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Suffolk Governors

07 June 2013

THE governors of the federated Gislingham and Palgrave Church of England primary schools in Suffolk have won the National Governors' Association's top award.

When they received the award, which they share with a governing body from Bristol, at a House of Commons ceremony last month, they were named as "Outstanding governing body of the year", and described as: "strong" and "exceptionally well organised".

But it was not always so. In 2009, the federation was found barely satisfactory by OFSTED inspectors, who criticised the governors for allowing standards to slip.

Kit Wells, their chairman, was in post then. The OFSTED report was a wake-up call, he says. "Not only did we realise we hadn't got information: we hadn't known what information we should have."

The governors rose to the challenge: shortly afterwards, a new joint head, Andrew Berry, was appointed, and a new regime, with clear lines of communication, was put in place.

The governors shared out duties, creating three committees to oversee finance and premises, curriculum, and personnel matters. At the same time, a clerk to the governors was appointed, together with a school business manager. "Both are so good at their job they're due an award, too," Mr Wells says.

Commenting on the changes, in a recent NGA film, Mr Berry said: "This isn't my school - it's the governors'. I see myself as their professional adviser. It's a rare day when the head and his chair don't exchange emails; and most weeks, Mr Wells, an environmental consultant, spends some time in school."

"Some of us run our own businesses," Mr Wells says, "which means we can juggle things around. All of us are very committed to doing the best for our children." The new regime is clearly working: at the latest inspection, the federation was also given an "Outstanding" rating.

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