Annual Governance Statement for the Governing Body of the Opossum Federation
In accordance with the Government’s requirement for all governing bodies, the 3 core strategic functions of the Opossum Federation’s Governing Body are:
1. Ensuring clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction;
2. Holding the Head of School/Executive Head to account for the educational performance of the schools and their pupils;
3. Overseeing the financial performance of the schools and making sure their money is well spent.
The Governing Body of the Opossum Federation is composed of 11 voting members including the Senior Executive Head Teacher. Co-opted governors are appointed by the Governing Body and are people who, in the opinion of the governing body, have the skills required to contribute to the effective governance and success of the schools. On our Governing Body we have six Co-opted governors who are members of the local community (including our Chair of Governors who is also a National Leader of Governance), two staff members (including the Senior Executive Headteacher), two parent governors and an LA governor. Members of federation staff, including the Heads of School, attend regularly as observers.
Governing Body members sit on committees, which have been created to consider aspects of school life in detail. The Resources Committee meets regularly to examine aspects of school life relating to finance, human resources and premises. Other committees are formed, as necessary, to address specific school/federation matters, such as complaints or grievances. The full Governing Body meets each half term to review the actions of the committees and to ratify decisions and policies. See page 5, 6. 7 for a list of Governors.
Attendance record of governors
Governors have excellent attendance at meetings and a meeting has never had to be cancelled because it was not “quorate” (the number of governors needed to ensure that legal decisions can be made). See page 8 for details of individual governors’ attendance at meetings.
The federation benefits from closely located schools - Newport and Dawlish are a short walk apart in the south of the borough, and Thorpe Hall and Oakhill a short distance from each other in the north of the borough. Although currently disrupted due to COVID control measures, the federation arrangement offers many opportunities for joint staff working and shared learning experiences for the children and staff from neighbouring schools.
About the Federation and the work that we have done on our committees and in the governing body
The Governing Body’s key focus this year has been supporting school leaders in navigating the challenges presented by the global pandemic, whilst ensuring continuity of learning for our pupils. As a governing body, we have been very mindful of the significant role that staff, and in particular our leaders, have played in maintaining the operation of the schools and minimising impact on children’s learning; this has included working through weekends and holiday periods on site, remotely and co-ordinating Track and Trace.
Risk assessments, developed from the local authority models, identified control measures which have been implemented faithfully; this may have contributed to our low bubble closure rate overall. Governors have held strategic oversight over actions taken, particularly in relation to bubble and school closures. Despite easing of restrictions in wider society, control measures remain in place within schools and we anticipate that they will continue with few modifications into the upcoming Autumn term; this will result in continued operational challenges for our schools. We appreciate your continued support and adaptability.
The board worked closely with school leaders to ensure that resources were deployed effectively during the restricted opening in the Spring term. Governors are appreciative of the work of teachers, who worked remotely, continuing learning programmes for their class. Governors are also very appreciative of our key workers who, during a national lockdown, worked onsite every day providing education for the children of other key workers and vulnerable pupils. We were very pleased to be able to provide places for over 170 pupils onsite across the schools each day.
This period has proved a steep learning curve for all sectors of society, including our schools. Staff spent the Autumn term (September -December 2020) engaging in staff training, developing protocols and adapting resources in preparation for any further restricted opening periods. During the national lockdown (January-March 2021), pupils and staff were able to move effectively and efficiently to remote education as a result of this preparation. Parent survey responses (March 2021) overwhelmingly recognised the development in the schools’ remote education offer
Absolutely! it came on in leaps and bounds! I was really impressed with the learning in the Spring. Even using the jam boards was a major improvement. How the classes were set up on the screen improved too as it was easier when it was set up day by day (Parent Survey, March 2021)
Staff continue to build and refine their skills in the use of online learning tools and are exploring ways to develop a hybrid learning approach in school to incorporate the benefits of online learning practice into class programmes.
We were naturally also very concerned about the emotional impact of the restricted opening on pupils’ well-being and have challenged and supported school leaders in their focus on this important area of children’s development. Our parent survey clearly reported how much the telephone calls, 1:1 learning consultations, story/virtual play times and especially the live online learning sessions were appreciated by children and families. Our school communities heard and responded to the feelings of disconnection that some parents reported during the lockdown of Summer 2020 and worked hard to ensure that frequent opportunities were provided in Spring 2021 to maintain a strong home/school partnership. Work continues in school to support children’s well-being, particularly pupils whose parents/carers reported significant concern in this area. However, the majority of our parents (88%) have reported no/minimal concern?
The work of the governing body continued uninterrupted throughout this year by moving to virtual meetings; this enabled continuity and ensured that all statutory obligations were met. Link governors continued their roles, working with school staff to strategically oversee specific areas of school business such as Health and Safety arrangements and Safeguarding. As a board, we have spent time considering the sustainability of each school, particularly the small (1 form entry) schools in light of the financial challenges facing schools and continue to closely monitor the impact of funding arrangements on those settings. This includes working closely with external partners, particularly the local authority, to review and develop plans for the future.
The Resources Committee reviewed the maintenance and development of all our school premises and made decisions about how the schools should use their budget.
After careful consideration and review the Resources Committee and Full Governing Body approved the 2021-2022 budget plans, including our SEN dedicated expenditure for Dawlish, Newport, Oakhill and Thorpe Hall Primary schools. We are pleased to report that due to collaborative working across the Federation, including a central team managing finance and Human Resources, we have achieved best value and have set a balanced budget for 2021-2022.This position has been achieved through the robust financial management and budgetary control, undertaken by budget holders across the Federation. This is closely monitored and managed by the Director of Finance and Operations, Senior Executive Headteacher and the Governing Body’s Resources Committee.
Minutes of Governing Body and Committee meetings are public documents – parents may contact the school office if they would like to see any of the minutes of the meetings.
The governing body
You can see the full list of governors and their attendance at meetings on the Governors’ page of the school websites.
|We know that there are families in our Opossum community who have been directly affected by the circumstances of this year and are experiencing deep anxiety or bereavement – our thoughts are with you and hopefully, you have been able to access the help you may have needed through the networks the Federation has signposted you to. Sincere best wishes and keep well, from the Opossum Governing Body|