Entry 2. October 2023
I started my previous ‘Diary of a Governor’ entry, as we commenced the new first term of 2023-24, with an ‘INSET’ day – a day when teaching staff go into school without any pupils present to do training.
Whilst the school celebrated Black History Month, a further INSET day was scheduled, with a focus on ‘Inclusion and Racial Literacy’ and delving into microaggressions. Microaggressions are often at the root of whether there is a sense of inclusion or exclusion. When identifying how inclusive our schools are, we need to be mindful of the micro-behaviours that can convey hostility and make pupils, parents or staff feel isolated and excluded. From a common microaggression in the classroom by failing to learn to pronounce (or continuing to mispronounce) names of pupils after they have corrected you, through to the burden of representation – whereby pupils of any group are expected to ‘represent’ the perspectives of others from the same race, gender, ethnicity etc. during class discussions – these were productive, thought-provoking sessions for staff to deepen understanding in the school.
Our school is at the heart of the community, and we’ve chosen to collect donations for local food banks once again this year, to make sure that no child or adult is forced to go hungry. It acts as another opportunity to take part in the WE Scare Hunger campaign and raise awareness of the root causes of hunger. Kicking off with a no cost dress-up day, pupils were adorned in something that ‘scares away hunger’. Amongst the superhero costumes, I find teachers at the front gates inexplicably dressed as UFOs – well, to each their own (we are inclusive!).
As we hit the halfway mark in the school’s autumn term, there are several matters for me to attend to as a governor, dictated by both statute and school governance. Of the committees I sit on, the Pay Committee is crucial as governors must approve the pay of each teacher in the annual review. Decisions are made on pay progression – referring to whether teachers move up a point (or ‘increment’) on their pay scale – in a maintained state school such as ours, it depends on how well the teacher has done their job and the results of their annual appraisal. I then attended a separate meeting with a subset of governors, forming a Review Panel to appraise the headteacher’s performance, progress made against agreed objectives, and feedback on his dress-up choices.
Related to this, and because governors have a statutory responsibility to support and challenge the headteacher, as I chair the committee overseeing the school’s financial management, discussions are well underway on setting financial priorities through the School Development Plan (SDP), three-year financial plan, and the annual budget. It’s been a difficult period for many schools and governors to ensure calculated levels of financial performance are achieved.
Before I sign-off on the school’s budget submission to our Local Education Authority, the updates this October on the Government’s funding announcements make for more cheerless reading. The Department for Education (DfE) admitted to a £370m error with its funding figures for state schools in England next year, in effect c.£50 less per pupil than originally forecasted. Time will now be spent redrawing our 2024-25 financials, and governors may need to explore difficult decisions with the headteacher and senior leadership team on approaches to recruitment and resourcing.
As the days grow darker and wetter, I realise I have ended this diary entry on a gloomy note! In a way I hope it encourages you to think about volunteering as a governor and consider the ways you can contribute your diverse professional or life skills, to help schools face down these challenging times.