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13. Governors' Meeting

All these positive changes took place against the background of a snowstorm. There was joy in the pupils' snowballing but also a sense of menace. As I drove home, 18-year-old youths were standing at the traffic lights “chunking” motorists. Simon, our “unofficial link” with Ofsted, reminded Rhiannon that if we failed to eliminate the risk of riot by the end of January, Eydon Vale would be closed.

The last Thursday afternoon in that first month happened to be both the most unsettled and the date of the next Governors' meeting. During lunch, scuffles kept breaking out in the playground, and there was one particularly vicious fight. A substantial amount of vandalism had also occurred in the toilets. Last lesson in the afternoon, I was teaching my bottom set Year 9s and the Heads of Year, whose priority should have been to patrol the corridors, were held up in a Child Protection meeting. Four girls were on the loose, defying the support staff. There were three fights in separate classrooms.

At the Governors' meeting that evening, I explained that despite the introduction of our Guided Discipline and the success of “Secret Friends”, we were still having “bad moments”. Rhiannon gave a dispassionate and credible report of our marking audit. We still had no bursar, and the School Secretary distributed our end of year financial projection. These indicated a probable overspend of £145 000 by July.

At this point, an auditor from the Academy Trust interjected. He had also inspected the figures. He announced that the Secretary’s estimates gravely underestimated the problems. Not only were her present figures out by 130%: she had miscalculated the projected bill for supply staff. This financial year’s shortfall would probably top a third of a million pounds.

The new Chair of Governors, Jacob Hornsby, reacted calmly. He wound up the meeting by telling us how important it was that everyone held their nerve. We would have our bad days. The key thing was whether the pupils were working harder and settling down. He felt confident that the children knew that Eydon Vale was now becoming a safer school and formally assured Rhiannon of the Governors' support.

Jacob did not explain his grounds for such optimism until after the meeting closed. What had happened was that he had been interviewing the pupils from Eydon Vale who had applied for places at the Sixth Form College where he was Principal. The top set Year 11s had told him about the after-school classes and all the extra homework they were doing in English, Maths and technology. He now had a clearer picture.

Jacob had been particularly impressed by Elroy Samson. He had only arrived from London the previous October. His mother had “done a flit” to escape an abusive husband. Mr Samson had tracked them down to Holmesside and broken into their new house. After his arrest, he had set light to himself in the cells and had died that night. Despite all these traumas, Elroy had said the lesson on the Coy Mistress had been a revelation. He was now sure he wanted to be a teacher. It was clear to Jacob that Year 11 pupils like Elroy, Alice, Gillian and Ming Lee were making rapid progress. Their gossip about a sea change in behaviour had been enough to assure him “we were on the right track”.

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