The theme of this year’s Newham Governors’ and Trustees’ Annual Conference: Governor Effectiveness: Inclusive and Nurturing Schools seemed extremely well-timed.
Against the national context of rising mental health and anxiety needs in schools, increasing complex special educational needs, increasing primary pupil exclusions and the surfacing of informal exclusions, the need to explore and understand how best to support pupils has never been more key.
The conference, held on Saturday 7 May 2022 at Elmhurst Primary School, was opened by Cllr Sarah Ruiz, Cabinet member, Education and Children Social Care, who sincerely thanked Governors and Trustees for their remarkable and exceptional governance of schools, not least throughout the period of the pandemic.
She paid tribute to how Governors and Trustees provided so many of Newham’s children and young people with a wonderfully inclusive and nurturing education and enrichment experiences, resulting in Newham’s high educational outcomes.
Cllr Ruiz, herself a dedicated school Governor of many years, stated that, whilst it was known that there remained evidence of racism, inequality and disproportionality in the educational participation and achievement of some groups of children and young people across our community, she was confident that governors and trustees could all work together to tackle this and to eradicate these features of the education system.
Cllr Ruiz closed by saying: “It is with great pride and pleasure that I open our governors’ and trustees’ conference today, in full knowledge that we will all continue to set aside our differences and come together today to collaborate and share our thoughts and ideas as we reflect on how we can achieve even greater success through our partnership so that we can all be proud of the opportunities available to any child or young person born, moving into, growing up, learning and living in our great London Borough of Newham.”
Anita Stewart, Director of Education and Skills, added her voice of welcome, thanking Governors and Trustees for their service in addressing challenges and achieving success, and drawing attention to the importance of the Inclusive Nurturing Schools Toolkit, launched by the Royal Society of Arts and recently presented to Newham Headteachers.
Mehak Tajani, Senior Researcher in the Education team at the RSA, leading the team’s work on school exclusions, was the key note speaker. Mehak explained ‘the why, the what and the how’, which led to the creation of the toolkit. She talked of the RSA’s Pinball Kids report (2020) which looked at how school exclusions could be reduced with a renewed focus on trusting, reciprocal relationships between schools, and pupils, families and public services.
Joan Deslandes OBE, Headteacher of Kingsford Community School, provided a real perspective, speaking of promising inclusive and nurturing practice at her own school, which is one of Newham’s high-achieving schools, with practical living examples of how this works day-to-day.
Workshops were provided by Mehak Tajani, and The Education Space’s own Stewart Kiddell, Business Development Manager, Anne Sundberg, Governance Development Officer, and Chris Fagan, Business Application Support Manager.
Paul Smith, Strategic Advisor for Education and Inclusion for the London Borough of Newham, and Sarah Beaumont, Head of Governance at The Education Space, closed the conference with focus on the effectiveness of governance in Newham.
“Boards must be ambitious for all children and young people and infused with a passion for education and a commitment to continuous school improvement that enables the best possible outcomes.”
Sarah Beaumont, Head of Governance, referred to this inspirational quote from the Governance Handbook 2019 in the final segment of the morning. This passion and ambition was no doubt demonstrated by those who gave up their Saturday to join the strong community of governors and trustees in Newham to come together to support their schools.
Thanks to Elmhurst Primary School for providing superb facilities.
By Sarah Beaumont,
Head of Governance
The Education Space