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Hessle High School

Headteacher Blog


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

Page 1

  • WEEK 12 - Friday 1 December 2023

    Published 01/12/23

    One of my favourite Bruce Springsteen songs is a track from an album he released in 2007, relatively late in his career. ‘Long Walk Home’ was written during the George Bush Presidency and is the story of a man returning to his hometown to find that everything had changed and that he no longer recognised his hometown, or his home country. It is in part a downbeat song but one that also inspires with one particular verse which alludes to the unshakeable American values that are – or should be – true for all of us. 

    "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" 

    Our school values are important to us; they define who we are, what we’ll do and, most importantly for school leaders, what we don’t do. You know that most Springsteen music inspires me but there are no finer lines in his music than this last one. 

    The most important of all our values is respect, which aligns with our vision that all our learners will develop exceptional character. And, to be clear and to paraphrase Mr Wolf (from the great movie Reservoir Dogs), ‘just because you are a character doesn't mean that you have character’.  

    And we see this in many different ways. This week I received a letter from Emma Stothard who is the regional coordinator of The Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme, congratulating our school on our success as a DofE centre. We reintroduced the DofE to Hessle around four years ago and, under the leadership of Mrs Moore, it has played a significant part in developing character in our students. We currently have 64 young people enrolled on this programme and – over their time in our school – we are now projecting that over 15% of all our students will complete DofE. Mrs Moore is supported by lots of staff, especially on expedition weekends, but it is Mrs Edwards and Mr Scott, who are her main lieutenants, and they deserve so much credit for this work that they do. This week, they could be found on Heads Lane in front of the school, litter-picking in the hedges and paths around our school site, as part of the volunteer element of the Award. 

    We also see great character in the inclusive nature of our school and the relationships that exist between our diverse student group. One of the highlights of the week for me has been the emerging chess club that has engaged some of our Year 10 boys. With the weather too cold for football, they have taken up learning and playing chess. Some are very good players (although I am still undefeated in my one challenge game!) whilst some are just learning. It has been great fun and they really impressed me when they took one of our Year 7 boys under their wing to share in the competitions. It made his week and certainly demonstrated ‘who we are and what we’ll do.’ 

    The arrival of the snow this week was met with some excitement but it really didn’t amount to much; a few pea-sized snowballs each, and then it all turned to mush. Despite that, the students conducted themselves very well and, in general, we are very pleased with the way that our students have adapted to the changes we made to our behaviour policy this year. Visitors are always impressed when they walk around our building at how self-regulated our students and how calm the school feels. We are always looking to raise our standards though and I believe this year’s changes, and the response from students, has done that. Thank you again for your unwavering support for my staff when we do have to apply sanctions – the home/school partnership remains as strong as ever. 

    Which brings me to my final ‘thank you’ which goes to everyone involved in yesterday evening’s Year 11 Progress Evening, which saw a 79% attendance. This is almost 20% higher than the same time last year and a reflection of the engagement of students and families to succeed this summer. Thanks also to those staff who make the event happen, but whom you probably don’t see; Mrs Fantini, Mrs Corke, Mrs O’Connell, Mrs Grimes, Miss Harrington, Mrs Whiting and Mrs Challis in the Admin team who organise the appointments and organise all of the logistics; to Mr Owen, Mr Hunt, Mr Winter, Mr Worrall and Mr Scott, our Facilities Team, for changing the canteen into ‘parents evening’ and back again in the blink of an eye. To Mrs Donnelly for the catering, to our Head Students, Sofia and Joe and Student Representative, Blessing to our SLT and Exams team, Mrs Meir, Mrs Price, Mrs Anderson and Mrs Ashforth, as well as our Year 11 Team, Mr Leckenby and Miss Wilkin. 

    It is a fabulous team, which I am proud to lead.  

    This weekend, I am at home with the children while Mrs Groak (who also works here) is in France with three of our colleagues and thirty-two students. They left an icy school at 3am and by the time this goes out to you, they will be in Lille Christmas market. I joked about it being a holiday, but that did not go down too well with her so I feel obliged to spend the weekend doing something creative with the children. It will probably involve Christmas decorations! 

    Thank you for your support and have a lovely weekend. 

    Mr Groak


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  • WEEK 11 - Friday 24 November 2023

    Published 24/11/23

    We all know that attendance of students to school is still a long way short of where it was before the pandemic and we are only now beginning to understand some of the complex reasons behind this apparent breakdown in the social contract between home and school. Amanda Spielman addressed this issue in her annual Ofsted report yesterday before she steps down as HMCI. At Hessle, our attendance is also stubborn and still lags behind where it was back in 2019. Roughly speaking, it has fallen from 95% to a little over 90% which doesn’t seem like much but is essentially a doubling of absence, and a doubling of all of the consequences of student absence. 

    And the consequences of not attending school are huge. 

    Firstly, there is the academic impact; students with attendance below 90% (just one day off per fortnight) are three times as likely to miss their targets as those students with good attendance. This closes the door on a range of educational opportunities and means that young people can be playing ‘catch up’ for years to acquire the skills and qualifications they need to secure good and rewarding employment. 

    Secondly, there is the social and emotional impact. Students who regularly miss school, also miss their friends, classmates and teachers. A break from the social norms causes young people anxiety – they've missed out on conversations, gossip and the twists and turns of being a teenage student in school. This then makes them more likely to miss school again and becomes a downward spiral of absence and anxiety. 

    And finally, attendance – or non-attendance – becomes a habit. If you do not create the expectation that you will start the day positively and with structure and routine, you will find it a difficult thing to create later in life. We seek to instil these habits in our students and thank you for your support in doing so. 

    To tackle this ‘doubling of absence’, we are doing our best to increase our capacity. We have recruited two additional staff on a part-time morning basis to handle calls, chase up absent students and to make home visits. We are funding this from the last year of the Government’s Recovery Premium and it is beginning to take effect. 

    If you feel you would benefit from support to help your child attend school more regularly or you are finding it harder to support them to school, please contact us as soon as possible. 


    As I write this on Thursday afternoon, one of the smaller School Christmas Trees has just been taken from its store cupboard near my office – the first sign that we are getting nearer to yet another Christmas season. We finish school late this term (last day is Thursday 21 December) so there is still a long way to go but the weekends are fast disappearing and school events are taking on a more seasonal flavour. The staff at Hessle are very much in two camps; those that are putting their tree up this weekend, or those that are waiting until next weekend. The Groaks are definitely in the latter camp and ours will be going up next Sunday afternoon after Mrs Groak returns from the school trip to Lille.  

    Have a lovely weekend and thank you for your ongoing support.  

    Mr Groak


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  • WEEK 10 - Friday 17 November 2023

    Published 17/11/23

    This week’s cabinet reshuffle may have hit the headlines because of David Cameron’s return as Foreign Secretary; but the biggest surprise was probably the fact that Gillian Keegan ended the day still in post as Education Secretary! Keegan has now been in post for thirteen months and is probably due for a long service award by now.  

    Since Michael Gove was fired in 2014 after four years in charge, none of the other eight (8!) Education Secretaries have managed two years. But at least Zahawi (10 months), Cleverly (2 months) and Malthouse (7 weeks) would have had time to chair a meeting or maybe even a visit a school, whereas poor old Michelle Donelan probably didn’t have time to make a coffee in the 36 hours she lasted in the Truss-chaos of last July! 

    It’s crazy, isn’t it? How do they expect to be taken seriously?  

    But, if it’s good enough for those running the country, I have begun to consider whether we might have a reshuffle amongst our middle leaders here at Hessle. Mr Willson has had quite a stint as Head of Maths; I wonder if it might be time to move him to Art? That would allow me to move Miss Lewis to PE (she likes her football) and then Mrs Leckenby can move off the field to an indoor job as Head of Music. If there’s still a vacancy after all of that, maybe I’ll drag Mr Jolley out of retirement? 

    Of course, it would be ridiculous, and you would rightly ask me what on earth was going on at the school. Anyway, thankfully we don’t have a new Education leader this week and so, for the moment, we can just get on with the job and this week has been a great one for our learners to enjoy experiences outside of the classroom. 

    Last Saturday, Mr Sellers and Miss Burrows took a group of Sixth Form Physicists to the Diamond Light Source venue in Oxfordshire to learn more about the UK’s national synchrotron and how it is used. We are very proud of our Physics team here at Hessle. Physics teachers are the single most difficult specialists to recruit into schools nationally and many schools do not have a single specialist Physicist on their staff; we have three, which is a testament to the Science team and their commitment to developing the next generation of scientists, so that they can work in mind-bending places like the one they visited on Saturday. 

    On Wednesday, Year 7 students enjoyed ‘All About Me’ Day – a great opportunity for them to hear from guest speakers, specialist staff and others and to reflect on their own future. This involved a day off timetable, which created great excitement, but which also led to some really mature discussions about their futures and the great things they want to achieve with their lives. 

    Also, on Wednesday, a group of Year 9 students took to the road and spent the day at Yorkshire Wildlife Park on a Geography Field Trip. If you have been to this venue, you will know how lucky we are to have this practically on our doorstep and the students really enjoyed the visit whilst also learning a great deal about tourism and how land can be repurposed for different uses. Mr Carlin led the trip, and he could not praise the students highly enough for their behaviour and maturity. 

    And our older students have also been out and about with the Year 12 Spanish class enjoying a meal at El Toro restaurant on Wednesday night. Spanish is a new A Level for us at Hessle and their teachers, Miss Oddell and Mrs Groak, have been keen to provide students with the full experience of learning the language and culture, hence the trip to experience food and the tapas way of eating.  

    Finally, we also welcomed parents and carers of those students who participate in the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme to school this week for their annual celebration event. This programme continues to be a real success for the school and for students, who start to participate from Year 9 onwards. This week, thirty students received their Bronze Award and a further fifteen received their Silver Award. Ella Whiting and Kieran Hudson were chosen to receive the special awards for outstanding achievement. My thanks to Miss Moore who leads the programme for us in school, and to Mrs Edwards and Mr Scott who support her with expeditions and much else besides. 

    This is just a flavour of the wide range of opportunities that our students have benefited from this week, thanks to the commitment of the staff to broaden horizons and raise cultural awareness. 

    I spent a few moments checking the Groak family calendar last night and realised that this coming weekend is the last one of the year that does not involve some form of family gathering or social get together. As good as they will be, I am looking forward to enjoying the weekend at as slow a pace as possible, finish my book and watching some TV with the kids. 

    Whatever you are doing, have a lovely weekend and thank you for your ongoing support. 

    Mr Groak


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  • WEEK 9 - Friday 10 November 2023

    Published 10/11/23

    Just before half term, and just after the students had left the site for the day, an alert came through on our walkie-talkies that one of the school buses had broken down on Heads Lane, students were getting off it and the road was blocked. “It’s carnage,” was the phrase used by a passer-by. A number of colleagues and me, dashed out to the scene to discover that, actually, there wasn’t carnage but merely a group of young people, some motorists and a bus driver trying to resolve an unexpected issue that had occurred. Noone was in real control but everyone was doing their best to stay safe and figure it out.  

    Quickly, we held the traffic, ensured that the students were safely off the bus, and on the footpath either to walk home or head back to school to wait for a replacement bus. The driver was given the help he needed and, within a few minutes, all was calm. It probably would have been even if we hadn’t responded but it might have taken a little longer, with a little more risk. 

    “That was chaos,” said one of my pastoral leaders as we walked back to school. Indeed it was. Until we brought order to it. And then it wasn’t. Chaos is defined as a ‘formless, jumbled, disorganized mass’. It can infer some malign intent but it is more likely the outcome of a number of individuals trying to pursue their own self-interest in an environment without clear parameters, rules or leadership. 

    On any given day, there are around 1500 children, young people and adults on our site and, at a few seconds past 12.15, it seems like they’re all headed into the canteen for their lunch. By 12.30, most of them have got their food and are sitting eating, chatting to their friends or they have left and gone outside for some fresh air. It is a miracle of organisation, collective purpose and planning.  

    Whilst we teach the students to self-regulate themselves during this time (apart from having to queue and observe normal etiquette for a dining space, they can choose where to eat, where to sit and what to do with their lunch time), this period of time still requires supervision. There are 84 individual duty points across the two break and lunch sittings covering the entire site. That’s every day. These are mostly carried out by senior leaders, pastoral staff and the voluntary efforts of a number of other staff who help to maintain order - and prevent chaos. 

    Making sure this works becomes a study in managing the flow of people. The reason why students have to move one way down a corridor, or leave the building by a particular door is not because we like to introduce a petty rule; it is to ensure that hundreds of people are moving smoothly with as little disruption or risk as possible. I never imagined – when I became Headteacher – that I would spend so much of my time thinking about these seemingly trivial things; but I have grown to realise that these are not trivial at all – they are integral to creating a strong positive culture within school. If students know what is expected of them and they live up to these expectations, they are showing respect for themselves, their peers and the school community. These are values we need them to have when they go into society as adults. 

    So it is vital that we can provide them with routine, order - and, yes, queues - so they can learn these skills of how to be a good citizen. If we do not, we allow ‘chaos’ (in its literal term, rather than being ‘out of control’) to take hold which has a damaging effect on our culture and on student development. 

    That is a roundabout way to tell you that I spent one day of the holidays in school with my Deputy, Mr Chapman, and Mr Owen, our Facilities Manager, ensuring we have our common spaces, such as the canteen, laid out as smartly as we can. As the weather gets colder and more students wish to stay inside the building, this is crucial. We made some changes, we will make more and I am confident, the students will be able to stay warm and comfortable through the colder months. 

    I also spent some time during half term reacting to the latest release of Bruce Springsteen concert dates and managed to secure tickets for a couple of shows, and then to book hotels. I have been expecting, since 2016, that ‘this will be the last tour’ but he and his band just keep on going, and so will I next Spring. I can’t wait. 

    Finally, as I put the finishing touches to this blog, we are nearing 11am and our Two-Minute Silence. I am very proud of how our students always respond to this, showing their respect to those generations, old and not so old, who have performed a duty far more important than ours and made the ultimate sacrifice for others. We will all remember them. 

    Have a lovely weekend and thank you for your support.   

    Mr Groak 


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  • WEEK 8 - Thursday 26 October 2023

    Published 26/10/23

    You will know from this blog, that I take a huge amount of pleasure from sport. I was never much of a sportsman unfortunately, but I stay active through running and the very occasional game of golf. That’s as much sport as I can find the time for now. But I love watching it, especially when I can do so with my son. We both have season tickets for Hull FC and try to get to a handful of Yorkshire cricket matches each year if we can. And Sky Sports is an almost permanent fixture on our TV screen. 

    My son is a much better sportsman than me and – at 13 – already shows enough focus, and a bit of talent, to be able to play sport at a social level for as long as he wishes to do so. He plays football for Hessle Sporting, alongside a number of Hessle students, as well as being a keen all-round cricketer for Kirkella CC. He has hung up his tennis racket in exchange for the golf course in recent months and has good enough hand-eye coordination to be decent at that too. I stopped ‘letting him win’ many years ago and so our kick-arounds, cricket nets and golf games are strictly competitive, and I love it.  

    One regret from the career path that I have chosen is that I rarely find the time to be able to watch our Hessle students in sporting action. I went quickly into management which squeezed out the chance to spend time on the touchline, or courtside. But I am always delighted to hear how well our students are doing. 

    We have a decent track record of success but this term, so far, has been beyond belief. I keep getting updates on this victory or that success and, at the moment, can barely keep track of them. A few weeks ago, Hessle sports teams had won sixteen out of seventeen competitive sports fixtures that had been played this term; and the success goes on. 

    On Wednesday, we entered two teams into a girl's football tournament organised by the Tigers’ Trust. The teams comprised girls in Years 7 to 9 and the two teams were drawn in separate groups. Both teams qualified comfortably from their groups and went into the knock-out stage where, again, both sides got through those games easily. In the semi-finals, they were drawn apart again and our ‘A’ team beat Driffield 4-1, while the ‘B’ team triumphed 1-0 over Wolfreton. And so, it was an all-Hessle final! For the record, the A team won the final, but all the girls had done fantastically well and were an absolute credit to the school and the staff that took them. 

    This year, we are delighted to have such a strong team of staff who are passionate about sport and giving our students the opportunity to take part in so many fixtures. Thank you to Carrie Leckenby, Rachael Shiels, Ed Griffiths, Carl Hazel and Nathan Parkin for their time and commitment, as well as to the many other non-PE staff who also run teams and support the students in fixtures. I’m sure that those of you whose children benefit from these opportunities also appreciate it greatly. 


    It has been a good week for Year 11 students and their first round of mock exams. The start of these exams always brings an extra level of educational maturity to the group and the earlier start this year has also been beneficial. We are trying everything we can to help you to also support the students and I was pleased to see how many parents/carers of Year 11 students accessed our new Success Bulletin (over 400 downloads). This will be sent out fortnightly and is aimed at keeping you fully informed of all the support available to your child in school as they navigate their way through Year 11. Please let us know what you think of it. The next one will arrive with you on November 10th. 


    PLEASE NOTE – we are currently changing online payment providers as mentioned in correspondence to you recently. ParentPay will cease taking payments on Thursday 26 October at 2pm. After this time, payment can only be made via ArborPay. Please do this by logging into your parent account. 


    Finally, half term is upon us, and I am ready for a rest. It has been a busy but successful eight weeks laying a platform for the rest of the year. We will mostly be at home next week, but I am looking forward to taking my mum to London on Saturday for the day. She doesn’t know what we are doing yet but I’m sure we will also find some time to try a few of the old London pubs which we both love. 

    Whatever you are doing over the weekend and next week, take care and thank you again for all the support you have given to my staff over the last half term. 

    Mr Groak


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  • WEEK 7 - Friday 20 October 2023

    Published 20/10/23

    As I write this, Storm Babet is howling away outside of my window and the rain is lashing down. Three weeks ago, it felt like the middle of summer and now.... it’s definitely not. There is no doubt that the weather outside affects the climate in schools. Warm, hazy days with students sitting in the sunshine or playing sports are the ideal – lots of exercise, Vitamin D and space to spread out. Wet and windy – not so good.  

    It is well known that SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a real thing, even if we do not know why. And while we all feel a bit less optimistic in the late Autumn and Winter, nobody can really explain why some of the countries that have the harshest winters (such as in Scandinavia) also regularly record the highest levels of happiness and mental health. It is surely down to adopting a positive mindset which proves invaluable as the endless nights prevail. 

    In school, the wet weather compels the students to want to stay inside which means space in the canteen is at a premium. To feed and house over 600 students on each forty-minute sitting is a herculean effort and I am proud of the dedication of the staff to maintaining our standards.    


    I wrote last week about our Sixth Form and I was delighted to see so many prospective students and their families at our Open Evening on Tuesday. Over 150 families attended from across the area and from a number of other schools too; the feedback on their experience was fantastic and I was delighted to see our Head Students and their peers receiving such praise for their contribution to the night, speaking to people about their experience and how to manage the transition from Year 11. They were a credit to their families, and we are very proud of them. Most of those students that attended have now applied for a place in the Sixth Form which will then prompt a face-to-face interview with Mr Jarman, Head of Sixth Form. We do this early so that the young people can get their plans in place and focus on the rest of Year 11 and achieving their full potential. If you need any information about our Sixth Form, please contact Mr Jarman at the school. 


    It is a big sporting weekend yet again in the Groak household. The England cricketers are in action tomorrow and then the Rugby Union boys meet South Africa in the World Cup Semi-Final in the evening. My son and I will be watching. And then, on Sunday, the Rugby League team (my favourite version of the sport) play Tonga. On weekends like this, the TV is monopolised so it's probably for the best that my wife is away this weekend – off to see ‘S Club’ in Manchester and reliving her youth. 

    Whatever you are doing this weekend, stay warm and dry and have a good weekend 

    Mr Groak


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  • WEEK 6 - Friday 13 October 2023

    Published 16/10/23

    There has not been a year in my 23 -year teaching career when I have not taught Sixth Form students. Even as an NQT, I was thrown in at the deep end teaching a Year 13 Business & Economics group after an experienced member of staff decided to resign in August! In that time, I have taught countless specifications and many hundreds of students.  It has been the most enjoyable part of my teaching career and, even now, if staff see me walking up to Tranby House to see my Sixth Form group on a Tuesday morning, they'll notice the extra spring in my step. I love it. 

    As Headteacher, I desperately want as many of my staff to enjoy the same privilege. Maintaining a school Sixth Form is not easy. It is hard to maintain focus across multiple key stages and it is expensive when you consider that it mostly consists of smaller-than-average class sizes being taught by our most expensive staff. But there is something special about having a School Sixth Form. I went to a school sixth form and I know that the spotty, shy and awkward teenager that I was would never have prospered in a big Sixth Form College. I'd have been lost and never fulfilled my potential. So having a Sixth Form at Hessle is very personal to me and I am hugely passionate about it. But it is never guaranteed. 

    We face incredibly stiff competition from larger Post-16 providers in our area and we can never match their promotions, their 'Beverly Hills 90210' style environment or their range of courses but we can offer something they cannot – the benefit of the years-long relationships that students have built with staff, the familiarity with the school and the knowledge that, if they go through a tough time, there are people around who know them well and who can provide support. And, working with our partners at Cottingham and Wolfreton and more recently at Holderness Academy, we can still offer over thirty-five different Post-16 courses for students across a range of disciplines. 

    Next Tuesday is our Post-16 Open Evening at Hessle High. Anyone with a child in Year 11 or 10 at our school or elsewhere is very welcome to attend. You will hear from myself, from Mr Jarman, our Head of Sixth Form, and many of our teachers. Most importantly, you will get to meet and speak to our current Sixth Form students who will be able to explain exactly what it is like to study with us. It promises to be a busy, but highly engaging, evening and we hope to see you there from 5pm. 

    ‘Hull Fair Week’ draws to a close in the next few days and today we have definitely seen the Hull Fair weather in school. We are hoping for a little Autumn sunshine this weekend which gives me an outside chance of one final cut of the grass before the lawnmower is packed away for another year. But best of all, the kids have a sleepover at their grandparents tomorrow which gives my wife and I the chance for a night out on our own. In the past six weeks, I don’t think we have spoken to each other for more than 15 minutes without a domestic responsibility or work job or conversation butting in. When we have time without the children, we always start with grand plans for a posh meal, cocktails and a night on the town but it almost always ends early, dozing on the sofa by 9pm with a glass of Baileys!  

    Whatever you are doing, have a lovely weekend and thank you for your ongoing support.  

    Mr Groak 


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  • WEEK 5 - Friday 6 October 2023

    Published 06/10/23

    I’ve always been suspicious of those people who start articles, essays or blogs with a pretentious quote from some obscure historical figure to introduce their point. But I believe it was the ancient Greek Stoics who first introduced the idea of Circles of Control and Influence. The Stoics were a group of philosophers who believed that the way to a happy life was to live a life of virtue and to ignore the search for external things such as wealth and material possessions. They also believed that we could live more peaceful and fulfilling lives if we focussed our attention and energy on what we can control and not waste time and energy worrying about things that we cannot control.  

    This idea is commonly used in leadership books and courses now and it certainly applies to education; both in how we lead schools but also in how we develop young people. Our students worry about so many things - mostly how they are perceived by others – but we try to teach them that this is something they cannot control; what they can control is how they themselves behave and how they treat others.  

    Somewhere in between ‘control’ and ‘concern’ is the sphere of influence; if we can control the controllable well, we may be able to have a greater influence on others, which may reduce the things that we are concerned about. Still following? Have a look at the model here and you’ll see it makes sense. I try to apply this a lot to my leadership thinking. We often sit in meetings finding ourselves discussing things which we are worried about and which concern us. But then we try to wrest the discussion back to the things we can control in school. There are not too many levers in school – the school day, the timetable, the rules and expectations. But if we get these right and apply them consistently, we can influence behaviour – of students and staff, and then things start to happen. 


    This week’s focus for me has been meeting with Heads of Department and Heads of Year for their mid-term reviews. Before each of these meetings, our middle-tier leaders produce a report summarising their work and their future plans and then these are discussed in a meeting with myself and other senior leaders. What pleases me most is the desire that these leaders have to keep improving our school; their passion for improvement is evident in the depth of analysis and the thought that goes into their planning. Their ideas are discussed and challenged and this produces the Development Plans for each subject and year group which becomes the basis for their work throughout the rest of the year. Of course, they often have to respond to things that just happen but beyond that they are working to a plan for improvement that is set out at the start of the year. These leaders tell me that they are often anxious before these meetings which I take to be a good thing; I am nervous before similar meetings with Governors and Trust colleagues. It is a desire to do our jobs well that leads to this and keeps us all striving to be better.  


    In recent years, we have made several changes to the school day in order to apply social distancing and to accommodate our growing number of students on roll. We are now in a position where we believe the current arrangements will meet our needs and we intend to make them permanent. As this is a change from the school day that operated pre-pandemic, we need to consult on them first. This letter has been sent to parents with information. Please note this does not mean any change from the current school day. 


    Today is the start of a period that most teachers hate – the start of Hull Fair! Anyone that works in a school in Hull and the neighbouring areas will know this is a distraction to students- to say the least - and we work especially hard to keep students focused in school. Thank you for your support in ensuring that your child can enjoy Hull Fair but also be in school on time each day next week. 

    My wife is not from this area so doesn’t really share my fondness for Hull Fair. The kids are – oddly – somewhere in between and over the past couple of years they’ve chosen other treats rather than go to the fair (we got away with paying for a film on Sky Movies one year!). This year, they’ve figured out that we’ve been short-changing them for years, so there is no avoiding a family trip. So long as I get my pattie and chips from Bob Carver’s and some fudge to take home, I’ll enjoy it. And I know they will. 

    Enjoy the weekend, the Fair if you’re going and thank you for your support. 

    Mr Groak


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  • WEEK 4 - Friday 29 September 2023

    Published 29/09/23

    I write this week’s blog still smiling, nay glowing, from the aftermath of last night’s Open Evening. At the end of a fantastic yet exhausting night, we tallied up the numbers and found that 370 families had visited us. That is a remarkable number and is testament to the reputation that our school enjoys in the community. I have thanked my staff for this already but this is also a credit to yourselves as current parents/carers for the support you give us in setting and maintaining high standards of behaviour, uniform and educational quality. These high numbers ensure we will continue to operate at full capacity with the benefits that brings in terms of resources. Thank you. 

    I have touched on the subject of school uniform many times in this blog and this is still a topic that excites rather a lot of strong feeling from people that have never worked in, nor led, a school. Often the comments are similar to this: 

    “What difference does it make what shoes they wear? How does that affect their learning?” 

    “I agree that a school should have rules, but some of them are just ridiculous.”  

    The one that I find most interesting at the moment is this one; “School uniforms are out of date. They were okay in the ‘50s when everyone wore a suit to work but nowadays even bankers don’t wear a tie.” 

    I heard this one on LBC the other night and, as is often the case when radio phone in hosts choose to discuss schools, I found myself talking to the radio like a crazy man. “Who gives a hoot what bankers wear?” I said. Although I didn’t say ‘hoot’. 

    I wear a suit to work because it is smart, professional and it shows to my students and staff that I care enough about them to present myself in that way. Uniforms and smart dress help us to construct the cultural norm that school is a special place and that we are all worth dressing smartly for. It conveys the status of our environment. There are many other reasons why school uniform is necessary, but this is the one which addresses the ridiculous comparison to ‘bankers’.  

    One or two parents have asked me how the golf went last weekend and I am happy to report that we both scored well; in my son’s case, he is improving his score by four or five shots each time he plays, and I was not as bad as normal. I’m still too embarrassed to share the actual scores but let us say it was comfortably over three figures. Comfortably. 

    This weekend, he and his mum are going to watch Hull City on Saturday afternoon so I shall be spending the afternoon with my teenage daughter (she’s actually only 9, but you would never know it!). Our days out usually mean McDonalds, H&M, Primark and then the Odeon cinema, where I usually fall asleep holding her hand. Bliss. 

    Whatever you are doing this weekend, enjoy it and thank you for your support.   

    Mr Groak


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  • WEEK 3 - Friday 22 September 2023

    Published 22/09/23

    I have spent much of this week reflecting on parental engagement with schools. I am aware that this is dangerous territory on which a Headteacher might choose to encroach in a blog read almost exclusively by parents and carers but, nevertheless, here goes.... 

    Firstly, we are delighted that, so far, our attendance is higher than last year. We’re not back to pre-Covid levels yet but its going in the right direction. Across the country, attendance to schools – particularly Secondary schools – has been painfully slow to return to pre-Pandemic levels and while there might not appear to be much difference between 92% and 96%, the impact on schools and students of those missing students is significant. For example, a school that previously had 4% absence would have probably have a small team of people who dealt with those absences. With 8% absence, their workload has doubled, as has the impact on teaching staff of helping students to catch up when they return. Socially, it becomes difficult for even more students to return to school after absence and that can lead to peer falling out. In short, attendance has been stubbornly reluctant to improve and it causes a huge headache.  

    There is no single cause for this, but researchers now believe that the ‘social contract’ that meant that parents and carers did everything they could to get their child into school has broken down. A recent report by Public First captured the size of the problem and also quoted a number of parents expressing their reasons for not sending their children to school; comments such as ‘Life’s too short’ and ‘I don’t really care anymore’ speak to a wider culture of hopelessness amongst some in our communities which may have its roots in the pandemic but has been exacerbated by the sense of economic decline. 

    As frustrating as this is, it is hard to be too critical of parents with these views because everyone’s reality is their own and each one of us are affected differently by the pandemic/cost of living crisis. What we need is a plan to turn this around and although the Government have set up a number of working parties and taskforces, there is no significant funding for schools to support the families that need it. This year we will have an additional funding stream called the Covid Recovery Premium which for us is around £100,000 or, to put it another way, approximately 0.8% of our total school budget. This is useful money but goes nowhere near covering the staff and resources needed to deal with the attendance, behaviour, emotional and academic support needed by schools in the years following the pandemic. And so we do our best with what we’ve got. 

    On Wednesday, we held our Year 11 Information Evening for parents, students and other family members. My senior team and I explained to those present about the plans and support that we have in store for Year 11 students this year. It was great to see everyone there and lovely to talk to so many people afterwards about their hopes for their child this year and beyond. It was a shame that only 25% of the year group’s parents managed to attend and, as leaders, we have discussed how we can better communicate to you (if you’re someone that couldn’t attend) in the coming months. There is so much support available from experienced and dedicated staff and we want to help you to help your child to succeed this year. We have put the presentation online and it can be found here, and we are also looking to produce a fortnightly Learning Bulletin which captures the key information on mock exams, revision etc. If you do struggle to engage with us in school or have ideas of how we can better reach more people, please let me know.  

    Finally, it has been another enjoyable week in school. he behaviour routines are beginning to settle in, and students are responding positively to the increasing rewards and recognition on offer. We have had several visitors to our school this week and they have all commented on the good behaviour and courteous manners of the students and the calm environment. And once again, uniform continues to make me very proud indeed. Thank you for your support with this. 

    Next week is one of my favourite of the school year. Thursday’s Open Evening is the night when we open our doors to what has become hundreds and hundreds of families who are considering choosing Hessle High School for their child. The staff all stay behind to put on great demonstrations in their subject areas but I don’t see very much of that because I have the best job of all; I get to talk to parents in the Main Hall and tell them how proud I am of our school community and why I feel our school, staff and students is very special indeed. 

    If you, or someone you know, has a child in Year 5 or 6, please pass on the message and it would be great to see even more in our school on Thursday. And also please note that our Post-16 Open Evening is also coming up in a few weeks (17 October) - an opportunity for students in Year at Hessle (or elsewhere) to come and have a look at what we have to offer. 

    And so to the weekend. I am hoping for some dry weather so that my son and I can play golf on Saturday morning. He asked me to take him for the first time just before the end of the summer break. He loved it so much that we played again a few days later. He reckons after three or four more rounds he will be beating me; personally I don’t think it will take that long, but it is an enjoyable four hours of just him and me, talking and enjoying something together. I can’t wait. 

    Have a lovely weekend and thank you for your support. 

    Mr Groak


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  • WEEK 2 - Friday 15 September 2023

    Published 15/09/23

    Last week I updated you on the changes that we have made to our behaviour procedures to drive up the positive behaviour in our school. This is captured in a new Behaviour Policy which, once ratified by our Governors, I will share with you. In the meantime, let me give you an overview of some of those changes. 

    Firstly, we have adopted a three-step system of behaviour expectations. In line with all of our Trust schools, we are now using a Warn - Consequence - Remove system. This is designed to allow for a calm and purposeful working environment for our students so that they can thrive and achieve their best. This reduces the number of chances that students must correct their behaviour. We expect that this will – in the first few weeks – lead potentially to more students being removed from classes but we know that this will soon settle down as students adapt to the high expectations. 

    In addition to this, we have developed a more comprehensive recognition and rewards package for students allowing staff to recognise when students are doing their best and promote positive behaviours in and around the school. I am delighted that this has already resulted in over 17,000 House Points being awarded so far this year! You will see the evidence of this in your child's planner through teacher stamps and written warnings. As students accumulate House Points, they will then receive recognition in the form of certificates and letters home, whilst also being rewarded with small treats too. In time, these extrinsic rewards ensure that positive behaviour becomes habitual in all our students. 

    We have also improved our communication with parents in this respect and we are notifying parents when their child receives a warning in class so that you can more closely monitor your child’s behaviour and support us with discussions at home. A warning is a low-level sanction which does not lead to a sanction in school yet we still expect students to heed these warnings and do their best not to get any more. Your help and support with this is greatly appreciated. 

    We are delighted that our uniform standards remain very high and once again I thank you for this. Getting uniform right at the start of term is never easy and it takes a partnership between school and home to do that, so thank you. 

    Next Wednesday is our Year 11 Information Evening for students, parents and carers of that year group, and I would urge you to do what you can to attend. The event starts at 4.45pm with a presentation at 5pm from a number of staff, including myself and Head of Year 11, Mr Leckenby. We will outline many of the key events on offer to support the students, there will be information from Mr Jarman about our outstanding Consortium Sixth Form College offer and Miss Lawes will also be on hand to offer any other careers support. We will also provide you with a calendar of key dates which include the first round of Mock Exams, starting on 23 October. It will wrap up at around 6pm and this is just one of several information events we will be having to support you to support your child. I look forward to seeing you there.  

    This weekend is the final home game of the Super League season for Hull FC and I shall be at the MKM Stadium with my son, and some friends, tomorrow afternoon to watch them. Sadly, it has been another disappointing season for the team, and we are probably glad to see it come to an end. Nevertheless, it is no bad thing for my son to experience the highs and the lows of following a sports team. His chosen football team is Manchester City so I guess he relies on Hull FC for the lows! I have been supporting FC for 45 years now and there have been plenty of lows, which has made the successes all the sweeter. This is what sport, and life, is about and these are important lessons for young people to learn. That said, I shall still be cheering for the lads tomorrow afternoon from the East Stand. 

    Whatever you are doing this weekend, I hope you enjoy some of the sunshine that is promised. 

    Take care and thank you as ever for your support. 

    Mr Groak 


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  • WEEK 1 - Friday 8 September 2023

    Published 08/09/23

    “I will not complain about the heat. I will not complain about the heat.” 

    As I write this in a non-air conditioned, south-facing office with the temperature nudging twenty-six degrees, I am tempted to long for cooler months when our working environment is much more comfortable. But then, I am reminded that this may be the last long period of hot weather that we may see again until next June and I am determined to make every minute of it so – once this blog is written – I shall be heading home to sit in the garden until the sun goes down. 

    The final days of summer always generate mixed emotions in me. I look back at what we have done as a family; where we have been, the fun we have had and the memories we have planted in our children that will hopefully last a lifetime.  There was a song from long ago, whose title I can’t recall, which told of the beachwear we wear as children. At the end of every summer, we pack it away until the next year; but, because our children grow so quickly, we don’t realise at the time that they will probably never wear it again. A metaphor for every year of our life as it skips by.   

    Summer’s end always generates those kind of melancholy feelings and makes me determined to wring every minute out of each summer, especially as our children grow up so quickly. 

    Our students and staff have certainly tried to do that this week. I cannot recall a happier and more optimistic start to the new term at Hessle High School. As I have reported many times, we continue to grow and we now have almost 1400 students on roll here, along with 184 staff. There have never been more children and adults on our site since the school opened in 1948 and the new arrivals – students and staff – have really brought new energy and enthusiasm to the place. 

    Your children will, I’m sure, have reported to you some of the changes we have made to our behaviour procedures, making our expectations crystal clear in a relentlessly consistent way. We have also made our sanctions ladder shorter and brisker, reducing the number of chances that students previously had to change their behaviour. This is a challenge for them but one that they have risen to very well so far, thanks to the clear messages and expectations that have been given by our staff.   

    A special mention for our Year 7 students and a big ‘thank you’ to their parents/carers and wider family members who have supported us in making their first week such a successful one. They have looked fantastic, and they have been a credit to you all in terms of their manners and conduct around the school. We are really pleased to have them, and you, as part of our school community. 

    You will have heard the news about the problems experienced by some schools with RAAC. I wrote to all parents earlier in the week confirming that, following inspections by the Local Authority a few years ago, we do not have any RAAC in our school buildings so thankfully that is not a concern for us. As a school that benefited from a rebuild in 2014-16, we are very fortunate not to face some of the challenges that other school leaders do with their school sites, although there are several colleagues within our Trust for whom school building maintenance is a daily concern. Thankfully, working as a Trust, we can alleviate some of those pressures, but I hope that this latest example of Government neglect of state education might lead to increased investment across the school estate nationally. Once again, I was reminded of the words of Sam Seaborn, a character from one of my favourite TV shows, The West Wing, when he said; 

    “Education is the silver bullet. Education is everything. We don’t need little changes, we need gigantic, monumental changes. Schools should be palaces. Competition for the best teachers should be fierce; they should be making six figure salaries. Schools should be incredibly expensive for government and absolutely free of charge to its citizens...” 

    Here, here, to that.  

    Finally, a reminder that our Open Evening for parents of children in Years 5 and 6 is coming up on the 28 September. If you have family or friends that are considering sending their children to Hessle High School and/or have not previously visited the site, please let them know and we will be starting our promotion of this event shortly. 

    Have a lovely weekend in the sunshine. 

    Mr Groak


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