Strong governance and leadership are as essential in a state boarding school as they are in any other school. Our systems of governance need to include all the functions that are typically associated with day schools and academies – school standards, finance, curriculum, personnel, premises, finance and so on. However the boarding dimension creates additional complexity and challenges.
Wymondham College is the largest state boarding school, educating about 650 boarders and a similar number of day students. Ofsted judged it “outstanding” in both its last education and boarding inspections. It became an academy in 2011 after years as a foundation school.
The reality of successfully providing a high-quality boarding experience for large numbers of students raises many issues for governance and adds a multitude of extra requirements. Beyond the academic school day we run more than 60 regular weekly clubs and societies, evening and weekend trips and visits, 700 annual sporting fixtures, and an active CCF/cadets unit. Add in the need to provide high-quality food (meeting strict nutritional requirements), strict safeguarding requirements, 24/7 medical care, evening supervision, site security, emergency caretaking and the like, and you can start to appreciate the complexity of our daily college life.
All state boarding schools are required to meet the national minimum standards for boarding (we, like many others, seek to exceed these standards) and are subject to an additional three-yearly Ofsted inspection of boarding. Effective governance therefore is essential.
We seek to have a governing body with a wide range of professional skills to provide effective support and challenge to all college life, including boarding. One governor, an experienced former boarding school headteacher, former chair of the Boarding Schools’ Association and a lead inspector for the Independent School Inspectorate, has a specific remit for boarding.
Our committee structure means that boarding issues (via our curriculum and welfare committee) are regularly discussed and evaluated. An annual boarding review, which evaluates strengths and development areas and our compliance with the national minimum standards, reports directly to the governing body. This is an invaluable quality assurance function.
A boarding parental forum gives parents regular direct access to our governing body, providing important two-way dialogue, and regular student surveys are reported to the governing body and school leadership team. Our latest parental survey indicated very high levels of satisfaction, with more than 95 per cent of parents saying they would recommend the college to other parents. As one student in the survey said: “I really love coming to Wymondham College and I will always be grateful they gave me a place.”
Jonathan Taylor is Principal of Wymondham College in Norfolk