Beverley Dolman The Real Life Learning Academy Trust [318] 10 March 2021
Board of Directors   Minutes   16/07/2020
Virtual  Thursday, July 16, 2020  18:00Chair: David Shaw   Clerk: Su Turner   
FINAL: The minutes are confirmed and locked.
The meeting will be via MS Teams as usual, and the meeting link with be in the links section. Please also note the meeting start of 6pm
Governors Attending: >Yvonne Wood (YW), David Shaw (DS), Jo Edwards (JE), Elizabeth Ford (LF), Beverley Dolman (BD), Lynn Dove (LD), Richard Lewis (RL)  
Governors Apologies: >Fiona Sloyan
Non Governors Attending: >Su Turner Clerk)
Non Governors Apologies: >
Agenda Item 1  Welcome and Apologies
MINUTE DS welcomed all to the meeting.  Apologies had been received from FS - these were accepted by the Board.

 

It was noted that Louise McDonough was not in attendance, no apologies had been received.

Agenda Item 2  Declaration of Interest
MINUTE YW declared that she is a partner in Bennett Brooks, and LF and RL declared that they are a governor at Bridgemere School.  No other declarations of interest were made.
Agenda Item 3  Minutes of the last meeting
MINUTE
  • Nursery  - this has not been progressed and will be picked up in the new academic year
  • Accessibility: DS spoken with Anna Pike, and this will be picked up in the new academic year, once the needs of the new cohort as understood.
  • Equality Policy - LD confirmed that she had reviewed and updated the policy
  • Finance committee - this has met and training is being provided for the School Business Manager
Agenda Item 4  Trust Governance update
MINUTE Trust's Strategic Plan

 

DS reflected, that whilst this was on the agenda and is an important piece of work, in reality the SLT have had enough on dealing with schooling during a pandemic, and that the work is picked up again in the autumn term

 

 

ACTION  Action: Discuss the Trust strategic plan at the September planning meeting
Agenda Item 5  Covid 19 update
MINUTE BD provided an update on the phased reopening of the schools.  She reported that 36 children had returned in Acton, and 27 Calveley.

 

Children are really happy to be back.  Staff have found the days quite long, as fewer, shorter breaks, and socialisation has been limited too.

 

The Risk assessment produced prior to bringing children back has worked well, and people are safe.

 

BD reported that there had been a few complaints regarding the remote learning offer, due to a perception that other schools are doing more.  However, Directors heard that through the Nantwich Education Partnership, there is a picture of provision.  Conversely, she has also received thanks from some parents.

This has made BD reflect on the provision moving forward, and wants future provision to be water tight should a local lockdown happen or a bubble needs to close.

 

Wider reopening - September

 

  • The Risk assessment group has met and seen the assessment, and this will be the same as she reviews the assessment in light of the new guidance and LA checklists.  The assessments take account of track and trace, and are colour coded for each school.
  • Since coming back in, staff feel reassured.  Some staff are still shielding, and individual risk assessments will be done for these staff.
  • Each class will be a bubble, and the schools will be staggering the start and end of the day, lunch and breaks.  If there are siblings in school - they will be together using the older child’s time.
  • There are segregated play areas - no not to cross bubbles.
  • Each bubble will have a different lunch time - but all lunches will be served within the 45 minute limit for keeping food warm.

 

BD feels that the school is well prepared, and is finalising the Risk Assessment, most of the original assessment is valid, same criteria, just more children. However she is building in guidance on isolation points, and how to request a test, and what to do if they present with symptoms

 

Q: Does a teacher stay with their class at lunch?

R: Yes, but there are middays, to enable staff to have a break.  There his also no overlap in the staff room, due to staggered times.  There will also be an extra staff room to provide the space needed.

 

A director commented that despite , what parents have said about remote learning - the schools have started from a standing start.

 

LF reported that, as one of the Directors on the Risk Assessment group - she feels that everything has been included.

 

DS confirmed that he has drafted a letter for staff at all schools to thank them, and asked BD to ensure this was sent out.

 

 

ACTION  Action: BD to circulate letter from the Chair to staff
Agenda Item 6  School opening arrangements for September
MINUTE BD attended the LAs Recovery Group and had raised oconcerns about the governments approach to attendance.  The Group felt that children, and schools do not want to issue fines.  BD feels that more emphasis should be placed on supporting families to re-engage.  She confirmed that, this approach is supported by the LA and fines will only be issued to facilities not willing to engage.

 

BD feels that the controversial aspect will be the curriculum from September.  The school we be supporting pupils to return, and balancing the need to support wellbeing, with the need to find out where Pupils knowledge gaps are and plug these gaps.

 

The schools have audited the objectives for Maths and English, and have pulled together all the ones that haven’t been taught.  The ones that have bene taught previously, will be earmarked for a quick consolidation.  She discussed the need to focus on key subjects typically, Maths, English, Science, RE, as (Acton is a Faith School), PE (as some children will not have been active during lockdown) and computing (to enable remote learning).  Doing this would enable 1.5 hours to be pulled back and ensure that children catch up with their lost learning.  

 

By offering just these subject it also frees up time to talk, that will be run 4 times a week.  These will have a real focus on children’s mental health and wellbeing and will facilitate turn taking, sharing, understanding how children feel, and use lots of different techniques to encourage children to talk - circle time, art therapy, social stories. 

 

It is the intention that schools will return to the full curriculum offer from January, which the guidance allows for.  

 

A discussion took place and Directors feel that it will be vital that children are supported through the stresses of the last few months, as you need a healthy and stable foundation to build.  However, Directors cautioned BD not to rush and introduce the full curriculum at the right time.

 

Q: Which subjects would not be taught in the Autumn term?

R: Geography, History, MFL, Music and D&T.  Art will be used as a tool in time to talk sessions.

 

Outcome: Directors supported the approach to a reduction in the taught curriculum in the Autumn Term, to ensure sufficient focus is given to wellbeing and core subjects

 

Q: Is there any clarity over catch up funding that was announced by the Government?

R: No nothing as of yet.

 

BD suggested that JE as PP link, may wish to review the impact of any catch up finding.

 

Action: JE as PP Link to look at the Catch up Premium.

 

BD reported that the trust had been successful in its bid for funding which would mean that the schools have access to Google Suite, to enable better distance learning.  Implementing this would ensure that whether a child was in school or at home, they would be able to access remote learning and transform our pedagogy.  However, not every family has access to a device or where there are more than one sibling, sole access to one.

 

BD set out that she would like to seek the approval of the Directors to purchase a Chrome Book for every child, overcoming the equity barrier, and meaning that the books can be used in school or at home.  

 

Q: What is the cost?

R: There are 3 options.  1) buy outright with a six year life span, 2) leasing with maintenance cover for 3 years, or a parental contribution scheme.  BD outlined that her favoured was 2) the leasing and the cost would be £10k for Acton, and £5k for Calveley

 

BD felt that parental contribution would be tricky to manage.

 

Q: Is that cost including VAT or on top?

R: VAT is on top of that.

 

YW asked if BD had looked at the BBC’s scheme for surplus IT equipment?

BD had not looked at this.

 

Q: The cost is £15k per year for 3 years, so £45k in total?

R: Yes


Q: is there an opportunity to run it like a library, where those that cannot afford one, can apply to borrow?

R: We could, but if a child only has access to a desk top computer at home, they cannot bring that in to school. The benefit of chrome books is that they can use it in school and take it home if a further lockdown happens.

 

 

Q: What about getting the AC’s involved in this, could they do an audit of equipment that children have access to?

R: BD was reluctant to do this as there are a number of families where their circumstances are changing due to redundancy


Q: Will there be a contract with the parent to look after the equipment, and could we ask for a donation?

R: We could but again, families circumstances are changing.


Q: Could we approach businesses for sponsorship?

R: Yes and we are, we are also applying to banks for match funding.

 

Directors were keen to understand the costs associated with buying outright compared to the lease arrangements.

 

They discussed the one quote that had been received to date and the actual cost to purchase would be £27k for Acton and £11k for Calveley.  This is less than the 3-year lease cost, but would not cover repairs or accidental damage.
 

Whilst the Directors could understand BD’s reasons for this request, they were keen to understand more about it and the cost to the school. And therefore this item will be picked up within the finance item.

 

 

 

ACTION  Action: JE as PP Link to look at the Catch-up Premium
DECISION  Outcome: Directors supported the approach to a reduction in the taught curriculum in the Autumn Term, to ensure sufficient focus is given to wellbeing and core subjects

Agenda Item 7  Finance forecast all schools April 2020
MINUTE Investment Update 

The School Business Manager had not progressed this.

 

Financial reporting requirements and timeline 

YW confirmed that the timescales for the submitting budgets to the ESFA had been moved to the 26th September.

 

Directors were concerned over the lack of information being provided regarding finance, and BD will pick this up with the school Business Manager.

 

BD confirmed that the schools are moving to a new financial reporting system HCSS - which should make reporting easier.  The item was discussed further in part 2.


Finance update
YW had provided reports for finance, for Acton, Calveley and for the MAT.  Low pupil numbers mean that income is not as high and expenditure was exceeding income.  Whilst there are reserves for both school, at the current trajectory, the reserves would be used up in 2-3 years.

 

A discussion took place on boosting numbers for Calveley which currently has 68 out of a possible 105 places.  Numerous attempts have been made to improve pupil numbers, such as marketing etc.

 

BD reported that when asking parents why they did not choose Calveley, she confirmed that feedback was that the school looks tired and that the facilities are not as good as other schools. The school has been dropping numbers for the last 5 years, and other schools have invested in their outdoor space. 

 

Acton numbers are also lower than PAN being 165 out of 187

 

Q: As a small MAT we are struggling financially, we need more schools in order to make the finances work, but if we are not able to attract more schools, at what point do we have to call this, and uncouple the schools?

 

Directors discussed this question, and agreed that a special meeting be arranged in September to look at trust development and the financial viability of the trust.  

 

Action: A meeting was arranged for September to take a strategic look at the development of the trust and its viability going forward.

 

YW confirmed that there were bits that were not budget for, and income that has not been received, such as Ofsted inspection income.  Income has also been affected by a long term sickness absence that was not covered by insurance. Other costs include, tree work and additional supplies for COVID.

 

Q: Can we claim from the government for the COVID expenditure?
R: Yes BD reported that they had submitted a claim.


YW reported that the budget is the worst case, but important to understand. She explained that she had used the financial benchmarking tool, which showed that staffing costs were high at 89%, whereas the benchmark is 70%

 

YW had asked to re-run the budget reports on full pupil capacity, which showed a slight surplus. Improving pupil numbers was vital.

 

The cost of the MAT central services is high, which means a high top slice of 19%.  A discussion took place and Directors understood that as a small MAT, with small school budgets, central costs would appear higher
 

YW had looked at what would be needed to bring the top slice in line with average, and confirmed that in order to make the top slice 7%, the trust would need GAG income of £3m and 1000 pupils.


Chrome books

 

Directors picked up the discussion regarding the purchase of Chrome books and felt that whilst this was a lovely idea, Directors were wary of spending such a large amount of money.

 

BD reported that Ofsted’s focus in the autumn will be on how the school is providing remote learning.  It may be frowned upon if the trust has reserves and not improving learning provision.

 

Directors discussed whether the provision of a Chrome Book for each child was a nicety or a necessity.  

 

Q: What are the reserves?

R: Acton: £277k, and Calveley: £115k.  However, if the current in year deficit continues, then this will be used up in 2-3 years.


Q: What DFC does the school have?

R: There is no DFC left.


Q: Would it be possible to trial in one school or one year group?

R: We could - Bridgemere have agreed to lease one for each of its children, we could use Bridgemere as a pilot.


Q: What is the pilot trying to test? Is it improved education, or improved pupil numbers? 

 

Directors discussed the need to have clear success criteria, and to understand the return on investment. It was agreed that it would be attractive but would it bring a return on investment.  Directors also discussed that for each additional pupil that attends school, the income is approx £3.5k.

 

Q: Can we run a pilot and delegate responsibility to BD to choose the best year group, as we need to assess impact?

R: BD voiced concerns over piloting in small numbers, as if the school has to close a bubble or the school goes in to lockdown, then learning would suffer again.  The pedagogy in school needs to modernise, and the use of chrome books would mean that children can carry on learning in and out of school.  Providing one per pupil would mean equity.

 

YW stated that the Budget presented include the leasing costs.

 

Q: If we do go into lockdown, could we look to support the people that don’t have access to equipment?

R: Yes but again the benefit is that Children would be able to use the books at school and at home.

 

Directors discussed the longterm viability of the trust, there is an element of risk taking to improve, but i expenditure hasn’t reduced or pupil numbers increased, the trust needs to find a way of recouping the cost if it’s not successful in a year.

 

Q: Have we approached local educational charities for funding?

R: BD will explore

 

Action: BD to research funding charities

 

BD feels that the MAT needs to invest in the Chrome books to make the step change in moving to technology, and improving home learning

 

Outcome: Directors approved the whole-sale provision of Chrome Books, but tasked BD with getting more quotes, and details of insurance.

 

Action: BD to secure quotations for leave and to buy out right, and provide details of what is included within the insurance.

 

Improving the outside at Calveley

 

Directors discussed the need to improve the outdoor space to potentially increase numbers.  BD reported that the PTA have offered £5k towards it.  BD feels that this is a priority as the school is a poor relative compared to other schools.

 

Q: How much would it cost?

R: Around £20k is advisable, and if approved by Directors, it would be completed in time for October, when the new intake will be viewing the school.

 

Directors understood the need to improve the outdoor space, and in principle want to support this, but needed to understand the costs in more details.

 

Action: BD to source 3 quotes and advise Directors, when a decision needs to be made to meet a completion date of 1st October.

 

BD stated to Directors that she would rather do the playground than have the chrome books  if she had to choose.  Directors understood this but wanted more information on the cost.

 

Clerking for 20/21

 

The clerk was asked to leave the meeting, whilst Directors discussed their requirements for the forthcoming year.

 

Outcome: Directors approved the clerking arrangements for the next academic year - and commissioned Su Turner, Insight to Impact Consulting to provide clerking services as per the agreed schedule.



Directors thanked YW for her report.  

Action: Finance budget to be approved at the september meeting
 
ACTION  Action: A meeting was arranged for September to take a strategic look at the development of the trust and its viability going forward.
Action: Finance budget to be approved at the September meeting
Action: BD to research funding charities
Action: BD to secure quotations for leave and to buy outright, and provide details of what is included within the insurance.
Action: BD to source 3 quotes and advise Directors when a decision needs to be made to meet a completion date of 1st October.
Action: Finance budget to be approved at the September meeting

DECISION  Outcome: Directors approved the whole-sale provision of Chrome Books, in principle, but tasked BD with getting more quotes, and details of insurance so this could be confirmed in September.
Outcome: Directors approved the clerking arrangements for the next academic year - and commissioned Su Turner, Insight to Impact Consulting to provide clerking services as per the agreed schedule.
Agenda Item 8  Policies
MINUTE BD confirmed that there were no policies to approve this time.  The Equality Information and Objectives Policy had been reviewed and approved by LD.

 

DS confirmed that the process to connect Trust Governor and the school website had been completed.

Agenda Item 9  Curriculum Update
MINUTE  This item was covered within agenda item 6
Agenda Item 10  Training and Development
MINUTE Shaping Governance

 

Directors discussed their desire to arrange the dates for Shaping Governance (agreed at a previous meeting) for the AC’s.  The clerk with work with RL to identify dates for October.

 

Action ST and RL to find dates for Shaping Governance

 

Skills Audit and profile

 

Directors were asked to ensure that their details were up to date in Trust Governor, and to use the Trust Governor skills audit.

 

Action: ST to send out details of how to complete the Skills Audit.

 

 


 

ACTION  Action ST and RL to find dates for Shaping Governance
Action: ST to send out details of how to complete the Skills Audit.

Agenda Item 11  AOB
MINUTE  There were no items of AOB
Agenda Item 12  Date of next meeting
MINUTE Date for the next academic year

 

DS had loaded potential dates for the next academic year.  

 

Action: Directors to look at the dates and send in any concerns - will be confirmed at the meeting in September

 

The date for the meeting in September has been arranged fore the 7th September.

 
ACTION  Action: Directors to look at the dates and send in any concerns - will be confirmed at the meeting in September
   Governor Agreed Actions set during this meeting:  0
 
RLLAT Board of Directors Meeting Pt1   dated:  16/07/2020
 Minutes approved by David Shaw