South East Wales Conference Report 2015

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Governors Wales, in conjunction with the Local Authorities in the EAS consortium, recently held another regional conference for school governors at the Holiday Inn, Newport. The title of the conference was Minding the Gap, focusing on the role of governing bodies in narrowing the attainment gap between pupils in Primary / Secondary schools; for example, looking at in school / LA / Regional and National variations etc., and to share and disseminate effective practice on this key and crucial area in raising attainment.

The conference shared up-to-date information with school governors on a range of important and topical issues on this theme in order to support governors in their role. Governors also had the opportunity to network with other governors from across several Local Authorities to exchange knowledge and experience of effective school governance, in raising schools standards.

Please find below an overview from the speakers at the conference as well as the link to their presentations:

Clare Coff
Clare’s presentation focused on school and governing body self-evaluation and the self-evaluation training route used within the EAS. Clare also talked to governors about the template which has been developed in line with Estyn’s Common Inspection Framework and how it can be used by the different categories of school (red, amber, yellow and green) to assist governors in their role.

Clare explained how to evidence important information/discussions under the various quality indicators and provided some examples of implementation.

Nicola Allan
Nicola began the presentation by providing background information on the South East Wales region and the outcomes from 2014, including both strengths and areas for development. Nicola went on to put this into a National context and talked about various developments that have affected the work of the EAS. Nicola talked about the critical methodology based on listening and the response of the EAS to the views expressed and the actions taken. Nicola also referred to the school-to-school working and the key benefits of the self-improving system.

St Joseph’s RC High School
Paul Bennett talked about the strategic role of the governing body and its key functions. Paul showed governors a typical agenda of a full governing body meeting and stressed the importance of the Headteacher’s report and the progress against the School Development Plan. Paul also mentioned the importance of pupil attendance. In addition, Trevor Brown highlighted the various activities undertaken by pupils at the school.

Sir Alasdair MacDonald
Sir Alasdair talked through the percentage of Key Stage 4 pupils eligible for free school meals attaining the GCSE benchmark and mentioned the effect of the quality of teaching on the average student compared with those eligible for free school meals. Sir Alasdair also talked at length about the challenges that schools face in raising the attainment of disadvantaged children, and gave some examples of where schools were doing well in this respect. He also demonstrated how to identify and overcome the barriers to learning for PDG pupils.

Beverley Morgan and Christine Grimshaw
Beverley talked about the Welsh Government’s approach to tackling poverty and the child poverty strategy for 2015. Beverley also referenced the 2015 Tackling Poverty Action Plan Annual Report and consistent priorities across the Welsh Government. Christine followed on by referring to school categorisation and free school meal performance as well as the implementation of ‘Rewriting the Future’ and ‘PDG Evaluation’, and the resources available.

Coed Eva Primary School
Peter Friswell and Gill Ellis provided an overview of the journey of their school and their collaborative working approach which included:

  • Good communication links;
  • Role modelling;
  • Critical friend role;
  • Interact with children;
  • Pupil leadership team; and
  • School to school work.

NIACE / First Campus / Teach First
Susannah, Chris and Emily each talked about the role of their individual organisations and the collaborative work on improving outcomes for all learners. They provided the background and outcomes from ‘My Education’, a case study of parental engagement research. The group referred to the recommendations and the overarching aim to develop a ‘whole school’ approach to parental engagement. The meaning behind ‘engagement’ was explored and the impact this can have on learners.

Paul Charman
Paul provided delegates with an overview of the new governor dashboard from FFT that all governors should have access to via their school. Paul looked at examples of data, between different groups, such as boys v girls, eFSM v non-FSM, ethnicity, English as an Additional Language, in-school variation. FFT had framed the governor dashboard around 6 key questions:

  1. How does attainment and pupil progress at my school compare to the national average?
  2. How are we performing in different subjects?
  3. Do we have any under-performing groups of pupils?
  4. How might the context of our school affect our performance?
  5. How does pupil attendance compare to the national average?
  6. What are the strengths and weaknesses of our school?

Paul also talked to governors about using data to support and challenge their school and promoted the new e-learning training course for governors.

Donna Lewis
Donna provided a background on the work involved with Looked After Children and covered a range of issues such as identifying who Looked After Children are and why they become Looked After Children, the role of the Corporate Parent, identifying the barriers to learning and achievement, the roles of LA and school staff as well as the role of the Governor. Donna also talked through the key questions to ask and highlighted the need for an annual Headteacher’s report on the progress etc. of LAC pupils. Donna also provided extracts from ‘Amy’s Diary’, a case study designed to put theory into practice.

Conference Evaluation
Below are some comments received by delegates who attended the conference:

  • A great day – I learnt many things and I am now more familiar with the questions I should be asking of my school in terms of meeting the needs of our vulnerable learners.
  • Some interesting information to take away and feedback to the governing body.
  • Very useful and thought provoking.
  • The event has given me a much better understanding about my role as governor and what questions to ask of the head at my school.
  • As a new governor, I’ve learnt a tremendous amount which I will look forward to feeding back to our GB. I am involved in the school and governing body self-evaluation so feel able to contribute fully to this.
  • Each time I attend these conferences / events it’s an excellent opportunity to speak with other governors to get perspective and best practices.
  • Lots of useful information.
  • By keeping abreast of the changes within Welsh Education as we have done today, I hope it will help and improve my performance as a school governor.
  • As a very new governor, I found this event gave me a good insight into the structure of the education system.
  • Thank you for a very good day.

Published: 14/07/2015