Thursday, 2 June 2011

Effective Governing Body Case Study: Horton Grange Primary School, Northumberland

Horton Grange Primary School, Northumberland

The school is larger than most primary schools. Nearly all pupils are of White British heritage. A higher than average proportion of pupils are eligible for free school meals. The proportion of pupils identified as having special educational needs and/or disabilities is higher than average, as is the proportion of pupils with a statement of special educational needs.

In 2007 the school was judged to require special measures. It went through a turbulent period as a consequence of high levels of staff absence and staff turnover. The current headteacher is the fourth to lead the school since November 2007. In January 2008, the local authority replaced the existing governing body with an IEB. Eight teachers, the headteacher, the deputy headteacher and a member of the senior leadership team have been appointed since January 2009.

Following an Ofsted monitoring visit in 2008, members of the IEB were informed that they were not receiving accurate information about the school. They reviewed the effectiveness of the initial IEB and decided to reduce the number of members to a core group with the skills to take the school forward. The IEB took action to appoint a replacement full-time headteacher. These robust actions were significant in moving the school forward rapidly.

The members of the smaller IEB shared a common sense of purpose and determination to drive improvement. They had the essential skills of education, finance, management and administration. In addition, they had experience of working on other governing bodies. The chair of the IEB was also the chair of a federation of schools. As a result, governors received accurate information about the school so they were able to robustly monitor and challenge. The school improvement partner provided regular and comprehensive reports on the quality of teaching, learning and pupils’ progress.

The IEB placed a high priority on appointing excellent teachers and devoted significant resources to the process. The school established a link with an outstanding school in a neighbouring authority to share practice and help with implementing improvement strategies, particularly the arrangements for appointing senior leaders and teachers. The headteacher and the school improvement partner went to see applicants for the deputy head post teaching in their own schools before short-listing took place, and then all were observed teaching in the partner school. The applicants for the deputy head post were observed by the head, the school improvement partner and the head of the partner school. The local authority has provided guidance and support to the IEB and the headteacher to deal with underperforming staff, using capability procedures.

At the previous inspection, there was no school self-evaluation or quality assurance of teaching and learning. A massive change was to get staff to take greater responsibility for their own performance. Governors supported this change by regularly monitoring reports on the outcomes of observation and quality assurance of teaching and learning. They triangulated the evidence on pupils’ assessment outcomes, looking at pupils’ work and observations of teaching and learning to ensure they had an accurate understanding of the school’s performance. They also undertook ‘learning walks’ to seek the views of staff and pupils.

In December 2009, the overall effectiveness of the school was judged as satisfactory and governance was judged to be outstanding.

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