Monday, 30 May 2011

Effective Governing Body Case Study: Danecourt Community School, Medway

Danecourt is a primary special school. The school was originally designated for pupils with moderate learning difficulties but is increasingly catering for those with severe learning difficulties and more complex needs. Since 2004, it has had a designated unit for pupils with severe autistic spectrum disorders that has increased in size.

The development of a programme to create individualised learning experiences for autistic children demonstrated the highly effective levels of governor challenge and support for the school. The headteacher had identified that provision for the growing numbers of pupils with autism was an area for development. Two teachers attended a one-day training course on a programme that used the Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) approach. They presented the headteacher with a proposal to trial this approach with a small group of autistic pupils. They explained the rationale fully and drew up a detailed proposal for a small-scale trial. The headteacher shared this development with the governing body.

The governing body agreed that members of the curriculum committee would receive a presentation from the teacher leading the initiative. The teacher prepared detailed briefing papers for the meeting and drew up an action plan for the implementation of the pilot. The clerk ensured that the papers were sent out well before the meeting so that governors had time to read them and think through the questions they wished to raise. They asked pertinent questions, made requests for tracking data to be provided to them and sought assurances that the well-being of staff would be considered when implementing the changes. The governors asked for a year’s worth of data to be used to project results which they challenged knowledgably. The teacher reported finding the challenge of the governing body useful rather than threatening because it helped her to evaluate the rationale for change and consider its effectiveness.

A date was set for the teacher to return to report to the committee on progress in implementing the trial. Tracking data indicated that the trial had been a success and the programme was then gradually extended for all the autistic pupils. A few months later, governors visited classrooms to monitor its implementation. The modified provision for autistic pupils was recognised as effective in the school’s inspection in October 2009.

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