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Governors' Blog


July 2018

Me again, you will note that since writing in Jan 2017 I am still the chair of the F&E group (remember what it stands for? Foundation and Ethos!).

As we come to the end of the year we look not only back on the journey that the children have gone through but especially think of the new journey those leaving us are going to be making in their new schools in September. We trust and pray that they have been well prepared for the challenges that go ahead and carry themselves with the dignity that the schools values will have embedded in them.

As we look forward to where the school may be in the years to come and how it can continue to be somewhere children are cared for and nurtured, I for one, will hope the strong links with the church will stay and that the Christian ethos of the school will be ever more present.

Especially now we have finally welcomed our new vicar (rector designate to give him his officer, yet temporary title!), March Terry and his wife Shelly and daughter Phoebe, who is 3.

I hope that a highlight of some of the children’s year, and maybe even teachers, was coming to the experience eucharist day that we ran at the end of march to introduce the children to the different aspects of the eucharist in a run and quite messy way!

The staff and head have worked together, along with the governors to set a clear vision and values for the school that benefits the children and we look forward to introducing that vison which is based on Isaiah 40:31, “roots to grow and wings to fly”.

It’s a vison that reminds us that as a school we want to start setting down strong roots that will serve the children well in all aspects of life. BUT at some point, they must be trusted to fly on their own and that they are ready to do so.

So as we look forward to a new for the school and the end of this part of the road for some and others that start new journeys, may you be blessed in Christ and be assured of our support and my prayers as we all ponder what will come of the new school year.

Gods bless,

Anton Campbell
Chair of Foundation & Ethos

Curriculum Teaching and Learning Committee Blog

Summer 2018

Last year the committee oversaw the school’s development of the Early Years and Foundation stage to improve the provision for children in Reception. It has been very rewarding this year to see that the improvements of last year have been consolidated and built upon. The progress of the children in reception has been marked and consistent through-out the year.

The committee has changed its practice this year slightly. As well as receiving reports from the Headteacher and subject leaders, we have been undertaking ‘book looks’ to see first-hand how the children are developing. We have seen good evidence of progress and have a greater understanding of the curriculum requirements for children in different year groups. We have also seen the marking and assessment policy being applied consistently in different year groups.

A key development of the school this year was the Personal, Social, Health and Citizenship curriculum. The school has adopted a programme called ‘Jigsaw’. This includes aspects of ‘mindfulness’ yoga and meditation to help the children think more deeply about issues. I was very impressed to see Year 1 children engaging with the programme to understand how to keep safe and healthy. The programme clearly has a strong emphasis on mental health issues – which has been highlighted as a key issue for our children in the national press. All children in the school cover the same topic over a six-week period (at age appropriate levels) with assemblies to reinforce the messages. There is good evidence that the programme is very effective in helping children develop positive attitudes towards healthy, happy lifestyles.

Curriculum, Teaching & Learning Blog

Summer 2017

One of the areas which Curriculum, Teaching and Learning committee have been watching this year, is the development of the Early Years area.  It has been exciting to see how the interests and views of the children have been incorporated into the themes of the curriculum and the displays in the classroom – and outside area.  The topic of Superheroes was a spring term theme and then in the summer it has been ‘camping’.  We have been very interested to see how Mrs Nicholas and her team have used these themes to encourage reading, writing and numeracy skills.

The school has also introduced themed weeks as a whole school focus.  The Autumn term RE/Arts week was followed by a Computer Week in the Spring.  This term it is the turn of Science.  These weeks have been very successful in providing a context through which particular aspects of literacy and numeracy are taught, as well as developing a deeper understanding of the subject area.  The committee has received reports from the school about each themed week, as well as visiting the school to observe the events first hand. 

This year the school has developed a different relationship with local secondary schools to provide even better sport opportunities for the children.  The committee has kept a close scrutiny of the provision to ensure that the school is receiving good value for the money it invests in the provision.  Other areas of additional funding which the committee oversees are the Pupil Premium Funding and Special needs and disabilities funding. In our July meeting we will be considering the school’s self-evaluation of how it uses the funds provided. These reports will be published for parents, on the website, in September. 

The most important function of this committee is to challenge the school to support children’s progress, so that they achieve the very best they are capable of.  Each term we receive reports about the progress of every child in the school. There are robust debates about the few children who – for various reasons – do not appear to be making as much progress as others.  However, we are pleased to report that the vast majority are making good progress and achieving well again this year.  Visits to the school by members of this and other committees confirms the information provided by the school. 

David New
Chair of CT&L Committee

April 2017

The Finance Committee has had a busy 6 months since our last Blog.  Most significantly, the School’s Finance Office, Emma Tyler, left the School in January, because her family moved to Wales.  Emma made a tremendous contribution to the School in her 18 months with us, and leaves the School’s budget and financial management in a really strong position.  Emma has been replaced by Jacqui Culley-Oakley - we are really looking forward to working with Jacqui in coming months and continuing to manage the School’s income and expenditure as effectively as we can.  Please say hello to Jacqui if you get the chance!

One of the things that has kept us busy recently is watching the continuing national debate about Fairer Funding for schools.  Based on the Government’s most recent guidance, we don’t expect a great deal of change to By Brook Valley’s overall income, which is a relief (other schools in the area are not in the same position).  However, you may have noticed an apparent shift in Government policy very recently, with the Fairer Funding initiative seemingly being ‘paused’ for further consultation.  Like everyone else, we’ll keep our eye on the latest developments and try and understand what they might mean for us.  Uncertainty is rarely a good thing though, so we are even more determined to ensure that By Brook Valley is as well placed as possible to manage future changes to our income.

On a positive note, pupil numbers have remained high and the Local Council’s somewhat pessimistic forecasts for Reception Year numbers in coming years do not seem to have materialised.  In part, that’s probably a reflection of the strong reputation the School has and the outstanding teaching.  As School funding is directly linked to pupil numbers, we’re very pleased that so many local families want to send their children to By Brook Valley!

We continue to do everything we can to improve the School’s buildings and facilities.  The leaky roof has finally been fixed, and we have a permanent repair planned and budgeted for later this year.  The old Trim Trail has been removed from the field because it was increasingly difficult to maintain and the children are developing plans for a replacement - we’re looking forward to considering their ideas!  And, we’ve replaced several more of the School’s external doors.  Looking slightly further ahead, we’re investigating whether we can take advantage of the School’s large roof to install Solar Panels.  Plenty to keep us busy for many more months……

Martin Lowe

January 2017

January feels like it comes round very quickly and then when it’s here lasts an age, or is that just me!

The last few months for the F&E team have been an interesting challenge. But if you’re reading this you might be thinking “I don’t even know what F&E is”! F&E stands for Foundation and Ethos and we are a subcommittee of the FGB that deals with a good number of the policies, especially those around safeguarding, welfare and spiritual growth. 

Bybrook School has a fantastic relation with the local church and you may have seen the choir at the carol service back on December the 18th, where they brought a real delight and different dimension to the service.

With the Rev Jonathan Philpot moving on to pastures new and the team of crunches in the Bybrook group being without a priest in charge I “volunteered” to take over the role of Chair of the F&E group until we get a new incumbent. This has been a challenge but one that I am enjoying as it is a privileged to be able to work even closer with the head and staff at the school.

After both an outstanding OFSTEAD and SIAMS report we look to maintain and develop the things that will be best for the children and both their educational and spiritual development, however that might form and something that is always at the heart of what the school set out to achieve. Coming up this year we will continue to monitor the class visits, be involved in reviewing policies and have an event called “experience Easter” in March that I hope will be as well supported and received as other similar events in the year.

With the hope of as positive a future as we have had past and with every blessing

Anton Campbell
Chair of F&E

November 2016

In the November blog on the Governor Sub Committees, David New explains the role of the Curriculum Teaching & Learning Committee

Curriculum, Teaching & Learning focusses on the quality of provision, by the school, for the children.  The school’s curriculum is what it teaches and the quality of teaching is how it delivers this curriculum.  The achievements and progress of the children measures the effectiveness of the curriculum and teaching and learning.  By analysing the results of assessments and taking reports from various subject leaders, we keep a check on how well the school is delivering both academic and social education. 

This year we are keeping a focus on one of the school’s priority areas – Early Learning or as we used to call it, ‘Reception’.  In October, we had a tour around the recently revamped reception class area to see how the environment has been improved to encourage better learning by the youngest members of the school community.   We will be visiting the area twice more this year to see how this area develops over the year to keep the children stimulated and wanting to learn. 

In December, we will be looking at the information published by the government about schools to check how we compare to other schools nationally.  Using information about how well children achieved in assessments at the end of their Early Years, KS1, KS2 alongside attendance and other data, we check that the quality of the school’s provision for the children is still amongst the best nationally – as the ‘Outstanding’ Ofsted grade indicates we should be.  The governors will be particularly focusing on groups of children, for example; the disadvantaged, the most able and those with special needs who need additional support.  In January, May and July we check the school’s data on children’s progress to make sure that, throughout the year, the school is making the most of every child’s abilities.  Where children do not appear to be making the progress they should, we check with the school as to what they are doing to help and support those children.  So far, we have always had good answers, but we will keep checking.

As governors, we have a strategic role in supporting the school. We check that the priorities identified by the school are consistent with the results and outcomes for children in published information.  We review policies relevant to teaching, learning and the curriculum and check reports prepared, for parents, by the school.  Particularly in respect of children with special educational needs or disadvantaged children, and how effectively additional funding is being used to support children, for example the sports premium. 

The curriculum teaching & learning committee comprises myself as chair, Ann Hilton as vice chair, a staff Governor – Carrie Davies, the Headteacher and 2 deputies, Bev Ball, Deborah Henshall and Joanne Jardim.  All of us currently have had experience of education through our jobs, but that is not a pre-requisite for joining the committee.  Anyone who is enthusiastic about the progress of children towards their next stage of education at secondary school, would find the work we do interesting.  Training is available for those who need it in interpreting the information provided.  For more information, if you are interested in becoming a governor, please contact the chair through the school.

David New

September 2016

In the next blog on the Governor Sub Committees, Martin Lowe explains the role of the Finance Committee…..

"One of the three Governor Sub-Committees is the Finance committee.  There are currently four Governors on the committee (Martin Lowe, Keith Ernest, Andrew Wylie and Ian Banister) along with the Headteacher, the School Manager (Emma Dadd) and the School Finance Officer (Emma Tyler).  As the name suggests, the committee is responsible for managing the School’s budget, but it is also responsible for overseeing the School’s buildings and grounds, for staff and for Health & Safety.

The vast majority of School funding comes from the Government and is broadly in proportion to the number of pupils in the School.  You might be aware that the Government is considering significant changes to the way that School’s are funded in the future - something that the committee is keeping a very close interest in!  The School gets additional grants for Sports and Special Education Needs and the committee monitors the way these  specific funds are spent.  As an Academy, the School is also able to generate other income where it can.  Recently, for instance, we’ve allowed a Holiday Club to operate in the School during holidays, which has resulted in hundreds of pounds of additional income.  Every little helps…..

The School’s biggest expense by some distance is staff.  To be honest, that’s exactly what most of the School’s budget should be spent on, because ensuring that the School has good teaching and support staff is the best way of ensuring the right outcomes for pupils.  The Governors don’t recruit staff though - that’s for the Headteacher to lead - but we do work with the Head to ensure that we get the best staff and staffing structure and have a responsibility to monitor staff welfare.  We do, of course, also have to spend a proportion of the School’s budget on maintaining the buildings in good order - we expect to have to refurbish the gutters on the roof at considerable expense later this year for example.  In the past year we’ve done work to the Owls’ Reception Class outdoor area, laid more decking at the back of the new extension, added a paving stone emergency path from the new extension to the front of the School and replaced several external doors (a particular interest of the Headteacher!).  Other routine expenditure includes utilities, teaching materials, IT and cleaning - the list is long, but we do what we can to keep these essential costs to a minimum so that we can invest as much of the School’s budget as possible into things that directly benefit the pupils.  The two Emmas in the School Office (School Manager and Finance Officer) do a great job of keeping on top of the budget and the condition of the buildings, which make the Finance Committee’s role much easier!

Things that are going to keep us busy in the next few months are repairing the gutters and looking a couple of years ahead at the School’s income.  Current predictions from the local Council are that pupil numbers entering Reception Class are likely to drop, which will mean reduced funding for the School.  We’ll be doing everything we can to maintain School pupil numbers and making sure that the School’s finances can cope with the reduced income.  If you’re interested in helping take on these challenges, particularly if you have an interest in finance or buildings, please don't feel shy about volunteering to be a Governor!”

July 2016

The F&E Team

When I became a governor, there were huge numbers of acronyms that had to be learned in order to understand what on earth was being talked about.  One of those was F&E which stands for Foundation and Ethos.  The F&E Team is one of the recognised sub-committees of the Full Governing Body, and has responsibility for helping to promote and preserve the religious character and Christian distinctiveness of the school.

As a church school, we have a SIAMS inspection which is like the churches version of Ofsted.  This inspection focuses on the effect the Christian ethos of the church school has on the children who attend it.  The Christian ethos of church schools varies quite significantly from school to school, but the underlying question at the inspection is “how distinctive and effective is the school as a church school?”   Put most simply, the F&E Team help to monitor this on a regular basis to ensure that as a school the answer is, “Really well” so that the inspectors get a true sense of the day to day practice of the school.  In February 2015, the school achieved an outstanding SIAMS result.

The Team is made up of the Incumbent of the Bybrook Group of Churches, the head teacher or one of the deputy heads, other Foundation governors (Anton Campbell and Elisabeth Ford), and ideally a community governor to represent community interests.

We monitor safeguarding, collective worship, behaviour and rewards policies, admissions, attendance, equality, online safety, racial incidents and bulling incidents.  We try to ensure that the message of the school ethos is consistent across the school, and more recently have been given the task of helping to monitor the school’s response to British Values and the way in which they are being introduced and taught in school.

Rev Jonathan Philpott
Chair, F&E Team