This has been another eventful term for us all and an incredibly different year as we start to plan for a different future.
On behalf of governors, I very much enjoyed attending the arrival of the year 11s at their valedictory celebration at Ribby Hall. The weather kept dry for long enough to see the girls arrive in their finery and in an array of vehicles! They so much deserved to put all their hard work during and in the lead up to their exams behind them. We all wish them the success they deserve when we see them again in August!
The governors have been kept busy this term in all the usual ways but also in putting together the recruitment process for a new headteacher, who we hope to appoint in the autumn to start January 2024. It is a bittersweet process for all of us who appreciate how far the school has developed under Mrs Pomeroy’s tenure and how much she, herself, has been responsible for driving its journey over the past 12 years to the incredible position we are now in. Mrs Pomeroy knows the time is now right for her and, importantly, right for the school’s future. With the new building on the horizon, it will also be a time of excitement and further development and we relish these opportunities to grow.
Rest assured, none of us will lose impetus or focus over the next term! We have just shared an evening with the prospective year 7s and have also enjoyed a spectacular Commonwealth Celebration. As I write this, we still have all our end of year enrichment activities to come, so there is never any down time! Our enrichment calendar is something the school and governors are rightly proud of, and I recently had the opportunity to share this good practice with other Lancashire Chairs of Governors at our forum. All members of the Senior Leadership Team have responsibilities and we, as governors, appreciate the drive and enthusiasm of each one of them. Whilst acknowledging them all, I would especially like to thank Mrs Honeyman for all her work on our enrichment calendar this term and for Mrs Cattanach’s work to ease transition for our new year 7s and in preparing our Celebration Evening.
From myself and on behalf of all the governors, I want to thank all our hard-working staff (teaching and non-teaching) for their continued dedication this year. We may not find time to acknowledge you all by name, but we appreciate our good fortune in having such a highly skilled workforce. We never take you for granted.
To all our students and their families, we thank you for your support and hard work during the year; we hope the relationship with school continues to be a positive and fruitful one.
Governors have three core responsibilities to discharge:
Setting the strategic vision of the school.
Holding the Headteacher and her staff to account for pupil outcomes.
Financial probity – ensuring good value for money.
The National Governors’ Association adds a fourth, as do we:
Considering the views of all stakeholders.
I feed back as often as possible to all stakeholders to let everyone know how the various stakeholders feel about the effectiveness of the school.
Governors were especially pleased to see the results of parental surveys obtained during some of the parents’ evenings this year, (Years 7, 8 & 9.)
Each parent was asked to rate the following areas on a scale – strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree:
The school has high expectations for my child
My daughter feels safe at this school
The school makes sure its pupils are well behaved
My child does well at this school
My daughter is happy at this school
Teaching is good
The school is effective led and managed
The school makes me know what my child will learn during the year.
The school lets me know how my child is doing
The school supports my child’s wider personal development
In sample sizes ranging from 25% to 35% of each year group, 97.5% of year 7 parents agreed or strongly agreed with ALL the above statements. Even when slightly larger cohorts of parents were asked, 92% of year 8 parents and 95% of year 9 parents also agreed or strongly agreed with ALL statements. Nearly all responses are above the national average. Governors felt the results were an overwhelming endorsement that the school does a lot that is appreciated for parents and students.
Obviously, some parents had reason to contact school for bullying or other concerns. These were very small in number and over 94% of parents of these students strongly agreed or agreed that school dealt with any issues quickly and effectively.
The governing body will review the whole school data nearer the end of next term and will take on board, as staff do, any issues arising in need of action.
The Autumn Term is always a long one, don’t you think? As such, it also allows for a lot to be packed in. Reviewing some of the weekly newsletters that I always read, I am so proud of all that the girls have achieved yet again. The examples of activity, of work produced and experience, makes me realise how gifted you all are and the amazing breadth of experience the staff create for you.
I have been able to experience some of the fabulous celebrations of student work in and around school on a number of occasions this term. I am always thankful when I receive an invitation to eat food – and that is just what I did at the Language and Literature Festival cake competition! Not only did the cakes taste good but the decorations were superb. I await an annual invitation! Totally different senses were awakened when I observed, listened and commented on the recitations delivered by students for their LAMDA accreditation. I listened to one group, while Mrs Siviter, a recently co-opted governor, listened to another. I loved listening to speeches, extracts and poems that I hadn’t heard before and want to thank Mrs Cattanach for inviting our help.
Another two occasions when I enjoyed evenings in school, were for the Open Evening, where we welcome prospective students to look around our school, and Awards Evening, where we celebrate the achievements of those who have just left. Both occasions fill me with immense pride and are evenings when I can see proud and excited students at their best. It is quite an honour to see the start and end of their journeys with us and to witness their growth during those short five years!
We have also experienced lows to go with those highs; we all celebrated the 70-year reign of the Queen earlier in the summer and then mourned her loss with the country in September. We, in school, also mourned the loss of one of our staff that very week. I have heard it said that sorrow is the price we pay for love. We always retain the memories of those we have loved and lost though.
I know that with the New Year coming upon us fast, we will be able to look forward to greater things. We have a full governing board, and all members are ambitious for the future of the school. On the board’s behalf, I would like to wish our whole school community a restful break and enjoyable time spent with those you love.
There are always some elements of the summer term that are quite stressful, but always many that we enjoy! It is that balance that makes the life of this school so enjoyable.
Our Year 11s made it through the stress of final GCSE exams and came out the other side relatively unscathed; we now look forward with anticipation to see if they have realised their ambitions when the results are published in August. Many parents will have gone through the stress of finding that ‘right’ dress for the final event also, not to mention the hair, tan and nails! All other year groups have received acknowledgement of their learning this year too and we love to see the results of all the hard work. Governors have approved the 2022/23 budget and finalised the outturn statement for 2021/22. We have, as a governing board, started to consider the implications of the White Paper ‘Opportunity for All’ and the SEND Green Paper both presented to government this term, and we will continue to discuss educational issues raised by them in the context of what is in the best interests of Penwortham Girls’ High School.
On the positive side, summer allows for reflection on the successes of the year and we look forward to the new year to come. As I write this, we have just celebrated Sports’ Day successes, its format altered slightly to cater for the heat, and the team spirit it engenders too. Well done to all who took part whether spectator, participant or helper. Last week, staff confirmed senior student roles for next year; thank you to the outgoing year 11s who have performed their roles so successfully and congratulations to next year’s year 11 seniors who we know will rise to the challenge.
This week, we also have the ‘The Sound of Music’ spectacular to look forward to and even though I have not yet attended as I write this, I know it will be brilliant; there is always so much work put into these events by so many staff and students (lots of them behind the scenes) that we always appreciate the final outcome.
Thank you to all of you (staff, students, parents, governors) for another successful year and on behalf of the governors, please let me wish you all a restful and enjoyable summer break.
The governing board has had another busy term, albeit one of the shortest. It has been incredible to see so many parents engage in our Parent Governor Election also; I think there were more votes than I have ever known! Governors met a couple of weeks ago to confirm the election decisions and to welcome the two new parent governors. At the same time, we also confirmed the nomination of our Local Authority Governor.
It is worth mentioning here that each school’s governing board has several different governor categories. We have 2 parent governors, 1 local authority governor, 1 staff governor, the Headteacher and 10 co-opted or community governors. Each governor has his or her own nominated role and we enjoy many visits (in normal times) to school to carry these out. You may also see many of us at school events. Each category of governor might be appointed in a different way, but each governor has the same rights as any other and no one governor can act alone; we are a corporate body.
We have, despite intermittent restrictions, conducted a great many visits and training sessions again this term. Many governors attended school during the STEM festival, as I did, and I also visited many classrooms while students were completing the class quiz at the end of the festival also! Things were extremely competitive! The buzz around school was palpable and it was clear to see the impact on the students, and on the staff. Well done to all concerned – it was a huge success. That same week, I attended staff professional development sessions related to safeguarding and to Special Educational Needs so there was also evidence of the serious side of teaching. PGHS staff have an incredible ability to motivate and create enjoyable learning experiences for the girls, whilst at the same time creating a safe and caring environment. We are so lucky to be part of this school community.
I can’t quite believe it was pre-Covid when I last reported on our parental survey via the newsletter. It seems like so much has changed since then. Certainly, much has changed in the world since then but in reviewing our parental survey, it seems that much of what you love about the school has remained or improved!
In terms of non-academic criteria, from your perspective, you rated the following five areas to be the main strengths – school communication, levels of homework, school discipline, developing moral values and school security.
The following areas had made significant improvement: school communication, teaching quality, availability of resources and truancy control.
None of the criteria reviewed showed a decline since the previous survey two years ago.
Parents considered that the school had made significant improvement in rewarding and celebrating achievement.
More parents (89%) rate the school as good or very good than in the previous survey.
92% of parents would recommend this school.
The survey highlighted the fact that three criteria have increased in importance to you over the last two years; these are the happiness of your daughter, her confidence and the care of teachers. I feel that this reflects society and the influence of the pandemic, but rest assured, these areas are of great importance to school also. All similar schools performed in the same way.
In terms of the 12 Parent View questions asked, outstanding ratings were given to many elements – too many to mention! Of note though are the following areas which were rated outstanding – control of bullying, developing potential, teaching quality, the right amount of homework and regular marking of work.
The report also equated some of the scoring to Ofsted areas of judgement. Under behaviour and attitudes, all areas were rated outstanding. Under personal development, I am pleased to report that the following areas, amongst others, were rated outstanding – treating all pupils fairly and promoting racial harmony. Overall, the rating for the school is outstanding.
On behalf of the school and of the governing board, I would like to thank you for your contribution to the questionnaire. Your views remain a highly important indicator to us, along with the views of your daughters and of their staff, in showing us whether we are prioritising the right areas. It would appear that we are! I am especially pleased to see the increase in satisfaction with the way school rewards and celebrates achievement; I feel this should be influential in helping your daughters to increase in confidence and happiness after the turmoil of the last two years.
Finally, the governors would like to wish you all a happy, restful and safe festive period.
Howard Jackson, Vice-Chair of Governors above received a certificate from the Lancashire Association of School Governing Bodies, in recognition of his service to the school.
Howard first joined as a member of the PTA in 1988 as his daughter started at the school. He became chair of that body and used his influence to raise funding for the school via a number of events, such as jumble sales and gala stall sales. He also helped to paint scenery for drama productions and could often be found in school on Saturday mornings!
He was invited by the then headteacher to join the governing body, which he did in 1991. He has served as Chair, Vice-Chair and member of the Finance committee over many years and is currently Vice-Chair overall. Howard uses his influence as a Rotarian and as member and now Captain of Penwortham Golf Club in activities and events in the local community.
He has only praise for the school which he knows as parent, community leader and governor – inside and out! His two daughters attended the school; Samantha is a Detective Police Inspector and Melanie is a primary teacher locally.
Howard is not leaving the governing body just yet but wishes to explore possibilities for young golfers who might be interested in joining the junior section of his golf club.
We would like to thank Howard for his service of over 30 years as governor with Penwortham Girls’ High School, in the hope he remains a governor for a few more years yet!
I was, perhaps, a little previous in hoping for the June start to return to normality when I wrote my update last term! The four-week delay takes us now to the end of term so we will have endured a full year of disruption of one sort or another – such has been the nature of this pandemic. My hope and the hope of the governors is that as much normality returns as soon as is possible so that we can all concentrate fully on our raison d’être which is of course that of the best possible educational and personal development outcomes for our students.
But we cannot stand still – and we have not! Governors may have not visited school in person as much as they would have liked but they have still had contact with staff and students where possible. Cumulatively this year, governors have completed 72 training and development sessions and 31 school visits, interviews or zoom meetings with staff. This has been on top of our normal termly meetings and all despite the Covid situation, which has meant alternative arrangements have been in place in one form or another all year. On their behalf, I have attended meetings with members of the senior leadership team, sometimes virtually, sometimes socially distanced in school, as well as with local authority staff and other Lancashire governors in a variety of settings.
This month, I attended school for a few staff meetings but also to see the UNITEE competition outcomes with the Head teacher and the local MP. I am very grateful to the girls who assisted; my tour of the tee shirts was far more informative thanks to them, as they described the process and the rationale. Thank you to every form and the staff too for their efforts.
So now we prepare for another school year. We have expanded our governing board to include three new governors with exciting skills to bring. We have reorganised our focus areas and reviewed our structures so that we are as efficient and effective as possible. We will hold our away day, a Saturday morning early in September, when we can get together and ensure we are ready to go!
On behalf of the governing board, I wish all of you – staff, families and students – a restful summer break in readiness for the new school year and I am sending you all our thanks for your contributions over the past year.
By the time you read this newsletter, school will have been fully open for a whole 3 weeks! Of course, many students will have attended every day throughout lockdown and all students will have been studying, whether at home or at school. It has been a very strange time and I think we are all relieved to see the light at the end of the tunnel! All things considered, I find it remarkable that we have been able to change our ways of working so rapidly and so drastically. In the hope that we do emerge next term, we need to look back and reflect on how much we have achieved in such incredible circumstances. We have now undergone four consecutive school terms of disruption, meaning over half a school year of partial school closures! Two cohorts of year 11 students have had disrupted GCSEs and weeks of uncertainty. We need to move forward now and be kind to ourselves and others for all we have been through.
Governors have listened to feedback during this time and supported school leaders in amending ways of working where possible. We have ensured all statutory responsibilities are covered, have reviewed risk assessments and looked carefully at the ways in which the curriculum delivery has been amended to take into account the variety of methods in use. We know that students will not have worked at the same pace as each other and that many will have suffered through working on their own. It will take a while to overcome some of the issues but this term, we were keen to see all students settle into school routines again as effectively as possible. I have been proud to see how smoothly the return in June 2020, September 2020 and in March this year has gone and, on behalf of the governing board, would like to thank all the students, staff and volunteers who made the testing process run effectively also. To be used as an example of good practice more than once for the BBC, is praise indeed.
Next term, as lockdown eases and we hopefully emerge to a ‘new’ normal, governors will be looking forward to a term of ‘healing’ where staff and students start to address gaps in learning but also where we all take time to review our own mental health. The role of the governing board is to support and to challenge and we will continue to do both, but we should all – staff, parents, students and governors – remember what a challenging this year this has been and how much support we all need to move forward. Let’s look forward to a more settled summer term, a way out of lockdown and better weather, which will prepare us all for a more positive way ahead.
Even though many aspects of school life are not working ‘as normal’ during this pandemic, governors still have a duty to monitor the effectiveness of the school provision. The recent publications by the government and Ofsted gave us an opportunity to reflect on how well we are satisfying the requirements around remote learning. Through frequent ‘zoom’ meetings with the governing board, and via information shared by school, we remain in awe of what the school staff manage to provide for all students, whether students attend school in person or access remote learning. We have also been made aware that the school is frequently quoted as an example of good practice across Lancashire by the advisory team; this gives us great confidence that the adopted approaches are the right ones.
In mid- January, Ofsted and the government both published information and guidance on remote learning, against which governors have been able to reflect on school strategy. It outlines four examples of what is meant by remote learning:
Any learning that takes place outside the classroom.
Online learning – anything accessed via a digital platform.
Blended learning – where there is a mixture of online learning and face to face learning.
Live lessons happening in real time or accessed by students later.
The guidance goes on to outline some facts and to bust some myths about what remote education is and what it is not. The governing board noted in particular the following points made:
Remote education is not different in its aim to provide high quality learning for students; it simply does so via a different means because we cannot all meet face to face currently. School will follow the same schemes of work as normal and will deliver them in a way best suited to the intended learning.
Sometimes remote education will consist of a live lesson, but equally sometimes the best method of learning is via a worksheet, textbook or presentation. Five hours per day learning by students requires a variety of approach, as you might imagine.
Feedback is as important as ever to avoid misconceptions and clarify learning points. The method of doing this might be via chatroom discussions, interactive tools such as quizzes or via question and answer during live lessons or in written feedback.
‘Some think that a live lesson is the ‘gold standard’ of remote education. This isn’t necessarily the case.’ ‘Different approaches to remote education suit different types of content and pupils.’ (Ofsted 2021)
Governors will continue to monitor the school’s strategies in this area and to assess their success as the restrictions (hopefully) begin to loosen. We have been encouraged by the positivity of parental, student and staff feedback and also by all of the examples of excellent work that we see weekly though this newsletter. We continue to be guided by the ever-changing COVID risk assessment completed by the school and throughout, remain conscientious of our role in monitoring the safeguarding and wellbeing aspects through close scrutiny.
Lorimer Russell-Hayes, Chair of the Governing Board