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Effective and efficient Governance at Heighington CE Primary School 2023-24

Heighington CE Primary School is a member of the Durham & Newcastle Diocesan Learning Trust (DNDLT). The Board of Directors of the Trust has identified that each school in the Trust will have a dedicated committee to oversee the governance arrangements of the school on their behalf. This committee is called the Academy Council and its members – Academy Councillors - work closely with the Head Teacher and the school’s leaders in order to achieve the best possible outcomes for all pupils.

The Chair of the Academy Council is Mrs Lisa Thom.  Mrs Thom can be contacted via the school office.  Please mark any correspondence "Private and Confidential,  Mrs L Thom, Chair of the Academy Council".

The membership of the Academy Council is as follows:

Composition of Academy Council
(varies depending on VC or VA previously)

Membership 2023/4

Elected staff member (at least 1)

Michelle Wallis

Head Teacher

Carly Stonier

Elected parent (min of 2)

Mark Rowcroft (Vice-chair)

Elected parent

Julie Jackson

Ex officio Foundation

Reverend Lissa Scott

Foundation – DDEB (min of 2)


Foundation - DDEB


Foundation – DDEB>PCC

Lisa Thom (Chair)

Foundation – DDEB>PCC

Susan Wood

Co-opted (max of 2)

Tom Keenan



The role of the Academy Council is to provide confident, strategic leadership and to create robust accountability, oversight and assurance for educational and financial performance. The Academy Council meets half-termly and its work reflects the Trust’s Scheme of Delegation that identifies the duties delegated to the Academy Council by the Board of Directors.

Councillors work very hard to ensure that they know what it is like to be a learner in the school and undertake a range of activity in relation to the three core functions of governance:

  1. i) Ensuring clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction.

The Academy Council helps to shape the vision for the school and councillors review this annually, as well as looking at the progress being made against the school’s aims.

The School Improvement Plan (SIP) identifies the school’s priorities for the year and the Academy Council is instrumental in working with the Head Teacher to develop this and then monitoring progress against the identified priorities for the year.

Councillors are linked to areas of the SIP and undertake a range of activity – meeting staff, talking to pupils, reviewing plans, looking at pupils’ work – so that they can see the progress being made against the priorities for themselves.

Councillors are also linked to other areas and aspects of school life – e.g. science, safeguarding, Pupil Premium - and this helps them to understand the school and enables them to build relationships with members of staff. This ensures that the decisions they make are based on a good knowledge of the school.

Councillors report on their activity to the meetings of the Academy Council so that all councillors are aware of what is going well and what is in need of development.

Councillors also identify and then manage any risks that might impact on the outcomes achieved by the school.

  1. ii) Holding school leaders to account for the educational performance of the organisation and its pupils, and the performance management of staff.

Councillors act as critical friends to the Head Teacher and are always striving to ensure that the school is doing the best it can for every pupil.

Councillors look at the information provided by the school on the progress and attainment of pupils and challenge the Head Teacher when performance appears to be uneven or inconsistent. They ask about the organisation of the curriculum and the quality of teaching in the school. They make sure that the school has a robust system in place for the performance management of staff. Councillors rely on the Trust to undertake the performance management of the Head Teacher on their behalf.

Councillors look at a range of external data and information to see how their school compares to local and national benchmarks. They also look at the reports of external partners about their school so that they have as wide a view as possible of how their school is performing.

  • iii) Overseeing the financial performance of the organisation and ensuring that money is well spent for the benefit of all pupils.

Councillors are involved in discussion about the projected budget for the year but the final decision on the school’s budget is taken by the Board of Directors. Councillors then receive regular updates on the progress of the budget for the year and challenge where there appears to be variations in what has been spent compared to what was expected to be spent.

Councillors also receive information about the school’s plan for spending its Pupil Premium grant and PE and Sport grant. The school provides regular updates on the impact of these plans to meetings of the Academy Council.

Impact of the work of the Academy Council

The school has a clear vison for the future that is understood by all members of the school community. Councillors know their school well and are clear about the school’s priorities for improvement. Budget spending is closely linked to these priorities and councillors’ challenge and support in meetings helps to ensure that the school has a clear focus on the best possible outcomes for every learner. Councillors ensure that staff and pupils have a safe and secure learning environment. 

As well as attending business meetings of the Academy Council, councillors also attend regular training and development sessions. These relate to either the development of the Academy Council as a whole or to the personal development of individual councillors. All councillors are expected to undertake a two-year cycle of Trust-identified training. Councillors can also access on-line training as members of the National Governance Association.  Newly appointed councillors receive a planned programme of induction support.

The Academy Council is always trying to improve what it does and an annual self-evaluation takes place at which councillors decide, in terms of governance, what has gone well during the year and what the areas of focus need to be for the following year. This is based on the criteria for effective governance identified in the Governance Handbook (DfE).

The Academy Council has the following as its areas of focus for 2023/24:

  1. i) Successfully inducting at least two new councillors into the Academy Council;
  1. ii) Ensuring that councillors have a consistent overview of the key areas of school life.

Academy Council Heighington 2023-2024

Heighington CE Primary – Summary of Academy Councillors 2023-2024

Name Appointment Date From Appointment Date To Area of responsibility for monitoring
Lisa Thom (Chair) 19/10/2020 18/10/2024



Mark Rowcroft (Vice-chair) 17/12/2020 16/12/2024
Carly Stonier (Headteacher) 01/01/2019 Ex-officio Headteacher

Michelle Wallis


15/10/2019 14/10/2023 Staff
Reverend Lissa Scott 01/08/2015 Ex-officio

Susan Wood


12/05/2020 11/05/2024
Julie Jackson 15/05/2023 14/05/2027
Tom Keenan 28/06/2021 27/06/2025 Safeguarding

Heighington CE Primary – Summary of Academy Councillors 2022-2023


Appointment date from

Appointment date to

Area of Responsibility for Monitoring

 Carly Stonier (Headteacher)




 Lisa Thom



Priority 1 (Quality of Education)



 Michelle Wallis  (Staff)




 Tom Keenan



Priority 2 (Quality of Education)


Vulnerable Groups

 Revd. Lissa Scott



Christian Distinctiveness and personal development
'What is it like to be a child in our school?'

SIAMS preparation/Christian vision

Michael Rowlson 




 Susan Wood

12/05/2020 11/05/2024 Priority 3 (Quality of Education - Curriculum)


 Mark Rowcroft
 (Vice Chair)

07/12/2020 06/12/2024 Priority 5 (Leadership and Management)

 Amanda Adeola


Resigned 13/02/2023


Julie Jackson



Priority 4 - Personal Development