Governors and Directors from across St Bartholomew’s CE Multi Academy Trust were introduced to the MAT Away Day 2019 with a welcome from Richard Pithers, Chair of the Trust Board. They sat in mixed groups in order to share practice across the MAT and provide networking opportunities, and then received an interactive safeguarding presentation from Denise Mooney (Safeguarding Consultant). Governors and Directors utilised the opportunity to ask questions throughout the safeguarding presentation and considered a variety of scenarios for discussion. This led to discussion around the Trust’s Safeguarding and HR Administration Policy, which was legally compliant but delegates agreed it would be good practice to introduce a minimum requirement for Safer Recruitment refresher training to take place every 3 years. The session reminded everyone of the importance of a culture of questioning and challenging in the best interests of the children in the Trust, who are at the centre of all we do.
The next presentation focused on the wider curriculum, led by a member of the senior leadership team from St Bartholomew’s CE Primary School. This included a demonstration of the knowledge organisers in use across the schools and highlighted the importance of experiential events and MAT events, which enhance children’s learning experience. Delegates also learned about the methodology and rationale behind the MAT’s assessment and monitoring processes, which involved regular meetings across the year including book trawls. Delegate were also shown examples of “pupil voice” questions which reflected the kinds of questions which may be asked during an Ofsted inspection. Noted that the new Ofsted framework has a focus on the curriculum, which should be ambitious and enable all children to have the cultural capital they need to succeed. Cultural capital is the essential knowledge that pupils need to be educated citizens, “introducing them to the best that has been thought and said, and helping to engender an appreciation of human creativity and achievement”. This tied in with what was taking place around the wider curriculum and personal development at St Bartholomew’s CE MAT, with passionate teachers who instil a love of learning, in turn preparing children to move on to the next stage of their education. Delegates considered the extent to which Governors/Directors need to know what’s happening with the curriculum in the Trust, noting that this should be from a strategic perspective, with Governors needing to ask: “How do we know that the curriculum intent aligns with the vision and ethos of the Trust? Is this being implemented effectively and how do we know this?” Subject leads play a vital role in providing this assurance, with support from executive leadership. Governors were encouraged to come into school to feel the excitement and passion around the curriculum, in order to witness the breadth and depth. It was important for Governors to receive assurances via a triangulated approach, and to see evidence that subject leaders were being supported by managers. It was also important to note that the wider curriculum acted as “memory hooks” for subject knowledge during lessons which were more formal. Noted that the full curriculum would be looked at in more depth by leaders from across the Trust the following day at the MAT Leadership Conference.
This led to further discussion around Ofsted, curriculum intent and implementation with a session led by Emma Balchin (Director of Professional Development, National Governance Association and Vice-Chair of the Trust Board). This included sharing questions that have been asked by Ofsted inspectors as gathered by the NGA, and Governors considered to what extent they would be confident in answering these if required. Governors felt broadly confident but agreed that these questions should be considered further at a later date. Emma explained that individual Governors were not accountable but the Local Governing Boards needed to be knowledgeable as a group. Noted that all Governors needed to be aware of the Scheme of Delegation and Decision Matrix for their school, so that they understood what they were responsible for.
During the afternoon, Governors split into Local Governing Board groups for their own schools and received a presentation from Ficher Family Trust (FFT) in relation to school data. They noted that although Ofsted inspections now focused less on data (because inspectors were unable to quality-assure the data during an inspection), Governors needed to do their own quality assurance via challenge and the schools needed to be able to tell Governors what they did with that data i.e. what interventions did they put in place where any gaps or trends were identified? Delegates learned about the purpose of data and the term “statistical significance.” They also considered the different ways of analysing attainment and/or progress including progress over time. The session included opportunities to discuss school data within groups. Governors were advised that an e-Learning opportunity was available for absent Governors and/or those who required a refresher.
The event was very positively received, with a number of Governors commenting on how they would use what they’d learned and discussed during the day to improve their own practice.