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Chair of Governors Review of the Year

Chair of Governors Review of the Year

So, what has the Governing Body of St Mary’s School been up to recently? Stuart Westley, our Chair of Governors reflects on the past academic year.

I would have wished to report substantial progress towards the implementation of our key strategic aims: developing our Bateman Street and Long Road sites in order to provide first class facilities for the education of girls, based in central Cambridge; commitment to top quality education primarily through High Performance Learning and the establishment of a linked school overseas.

The outbreak of the Covid-19 virus and the enforced closure of schools had an immense, immediate effect on everything, including our strategic planning. The staff of St Mary's School have been entirely occupied, including throughout most of their Easter break, with planning the introduction of remote learning, which appears to have been done with eagerness and imagination and has been extremely well received.

The Governors have been acutely conscious that many families within our community will have faced great, unanticipated threats, including to their financial security. Their concerns and needs have been uppermost in our minds since mid-March and that will remain the case for the foreseeable future. Dealing with the current crisis has been the priority, requiring preservation of cash and providing maximum support for the staff as they develop new ways of teaching and learning.

A small group within the Governing Body has been established on a temporary basis, authorised to take decisions at speed, keeping to a minimum the demands on the time of senior staff.

Our key developments

Our ambition to substantially develop the Bateman Street site, which has received little attention since the 1970s, remains. The application for planning is still live, with early indications leading to cautious optimism that it will be successful.

But with major expenditure on hold the ambitions remain but the timing of their implementation is now unclear. That is not the situation regarding the ambitious development of the Long Road playing field, a shared undertaking with Homerton College, where only a very small proportion of the development cost falls to the School. Work on the site was delayed for some weeks to safeguard employees but it has now restarted.

We look forward to a greatly enhanced sporting facility for our girls being available at Long Road in the Autumn, only slightly later than originally planned.

There has also been substantial progress towards establishing a partnership which would enable us to open a linked school overseas. The virus has delayed progress but has not eliminated it. I hope to report further during the months ahead. The current situation remains promising while we are very aware of the importance of avoiding distraction of senior staff from matters in Cambridge and that thoroughness, including due diligence, takes priority over speed.

In the last year we have bid a very grateful farewell to three Governors who have completed their nine-year term of office and welcomed three new Governors. Of them I shall say more in the future.

Involvement with St Mary’s and endeavouring to do just a little to help the current generation of girls to grow in knowledge, confidence and awareness of others remains a deeply satisfying privilege.

Stuart Westley

Chair of Governors

Roles and responsibilities of our Governors

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