Interim Executive Board (Governors) Newsletter, 19th December 2019.
Again, I extend my heartfelt thanks for all the encouragement you are giving the school and your children to keep giving of their best. As my time as Chair of the IEB comes to an end and we hand over the governance of the school to a new governing body, I can say with absolute certainty that the school is now in a much stronger position than it was eighteen months ago when the IEB was formed.
Today the School Inspectorate for Wales, Estyn, has published its latest Report on the school’s progress. I’m delighted to tell you that Ysgol Treffynnon is no longer regarded as needing ‘special measures’ and is all set to lose its ‘red’ categorisation.
I’m quoting one of the inspection team when he said, during the feedback session to us, “This is now a very different school – in a positive way!” The lead inspector summed up by saying the school had “oomph!’ and that there was a buzz about the school and that staff gave them confidence the school was well placed to maintain its improvement strategies.
The Report acknowledges the significant improvement in standards, the quality and teaching and learning and strengthening of the leadership team, including those teachers leading departmental teams.
These improvements have not come about by accident; they are the result of a huge commitment of time and effort from all staff and a determination to become one of the best schools in Wales for student progress and achievement. I have said many times, and will continue to say, we cannot and should not judge our schools by ‘attainment’ data alone. How many GCSEs a cohort of children get in any particular year tells us nothing about a school, because we don’t have the context, e.g. how many have additional needs? How many are disadvantaged in some way? How many are regarded MAT (more able and talented)? Without that information we cannot make a judgement, even though newspaper ‘tables’ try to convince us that we can!
As governors, what we look for is the ‘value added’ the school achieves for each of our students. If staff can report to us that every one of our students achieves what they have worked for, are capable of and that all have hit or bettered their personal targets, then we can ask no more than that.
Two other aspects of the Estyn Report pick up on attendance and exclusions. Attendance is of great concern to us all. We still have too many children being taken out of school in term time. The relationship between absence from school and longer-term success or failure is well-established – children who miss school are put at a serious disadvantage. We appeal to all parents to think twice before preventing their children from attending lessons.
Exclusions are directly related in most cases to a failure to adhere the school Behaviour Policy. One of the reasons the school has made such great progress is the more consistent way in which staff are dealing with behaviour issues and ensuring their expectations are clear. Estyn noted that behaviour in classrooms and around the school was ‘impressive’. Governors have a duty of care towards staff and all the students who come to Ysgol Treffynnon wanting to learn in a safe and enjoyable environment. Governors will ensure the Behaviour Policy and all the associated policies are rigorously and consistently applied. We ask that all our parents and carers reinforce the ‘behaviour message’ at every opportunity.
The deficit budget was considered during the Estyn visit and inspectors appreciated the great efforts the school and LA had made to balance the books. However, they understood the flawed mechanisms for allocating funding and that small high schools are at a significant disadvantage.
As I sign off for the final time, it is pleasing to know that so many of you are committed to helping Ysgol Treffynnon become an excellent school. You totally understand that after love and security, one of the most valuable gifts you can give your children is a good education.
Our teachers and support staff, good as they are, can only help your children achieve their full potential with your support. It’s a team effort. Team Treffynnon.
A very merry Christmas to you all and hope that 2020 brings everything you’re wishing for.
Ray Wells, Chair, Interim Executive Board