A couple of weeks ago I visited Carwarden House Community School, a secondary special school in Surrey for young people with moderate learning difficulties. The school has recently moved from ‘requires improvement’ to ‘good’ with ‘outstanding’ behaviour and safety, under the leadership of headteacher Jarlath O’Brien.
What struck me on my visit was how open the school is about its approach. Its vision statement, which was developed with the governors and with parents, is displayed prominently around the school. The statement is clear and straightforward, which helps everyone to focus on achieving outcomes that will help students to thrive in the wider world.
It’s a vision that’s well-embedded in the life of the school, and has real meaning. For example, I saw staff giving plenty of encouragement to pupils to contribute to discussions. I also heard from Jarlath about students who are working with local employers for extended periods, where this is the best way for them to develop independence and resilience.
An interesting touch is that priorities for school improvement are displayed round the school on posters, along with the names of the leaders accountable for achieving them. Jarlath told me that distributing leadership in this very public way is central to the school’s succession planning.
Reports for the governing body share the clarity found elsewhere in the school, with well-presented data on pupil progress, along with information on trends the governors need to know about.
I came away from Carwarden House with a sense of a school with a clear vision, really living its values. Developing a vision and making sure the school is on track to achieve it can be a real challenge for school governors. Members of The Key for School Governors can read more about this in the values and ethos section of our website.