Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Effective Governing Body Case Study: Hexham Priory School, Northumberland

Hexham Priory is a community special school for pupils aged 3 to 19 years with severe learning difficulties, often in association with medical or other complex needs. The school serves a large rural area and the number of pupils has grown steadily over the last decade.A significant proportion of pupils are dual registered and also attend their local mainstream school on a part-time basis. The school moved into new purpose-built premises in September 2009 and has a full complement of 12 governors. The full governing body meets termly, supported by three committees for curriculum and standards, finance and premises.

Governors had a wide range of skills and had high expectations for the school and its pupils. Many governors were former parents who wanted to give something back in recognition of the progress that their children had made while at the school. These members understood the needs of parents and could provide high-quality guidance to other governors on the requirements of children with special needs and their families.

The governing body established a way of working where members felt valued and able to make a contribution to meetings. Governors were equally determined to achieve a successful school and to improve their own performance as governing body members. They established an excellent mechanism for strategic planning and self-review of their performance. An annual ‘Away Day’ was used to review the performance and impact of governance on the school. A key element of the day was to build a team of governors who worked effectively together. The outcomes were short- and long-term priorities for the school that fed into the school improvement plan. The day allowed governors the time to have an open discussion about the issues that were important to the school away from the formal agenda of the full governing body meeting and committees. From the Away Day, they produced notes and an action plan which reviewed achievements during the previous year and analysed where governors wanted to be in the future in areas such as relationships with parents, inclusion and the emotional health of pupils. Highly developed team- working by the governing body was evident in the building of new accommodation for the school.

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