Q. Who owns St Mary’s School?
A. St Mary’s School was founded in 1926 by the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (now known as the Congregation of Jesus). In 1992 a group of parents and others set up a new registered charity to take over the running of the School in order to save it from closure. St Mary’s School is a company limited by guarantee and the trustees of the charity are also the directors of the company. The school buildings are owned by St Mary’s School.
Q. What do the trustees do?
A. St Mary’s School has a two tier structure of governance. The trustees are responsible for maintaining the objects of the charity, its administration and finances, risk assessment and overall strategy, as well as ensuring that the School complies with company law. The trustees appoint the head. There are seven trustees. They meet three times a year and attend the AGM.
Q. What do the governors do?
A. The governors are responsible for the general direction, policies and priorities of the School within the budgets and objectives established by the trustees. They offer support and guidance to the head, but also hold the School to account for the quality of education it provides and the standards it achieves. The governors ensure the safety of the school environment and review the effectiveness of our child protection policies. Some governors are also trustees. There are currently 11 governors.
Q. Are the trustees and governors paid?
A. No. Trustees and governors give their time and expertise voluntarily for the benefit of the School. Most have had children at the school or have been on the teaching staff. The rewards are to be found in the many successes and achievements of the School under its head, Mrs Harriet Connor-Earl. All governors attend training courses and spend time keeping up to date with developments in school governance.
Q. What happens to the profits made by the School?
A. The School does not make a profit in the way that commercial companies do. Any surplus after bills have been paid is made to work for the benefit of the School and ploughed back into purposes which support our primary charitable purpose - to promote and advance Roman Catholic education and the Roman Catholic religion in particular. The School is committed to supporting pupils who for financial reasons may not have access to independent preparatory school education founded on Christ and the Catholic faith. We employ some of our annual surplus in providing bursaries based on financial means testing. Further information, including copies of the trustees’ annual report and accounts, are available on the Charity Commission’s website www.charity-commission.gov.uk under registered charity number 1006411.
Q. How often do the governors meet?
A. The governing body meets in full session once a term and the main sub-committees, Education and Staffing, Finance and General Purposes and Health and Safety, meet at least once a term and report to the meetings of the governing body.
Q. How does the Trust set the fees?
A. The Trust has regard to the level of fees that are appropriate for the education provided and the ability of parents to pay them. Fees are set at a level which will generate a fund out of which we can pay for the School’s staff, facilities and resources and also provide bursaries to families who could not otherwise afford to pay the fees and public benefit to members of the wider community, in accordance with the objects of the School.
Q. How does the Trust ensure that the School recruits and retains high quality staff?
A. All teachers applying for posts are observed delivering lessons and interacting with the children and staff team. They then take part in a full interview, with a panel consisting of present staff, governors and the Senior Leadership Team. Once offered a post at the school, organised induction is delivered over a period of weeks. The management structure ensures that there are many opportunities for progression and promotion within the school. An improved compensation scheme was introduced in 2012-2013 to assist in the retention and development of excellent teachers. Staff participate in high quality external professional development courses and in-house training.
Q. What vision do the governors and trustees have for the future of the School?
A. The School’s vision is set out in our Mission Statement. The governors seek to ensure that our aims and values are fulfilled through the strategic plan agreed by the trustees and the head and implemented in the three-year School Development Plan. The Plan for 2017-2019 identifies the current needs and priorities for each area of curriculum and management in detail and helps translate long term vision into short term achievable goals.
Q. How can I become a governor?
A. The governing body plays an important part in the life of the School and so we plan ahead by identifying individuals with relevant skills who might be willing to replace governors as they retire. We aim to have a good spread of talents and experience represented on the governing body so that we can continue to be as effective as possible in developing the School and providing support and challenge to the senior leadership team. Parents and former parents will have a thorough understanding of our School and the values that underpin it and may be well placed to add value to our board. If you are committed to our ethos and would like to help us build our School and plan for the future, then please get in touch so that we can discuss this further, either with Mrs Connor-Earl or with the chair of governors, Mrs Susan McCarron, by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.