I have been Chair of Governors of Seacroft Grange Primary School for nearly twenty years. In the dark days of the early 1990s the school was considered one of the least successful schools in the UK - closure of the school was not a question of 'if' but 'when'; every indicator set we failed, for example our first SATS results we barely scraped into double figures -- a local newspapers described the school as a 'National Disgrace, mind you they never sought to ask why. That was then.
Today the school, serving the same community in the same economically deprived inner city area our world is so different. where once we were third or fourth choice for admissions now we have to put 'House Full' Notices on the school gates. Vandalised almost daily, graffiti was ripe, we were almost un-insurable, now Charlie our site manager get most peeved if we do not win Gold for 'Leeds in Bloom'.
We decided, what seems a lifetime ago, give the children something to collectively 'hang their hats on', too small for full size teams games we choice art and music to bind the children together. Little did we anticipate the remarkable success that gave this small school a national reputation for painting; in 2007 at a exhibition of school art held at the Royal Academy our children provided two of the exhibits shown - we had a recent visitor from the local council who thought they were painting from outside the school. Every success the school enjoys everybody has a part, everyone takes pride in achievement.
I mentioned SATS and our then failure, our recent results for a cohort considered weaker than the previous year early indications are for Maths 97% at level 4, I have yet to obtain other results.
However despite all our successes of the years what we are most proud of is that where once we were on the outside of the community, who frankly would not have shed a tear if the school closed, we are now in the centre, respected and protected by the local community.
So much has happened over the years, awards, invitation to No10, despite all that the secret of our success is quite simple:
1. Leadership - the present head teacher, then deputy, agreed to do the job for a year,his ambitions lay elsewhere,after seventeen years he is still with us - though by rights he should have been given a much larger school. He understands his staff and not afraid to delegate,parents and pupils respect his judgement.
2, Having both teaching and support staff who recognise that in an environment for the school to prosper they have to work together - in the staff room it is difficult to distinguish who teaches and wwho supports, and that includes governors.
3. Instilling in the children who attend the school that they have responsibilities, that in respecting others they respect themselves and that bad behaviour is not tolerated - of course children do misbehave but they understand there is a line not to be crossed. On the other side of the coin if they they have done some work they are proud of they are encouraged to share and display it to others.
4. Parents have a right to know whats going on in the school and the school management frequently consults them when their help or advice is required -
it is useful as an early warning system to what is happening on the streets and issues that could be problematic to school a solution is found.
What of myself. Well when first became a governor at the school my initial impression was ' What am I doing here? and when I was elected to chair the Governing body; I suspect no one wanted the job, I was of the opinion that my tenure as Chair would be
short and not very glorious. However once I got to know the quality of the staff and governors and their dedication to the school I quickly understood that given time and money they could turn the school round.
A word about my fellow governors, most of whom have been around as long as I, though not as old, with the exception of my deputy who calls me young man - though I am not, are remarkable bunch who contribute so much to the school and are a bit 'odd ball'; I remember on one occasion during a Summer meeting and on hearing the ice cream van we had a break to enjoy one. We are unconventional but in a very conventional manner - if we had a motto it would be "Can unless there is a rule says we can't".
Finally through the success of the school and the efforts of others I have enjoyed personal recognition from fellow governors city wide, including the honour of representing governors on various committees, Chairing the Leeds Governors Conference and having my services to governance recognised at the conference a few years ago. Looking back to the uncertain days of the 1990s would I do it all again, you bet your bottom dollar I would not for the kudos but for the sheer enjoyment of being part of a group of people who never accept defeat,and so much more.
ps latest is that instead of closing the school they want to build us a brand new two form entry one - mind you that was on the cards until government shelved the new buildings programme.