Canada Hill Primary School

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The Chair's Blog

Warning!

This Blog does not represent the views of the school or the Head, it is just my personal take on where we are at, what is affecting us from inside and outside the school, the direction we are taking and how we might get there.

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 So what is this “Blog” all about? 

Well during our last couple of Full Governors Meetings the idea of a blog was discussed as a good way of letting both staff and parents know what we the Governors are up to.  It won’t be a ‘who said what’ thing, more just my perspective.  I hope that it will open up the debates we have as Governors to a wider audience.

 

As a group of Governors, we felt that we should be more visible to the staff and parents of the school, as a result, some of us will be in the school hall to talk about our role in the school on both Parents Evenings next week, please say hello if you can, and if you have any interest in becoming a Governor we are happy to discuss that too. 

 

Well the start of another year.

First a big thanks to all the staff for their efforts in attaining another outstanding set of results in last year’s SATs.  This does not happen by accident but through a huge team effort from all the staff, through all year groups. I feel proud to have played a very small part in this success.

 Talking of staffing, a big welcome to all the new staff that have joined us this year, I hope they find the challenge they were looking for.

 

 So what is new this term? 

There are two major changes that could have far reaching implications for the school.

Firstly is how all schools inDevonare going to be funded and how that money is made up.  We will be following this closely as there is nothing set in stone, all we know for sure is that there is less of it (so much for ring fencing education).

Another point though, we do get extra funding for children who have free school meals, quite a bit actually, so if parents who can that aren’t claiming free school meals for any reason please talk to Miss Knott, School Office staff or just give them a quiet ring, the kids get a great meal (I have tested the quality, just to be sure!) and the school gains too, a win, win.

 

The next issue is the new Pay Policy that has been handed down from on high, this is one of the issues (there are many others) that led to the Teachers Strike. “Performance Pay” is a difficult subject to cover because so much of what we do in the school is through teamwork and supporting each other, some of what goes on in the school is very difficult to quantify.

As for the strike, well from the schools perspective we managed to keep some children on the site that day, so thanks to all involved.  But a lot of children lost a day in school which I found greatly concerning, and as a parent an absolute pain.  

However the staff that didn’t come to work did not take this action lightly, this was something that did not come easy for them.  

I for one continue to hold them in the highest regard.

Nationally, there remains strong feeling on both sides but I hope future talks will resolve the issues expressed.

 

On a brighter note, we as a Board of Governors have sent a request to Devon County to expand the school, we have done this because of the rising number of Reception children being allocated to us year on year by County Admissions, don’t for one minute think this is a done deal, we will have to fight a few battles to make any progress. 

Our wish list would be for another three classrooms to give us a yearly intake of 60 reception children; this would mean we could then have single year groups going through the school.

We have been oversubscribed in each of the last 4 years, with applications outstripping places by 60% or 70%.

To date we have had some ‘lively’ debate with the Head of Education and School Planning Officers, over their plans to expand other schools in Newton Abbot.

I will report further on this story as or if we make any progress.

 

Well I think that’s a good start, I’ll bring new subjects each term to future blogs.  If you wish to respond to what I have written, have an interest in discussing the role of the Governor or just want to agree with everything I have said then e-mail me at chris43gray@aol.com. I’ll be happy to hear from you.

 

Bye for now.

 

Chris Gray

Chair of Governors

Canada Hill

November 2013

 

 Chairs Blog No 2

 

Spring Term 2014

 

This Blog does not represent the views of the school or the head, it is just my personal take on where we are at, what is affecting us from inside and outside the school and the direction we are taking.

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First of all a big thank you for my re-election as a Parent Governor, having just been re-elected as Chair, there could have been an awkward moment!

Also a big welcome to Nick our new Parent Governor, it is really good to have a fresh set of views at meetings, he will be off this term to do some training and we hope up to speed quickly.

On the same subject we will be looking for Community Governors in the near future so if you know of someone with good business or HR skills who wants to volunteer, please get in touch.

 

Well a start to the year that we could have done without, rain, rain and more rain.  The buckets have been out all round the school catching more that their fair share.  But the end is in sight,DevonCountyhave appeared over the horizon with a little pot of gold.  Because of the age of the building we can have some work done, so if you see scaffolding appearing this is why.  The big shame is that we started this work above the upper school 2 years ago out of our capital funding. 

 

As usual there is a myriad of advice and instructions coming from the Department for Education, on a practical level we have to provide free meals for the whole of Key Stage 1 from September, this will be a big challenge given the constraints of our kitchen and our hall.

 

This will however have a knock on effect regarding those on Free School Meals, who’s going to claim them if they are already free?? 

Each claimant currently attracts additional funding, (Pupil Premium), that has become critical for the school budget, more so in the next few years with the new funding formula’s coming on stream.  Please if you are entitled to claim, do, see a member of staff in confidence.

 

OFSTED have been in the locality visitingNewton AbbotCollegeat the start of the month, they are looking far more closely at the governance of schools, what we do and how we do it.  This was reiterated at a recent Chairs Update that I attended and to be honest is not something that I will be looking forward to as Chair.  However Rick and I are going to look closely at all the relevant documents over the coming months and have an action plan in place hopefully by our June meeting.  This will include readying the Board of governors to be assessed for the “Governor Mark Award” to demonstrate our effectiveness in leading the school now and into the future.  I believe that the Governance we currently have is good but we need to evidence what we do more effectively which is what OFSTED will be looking for.

 

At our November meeting Governors took the decision to close the school gates in the mornings and afternoons to prevent the use of the staff car park to parents.  This was a difficult debate and we looked closely at the mobility of children before agreeing it.  There were two reasons for the decision, that we could not guarantee emergency vehicles could gain access around the school and that there was an unhealthy mix of cars and children on the school site, a high risk situation that we could not mitigate against in any other way.

We as Governors can manage what happens in the school and the safety of our children and staff is paramount.  We pass that responsibility to parents as you leave the school gate.

We have previously worked with the County Council to manage the risk outside the school with the traffic calming measures, something that I was involved with when on the Health & Safety committee.  The measures are there to minimise the risk of harm to parents and children arriving at and leaving the school.  This is at its best when it is a sterile area for parking.  So any cars parked on the double yellow lines will increase the risk of harm to users, both drivers as well as pedestrians, which is you as parents and your children.

So please don’t park on the double yellow lines, you are putting other children and parents at risk, drive with great care around the school area, think about your parking, and do not panic if you are a few minutes late, arriving safely is far more important.

Think about this, there are 330 children aged from 4 to11, arriving and leaving our school in two mad 15 minutes slots each day, the youngest will not have much road sense, they will be relying on their parents for guidance and drivers being vigilant.  Thankfully near misses are rare but still very scary. 

The accident that happened in Newton Abbot to the schoolgirl which will be life changing should make us, stop, think and act!

 

As a positive way to finish this Spring Blog, I was invited in to school to meet the School Council.  Now I have to declare an interest because my son Sam is a Year 3 Councillor and had been reminding me for days that I was coming in to talk to them, no pressure then!!

The Monday before four Councillors had interviewed two perspective new KS1 teachers; by all accounts they had not made it easy and reported back to Miss Knott with their views on the candidates.  There were also to be involved with more interviews the next day as well, so were really feeling empowered.

Meeting the Council was a great experience, I told them about the Governors and what we do in the running of the school, the type of decisions that we have to make and how we agree to spend the schools money, they were all itching to try out the new “Microsoft Tablet Suite” that has just arrived.

I then heard about their plans for “Sports Relief” and was amazed by their enthusiasm and determination to make things work.  There was loads of problem solving going on and formulating the final ideas.  Hands in the air to volunteer to make things happen with every request. The Councillors were a really committed group of young people, I’m proud that they represent the school and its ethos.

Thanks for your time in reading this, get in touch if you want to express a view or have a question about the Governors.

chris43gray@aol.com 

Bye for now.

Chris Gray

Chair of Governors - Canada Hill

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 Autumn 2014

Welcome back for the new term, welcome to our new Reception children and those who have joined us in years 3 & 4, I would also like to welcome the new parents to our school community.

I would also like to welcome our new staff in KS1, Mrs Gold in Elm who is also our new KS1 Leader and Miss Blakesley in Willow.  A welcome back as well for Miss Bowen in Cedar.

What a start to the new academic year it has been, we have just had our first full Governors Meeting.  Having now discussed what we need to do this year to maintain our excellent levels of teaching and success with the curriculum, I realise just what a challenge our school faces.  We have a lot to live up to, brilliant SAT Results again, our children making great progress as they rise through the school years. 

At our first meeting  we discussed how we can raise our profile in the school, how can we engage more usefully with parents, children and the staff.  As a start we felt that we could share our meeting agenda’s, you will be able to see what we are discussing and by popular demand I’ll base my blog around the issues, this means that you’ll have the pleasure of 5 blogs over the next year.  I know, exciting stuff!  Hopefully it may even inspire some parents to think about being a Governor.

Our first meeting of the year is quite structured, we do lots of procedural stuff that isn’t that wonderful, we did however have to discuss and plan to reconstitute as a Governing Body, we are planning to have this all done by the spring term, ahead of the September 2015 deadline.  We are not changing the overall number, it will stay at 13.

We are also looking at ourselves and how we operate, each Governor completed a Skills Audit over the summer to highlight our strengths and weaknesses, we have agreed to seek out 2 new Governors with Legal and HR skills, anyone out there you know please pass on my e-mail address.

What has been shown though is that we do have a great group of Governors who are committed to the school and the children.

Staff in different areas of the school are also rising to the challenge, the kitchen is turning round 200 meals a day and serving them all within an hour, a big thank you to them especially when you consider the kitchen re-fit has yet to be completed, we are promised October. (Fingers crossed and hope that means this year!!). 

The teachers, I know that many were in school two weeks before that start of term getting ready for the introduction of the new curriculum, this again is a big challenge and they have all been working hard to make it appear seamless.

There will also be a Parent Questionnaire distributed in the near future, we want your feedback, I would ask you please to complete it and return it, we as a school can gain through sharing of thoughts and ideas.  We would appreciate comments both positive and negative so that we can get the most out of this exercise. 

I’d like to mention ‘Friends of Canada Hill’, a group of parents and friends who work miracles throughout the year raising funds for the school.  They have a habit of setting their sight high.  If you see the Mini Bus with the school livery on it, that was the FCH!  Our IT suite, that was FCH! I doubt if there is a classroom without something in it given by FCH.  This group makes a huge difference to the learning and social experience the children have.  Think Halloween, think Disco, go along as a volunteer, even I have put a few shifts in there!  If you think you can help ask in reception, they’ll put you in touch.

OK, enough for now. 

My e-mail is chris43gray@aol.com feel free to make contact.

Regards

Chris Gray

Chair of Governors

Canada Hill Primary School