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Chairman's Annual Report to Parents' Meeting - July 2000

In many ways it has been one of the busiest years for some time at Hethersett Middle School and I'm sure that the staff will confirm this.

Not the least of the accomplishments of the school has been steering successfully through another OFSTED inspection.

I am pleased to say that the school came out of this with flying colours. The Inspectors made many positive comments and were impressed with what they saw at the school. They were highly complimentary of both the staff and the children.

The Inspectors were also impressed by the partnership aspect of the school and this is something on which we pride ourselves and work to enhance.

We were very heartened by questionnaires returned by parents which rated our aims and teaching ability very highly.

The school, in conjunction with the Local Education Authority, has put forward an action plan which will be regularly reviewed by the governors.

There have either already been or will soon be a number of staff changes at the school. The most crucial of these will see Head Tim Strugnell leave us for a year to undertake a secondment with the LEA as a primary school advisor.

Tim's appointment will run from September 2000 and it is anticipated that he will return to us in September 2001.

The governors have given their full support to the secondment, although we will be sorry to lose Tim, albeit temporarily.

We feel that the school has moved forward considerably over the past three years and we are confident that the progress will be continued under the temporary headship of Richard Carter.

Class teacher Sharon Gilhooly will become acting deputy head for the year. Richard and Sharon will work closely with the governors to ensure the continued efficient running of the school.

The governors have formalised a procedure for secondments. Whilst generally supportive of them we have decided that only in exceptional circumstances will a member of staff be allowed to undertake a secondment of more than a year. Secondments will only be agreed if two criteria are met.

These will be that the secondment must enhance the professional development of the individual and must be of some tangible benefit to our school.

Ralph Manning will be leaving us at the end of term to take up an appointment training newly qualified teachers at the University of East Anglia. We wish him well. Ralph also has the distinction of being appointed to the National Teachers' Council, which hopefully will have a major say in shaping the future of teaching over the next few years.

Other key positions have also become free during the year. Caretaker Bob Beevor retired at the end of June and his successor Bob Aldous has already taken up his post. I would personally like to thank Bob for the excellent job he has performed over the past few years.

Our school secretary Jill Garrould will be leaving at the end of the school year and we wish her well. Her enthusiasm and friendship will be much missed. She was often parents' first contact point at the school. I do hope that she doesn't tell her sprout joke in her new surroundings!

Steps are already being taken to replace both Jill and Ralph. Angela Sweet, who is a very experienced teacher and who has taught at the school before, will be joining the staff on a temporary contract in September. Lois Povey and Barbara Tilley will also be leaving us at the end of the term.

The governors have a number of exciting initiatives for the coming year, the largest of which will be setting up a dedicated computer suite. This will be fully equipped so that entire classes can learn IT skills. It is also hoped to develop an official Internet site to replace my own very amateurish efforts. It is hoped that teachers, staff and possibly even parents will be able to benefit from the computer suite.

The governors are very mindful of the need to make the school as secure as possible whilst maintaining an atmosphere of welcoming openness.

Following a serious fire at the high school earlier this year, we are very aware of the need to be vigilant and will be looking at the possibility of closed circuit television cameras in strategic positions around the school.

A number of security steps have already been taken including securing wheelie bins at the front and putting the fence across the centre of the front playground.

I would like to take this opportunity of mentioning a simple initiative which could provide the school with a considerable amount of extra cash. Three of the schools in the village - Woodside First, ourselves and Hethersett High School - are collecting Fina petrol points. Parents filling up at Fina garages can ask for their points to go to the schools.

The school has become international this year. In addition to the usual French trip, pupils have been involved in an exchange visit to Utrecht in the Netherlands. Last year members of our school choir performed at St. Paul's School and in May Dutch children came to Hethersett to take part in an international concert.

As well as playing at our school, they visited Woodside First School and also played to residents at Woodcote Housing complex. Listening to our orchestra and choir combine with the Dutch orchestra in a virtually unrehearsed version of "Windmill of Old Amsterdam" was an interesting experience and definitely one of the highlights of the year. I am sure this exchange will become a part of the school calendar.

I would like to welcome Ben Holland, Jan Hall and Liz Williams to the governing body as parent-governors. Lynne Middlemiss resigned as a parent-governor during the year, but has been co-opted back onto the body. I would like to take this opportunity of publicly thanking Elizabeth Capleton who retired from the governing body during the year after many years of service to the school.

We still have a vacancy for an LEA governor if anybody is interested. The pay is lousy, the hours appalling but the satisfaction immense.

You will probably be aware that our school is at present 100% full with 272 children. This equates to 34 per class or 68 per year group. The governors have set a maximum figure of 34 per class. We would like it to be lower and feel that this is the maximum number which can be catered for in order to ensure the well-being of both teachers and children. It does mean that from time to time we have to refuse children entry and this has led to a number of appeals. So far we have been able to stick to these figures.

You will probably be aware that additional government funding has been released during the year. The government seem determined to give money away provided certain criteria are met. It often seems virtually impossible to meet this criteria, however, hence the fact that the school sees relatively little of what has been promised.

We have been frustrated for a number of years in our attempts to replace the Design and Technology block. This has been in spite of support for its replacement from our MP, county council representative and the Director of Education. We have still been unable to gain sufficient grants. It would of course be rather cynical of me to suggest that replacing our dilapidated block wouldn't bring sufficient additional votes for politicians!!

We will continue to press for a new DT block and will continue to apply for grants to enhance our school.

One piece of government "generosity" did see the award of an additional £9,000 with apparently no strings attached. The Head consulted with staff regarding the best use of this money and it has been decided to fund a part-time teaching post. This fits in well with the governors stated intention of maintaining staffing levels as high as possible.

A number of our teaching staff have applied for threshold payments under the scheme to reward top of the scale teachers an additional £2,000. It could be argued that this payment could have a divisive affect and be seen to put teachers in competition with one another, although there is no limit on the number of payments which can be made to any one school.

It is , however, another prime example of the government's bureaucratic nightmare which insists that we live our life in triplicate. I am convinced that the cost of producing the glossy brochures and providing inspectors to look after this exercise would have been better used in awarding a n across the board increase for all teachers - but that would have been too easy.

All staff will be aware of the bureaucratic form-filling overload they are now expected to become involve in. Certainly this is something affecting the governing body who are being expected more and more to justify their existence. Of course this is a voluntary existence !

I am sure I am not alone in calling for a real return to basics. If there is one cry that should be sent to central government, it is a simple one: "Mr Blair please allow our teachers to teach that is what they came into the profession to do and no amount of continual government meddling will change this."

My last few remarks are not made through any political bias, but through a frustration and anger that we are continually expected to justify our existence rather than being allowed to get on with our jobs. I am sure I strike a chord with some other people in this room tonight.

At Hethersett Middle School, we value our staff greatly and are fully aware of the unrealistic expectancies placed on them.

We are continually bombarded by league tables which have very little meaning and change from year to year and are influenced by so many matters. Much more important is the quality of the education we give to your children and whether parents feel their sons and daughters are being well taught and well cared for.

I cannot conclude without a few thank yous. Firstly to all the teaching and ancillary members of staff for their energy, enthusiasm and professionalism.

I would also like to thank my fellow governors who work extremely hard throughout the year. I feel we have a very strong team spirit and work in a democratic manner where views are listened to and respected. Governors work very closely with staff in developing policies and setting objectives which are both achievable and measurable and which are monitored throughout the year.

I would also like to thank the PTA for their continued contribution to school life - both socially and financially. Without their help over the years the school would be much the poorer - and not just in financial terms. Many of their initiatives are there for all to see including some smart new benches outside the main office.

And finally a thank you to you the parents for attending tonight and for your continued support of the school.

©Peter Steward - Chair of Governors July 2000.