My son had attended Derby Grammar School from age 7 and whilst he was there I worked in a very demanding job so was unable to give much time to school life. So when I was asked to consider joining the Governing Body in August 2019 it felt like something positive to do to support a wonderful school.
It was a very interesting time to join the Board. Independent Schools face the challenge that many businesses face and I had no experience of education but plenty of business experience.
Little did I know that within six months, we would be guiding the school through a global pandemic. Obviously, no-one had dealt with this type of situation before and it has been quite a challenge for everyone at school as we worked through all of the changes that had to be made to continue delivering an education.
The Governing body were kept abreast of the changes that the government were making and how the staff were having to adapt to these requirements. It would not be an exaggeration to say that there were a lot of changes and the majority were with hardly any notice – this is not a criticism simply a statement of fact.
We had to make decisions regarding a wide range of topics, we had to be mindful of all of our stakeholders – pupils; parents; all staff (academic and non-academic); the charities commission and statutory bodies.
I know many of our stakeholders were wrestling with the changes. For our pupils, having to adapt to home schooling (and for their parents), for our Y11 and Y13 pupils having their exams cancelled, then an algorithm used which affected a number of people, then reverting to Centre Assessed Grades. Our teaching staff had put a huge amount of thought and effort into the grades to be given and as a governing body, we paid close attention to the evidence used to support these grades. A lot of hard work but it paid off in the end.
The school’s senior management team have dealt with this whole situation exceptionally well and much of this is was due to sheer hard work and having the foresight to model different scenarios so they could be ready for whatever the government announced.
Our teaching staff have had to learn completely new ways of delivering education through technology, trying to ensure it is meaningful and focussed, and that the curriculum was not affected. It is only with hindsight that we realise how brilliantly they did, particularly when we review the headlines around “lost education” in the media.
We now have the ability to adapt offering blended learning through the provision of both virtual and on site teaching.
And to our parent body, we say a huge thank you. As a governing body we took the view that we didn’t know how long this would go on for and had to be considered in our views. We had a duty to the Charities Commission which would have meant explaining our rationale for offering large discounts in a very uncertain period. Plus, as a new and small school we don’t have the financial backing that large group-supported schools have. Our parents were hugely supportive, stepped up to the plate to support their children, teachers and the school. We are thrilled to have them in our school community.
On the positive side, our size did help – being a small school meant we were able to adapt when pupils were allowed back in. Social distancing was easier for us to manage.
Our pupils have knuckled down, adapted and continued to learn – but how they were missed. How their voices were missed in our empty corridors and classrooms.
As we move forward, our support for mental wellbeing will continue and become even more of a focus for us, as we feel this is very important for all our pupils and staff.
Find out more about our Governors here: www.derbygrammar.org/governors/