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Outstanding Governors of the Year

Winner: Woodside High, Wood Green, London

Five years ago, back when it was known as White Hart Lane School, this secondary suffered serious problems with pupils' achievement, its finances and its governance. The local authority was so concerned that it served a notice to improve on the governing body, and over the next few years all but two members were replaced.

Since then the school has been relaunched as Woodside High, and has become one of the most improved in London. Rather than being seen as a liability, the governing body is credited with a vital role in the school's transformation, and has been praised by the headteacher and the local authority.

The governors provided unstinting support during a difficult period when the school underwent a contentious audit, legal cases, two Ofsted inspections, press attention and an HMI visit. A multi-talented team with a broad range of expertise, they have not backed away from tough decisions.

While headteacher Joan McVittie praised the team for the moral support it had given her, John Edwards, head of secondary standards in Haringey, noted it had also challenged the school. Governors could sometimes be too indulgent towards heads or too restrictive, he said, but "the Woodside High governors have got the balance right".

Judges' verdict: The panel said the governors at Woodside had clearly made a difference in very challenging circumstances. Their work was appreciated by the local authority and the headteacher, who said that on many occasions she had been "tempted to throw in the towel". Each time one of the governors "picked her up" and reassured her, she said.

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