The new school year is always a time for change and reflection, and this year has given us so much to look back on and learn from. The disruption to our daily routines caused by the Coronavirus outbreak has affected all of us, with schools facing particular turmoil. As a parent myself, I know that moving to home learning was a challenge for families as well as school staff, and I’m certain we all recognise the immense strain that put us all under.
At our Governing Body meeting back in March we were acutely aware of the possibility of local or national lockdowns and discussed at great length how this might affect learning, and how Riverside might deal with the disruption. I’m not sure that any of us imagined during that meeting that the plans would put into action so soon afterwards.
It is testament to the planning and dedication of everybody at Riverside that the transition to home learning went so well, whilst the site stayed open for the children of Key Workers and other vulnerable families. Credit must also go to the children themselves, who demonstrated remarkable resilience as their world changed overnight.
As September’s full re-opening approached I know just how hard everybody worked to have the site ready to welcome a full cohort of children in the safest possible manner, and I could not be more proud of Riverside.
The Governing Body walked a difficult line, giving the leadership team space to do their jobs without feeling pressured, but at the same time providing oversight to ensure the school was fulfilling all its statutory duties.
We know, of course, that Riverside is in good hands. We see this from our own monitoring activities, which we have reviewed and adapted to fit in with these changing times. An effective Governing Body also seeks to validate their findings by triangulating them with external and independent assessments – the most comprehensive of all of these being an OFSTED inspection.
Back in November 2019, we welcomed OFSTED to Riverside for a full two-day inspection. Governors were part of this process, and if our 45 minutes of questioning were nerve-wracking then I can only imagine how it felt for staff to be put under the microscope with inspectors visiting their classrooms and questioning every aspect of their work.
The inspectors were rightly impressed with what they saw, and deemed Riverside to be Outstanding in the areas of personal development as well as behaviour and attitudes. The overall judgement was Good, with governors and leaders praised for already taking proactive steps to move towards Outstanding in all areas.
In July 2020 Riverside was visited – virtually this time – as part of the Inclusion Quality Mark assessment. Governors were once again part of this process and were recognised for our engagement with the school and our commitment to inclusion. Riverside retains its Flagship School status and governors are proud of the inclusive ethos of the school.
Our Local Governing Body continues to change. At the end of the school year we said a fond farewell to Tim Scott, a parent governor who chaired the board in fine style until January; and to Jacob Bell, a staff governor whose experience in SureStart and Early Years proved invaluable. Their contributions to Riverside have been enormous, and I thank them both for their dedication.
In their place we welcomed Matt Pyrke as parent governor, and Michael Sullivan-Stanley as staff governor. Their experience and enthusiasm will be priceless as we face challenging and uncertain times.
Our ways of working have adapted quickly to the current situation. Zoom meetings with leaders have allowed us to hold Local Governing Body meetings online, and to continue monitoring areas such as the Covid recovery plan, school finances (including the impact of Pupil Premium and PE/Sports funding) and pupil & staff wellbeing.
Our training and personal development never ceases. New governors are working their way through a comprehensive induction programme, and all governors have been attending online training in areas as diverse as pay reviews or equality legislation. In addition, all governors have refreshed their safeguarding training: it is mandatory for all governors to be familiar with the latest version of the Department for Education’s Keeping Children Safe in Education guidance, and at our most recent Governor Day we tested our safeguarding knowledge in a session which included a searching quiz.
This promises to be a challenging year. We don’t yet know what lies ahead as we gradually return to normality, but we go into this school year with a sense of optimism, knowing that Riverside is well placed to thrive and to have a successful and rewarding year. I’m proud of the school’s response to an unprecedented event, and equally proud of the way the Local Governing Body has responded and adapted.
Do please get in touch via the school office if you have any questions about Governance. Have a wonderful year, and above all stay safe.
Chair of Governors, Riverside Local Governing Body.