it was remarkable to see just how much had been implemented during the course of the year and to identify the areas of learning and adjustment to take into next year’s plan. We use a ‘Red-Amber-Green’ rating system to spot issues and challenge progress. The report was a sea of green! We discussed the few areas of amber/red and these items will become part of the planning for next year, which is already underway.

The expansion project remains on track. We know that parents are very keen to explore the new facilities but please bear with us – the builders will still be with us until Christmas! When we have the changes all bedded down, there will be opportunities to tour the expanded campus. Meanwhile, please keep your fingers crossed that good progress is made by the builders and the Council in refurbishing the ‘old’ building over the summer so that it is fit for re-occupation in good time. The timetable is tight!

Governors recognised the large amount of work involved in maintaining the School Travel Plan by Jessica Morton and wished to thank her for this.

Lastly, this meeting was the last to be attended by Joanna Bazley as governor, as she has decided to step down after 20 years of service to the school. I cannot speak more highly of the inspirational way she has conducted herself, courteously challenged the school leadership and other governors, and made a huge contribution to the outstanding performance of Dundonald not just as a school but as an asset within the local community.  She epitomises all that is good about public service. We will miss her.

Roderick Cameron
Chair of Governors
 
 
Budget
In the summer term, the key task for the Full Governing Body (“FGB”) is to approve the 3-year rolling budget for the school. This is prepared by the school’s Finance Officer, scrutinised by the Finance Committee and then presented to the FGB by the chair of that committee. The key theme is that the School’s slight year-on-year surplus is reducing. Over the next three years, the school is being asked to do more with less, potentially moving into a slight annual deficit.
As a result, the school is actively looking at ways to maximise other sources of income and to increase further the efficiency of its operations.  We urge the whole school community to continue to support the School Fund, PTA fund raising events and to come forward with ideas and opportunities to develop new sources of funding.

School Development Plan (“SDP”) update
The Headteacher discussed with the FGB the many streams of activity to implement the School’s Development Plan. Particular focus fell on the development of marking and verbal feedback schemes; developing further breadth and depth into the curriculum - particularly to reflect aspects of being a Rights Respecting School; a review of whether boys and girls respond to ‘challenges’ differently; and in the Early Years, an increased emphasis on phonics and developing writing opportunities.
Given the ever shifting demands of curriculum and assessment and the heavy workload on teaching and other staff, it is a constant balancing act for the school’s senior leadership to keep innovating and delivering the SDP priorities whilst making efforts to improve the wellbeing of staff members.

Nursery Team
Special mention was made of the fantastic efforts of the nursery team to create a vibrant temporary nursery space in what is currently a spare classroom as a consequence of the Easter preparatory works for the summer holiday ‘makeover’ of the original school building. Many thanks to the staff for their efforts – external commentators thought this had been in place for months, not days when they visited!

Equality Policy
The FGB is required to approve a number of policies over the school year. The Equality policy is worthy of a special mention. This is not just a statement of ‘compliance’ with statutory requirements, but sets out how we wish, as a school community, to reduce inequality. It sets out objectives for the school to obtain and identifies key data points to be tracked annually. All the school’s policies are to be found on the school website – please take a few minutes to see how comprehensive these are.

Mission & Vision
One of the three core functions of the Governors is to ensure clarity of the vision, ethos and strategic direction of the school. The school – and the part it plays in its environment – has continued to evolve markedly. As a result the senior leadership of the school are reviewing its vision and mission to ensure that it truly reflects the progress the school has made across a  number of fronts in recent years. Governors will contribute to that exercise and will act as ‘critical friends’ to the school in ensuring the required clarity of vision is captured.

Expansion Project
Progress with the new school building remains on track. However, due to the complexity of works in refurbishing the existing school building, the timetable remains very tight. Parents will have seen that the Local Authority has advised that the school should be closed for an additional day in September. Staff will have very little time to prepare their classrooms for the new school year, doubtless causing them extra work and stress: very frustrating at a time when we want to be more mindful of their wellbeing.
The school does not control the building project – all we can do is to keep a very close eye on progress, which we can assure you is being done. Other aspects of the build are on track. The ‘Pavilion’ is scheduled for demolition in September, with the enlarged Multi Use Sports Area being completed by end November, creating a fantastic asset for the school and the community.

Parent Survey
The Governors thank  you  all  parents  for  completing  the  online survey  with ca. 95%  response. We will share the key findings and work with the Senior Leadership Team to consider your views and ensure they are reflected in the school’s  activities.

Roderick Cameron
Chair of Governors


The Full Governing Body (FGB) met in the Hall on the evening of Tuesday 1st February.
Our main focus was to monitor progress in the implementation of the School Development Plan (explained in previous newsletters). The FGB’s strategic oversight of the plan is complemented by the more operational focus of the Merton Education Partner, who recently visited the school to review Achievement, Priorities and Planning.
The Headteacher briefed the FGB on progress with the School Development Plan using a ‘Red, Amber, Green’ rating system – with a pleasing amount of green and amber items identified and action plans in place to address the red ones. The FGB thanks all of the teaching and support staff for their efforts in implementing the plan, particularly given the backdrop of ever changing assessment systems.
We spent some time discussing the importance of the Thinking School and Growth Mindset concepts and in particular how the school can continue to engage with parents/carers to support these initiatives. Parent/carer support and feedback is critical – please do take advantage of the myriad opportunities to engage with the school and remember to complete the feedback forms. These are vital in assessing the effectiveness of the school’s communications.
Progress continues apace on the preparations for Two Form Entry. In physical terms, the new building is nearly wind and watertight – at which point the internal works can accelerate. Much remains to be done, especially in terms of refurbishment of the existing building over the summer, but the Headteacher and Governors are in active and frequent discussions with the
contractors and Merton Council (whose project this is) to ensure that delivery remains on track. The staffing structures are also nearing completion, with the appointment, effective September 2016, of two further Assistant Head Teachers, following a rigorous assessment and selection process in which governors played a key role.
Two policy documents were put forward for adoption – Whistleblowers and Governors’ Expenses. The latter is a key plank in our inclusivity agenda, ensuring open access to all potential governors. All policies are on the school website, which is a rich
resource of materials.
Last week’s newsletter contained details of the Emergency Plans. The Governors and the Senior Leadership Team are meeting with the Council shortly to review these further. Please access the website for further information. The website will be a key resource in the event that the Emergency Plan is activated, when parents/carers are advised not to contact the school but instead wait to be contacted. To support this, please ensure your contact details are complete, accurate and up to date!

Lastly, we heard back from governors who had held meetings since the last FGB meeting:
·The committees reported back on Finance, Premises, Personnel (including Pay) and Curriculum related issues
·Louise Aikman and Ben McFarlane had been ‘Governors of the Month’. They had undertaken a Learning Walk through the school to see the Development Plan in action, including meeting the School Council.
·Link governors, who act as the ‘link’ between the FGB and subject leaders, reported back on progress with English, Computing, Rights Respecting School initiative and Maths.
As ever, we are actively managing succession and the mix of skills in the FGB. Each of the Committees is looking to create   succession plans, so in March I look forward to relating to you the skills we are looking to add.

Roderick Cameron
Chair of Governers