How well prepared are we for the full return of pupils in September?
One thing for certain is that Governance will continue to look different moving into the new school year. With the possibility of local lockdowns and some pupils self-isolating and needing to access distance learning, a blended approach to many aspects of curriculum delivery will be the norm for some time to come. Let us look at some of the things to be thinking about over the summer break and items to focus on as the new term unfolds.
Over the summer break:
- For maintained schools a review of the current budget to gauge the impact of lockdown, and the additional costs incurred, during the prolonged opening of schools as well as the measures required for the recent wider reopening. Covid-19 will have reshaped many assumptions made when the budget was being set. As the dust settles be alert to the impact of these on the remainder of the budget year.
- For Academies, whose financial year starts in September, ensure again that the assumptions that underpinned the budget setting are revisited in the light of the impact of Covid-19.
- A review of the school ICT strategy to support blended learning. As schools adopt their preferred platform(s), this will inform the technology infrastructure of the school and ensure that staff have the tools required to deliver blended learning. Is investment in training required to ensure that teachers have the skills and the confidence to deliver virtual learning? Is a similar investment required for parents and pupils to ensure learning at home is both engaging and easy to access?
- How does your School Development Plan/ SEF look in the light of the past few months? Are any of the priorities from 19/20 to be carried forward to 20/21? When will time be allocated to review these crucial documents? Could a working party of governors reflect on the key priorities for the year ahead and work with the Head to support their development?
- Clearly, exam and assessment data underpins many of the assumptions and targets considered by governing boards. This year the DfE have confirmed schools will not be judged on 2020 exam results and assessment data, so governors will need to be working closely with senior leaders on how best to reflect on the past year and how to plan for next year’s data collection points and year end exams and assessment. However if schools do present internally produced data, governors will need to be aware that this will be based on far from normal circumstances where pupils are unlikely to have met expected achievement and the usual levels of scrutiny and moderation will not have taken place.
- Ensure your Head gets a break! They, together with many staff, will have worked tirelessly since March and will need some downtime – encourage them to switch off all devices and ask colleagues to minimise emails whilst they are off so they can return refreshed and without an overly full inbox!
Priority items for governors to be made aware of:
- The schools Covid-19 risk assessment plans will have evolved over the summer to reflect the latest DfE guidance on the full return of pupils. It will be essential to continue to review the plans to support the safe and compliant return of all pupils.
- Keeping Children Safe in Education 2020 – this document has been updated for September 2020 so ensure that governors are aware of key changes and that you record governors have read and understood Parts 1 and 2.
- For academy trustees and governors the Academies Financial Handbook 2020 has been published and a useful summary of changes is included in the document.
Heads Report - the Chair and Head will need to agree on what additional items governors may require updates on; suggested items for consideration could include:
- What strategies and monitoring will be in place to support the mental health and wellbeing of staff and pupils?
- How to build on the positives and understanding of the changed relationships with pupils, parents and the wider community?
- How will your setting use the proposed government ‘catch up’ funding to provide the additional tutoring for diminishing the difference for your pupils?
- How will the 20/21 curriculum planning be adapted to enable missed work to be covered and preparing for possible changes to assessment/ exam sitting dates in 2021?
- What support will be in place for the ‘reskilling’ of students where certain classroom learning skills may well have been lost?
- Regarding new staff induction, particularly for NQT’s, who will have missed the all-important summer term induction programme?
Areas of focus as the new term unfolds:
- Ofsted are now publishing their reports on schools inspected before lockdown. These schools will need to be mindful of parent and wider community response to any adverse findings and/or to promote positive findings and begin to focus on the post-Ofsted action plan. Ofsted have also announced that inspections will restart in the Spring term 2021. They also plan a programme of visits to schools during the upcoming Autumn term to see how they are ‘getting back up to speed’.
- Preparing for Ofsted…….a useful tool for your board is the Ofsted Health Check on your Governor Hub landing page that has been updated to reflect the new 2019 Inspection Framework. Encourage all governors to complete this self-review which could be shared at a subsequent meeting to identify any gaps in knowledge or training needs.
- Heads Performance Management – hopefully you will have been able to complete a mid-year, light touch review with your Head. Thought will now need to be given as to how you will fairly review the 19/20 objectives, and also to the objectives for 20/21. It will also be prudent to get dates in the diary for the PM panel and your external advisor in order to ensure you can stick as best possible to the review cycle.
- How to support the school as things settle down to restart extra-curricular provision, lettings, events, fundraising to enable some return to the type of enrichment activity that is so fundamental to school life.
- Explore new ways to maintain governor link roles and meetings using a blended approach of remote contact and face-to-face where this can be safely accommodated.
We have by no means exhausted all that governors and boards need to be mindful of as the new academic year approaches but hopefully the above gives a steer on some of the fine tuning and adaptation that will be required to deliver governance in September, together with some suggested planning to enable you to hit the ground running.
Other areas for consideration could include the following:
- Potential HR issues as a result of shielding, home circumstances, wellbeing concerns and the overall impact of Covid-19 with its many ramifications for school staff.
- Potential attendance issues where parents/carers are feeling anxious about their child(ren) returning to school
- Teacher pay reviews and the approach to be taken.
- Diversity and BLM - how will your school and board consider the internal and external challenges presented by systemic racism and ensure action, rather than statements, are offered in response.
- School estates and adaptations that may be required longer term to cope with local lockdowns and similar crisis.
Looking ahead governors are going to have additional calls on their time and energy to support their schools and ensure that, despite the current ongoing challenges, a strategic focus is prioritised to ensure the best possible outcomes for the current pupils and those transitioning in September. Blended and hybrid delivery will be part of the new education and governance language for the foreseeable future. For governors, the continued use of remote platforms to deliver meetings and training will continue to be an option - one which, based on feedback, will be part of the new normal.
Look out for the Herts for Learning Back on Track programme. The Knowledge tab has articles on this important initiative.
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