At the Governors’ meeting last month I took over from Albert Leaf as Chair of Governors. I was joined by Alison Logan and David Horn as Vice-Chairs. Albert and Caroline Mathias, who was vice-chair for many years, have now stepped down from the Board and I want to pay tribute and give thanks to them both, on behalf of the Academy, for their decades of service, support and friendship to this school. Few schools are fortunate enough to have members of their communities give up so much of their time for so many years and we are indebted to them.

We were pleased to offer Albert and Caroline a formal token of the Academy’s appreciation – a pair of stunning glass plates bearing the Academy phoenix kindly created by our very own Ken Maynard – and staff will also mark this moment by hosting Afternoon Tea for Albert and Caroline and their families at the Academy this week.
Thankfully, Albert and Caroline are not leaving the Academy altogether. They remain members of the Academy Trust and, under changes to our Articles which we are presenting to the DfE for approval, they will lead a panel which will oversee the effectiveness of governance in the Academy, bringing their years of experience to bear as they hold us to account. If they do not think we are doing a good enough job, they can replace us!
This is one of a number of changes we are making to governance in the Academy. We have reduced the size of the Board from 22 to 13 and it will now meet formally twice each half-term. Each Governor is tasked with reviewing a priority area for the Academy, which will mean each of us gets a ‘whole school view’ during our visits and the aim is that staff and students will see ‘more of us, more often’.

For example, so far this term Kim Marshall and I have worked with Mr Diamond reviewing the Academy’s approach to mental health and wellbeing. Our aim is to improve the level of knowledge and understanding of the Board, evaluate impact of Academy policies and help the Academy identify areas for improvement. Other areas governors are looking at this term include how well we stretch and challenge our most able, the level of rigour in our KS3 curriculum, impact of our PP spending and the progress of boys.
Ultimately, this is a critical year for the Academy. OFSTED will visit again in the next 12 months and, when they come, we must satisfy them that the Academy is continuing to improve at pace. The Academy secured its second best ever results this summer in terms of student attainment; that’s the number of students achieving grade 9-4 in five or more subjects including English and Maths. This is crucial to the life chances of our young people and their ability to progress into the further education, training or employment they want and the Academy is delivering on that.

However, in assessing the quality of schools the government now focuses on the progress (distance travelled) of every student in the Academy and we recognise that we still have work to do here. Our students already have a much higher than average level of ability when they start with us and we are taking robust action to better stretch and challenge our most able students, those from disadvantaged backgrounds and boys, in particular.
Like all schools, we face financial challenges and pressures on our budget that show no sign of abating in the coming years. On the contrary, things seem likely to get only harder. We are continuously reviewing our ways of working and spending to do our utmost to ensure the ongoing financial stability of the Academy.

We need your help to do this. We have vacancies on the Board for parents and members of our local community who feel they could contribute and help us set the strategic vision for the Academy and hold leaders to account. We are especially looking for people who have experience in mental health, accounting and finance, fundraising, PFI contract issues and supporting young people with employability. We are also keen to here from local employers of our young people who can help ensure we have a curriculum which equips students with the skills employers need. More information is on the Academy website.

Of course, school life is about far more than exam results (important though they are) and at Lord Lawson we are pleased to offer students a vibrant and safe environment where diversity is celebrated and creativity encouraged. We ensure all students have the opportunity to take part in many extra-curricular activities and trips during their time with us, broadening their horizons all the while. Many of our new Year 7 students have started their Lord Lawson careers by visiting Dukes house Wood this weekend and we are grateful to the staff members who gave up their weekend to make sure our young people have a safe and enjoyable time.

Chris Smith
Chair of Governors