Governors’ Minutes Highlight Concerns At Five Islands School

school signConcerns over the finances at the Five Islands School, teaching standards and Key Stage 2 results have been raised by both governors and the Council.

That’s according to minutes obtained by ScillyToday of the school governors’ meetings between October and December.

Those reports have not been made available for parents and the wider community yet.

They reveal that the school’s finance committee has stated concern at the rate at which the school has been using its reserves.

A governor commented that there will be no reserves left in 2016 if spending continues at the same rate.

And following scrutiny of various other budgets, some governors wanted further attention to staffing costs.

There have been some salary savings made, but the Council has “clawed back” an overpayment for free school meals, which has “negated” that, according to the minutes.

It’s been revealed that some of the school’s ‘debts’ have in fact been accounting errors by staff, so it was agreed that these would be cleared from accounts.

One governor felt that the Council should put the money it was spending on a consultant, hired to “analyse the situation,” towards a skilled person to work with staff.

Governors felt that improving the Ofsted rating from ‘requires improvement’ to ‘good’ would boost morale and also make recruiting staff easier.

Head teacher Linda Todd felt that extra support would be helpful, but cautioned that a consultant’s report could negatively impact on morale.

She felt that what is being done well in the school should be celebrated.

Governors discussed asking the Council for financial assistance so they could fund someone to help out and there could be accommodation for that expert in the spare room at Mundesley House, governors heard.

Key Stage 2 will be a focus for any extra assistance.

Chairman of the governors Ben Julian shared a letter from the Council outlining their concerns over Key Stage 2 progress.

School improvement experts from Cornwall have been commissioned to assess the situation.

Linda Todd reassured governors that changes have been implemented and she shared her own concerns about the standard of teaching in that area.

The progress of some pupils had been downgraded from ‘exceeding’ to ‘emerging’ but Linda advised governors that those children were no longer in that situation.

The problem with Key Stage 2 standards appears to be because there’s nobody devoted to managing that area of teaching.

The head teacher reminded governors that there had been leadership in Key stage 2 previously, with both an assistant head teacher and also a year 6 teacher paid extra salary to “lead from the front,” but those roles had ended by 2011.

One member of the governing body accepted that there were challenges ahead with Key Stage 2. But he queried if this conversation should have happened twelve months ago.

Governors wanted to know if parents could do more and one board member suggested hosting workshops.

Mrs Todd said some parents were supportive of their children outside schooltime but others took the view that the school should deal with learning and they don’t help their children with reading at home.

And she assured governors there had been improvements with Key Stage 2 learning recently, following the appointment of staff that followed creative teaching methods.

Another governor was uneasy that there was no longer reporting of pupils’ performance between Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 4.

It was a specific worry, given three years of poor Key Stage 2 results, he said.

Linda felt that, if there was someone coming in to support Key Stage 2 progress, they could also be helpful with Key Stage 3.

Governors did congratulate the school on their excellent Key Stage 4 results, but there’s some concern over how the school develops its “most able pupils.”

The last Ofsted report recommended that teaching standards should be improved and their inspectors highlighted the need for provision for the brightest kids.

A governor told Mrs Todd that he had been unable to find any reference to this provision when he read her head teacher’s report.

Linda advised the governor that there had been mentoring of advanced pupils and work had been done to raise teacher expectations of students.

There is target setting for the brightest but Linda conceded that there was not a separate “more able policy.”

The governor cautioned that Oftsed will question whether that rhetoric matched the reality of the situation and pushed the head teacher for more detail on exactly how teachers were checking progress.

He wanted the percentage increase of their work in this area, which could be scored against what was expected of them.

Linda replied that she had avoided specifics because that could identify individuals.

The governor persisted, asking for looser percentages to be provided but Linda countered that it was not possible to do as many observations now, and that was because of the views of the union.

Ofsted inspectors will visit the Five Islands School unannounced some time over the next six months.

The last two inspections have rated the school as ‘requires improvement’ and if they find the school to be inadequate this time, they could place it in ‘special measures.’

Ofsted says this is standard practice, unless there are exceptional circumstances.

Linda has reported some good news to governors on attendance. She said levels are up, although no specific numbers were given.

Back in 2014, Ofsted reported that the attendance rate, at 94.8%, was in the bottom 20% of all schools.