Once again, a very happy New Year to you all. What follows is my annual Report on the work of your school Governors over the past year, with some indication of the priorities for 2017. I hope you find the Report of interest. I have tried to keep it as brief as possible but in so doing am aware that there are other areas that may interest you. Do feel free to contact me via school if that is the case. I believe the Report, taking the big picture, to be extremely optimistic but I have also been careful to indicate that, despite this, the Governors are never complacent and are always looking to improve the education received by children at BCS.
The latest Government statistics indicate that there are well over four and a half million children being educated in over 20,000 state funded primary schools in this country, and that BCS continues to occupy a place well inside the top 5% of these in terms of the progress and attainment our children make, a longstanding record of which we can be justifiably proud. Take care to distinguish between 'progress' and 'attainment'. It means that even if a child at BCS is not in the top 5% of attainers in the country he or she is almost certainly within the top 5% of children in the individual progress that they are making. It is this 'progress' element that is most gratifying. We are grateful for the extensive tracking work completed in school by the teaching staff, which informs our judgements. This is foremost in my mind because last week a group of Governors and staff met to discuss in detail the latest data released by Government under the Raiseonline programme, and analysed so thoroughly for us by Mrs Morrow. This analysis ensures our children's continuing success.
Children's writing skills have been a priority nationally for a number of years and at BCS we have undertaken research and training which has included the purchase of new curriculum materials, the deployment of new teaching techniques, active comparisons with results from other local schools, inter-school moderation and input from Local Authority specialists. Our results in Reading, spelling and use of appropriate Grammar and maths are outstanding - significantly above the national average. The results in writing are slightly lower, as is true nationally and writing continues to be a school priority. In addition there is currently a national debate about how writing is assessed. Meanwhile, do please encourage your child to write at any and every opportunity, as practice is the key.
A second priority for the school is to monitor and seek to narrow the gender gap between the boys and girls. This is a national trend which is reflected in our data. However, I would stress that the boys at BCS outperform even the girls nationally. We are constantly seeking to encourage the boys to engage and attain the highest standards possible.
There are two other areas of school life that I want to share with you. The first of these is the focus being placed by Government and OSTED on the safeguarding of children in schools.
Safeguarding is of paramount importance at BCS, just as it is at every school. At BCS bullying for example is not commonplace and there is good reason for that, a reason based on explicit school values in a Christian community and the emphasis placed by staff on the care that the children are consistently expected to show to each other. However, on the few occasions it has occurred it is as devastating for the bullied child here as elsewhere. This school year another priority is developing the pastoral care for children, as they seek to overcome personal challenges. Nurture groups, a Y6 Anti-bullying Team and Lego therapy have all been introduced. In addition the children are all aware who they can approach if they have any concerns. All staff and many Governors have training in safeguarding and I am the designated senior Governor responsible for safeguarding, who oversees its numerous policies and staff training. The policies are available on the school website for you to read, these are designed to reinforce the values taught at home. The welfare of our children is not only a physical issue but includes intellectual, moral/ethical, spiritual and psychological. The school has strict procedures about how children can use IT for example, and we encourage parents to be equally solicitous with their child's use of IT at home. Some children become anxious about a variety of issues, if you are worried then the Head and her staff can and will be happy to advise and it is always better to be safe than sorry. Parents can always write to me at school, labelling the envelope 'Confidential'.
Finally, finance. How much money a school receives per child enrolled depends not only on the number enrolled but also, for example, the number of children with special needs, with low attainment, receiving free school meals or whose first language is not English. This has resulted in BCS being severely underfunded. The Governors have been relentless in their pursuit of more income both locally and at national level, where we have made representation to the House of Commons. Recently the Secretary of State has announced an alteration to the criteria controlling the distribution of funding. We hope for the best but expect and plan for the worst. We live in one of the most socially advantaged areas in the country and it is difficult to claim a greater part of an already too small national cake. Typically primaries spend around 80% on staff salaries, leaving little funding for other resources. The 2017 issue of the 'Governors' Handbook' states quite explicitly that 'there is no more money for schools'. The Governors are considering all possibilities to secure the funding needed to maintain our high standards. For example, the new school school building and facilities provide opportunities for an external income stream.
My personal thanks go to all the teaching staff, to the Headteacher, to fellow Governors, to parents and Trafford for unstinting commitment to BCS in 2016, often well beyond the call of duty and without which my job would be so much more onerous.
Professor David Reid
Chair of Governors, BCS, January 2017