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Hessle High School

Headteacher Blog

Welcome

On this page you will find a weekly informative blog from Mr Groak, Headteacher.

Page 1

  • WEEK 17 - Friday 21 January 2022

    Published 21/01/22

    It has been another exceptionally busy five days at Hessle High School. The past two weeks have seen the highest number of positive Covid cases reported to us since the start of the Academic Year and this has also included a sizeable number of staff. This week, at one time or another, around a fifth of our staff have been absent due to having Covid themselves or because one of their own young children has the virus. This has placed a strain on those staff in school in terms of covering lessons, duties and following up the normal day-to-day issues that arise every day in a large school. It is likely, at the moment, that your child may not be taught by their normal teacher in every lesson and, in some cases, we are also relying on external supply staff to cover lessons. This is far from ideal but we have no choice in order to keep the school open for all students.

    Despite this, the students have risen to the challenge and behaviour and attitudes remain very positive. I am delighted that the staff team are also ‘mucking in’ and doing their very best to support one another. Nevertheless, it is not possible for us to function at our very best under these circumstances and I apologise if you have experienced any problems with communication etc. and hope you will bear with us. If you have concerns of a serious nature, please continue to contact us and these will of course be prioritised by our staff.

    Having outlined the context we are working in (and we are not alone amongst schools in the area) it was frustrating to hear the Government’s sudden announcement regarding the relaxation of Covid measures in schools, especially when it was made at such short notice. This announcement takes no account of local issues and, as I outlined earlier in the week, we have decided not to follow this guidance for now. Decisions like this show no recognition of how schools are run and how we communicate and explain changes to parents and students. When we have asked students to wear face coverings, we have explained the reasons for doing so i.e. doing your bit to keep yourself and others safe. So how on earth could we now say to students that they’re not necessary when they know full well that many of their peers and staff are absent with Covid? It would totally undermine the relationship of trust that we have with students and parents. So we are not making the change and will take a close look at the number of cases we have in school next week before making a decision. It has been clear from the messages and feedback we have received from parents and students that we have your overwhelming support in this, so ‘thank you’.

    I have also written to parents this week to remind you that, next Friday, it is our highly anticipated Mock Interview Day for Year 11 students. This is a huge event in our calendar and one that is of great value to students. For those that are not familiar with it, over forty different employers join the staff in the school (some in person, some remotely) to interview our students for hypothetical jobs within their organisation. The students are coached, interviewed and given detailed feedback and, at the end of the process, one student is chosen to be appointed to each ‘job’. Not only does it help students with interview practice but it is a time for reflection and for celebrating what they have all achieved in life and the students really shine. As they arrive at the start of the day, it is like the opening credits for ‘The Apprentice’ with students dressed smartly in business attire. As nervous as they are at the beginning, they visibly grow as the day goes on. It really is terrific.

    And then, in the afternoon, the students go into different departments to work with staff in small groups on areas for improvement. 

    In order to make this work, the rest of the school will be working from home. Students in Years 7 to 10 will be provided with work on Google Classroom and your support in providing your child with an appropriate place to work and a structure for the day would be greatly appreciated.

    Returning to the Covid situation, our experience has been that the number of positive cases that are affecting our staff, students and community tend to come in waves lasting between 7 and 10 days.  For that reason, I remain hopeful that we will soon be through the worst of this current situation and thank you again for your support.

    Take care and have a lovely weekend. 

    Mr Groak

    Headteacher

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  • WEEK 16 - Friday 14 January 2022

    Published 14/01/22

    "Your flag flyin' over the courthouse

    Means certain things are set in stone.

    Who we are, what we'll do and what we won't"

    Bruce Springsteen, Long Walk Home

    It seems I am not alone in my admiration for Bruce Springsteen. Last week’s blog prompted a few parents to contact me to let me know that they were fans too! Some passed the message on via their children which typically went something like this; 

    Student: “My mum told me to tell you that she loves Bruce Springsteen too.”

    Me: “Oh really, that’s great to hear. Tell her I’m pleased about that.”

    Student: “I will. I don’t know what all the fuss is about though, I think he’s rubbish.”

    Sadly, my own children feel the same way and it is going to take a lot more Bruce education before they see the light!  

    Anyway, one of my favourite Springsteen lyrics is the one at the top of this blog. It comes from a song he wrote in the early 2000s when the USA was in the throes of political turmoil under President Bush. Springsteen sings about his country moving in a direction that he disagrees with and observes that returning to traditional American values will be a ‘Long Walk Home’. I love the line about values - “who we are, what we’ll do and what we won’t”. 

    On 20 May 2020, everyone at Hessle High School was preparing to welcome back more of our students to school following the first lockdown. It was also, coincidentally, national ‘Thank a Teacher Day’. Maybe that’s why those in Number 10 decided to throw a party on the same day? 

    Or maybe not.

    Anyway, on 20 May, I wrote to parents to let you know our plans to welcome the children of key workers as well as some in other year groups. This is what I wrote; 

    We are doing our best to welcome children back as soon after half term as possible. But, let me give you an indication of the type of logistics involved in doing so. Across both schools, we are preparing for eight different cohorts of learners to return; Nursery, Reception, Year 1, Year 6, Year 10, Year 12 and the key worker children at primary and secondary phase. That is approximately 550 children, pupils and students. Each cohort requires its own plan in terms of safety, logistics, behaviour, staffing and curriculum. Every cohort will be split into 'bubbles', no greater in number than 15 and each of those require a plan for ensuring safe arrival and departure from the school site so that parents, carers and local residents can also stay safe. Some cohorts will require public transport and we need to consider catering. We are supported by an extremely dedicated body of staff but some of them fall into the category of clinically vulnerable or live with people who are; we need to consider their needs. We are doing that gladly, because we want to welcome back our learners. But it takes time and we have to get it right because you are entrusting your children into our care.”

    As I read my words back, I can remember the frustration I felt about the lack of clear guidance coming from the Government but also the sense of pride in my team for the incredible work we were doing under unprecedented conditions whilst some in the media spoke about ‘teachers being off work!’. Nothing could have been further from the truth. And, after finishing their work, my staff went home (or stayed at home!), some of them alone. They followed the Government’s guidance. They did what was right.

    When the pandemic is finally over, I know that everyone at Hessle will be able to look back on what we did and be proud. Because our values are set in stone, we know who we are, what we will do, and what we won’t.

    Have a lovely weekend and stay safe.

    Mr Groak

    Headteacher

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  • WEEK 15 - Friday 7 January 2022

    Published 07/01/22

     I have long been a fan of Bruce Springsteen. I love his recorded music but mostly I am a fan of his live performances and am fortunate to have seen him in concert, with the E-Street Band, many times over the past thirty-plus years. There are many reasons why I enjoy Bruce in concert but the main reason is the sheer consistency of what he does. ‘Consistency’ is a word that I use a lot and I chuckle to myself that I refer to it in the context of a live music concert but bear with me…

    I have seen Bruce in a number of different venues and at different stages of his career. In recent years, you might hear people say ‘he’s not as good as he used to be’. Well, it would be staggering if he was. This is a man who is renowned for playing four-hour concerts; it would be nearly impossible to do that at his age (he is now 72, and I last saw him in 2016, when he still played for over three hours on a hot summer’s day in Glasgow). On that day, he gave everything. He left nothing on stage and walked off drenched in sweat, the crowd baying for more. He may not be at his peak but, in my opinion, there is still no one on the scene that can get anywhere near him as a live performer. Bruce never phones it in.

    I first really appreciated this level of dedication and consistency in Coventry of all places. Earlier on the same tour, Bruce had played a high-profile festival at Hyde Park which had culminated in him bringing Paul McCartney on stage to play the encore. The crowd went wild - I was there, and it was a real Bruce highlight. I swear that he would have played all night if the event organisers hadn’t switched the power off for fear of a hefty fine from the local council. 

    On the back of the euphoria of that gig, myself and my mate (who shares my Bruce obsession) decided we would snap up any tickets we could for the remaining dates of the UK tour. No matter where or when they were. And so, a few weeks later, we set off to Coventry on a wet Tuesday night. We knew we wouldn't be home before two or three in the morning but we had committed ourselves to the cause. I went with modest expectations - nothing could be as good as Hyde Park. But, at the end of the night and another three hour show, Bruce fairly stumbled off stage, exhausted. And everyone in the crowd agreed that it was yet another incredible show. As we drove home, we discussed how he could summon up the energy and drive to perform to the same standard on a wet Tuesday in Coventry as he could when he was on stage with McCartney. Later, I read Bruce’s autobiography and he explained it; “When I play a show, I always tell myself that, for some guys in the audience, it may be the first, and only, time they see the E-Street Band in concert. And so I want every single show to be as good as my best, no matter whether it is in Madison Square Garden or Shitsville, Illinois. I want it to be great.”

    I am inspired by much of Springsteen’s work but it was that sentiment, more than any other, that inspires me the most. For me, consistency is at the heart of what I try to do and what I want for our school and our students. Every day matters and every lesson matters and we need to bring our A-game to every encounter that we have with our young people. They deserve it and, after the last two years they have had, they need it.

    Nowadays, I don’t teach very much. This year, I teach a group of Year 13 students on a Wednesday afternoon. I am happy to admit that I am not the best teacher in our school. I went into leadership too soon in my career to have really fully developed my craft; I am consistently good (I think), but not as great as some of my colleagues. Nowadays, I rely on two key elements - I have kept my subject knowledge fully up to date and can bring plenty of real life examples of the business and economic world into my lessons. And, secondly, I bring as much energy, drive and commitment to my lessons as I can possibly muster. I spend most of the two hours on my feet, at the front of the classroom, explaining, describing, questioning, challenging and debating. By 3pm, I’m exhausted. It may not quite be a Springsteen concert but it is my very best, every week, inspired by Bruce. And, I’m proud to say, I never cancel on them. Whoever wishes to meet with me can wait; my class comes first.  

    It is unrealistic of me to expect the same energy levels from every one of my staff; the majority of them teach for four or five hours per day and even Bruce can’t perform for that long every night. But we strive for consistency. Someone once said that the best thing about working in a school is that it really matters. And the hardest thing is that it matters every single day. That is so true and it is why my staff not only love their work but why they are also exhausted at the end of each half term.

    *** 

    As we reach the end of the first week of the new term, I am pleased to report that the return of students has gone very smoothly. Attendance has been high, we have taken account of the reported positive cases and those students are isolating themselves for the required time period. I want to thank those students, and their parents, for doing this. By testing and isolating, they have reduced the risk of other students, and their families, catching the virus. It is a really selfless act and one for which we should all be thankful. Please continue to use LFD tests to regularly check your child at home so that you too can play your part in keeping other students, staff and the community safe. If you wish your child to be given home test kits, please follow the link here.

    Yesterday, I attended a briefing from the local authority’s public health team in which they summarised the cases in our area and also their expectations that the number will continue to rise as cases spread around the country. We are aware that the position we are currently in may change quite suddenly if we are faced with large numbers of staff absences.  

    In the event that this happens, we have a number of strategies. Firstly, lessons of absent colleagues will be covered by one of our cover supervisor staff or another of our existing staff, often Heads of Department or Senior Leaders who are not already teaching at that time. If that is insufficient to cover the absence, we will look to bring in external supply staff; however this may prove difficult as supply staff are in short supply due to the sheer demand from all schools for supply staff. Therefore it may be the case, in the coming weeks, that your child may be taught by someone who is not their normal teacher and that this may happen much more than is normal. We understand that this is not an ideal situation but hope you appreciate that we will be doing our best to ensure that learning continues as effectively as it possibly can.

    Our final contingency plan may be to resort to some element of home learning with one year group working from home for a week on a rota basis. I can reassure you that we are a long way off needing to do this at the moment but that this situation could change very quickly. Of course, we will provide you with as much notice as possible.

    I hope that you have enjoyed a positive start to 2022. 

    Have a lovely weekend and stay safe.

    Mr Groak

    Headteacher

     

     

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  • WEEK 14 - Friday 17 December 2021

    Published 17/12/21

    I write this just before going out onto the field to watch the annual Staff versus Students football match and there is a palpable tension in the air. This fixture is a real rite of passage for our Year 11 students who look forward to it all year and the opportunity to test their skills and mettle against the staff. It is not much less competitive on the staff side and team manager, Dave ‘Mike Bassett’ Willson has selected a fine blend of youth, talent and experience with which to challenge the youngsters.

    Nobody can remember a time when the students actually beat the staff in this fixture, although there was a draw a couple of years ago which the students celebrated fiercely. A quick glance down the staff team suggests that they are favourites to maintain their proud record although the Year 11 students did beat a Year 13 team last week in a warm-up game. Whatever the result, it will all be played in a good spirit (I sincerely hope so, anyway!) and I am sure that the spectators will enjoy the game too (if the fog lifts!).

    The Year 11 lads were determined that their game should also help to raise awareness of, and money for, two very worthwhile charities and the boys themselves have chosen to support Macmillan Cancer as well as the fund set up to support workers from Bridgewood Plastics, which was hit by the fire last month. These efforts demonstrate the great sense of responsibility that our students show for their community.

    After the game, we will say farewell to a couple of our staff who are moving onto pastures new and then everyone will go their separate ways to begin their Christmas break. The Autumn term is not only the longest in school but it is by far the busiest, crammed as it is with Open Evenings and Parents Evenings. There is little that can be done to spread these events out as they need to be held at the start of the school year. But it takes its toll on staff and, in the past few weeks, energy levels have dropped significantly. Nevertheless, everyone has mustered one last effort to help the students celebrate the end of term and there is a lovely atmosphere around the place. I can hear ‘Last Christmas’ playing in a classroom nearby as the tutor’s enjoy their end of term party with their tutees. There will be plenty of hard work ahead for all of our students in January and beyond but, for now, it is great to see them enjoying themselves.

    Like you, I follow the news with increasing anxiety about what may happen next in the ongoing struggle with Covid. Despite what is rumoured, we have not been given any further guidance from the DfE with regards to what may happen in January as far as schools are concerned. Rest assured that, after a good break, I will be in touch with you before the new year, if there are any significant changes to announce. Otherwise, we expect to see all students back as planned on Wednesday 5 January.

    The Groak family will be spending Christmas in Surrey with my wife’s parents. It is great for our children to experience another part of the country especially over Christmas. They will be spoiled rotten, I’m sure, but that will also give my wife and I the chance to nip over to Bristol for a few days too. It is a city I have never been to but, Covid permitting, we are looking forward to enjoying its restaurants and waterfront bars for a few days. And then it will be back home for a few more days rest before we start to prepare for whatever 2022 has in store for us.

    Whatever you are doing over the Christmas holiday, I hope that you find time to enjoy it with friends, family and loved ones and that you are able to stay safe.

    At the end of another challenging year, more than ever I am extremely grateful for your ongoing support both personally and to my staff.

    From everyone at Hessle High School, a very Merry Christmas.

    Mr Groak

    Headteacher

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  • WEEK 13 - Friday 10 December 2021

    Published 10/12/21

    Last month, I wrote to you about our commitment to tackle discriminatory language in and outside of our school. “It’s Not Banter” is the tagline we have used for this and the first signs that this is beginning to ‘land’ are appearing as we start to hear students using that term to challenge one another. It is refreshing that we are able to have these open and honest conversations with students about the language that is sometimes used between students, especially between students who are different from one another.

    At the start of my teaching career, working in Lincolnshire but still living in Hull, issues of diversity and inclusion were undeveloped, to say the least. One ex-colleague, I recall, once told me that “we don’t have any issues with diversity or discrimination because we’re all just white british in this part of the world.” I would certainly argue, and thankfully most people would now agree with me, that living and working in a region that is predominantly White British in terms of ethnicity creates even more reason for us to understand the differences that exist between us.  

    At Hessle High School, the proportion of our students that are not White British is now above 10% and this has tripled in the past five to six years. We are an increasingly diverse community not only in terms of race, but also in terms of disability, sexuality, language and religion and it is our responsibility to educate all of our students about this diversity and also to celebrate it.

    It has been really pleasing to attend our TCAT Conference today where the theme was Diversity and Inclusion and where we heard from a number of teachers that work in more diverse communities than ours. They spoke about how they have helped to create truly inclusive schools where differences are genuinely celebrated. At Hessle High, we really believe that young people are much better equipped for a successful life if they are confident in dealing with people of all types, regardless of their race, gender, sexuality or economic background. True social mobility can only occur when young people have the skills to communicate with as broad a range of people as possible. Our programme at Hessle and the experiences we have heard from colleagues in our conference will only help us to support students in that journey.

    With just one week to go until the end of term, thoughts of Christmas are on everyone’s minds and we are all hopeful that we will be able to have more of a celebratory Christmas together this year.  We know as well that the Christmas period can be an especially anxious time for families and children. Chat Health is a local charity that can provide support for families who need someone to speak to during the Christmas Holidays. If you feel that this is something that may help you, more information can be found here.

    Further support is also available to promote active lifestyles. In partnership with East Riding of Yorkshire Council, YogaBugs offer all families on free school meals access to their online yoga and mindfulness platform.  This is completely FREE from now to the end of January and can be found here.

    Next week will be a busy one in school.  The students will continue learning until the final day but we also mark the upcoming festivities by taking time to enjoy our Tree of Kindness - this is our school Christmas Tree which has pride of our place in our atrium and is now decorated with hundreds of gift tags - each one of which bearing a message that one of our students has written.  These are their Christmas wishes which may be dedicated to a family member, or for their wider community.  They are beautiful to see and to read and we are very proud of it.

    Whatever you are doing this weekend, stay safe and take care. 

    Mr Groak

    Headteacher

     

     

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  • WEEK 12 - Friday 3 December 2021

    Published 06/12/21

    This week came the announcement that Sarah Young, TCAT’s Director of Education and former Headteacher at Hessle Academy, was resigning to relocate to pastures new. Since leaving Hessle Academy, Sarah has played a pivotal role in establishing TCAT as one of the region’s most established and growing Academy Trust chains and, latterly, has provided the Headteachers of our schools with incredible support throughout the pandemic. In many ways, the pandemic has stymied a lot of the academic improvement that she had begun but our schools could not have done without her support through very difficult times.

    As Headteacher of our school, her work was remarkable. When I joined the school in 2010, it was unrecognisable from the confident and successful school that we have today. Her drive, energy and passion dragged the school, and the staff, through some very dark days at times and it was a real privilege to work so closely with her and the other members of the leadership team as the school grew and improved. Sarah is relocating to the York area in the new year and will stay working in the education sector. I am sure that everyone in the Hessle community wishes her well.

    The leadership team to which I refer above has entirely moved on now. Three of the original team from 2010 are headteachers now and others have retired. This thought came to mind when I met with our new Chief Executive, Lizann Lowson, yesterday and I briefed her on the emerging leadership talent that we have within our staff at the moment. I know that there are future headteachers working in our classrooms today and, hopefully, this conveyor belt of talent will ensure strong and steady leadership of our school for many years to come.

    I owe my appointment as Headteacher to the mentoring and support that I received from Sarah Young and it will be my duty, and privilege, to ensure that other colleagues can benefit in a similar way.

    Over Christmas, the East Riding Local Authority is providing financial support in the form of vouchers for families where children are eligible for Free School Meals.  This will be processed by the school automatically.

    Finally, we shall be sending LFD test kits home with students next week as we are encouraging students to continue with the twice weekly throughout the Christmas break. When students return to school in January (Wednesday 5 January) we will be offering them an on-site LFD test. These will be carried out whilst the students are in school. We will shortly be sending out more information and a form for you to complete if you wish your child to be tested. If you are able to test your child at home before they return to school then it will not be necessary for them to have the LFD test in school.

    Suddenly, it is nearly Christmas. I always find that time gets away from me at this time of year.  One moment I am complaining that the Christmas adverts are on TV way too early; the next minute it is December and I haven’t prepared a thing. Thankfully, tomorrow is when Christmas begins in the Groak household. The tree is going up, there are a couple of Christmas films lined up on Netflix and there will be no schoolwork or any visitors. I can’t wait.

    Have a lovely weekend.

    Mr Groak

    Headteacher

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  • WEEK 11- Friday 26 November 2021

    Published 06/12/21

    My main thoughts at the end of a tumultuous week are of sadness and relief.  

    On Monday evening, the devastating accident on the A63 caused many of our staff and parents a lot of inconvenience but it was only in the early hours that we learned that one of those who died in the incident was known to our school community.  Alison Clark was not only a close friend of some of our staff but she had also served as a Parent Governor at our Primary School, Penhurst, some years ago.  The tragic loss of a wife and mum in such circumstances is hard to come to terms with and our entire school community sends our sympathies to her family.  It is impossible to find words to describe how they must be feeling.

    We were probably still a little unsettled on Wednesday when we became aware of the fire at the plastics factory in Hessle.  When the fire started, many staff and students were still on site and it was extremely unnerving to hear explosions and billowing flames and smoke spreading across an area in which we know many of our families and staff live.  The reason for the relief is that miraculously nobody was injured in the incident and as I drove to school on Thursday morning it was incredible to see the skies cleared as I looked from Heads Lane down into the town.  The emergency services did an incredible job and reminded us all of how important they are to us.

    The priority on Thursday was ensuring that all of our students were okay.  There were a small number that had been evacuated from their homes but, in the main, most had suffered no more than a few delays in getting home.  Within an hour or so of the school day starting, everything was back to normal and they just wanted to crack on with their learning.  I do believe that our young people are capable of coping with anything that is thrown at them.  They have such remarkable resilience.  One of them even said to me ironically, “Sir, do you remember when we only had the pandemic to contend with?”  What amazing kids we have.

    This week has also been the second week of ‘mock’ exams for our Year 11 students.  This is the first time that this cohort of students have sat down formally in the sports hall to sit exam papers since they were in Year 9 and, as well as helping us to identify what they do and do not know, it has also been invaluable practice for them to manage their time, deal with the pressure and show what they can do.  Their teachers have already begun their marking and the coming weeks will see lots of detailed feedback and development of strategies to help our students improve.  

    As we approach the Christmas holidays, I know that some families will find this an extremely difficult financial time.  Following the controversy of the Marcus Rashford/Free Schools Meal situation last year, the Government has provided additional financial support to families through the Household Support Grant.   Families eligible for free school meals may be able to apply for additional support with the costs of fuel, and warm winter clothing for their children.  More information can be found here.

    Finally, this evening is the great Hessle Christmas Lights Switch On.  Many of our students will be there, either performing, volunteering or just to enjoy the atmosphere and spend time with family and friends.  If you are heading down that way, I hope you enjoy yourself and find that magical first sprinkling of Christmas spirit.  This morning I faced my first tricky dilemma of the Christmas when our Caretaker approached me, “Where do you want the Christmas Tree this year, Vince?  Main Hall or Atrium?”  Such are the huge strategic decisions that come with school leadership!!

    Have a lovely weekend.  

    Have a lovely weekend.

    Mr Groak

    Headteacher

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  • WEEK 10 - Friday 19 November 2021

    Published 19/11/21

    This week I have spent a great deal of time in the company of other school leaders.  On Wednesday, I was in Birmingham at the School and Academies Show where over one thousand school leaders met and listened to national leaders reflect on the state of education in England at the moment. Yesterday, I was on Bransholme, at Winifred Holtby School, meeting with my fellow headteachers who lead the schools in our Academy Trust.  I am very fortunate to work alongside such committed and dedicated colleagues as we strive to improve learning not just in our own schools but across the area that we can influence.

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  • WEEK 9 - Friday 12 November 2021

    Published 15/11/21

    “It’s Not Banter” - that is the slogan with which we will be launching a new campaign to address discrimination over the coming weeks.  

    Every school is its own community and in many ways it is also a microcosm of society at large. Our school is no different and I am hugely proud of our diverse and vibrant community...

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  • WEEK 8 - Friday 5 November 2021

    Published 05/11/21

    “Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see” - Neil Postman

    At the start of this week, The Queen addressed the COP26 Leaders and drew on this memorable quote when reminding them of their obligation to make the brave decisions that would protect the planet and the safety and prosperity of our future generations.  

    I love this quote and its shocking simplicity. As a Headteacher, it really speaks to the importance of the work that we do every day in school. We are not just preparing students for examinations - as important as they are - we are truly developing a generation of people who we hope are going to make the world a better place.  I really believe in that and there are many times when I have more faith in our younger generation than I do in my own. Our students are astonishing in their resilience, in their positivity but also in their sense of fairness and justice.

    As parents, you will all know how attuned teenagers are to unfairness or even a whiff of it. I see it everyday - if I ask a student to correct a minor uniform indiscretion, they will follow the instruction but they will make absolutely sure I am picking up the next student just as keenly. And they will let me know about it if I don’t! And rightly so. It is so important that rules, laws or expectations should be the same for everyone. That is the basis of a just society and why it is so outrageous when our political leaders are seen to be following a ‘one rule for them but no rules for us’ agenda. The little things matter; we ask our students to take off their outdoor coats when they enter the building and so, as adults, we do the same. And we remind each other politely if we forget. It is all part of showing that high standards are important but that we are all in it together and that we sometimes just need a reminder of our obligation to those standards.

    Respect and kindness. These are the attitudes we want our young people to have; these are the messages we wish to send to a time we will not see.

    The return to school this week has been a very positive one. Thank you for supporting us with the continuation of the face coverings. There have been much fewer Covid cases in school again this week and so the face coverings will continue for the foreseeable future. A small price to pay for our collective safety, we believe.

    Next week is Year 9 Parents Information Evening and an opportunity for you to hear about the year ahead for students in that year group. Year 9 will obviously see the start of the GCSE Options Pathway process so there is much to share with you; please check your emails and make your bookings - I think it will be an hour of your time well spent. And it will be great to see you.

    Finally, following a difficult half term, our overall school attendance is ticking upwards each day and I am pleased to say that it is now above the national average. We have spent a lot of time reflecting on the issue of attendance in recent months and it is true that for some vulnerable students and their families, it has been difficult to return to school. Nevertheless, the impact of poor attendance is substantial both in terms of academic achievement but also the lack of development of social skills.

    Just one day of absence means that a student has missed five hours of learning. That may not seem like much but, on their return, it may take up to a week for them to recover as each time they return to each of those missed subjects, there will be disruption and anxiety as the student tries to ‘catch up’ or deal with the lost learning or experience. On top of this, one day of absence is also a loss of social contact - friends are talking about new things and the social confidence is diminished.  

    As Headteacher, I am very proud of the incredible work that my staff do every day. They can really inspire the students and enable them to do great things. But only if they’re here. As we hopefully get back to normal in the coming months, I hope we can work ever more closely with you to improve our attendance even further. When the students are in school, that is when the magic happens.

    Take care

    Mr V Groak

    Headteacher

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  • WEEK 7 - Friday 22 October 2021

    Published 22/10/21

    As we reach the end of this first half term of the school year, it is appropriate to reflect on the achievements of the past seven weeks.  

    On return to school on 6 September, we were delighted to welcome another full year group of Year 7 students. Two-hundred and fifty excited eleven year olds joined us that week and it was a pleasure to meet them. In the days and weeks that followed, they settled in extremely well, found their way around the building and brought real enthusiasm and energy to their learning. They have coped with everything that has been thrown at them and handled it with maturity and aplomb. As I have explained to you a few times, there have been a few challenges over lunchtime this year as we have settled in a new catering company, and our youngest students have needed the most support with this. I am on duty everyday in the canteen and can clearly see a more efficient service now and that the children have plenty of time to eat and the full range of choice. I hope that we are now providing them, and you, with a service that they expect but please continue to inform us and challenge us if that is not the case.

    Our older students, especially those in Year 8 and 9, have enjoyed the benefit of a full curriculum now that they are able to move around the building to Science and Tech labs, Art rooms and the like. They are excellent role models for our younger children and their resilience in dealing with the unpredictability of schooling since March 2020 is commendable.  

    Which brings me to our GCSE students in Years 10 and 11. We have held two Parents Information Evenings this term, at which we have set out our plans to support these students. The key message I have tried to get across is that there is no point in worrying about what has happened; the future is all that counts. The pandemic has caused a break in learning - but it has affected everyone. So, if everyone is behind, essentially nobody is behind! There is huge experience and expertise in the school and the children will continue to benefit from this, of course, and there will still be the same number of Grade 3s, 4s, 7s, 9s and so on available when they come to sit their exams, just as the world will still need engineers, doctors, care workers, mechanics, plumbers, teachers, shop assistants. The world has changed but the opportunities are still there waiting to be seized. That is our message to our students, and we believe it.

    The world, and our country, also needs great people; those who are innovative and hard working and who have great character, who tell the truth and look after others. Those are the kind of people we are trying to develop at our school and, after seven weeks of interacting and working with our young people, I believe that is what we are doing. The high standards we are striving to set every day are bearing fruit; uniform has never been smarter, attendance is above national average and the record of behavioural incidents is well down on previous years. This is all being achieved by our highly committed staff, employing consistent approaches and working hard with students to teach the behaviours we wish to see. You will rarely hear shouting in our school; when a child makes a mistake, we prefer our adults to explain things through with them and reiterate our values and our standards. It is working.

    Some people challenge me on this and ask ‘what has uniform / hair colour got to do with learning?’ It is a fair question but I would answer it like this…. 

    Every day I wear a suit to work. A tie and black shoes. It takes me seconds to choose my suit and tie and that is it. If I wasn’t wearing a suit to work, it would take me longer to decide what to wear. I would have to consider how my clothes might match or not, whether they were appropriate for who I was going to meet. I would need to think about what others might wear and whether I might be over or under dressed. All of these thoughts and decisions would be an unnecessary distraction from what I have ahead of me that day. During the day, crucial minutes might be wasted talking about what I, or others, were wearing. I might spend time comparing myself favourably or, more likely, unfavourably with others, hitting my self esteem. It would all be a waste of time.  

    Wearing school uniform protects children, usually far more impressionable than I am, from that kind of worry, concern and effort. That is why we insist on school uniform, worn to a common standard.

    Tomorrow afternoon, my family and I are flying to Spain. I cannot wait. It has been two years since I have been abroad and I am even excited about parking my car at the airport and getting on the shuttle bus. It is a bit ridiculous really. We have five days planned in Barcelona and, miraculously, have managed to get tickets for the Barca v Read Madrid game on Sunday. Our children will get to experience a city that my wife and I have visited many times and love to bits. Whilst sitting in the sun, with a glass of wine and some tapas, I will recharge after a busy half term but look forward with real optimism to the rest of the school year; it is such a privilege to be the Headteacher of this school and to lead such a great team of people dedicated to serve our young people and their families. Thank you for all of the support you have given to your children, to my staff and to the school these past seven weeks and I hope you enjoy some quality family time.

    Take care and stay safe 

    Mr V Groak

    Headteacher

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  • WEEK 6 - Friday 15 October 2021

    Published 15/10/21

    Last week, I wrote to inform you of the significant improvement in our covid situation following our reintroduction of face coverings at the end of last month. This week has been a much quieter one on that front and we have seen an 80% decline in the number of cases reported each week. There could be many reasons for this but the one significant action that we have taken has been the wearing of face coverings and the local Public Health team are convinced that this will have made a big contribution to the reduction. For that reason, we have continued to require students and staff to wear them in communal spaces and thank you for your ongoing support with this.

    Another of the best ways in which we can continue to control the spread of the virus is through regular LFD testing. We know that so much transmission is caused by people who do not know that they have the virus. Regular testing can help to identify when you may be positive and help to break that chain of infection. Sadly, the proportion of students taking home test kits has fallen and, from speaking to students, we know that far fewer of them are testing regularly. Please support us with this and help your child to get into the regular habit of testing on Sunday and Wednesday evenings.

    The pandemic has affected everyone of us but it has also brought out the best of us at times. The appreciation that we have received for our work from parents and other members of the community has been really touching at times and spurs us on to do our very best for our students and families. To any parent who has taken the time to share their gratitude, a very big ‘thank you’ - it really does mean a great deal. 

    On the other hand, it is a real downside of working in public life that we also see the worst of people. People do not work in schools for the money or even for the holidays; they do it for the satisfaction of working with young people and doing a job that has real value and purpose. It is incredibly frustrating, and even deeply depressing, for me when I hear of my staff being abused in their work. This does not happen regularly, but it is often enough to be a concern. What do I mean by ‘abuse’? Well, it is not uncommon for parents and carers to swear at my staff, or to shout at them or send emails that are downright rude and sometimes abusive. Often this is over a disagreement over a school policy, a detention, a uniform issue; sometimes it is when we have made a mistake and are trying to put it right. No matter what the cause of the situation might be, there is never an excuse for rude or abusive behaviour and it is almost always counter-productive. We are trying to teach young people how to handle heated situations and, as adults, we must always model best behaviours, especially when in front of the children.

    I was reluctant to share this with you as I am really only referring to a very small proportion of our parents. Nevertheless, it is useful for everyone to know the pressures that our staff sometimes face and how proud I am of their steadfastness in continuing to support families despite the occasional four letter word!  

    Yesterday evening was our Year 10 Parent Information Evening and over 140 people attended over three sessions to hear a presentation from a number of senior staff. The purpose of the event, which was similar to the Year 11 event a few weeks ago, is to provide the information we think you need to support your child, in this case in Year 10.  We outlined the timeline to GCSE exams, the careers support that is available and the importance of good attendance.  I will pick up the attendance issue further next week but, in the meantime, for those of you unable to attend, the slide set can be found here.

    Finally, as I write this the sun is shining once again and a pleasant weekend beckons. If you are heading to Hull Fair please do so safely. Whatever your plans may be, I hope you have a relaxing weekend.

    Best regards

    Mr V Groak

    Headteacher

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