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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 31 - Friday 17 May 2024

    Published 17/05/24

    The Guardian newspaper this week ran a story that was headlined ‘Teachers in England stretched by pupils’ mental and family problems, MPs say’. 

    This was a report from the Education Select Committee that had heard evidence from those that work in schools, but it could hardly be described as ‘news’, for this situation has been going on for several years now. It began with the austerity period when council and public sector funding was cut, and it grew worse during the pandemic.  

    One of the reasons why the media and Government are playing ‘catch up’ is that it has been a ‘boiling frog’ situation, with an incremental increase in the demands placed on schools. Local Authorities, the NHS and the Police are all under strain and so the parent that cannot get mental health support for their child, or the student that cannot get a SEND diagnosis or the child that is being cyber-bullied, instead of turning to those specialists, they turn to schools, because we are the most accessible. 

    For those of us that work in, and lead, schools, it is the biggest problem we face, even beyond underfunding, shortage of staff and the perverse accountability framework. 

    The Labour Party are promising an extra 6,500 teachers which would be fantastic but, to recruit them, they will need to tackle the barriers to recruitment that currently exist. Whatsmore, it isn’t only teachers that we need and even the Guardian headline at the top of this blog refers only to ‘teachers’. The reality is that the people dealing with this bulge in societal need are support staff such as pastoral managers, safeguarding leads and SEND co-ordinators – all of them highly trained and dedicated but most of them not teachers. And not, therefore, as highly paid. 

    The solution? More money for schools and for public services. It is no more difficult than that. 


    Putting that to one side, it has been another busy week of recruitment for us at Hessle Academy. 

    After appointing a new Assistant Headteacher to join Penshurst Primary School last week, we have focused on Hessle High School this week with the appointment of a new Head of Department for History, a teacher of RE, a cover supervisor and an Assistant Head of Year. The latter two roles are support staff, confirming their importance once again. 

    We are in the ‘transfer window’ for teachers with the deadline of the end of May for anyone wishing to resign their contract and start elsewhere in September. It makes for a hectic period but we are fortunate to have lower than average turnover of staff. The roles described above comprise less than 5% of our total staffing on this site and so, barring a clutch of unexpected resignations next week, we will be able to plan our timetables for next year from a full staff once again. 

    Our Year 11 students continue to impress everyone with their maturity and resilience. The GCSE exams have come thick and fast this week, two per day for many; but they are taking them in their stride, accepting the support from staff and placing their trust in their teachers and the hard work they have all done to prepare. The feedback has been positive with most feeling that the exams have been fair and accessible. Another round of exams follow next week before a half term break and then two more weeks after that before they start to wind down. Thank you for your support of our students at this time. 


    Dua Lipa, Olivia Rodrigo, Tate McRae. If I didn’t have a nine-year old daughter, it is very likely I may never have heard of these singers. Like many people, as you get older, my musical tastes have become stuck in time, meaning that I listen to much the same music as I did twenty or thirty years ago. I like most genres, particularly soul, blues, rock and some pop. I even enjoy some jazz. Well, one album by Miles Davis to be precise, which I listen to most weeks. And of course, anything by Bruce Springsteen always features heavily on any playlist. 

    But my daughter’s emerging enjoyment of music is a real joy and she has gradually introduced me to these artists, along with Taylor Swift, who I’ve obviously been aware of for years but whose music I had never really listened to. We like nothing more than sitting up on a weekend night and taking turns to play videos on YouTube. Through this, I have started to enjoy her music and she has even taken a liking to Springsteen. Well, some of his songs anyway and particularly ‘the one where he dances with Monica’ (see the Dancing in the Dark video from 1984, if you don’t get that reference).  

    During half-term, we are going to Prague for three days as a family but also to see Bruce who plays there on the 28th May. I can’t imagine anything more exciting than taking my kids to see The Boss. Our tickets are at the back of a large airfield, a long way from the stage, but more room for me to dance with my daughter. I’ll be Bruce and she can be Monica! 

    Thank you for your ongoing support and have a lovely weekend. 

    Mr Groak


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  • WEEK 30 - Friday 10 May 2024

    Published 16/05/24

    The highlight of this school week has probably been our school production of Oliver! After a long hiatus following Covid, this is the first time for many years that we have been able to put on a full show such as this. And what a return it was! 

    The idea for this production was first put forward back in September when our drama teacher, Miss Foster, came to see me with a proposal. A cast of fifty, a professional set, full music score. It was certainly ambitious. And all I had to say was ‘yes’, and she would take care of it, with the support of the rest of the Performing Arts team; and the students of course. 

    Well, on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, it all came to fruition with three barnstorming performances which brought the house to standing ovations on each night. I was there on Wednesday with my family and both of our children absolutely loved it and my daughter (who has acting ambitions) was singing the songs all the way home. 

    There is something magical about live musical theatre. The energy, talent and dedication that lifts the words and notes from a musical script and translates them into a living and breathing performance is surely miraculous. Thank you to everyone involved, including all of the cast, the backstage crew and the staff for giving up so much time to prepare such a wonderful show. 

    This week also saw the first of our summer GCSE exams (RE on Thursday). In truth, students have been sitting GCSE assessments in form or another for months (coursework etc) but the reality of that first exam sitting in the sports hall is when the reality of it really lands. As ever, our Year 11 students have handled it with mature aplomb and they have reported that the papers so far (there have been two more today) were fair and accessible. We can ask for no more than that but I am always keen to remind the students are never ‘easy’; if they find them so it is because they have worked so hard to prepare. We have fingers crossed for similar positivity next week and beyond. 

    Thank you for continuing to support our high standards of uniform. When the weather changes significantly, it often finds some students making their own adaptations to our uniform but they are quickly picked up by our staff and put right. Please ensure that you son/daughter continues to follow our expectations as this reduces distractions in school. 

    Although it was a long weekend last week, the long journey that my wife and I made down to Cardiff was well worth it for an absolutely stunning performance from Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. This was my twelfth Bruce concert and definitely in the top three that I have seen. The band played for three hours, churning out the hits and deep cuts one after the other leaving me completely exhausted at the end (I really shouldn’t be dancing and fist-pumping at my age!). The sun is forecast to shine most of the weekend and so it will be a much more relaxing one for the Groaks, hopefully with some time sitting in the garden and firing up the barbecue for the first time this year.  

    However you are spending it, enjoy it, and thank you for your support.   

    Mr Groak


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  • WEEK 29 - Friday 3 May 2024

    Published 03/05/24

    They say that ‘a week is a long time in politics’, and it has also been for us all here at Hessle Academy. 

    When I drove through the gate on Monday morning, little did I know that within a few hours I would have an Ofsted inspection to contend with. We knew that the inspection was imminent and were well prepared but the ‘no-notice’ element will always throw schools into turbulence. Suddenly, every plan that I had for the week was turned upside down and there was only one priority; steering the school, 1900 learners and 240+ staff through a two-day inspection. Technically, the inspection is not over until the final report is published (in a month or so), so I am unable to share with you the outcome. I would, however, like to thank you for your messages of support, and for the hundreds of you that completed the parent feedback survey which was overwhelmingly positive. 

    The atmosphere and team spirit amongst the staff has been awe-inspiring. In any inspection, a handful of subject teams do most of the heavy lifting and, for us, this was English, Maths, Geography and Art. So when those colleagues arrived at work on Tuesday morning, they found their staff rooms full of cakes, biscuits and treats to keep them going through the two days – all put there, by their colleagues in the other departments, to show their support and appreciation. What a team we have here at Hessle; it makes me so proud.  

    I can also say how proud I am of the way that the students (and the pupils at Penshurst) conducted themselves throughout the inspection. They were welcoming, polite and friendly to the three inspectors at all times and gave a fabulous account of themselves. I will be sharing that gratitude with them next week in their assemblies. 


    Whilst the inspection took place, it was still business as usual and, on Tuesday, we hosted a group of trainee teachers from the Vantage Teaching School Hub. Between meetings, I popped over to Tranby House, where we hosting them, to welcome them to the school, the Trust and the profession. I am always in awe of young people (certainly all younger than me) who continue to choose to work in the ‘world’s greatest’ profession of teaching. It is bloody hard work and often thankless and stressful but to see energetic people keen to take on that challenge is humbling, so it was well worth my time going to see them, even during our inspection. 


    As I mentioned in last week’s blog, the highlight of this weekend for me will be on Sunday night in Cardiff when Bruce Springsteen starts his 2024 European Tour. My wife and I are going (she has become a fan over the years, by simply accepting she had little choice!) and we’re going to break the journey with a night in Stratford-Upon-Avon tomorrow. After an Ofsted week, it has come at the perfect time.  

    Thank you again for all of your support during inspection and have a lovely Bank Holiday Weekend.   

    Mr Groak


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  • WEEK 28 - Friday 26 April 2024

    Published 29/04/24

    We have a lot of visitors to school at Hessle. Some of them are specialist educationalists who come into school to support individual students, or for specific tasks such as music tuition and others are obviously parents and carers. We are also pleased whenever our Governors come in (which is increasingly often) and we regularly host teachers, staff and leaders from other schools in our Trust, or from our Central Services Team. Finally, members of the business community also visit us often to share their expertise and experience in order to build the aspirations of our students and to offer careers advice. 

    Overwhelmingly, they are impressed by the way in which our students conduct themselves and how they interact with other adults, showing off our school values of respect and kindness. We hear positive feedback all the time and try, where we can, to share this with the students involved and their parents. To promote this, we have recently introduced ‘Bridge Coins’ - these are bespoke tokens that are given to all of our visitors when they arrive and for them to give to students that have particularly impressed them during their time in school. The students then receive a recognition letter for them to keep.  

    Our first recipients were Cleo and Phoebe (see below) who received their coins from a visitor recently.  

    “The Bridge” is our through-school Personal Development programme which supports our young people throughout their journey at Penshurst and then at Hessle. It encompasses a wide range of activity including assemblies, theme days and tutor activities. The name is inspired by our through-school and the transition we promote between primary and secondary phases; as well, of course, by the Humber Bridge and the notion of ‘a bridge’ being something that brings things, and people together. 

    In the weeks and months to come, I will share more of this work with you.  


    A reminder that next week sees some changes to our lunch and break arrangements with Year 10 and 11 swapping from early to late, and vice versa. This supports the scheduling of the GCSE exams which formally begin on Thursday 9 May. In between times, of course, there is also the Bank Holiday, when school will be closed on Monday 6 May.  

    On the Sunday before that, I will be in Cardiff for the start of Bruce Springsteen’s European Tour. I’ll share more about that next week but be assured that my running playlist has now been honed to what I hope and predict will be the concert set list. Before that, this is a busy sporting weekend with my son’s cricket nets starting tonight, followed by his football match on Sunday lunchtime and then a quick dash to the MKM Stadium on Sunday afternoon to see Hull FC take on Leeds. Apparently, it is going to rain. Great. 

    Whatever you are doing this weekend, try to avoid the rain and thank you for your ongoing support.  

    Mr Groak


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  • WEEK 27 - Friday 19 April 2024

    Published 19/04/24

    Next week is the final week of employment for one of our most-admired caretakers.  Roland ‘Roly’ Hunt will retire next Friday after seven years at Hessle High School.  Before that, Roly spent many years working for BAe systems.  

    As Headteacher, I have always been determined to ensure that every individual working in our school feels valued for the work that they do, regardless of how unglamorous they may feel that their role is.  I am pleased that nobody in our organisation prefaces their role with the word ‘just’ anymore; this refers to a time when some people would tell visitors that they were ‘just’ a cleaner, for example. Now I hope that everyone appreciates the role that everyone has in making our school great; keeping it clean is arguably more important than anything. And being a ‘caretaker’ is just as vital. 

    Nowadays, Roly’s official title is ‘Facilities Assistant’, but I have always preferred the word ‘caretaker’ to describe their role, for that is what they do.  They don’t just look after and care for the building and our site, they look after their colleagues who work with them.  

    One of my first encounters with Roly was when I was walking across the car park in the pouring rain.  As I approached my car, I realised there was a huge puddle around it where a drain had become blocked by leaves.  I stopped and tried to figure how I was going to get into my car without getting my shoes and socks wet.  Quick as a flash, Roly appeared from nowhere with a broom handle and strode into the water, getting his own feet wet through.  He poked around the drain and soon the water disappeared.  I was shocked and said, “you didn’t need to do that, Roly.”   

    “I’m already wet,” he said, “no point you getting wet as well.” 

    On another occasion, Roly won a prize in the Xmas raffle and, as he came up to collect it, the cheer from his colleagues was the biggest we’ve ever had; which truly reflected the affection in which he is held by everyone he works with.  Like the rest of his team, they are always to be seen lugging equipment and furniture around the site, but also carrying heavy bags for people, or helping them to jump start their cars, or fixing a puncture. Whatever it takes to keep everyone happy and productive – this is what they do. 

    I will miss Roly, and our chats about rugby league and how terrible Hull FC have become.  But on behalf of everyone he has worked with and the wider school community, we wish him many happy years of enjoyable and well-earned retirement as he heads to the riverbanks to spend more time with his fishing rod! 


    It has been a busy day around school day with a heap of different activities taking place. 

    First up was our intrepid Duke of Edinburgh Silver Award students, thirteen of whom were in school early, fully laden with their backpacks ready for their three-day practice expedition. This takes place (hopefully in drier weather) around Lakeland Park near Pocklington. These Year 10 and 11 students have been on the programme since Year 9 and the personal development that we see in the students that take part in this is phenomenal. As ever, our thanks go to Miss Moore, Mrs Edwards and Mr Scott who accompany them on the trip. 

    Also setting off were a group of Year 13 Geography students heading to Manchester for a weekend residential revision course, and a group of Year 11 PE students going off site for the GCSE Practical Moderation. So there were lots of comings and goings at the start of the day today. 

    Each of these trips takes a lot of organising and planning and, when our colleagues are out of school leading the trips, it often means that other colleagues are covering their lessons as well, so it is a real team effort to put on so many experiences and activities for our students. 


    As the cricket season gets underway, last week we asked our son to check that his cricket clothing and equipment still fit him. It never does, and it is always quite comical to see his cricket whites wafting around his shins and him trying to squeeze his hands into his too-small gloves.  

    It is his 14th birthday next week and so we will be heading to Sports Direct in Hull tomorrow to upgrade his cricketing gear for the season ahead. He has played cricket since he was six and last year switched clubs to play for Kirkella CC, where he is a decent bowler and an enthusiastic batter. More important, he loves it, and we enjoy seeing him competing and trying his best, whilst making friends and spending lots of time on a sports field. The club have a nice little bar and it is not a bad way to spend a Friday night after a busy week at work, watching him and his mates training. 

    And so another week comes to an end, and we are already two weeks into the summer term. Hopefully, the weather will begin to warm up and stay dry and we can begin to enjoy the longer evenings before too long. 

    Enjoy your weekend and thank you for your support. 

    Mr Groak


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  • WEEK 26 - Friday 12 April 2024

    Published 12/04/24

    It has been a busy week on the recruitment front at Hessle High School this week. Following a minor restructuring of our safeguarding team, I was delighted to appoint Melanie Lambert to the post of Deputy Designated Safeguarding Lead (DDSL) on a permanent basis. Mel has been carrying out this role on a temporary basis for nearly two years and has, along with Laura Kelsey, done fantastic work in supporting some of our most vulnerable young people, and their families. The world in which our youngsters grow up now is increasingly complex and challenging and these colleagues play such an important role in ensuring that our students stay safe and supporting them during difficult times in their lives. Mel is a great team player and it is fantastic to have her with us permanently. 

    On Thursday, we also added a new member of staff to our PE Department. After finishing his training as a PE teacher, Nathan Parkin has been with us for the past year as a Cover Supervisor (covering lessons when colleagues are absent). But in addition to this role, he has given great support to the PE department with their lessons as well as running sports clubs and fixtures after school. Nathan has now been employed as a full-time PE teacher and we will support him through his Early Career training. We know that he will go onto enjoy a long and successful career at Hessle, when he starts his new role in September. 

    Also on Thursday, we were pleased to make an external appointment in the form of Danielle Davies to join us as a Pastoral Officer, working in our Pastoral Centre. She will join another recent appointment, Clare Lancaster, who starts as our Inclusion Manager on Monday. Together, they will provide intensive support for some of our students who don’t always get it right and who need additional support to manage behaviour in school. These vacancies arose from the departures of Karen Maulgue and Stuart Crooks. Karen departed a few weeks ago for a new and exciting position in the NHS, while Stuart is taking up a senior position in the Riverview Trust, working in their Alternative Provision setting. Stuart’s last day is today and he leaves with our grateful best wishes after twelve years of service to the school.  

    Turnover of staff at Hessle is generally low which is a good indication that colleagues feel valued and trusted to do their work here. This stability benefits everyone, especially the students. However, it is always nice to have new faces join the team as their enthusiasm and energy can revitalise us and keep us moving forward. We look forward to working with Nathan and Mel for longer, and also seeing what Claire and Danielle can bring to our school.  

    Well done to Isabelle Allen (Y9) and Lily Dannatt (Y11) who once again have achieved great success in their dancing careers. After winning British titles before Christmas, they have repeated this success in the European Dancing Championships just before Easter and now hold GOLD in the Ladies Latin Dancing Category as well SILVER in the Ladies Ballroom Category. These are adult competitions and our girls were the youngest by some distance in the event. They have both received a lot of media coverage recently and you may have seen them on Look North at the start of the Easter break. We are very proud of both girls. 

    As Friday ends, we are now just nineteen school days away from Year 11’s first exam paper, which is on Monday 13th May. The year group are doing really well at the moment to complete various courseworks and other practical exams in a multitude of subjects. Thank you to all families of Year 11 students for coming them healthy, focused and working hard. I am sure this will bear fruit in the summer, when results are published. 

    The first weekend of a new term is always one that I like to keep fairly clear of activity, in order to make sure I’m rested for the long term ahead. Aside from a few work tasks, we have set aside Saturday afternoon for some family cooking. After our trip to Spain over Easter, we’re inspired to make our own tapas. We’ve also saved the first episode of the new series of ‘Race Across The World’ which we all love, especially the kids, so the plan is to sit down on Saturday evening with a range of ‘picky-bits’ and enjoy the show.  

    Whatever you are doing this weekend, I hope the weather stays dry and warm and you enjoy a relaxing few days. 

    Mr Groak


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  • WEEK 25 - Friday 22 March 2024

    Published 22/03/24

    Sport has been heavily on my mind this week, for lots of reasons.  

    Firstly, last weekend was one of the lowest points in my time following my team, Hull FC. I have supported the club since the 1970s and believe me we have witnessed some lean times in that period. But there are few games when I have felt so disappointed and bereft of hope than last Saturday as we were hammered at home by a team who were missing several players and hadnt won a game.  

    Watching a sports team fall apart like Hull FC did is a dispiriting experience and it calls to mind so many thoughts around organisational culture, team spirit and pride – things which I am always keen to learn more about as the leader of a large school. I am proud of the culture that exists at Hessle High and know that all of my leaders work hard to maintain it. It doesn’t happen by chance and needs nurturing and developing intentionally. Clearly something is amiss within the culture at Hull FC and the solutions to the current situation will not be quick coming and there will be lots of hard work to get there. I hope that any of you that were there managed to enjoy your weekend afterwards – it certainly cast a cloud over mine. 

    This term we have had plenty of sporting success, both from our teams, and some of our individual students who take part in everything from boxing to tennis to swimming to dancing. Their successes are not always brought to our attention immediately and it is only when they become a regional or national champion that we get to hear about it. We really want to know about the interests of our students outside of school so please encourage your child to share any out of school activities or successes with their teachers and tutor. We love to celebrate this.  

    The sporting highlight then came from our Primary pupils where our Year 5 and 6 girls football team winning the Hymers College Open Football Shield on Wednesday. And well done to Clara in Year 6 who won the award as Player of the Tournament.  

    Another big event for the Hessle High Community this week was the World Down Syndrome Day on Thursday. And our wonderful girls Lara, Mia and Anya joined with their teaching assistants and other students to organise a bake sale to raise money for one of our charities ‘Downright Special’. The cakes looked delicious (I’m sure you’ll agree) and, although I wasn’t on site during break, I’m told that someone has saved me one!  

    Although today is the last day of term, there is no let up in the activity. We have hosted our friends from the Prison Me No Way organisation, who are running lifestyle workshops with all our Year 9 students. This is a well-established event and challenges our 13/14 year old students to reflect upon the risks faced by young people in the modern world. It brings them into contact with several reformed prisoners who talk about their mistakes and life journey. It is a powerful day and always a popular one with students. 

    And finally, it has also been our Sixth Form taster day for Year 11 giving them the opportunity to visit one of our partner Sixth Form sites (Wolfreton or Cottingham). For most of our year 11, their choice to stay in the sixth form is heavily influenced by the relationships they have built with Hessle teachers but there are equally attractive courses, facilities and talented teachers in our other schools too, which is the unique selling point of our Consortium College.  

    And so, a short but busy term comes to an end. After the weekend, I still have work to do so will be back in school for a few days next week. But, for the second week of the holiday, we will be in Spain. We are fortunate to have access to a house in Estepona, which is one of the most beautiful towns on the Costa Del sol, full of Spanish charm, a lovely beach and some great tapas bars and restaurants. The house has no wifi and a TV with only six channels (half Spanish and half German) so it is the perfect place to relax and unwind and spend some proper quality time with my family.  

    Whatever you are doing over the Easter holiday, I hope you find some sunshine and time to relax and thank you as ever for your ongoing support to my staff and I. 

    Mr Groak


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  • WEEK 24 - Friday 15 March 2024

    Published 15/03/24

    Occasionally, one of our students will ask me, “Sir, what do you actually do? I mean, I know what your job is, but what do you.... do?” 

    When I first started in the role, I spent much of my first few weeks speaking to staff to learn more about what they felt about the school, what our priorities should be. After a few weeks, I did sometimes ask myself, ‘what else am I meant to be doing?’. It didn’t last long and soon projects, issues, incidents, celebrations and events filled my diary. Being a Headteacher is a fantastic job and a real privilege. I get to see people at their best and worst, deal with everything from the trivial and the mundane (what colour decorations do you want on the Christmas Tree?) to the life-changing and tragic, when some of our students find themselves in highly dangerous and vulnerable situations. 

    Most of the time is just moving from one place to another speaking to people and generally ensuring that everyone has what they need to do their jobs to the best of their ability. Take today for instance. It began with a morning run. I have tried this year to get my exercise in early and it has definitely helped my energy levels during the day. After a 15 minute shuffle around the streets of Willerby, I’ll get ready for work, have a coffee, chat with the kids and be in school for our Senior Leaders’ meeting at 7.45. In this 15 minute slot, we check on staff absence or events that are happening during the day, make sure that all lessons and duty points are covered and prepare ourselves for the day. At this point in the term, the team are often operating on fumes, and it is an opportunity for us to take support from each other and pull together to lead the rest of the staff. 

    I quickly check emails for ten minutes and then put my blue coat on, grab my radio and go out on duty. I’m on the main gate monitoring students arriving from 8.15 to 8.35 and this gives me the chance to wish them good morning and keep an eye on the overall safety and movement on the site at the start of the day. The entrance to our school is a mixed user environment with buses, cars and pedestrians all sharing the same space. The main mitigation to the obvious risk is a 5MPH speed limit and plenty of staff supervision.  

    As students arrive they congregate in the spaces designated for them. Year 7s on the tennis court are the ones closest to my duty point and so I get to see how they look at the start of each day; always smart and well behaved which is good to see. 

    Tutors come down to these areas at 8.30 and by 8.35, students are going into the building for their tutor period. 

    My day today has been packed with meetings and planned phone calls so I squeeze in a quick meeting with Angela, my new Operation Manager. We planned the day, discuss priorities for next week. At 9am, I met with Claire Khan, my Finance Manager. At this time of year, we are looking to set budgets for next year so we spent some time making sure that we had a good idea of likely income and how we proposed to spend it. Our school has a budge in excess of £11million but the bulk of that is spent on staff salaries. Overheads consume most of the rest so there is not a lot of discretionary spending for Headteachers. Nevertheless, staffing has to be carefully managed as a few errors can cause a big problem down the line. 

    After break duty, I spent some time on the telephone to Mrs Preston, our Primary Head of School, discussing the progress made by our Year 6 pupils in their recent mock exams. They have done well in Reading and Maths, and we were looking at some extra support we can put in place to improve their writing skills. Leading an all-through school has meant a huge expansion in my responsibility and a widening of my understanding of primary education; similarly some of the methods used to track and assess students at the High School are also leading to improvements in the primary stage. Friday is a busy day for duties so I was back on duty just before 11am for twenty minutes. A minor behaviour incident occurred which caused me to spend some time with the pastoral team sorting it out, before I was back to my office for a meeting with my Head of Sixth Form, Mr Jarman. Our Sixth form is a real strength of the school but there has been a drop in attendance recently of our Year 13s so we spent some time looking at the impact of the strategies he has put into place. This cohort were halfway through Year 9 when the covid pandemic started and faced two years of disruption during their GCSEs. Adolescence has not been straightforward for them at all but they are being well looked after and are on the brink of achieving strong outcomes before going onto their next destination which, for most of them, will be university. 

    After Mr Jarman left, I started writing this blog for ten minutes before going back on duty yet again where I also had my lunch standing up in the canteen. Fishcake, chips and mushy peas – you can’t beat it! 

    There was a twenty-five minute break between duties in which time I squeezed in another meeting, replied to some emails, approved some staff ordering, set up an agenda for a leaders’ meeting on Monday, added some messages to our weekly staff briefing and had another catch up with Angela.  

    The second lunch break gave me the chance to speak to our Year 11s, who picked up their Mock Exam Results last night at Progress evening. There were some glum faces when a few realised that they hadn’t done as well as they had hoped. But – as we always tell them – there is still time to put it right. “The best time to start revising is at the start of Year 10,” we say, “the next best time is right now!”  

    After duty, I gave a tour to a lady who has applied for a job in our pastoral centre. It is always a pleasure to show off our school and she was impressed at how quickly over 1200 young people can move around the building and settle into their lessons. Handing her over to my colleagues who were set to interview her, I headed back to my office to tie up the week. There is a staff briefing document for Hessle and Penshurst staff, which we aim to send out by close of play on Friday, this sets up the following week with key events and reminders and allows staff to get themselves organised for the week ahead so that they can switch off and unwind for two days. I write a short intro and make sure everyone else’s content is clear and concise. By this time, it is 2.50 and the first students are beginning to leave the site. I head out to bus duty to see them all off, in exactly the same place that I welcomed them six and a half hours earlier. And I wonder where the time has gone, and what exactly it has that I have done! 

    I’m not quite finished as I then go to the main hall to cover a detention duty for a colleague who is still interviewing our prospective candidate. I tend to aim to leave by 4.30 on a Friday to get in a run before seeing the kids. Tonight, I am writing this quickly before leaving a little earlier in order to pick my son up for a dental appointment. Hopefully, we will be home by 5.30 and the weekend can begin. 

    I tend not to do any work on Friday night. Instead, I might open a beer and flop in front of the TV with my wife and kids, watching The Apprentice and then possibly whichever Super League game is on TV.  

    Tomorrow, we’ll be at the MKM stadium for the Hull FC game and then spending some time relaxing on Sunday before getting ready for another busy week. 

    Whatever you are doing this weekend, find time to enjoy it and thank you for your ongoing support. 

    Mr Groak


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  • WEEK 23 - Friday 8 March 2024

    Published 08/03/24

    By the time the Chancellor started his budget speech on Wednesday, the headlines had already been leaked to the extent that we all knew about the 2% reduction in National Insurance. What I was looking out for was anything that meant we would see more money for schools. 

    Working within a Multi Academy Trust provides some protection from the worst of the financial shocks that can affect schools. For example, when the energy prices soared recently it wasn't me that had to try to find that money directly and I was grateful for that and being able to focus on educational matters. 

    Nevertheless, when school funding increases are not enough to cover inflation or the teacher pay increases, which are not always fully funded by Government, then the only alternative is to make cuts. The levers for making cuts are few in schools. Since staffing costs are nearly 80% of total income, and non-discretionary overheads such as insurance, energy etc make up such a big chunk of the rest, there isn't much wriggle room. The outcome inevitably ends up being larger class sizes and the closing of unfeasible subjects which only attract small numbers of students. Or – and this saves pennies in comparison – fewer textbooks or other resources. This is the reality that we are all trying to balance and have been for years. Real terms funding for schools (accounting for inflation) has barely budged since 2010 when the expectations on schools have grown hugely. I’ve written about this before, it hasn’t changed, and this week’s budget has done nothing to address those issues. 

    Thankfully, we continue to attract high numbers of students and, following on from the confirmation of our Year 7 intake last week, I had some good news from our Sixth Form team the other day. Interviews conducted with our Year 11 students indicate that a higher proportion of them will be joining our Sixth Form next year. The Post-16 marketplace is fiercely competitive and school Sixth Forms face huge pressure from much larger specialist colleges in the area. Nevertheless, increasing numbers of our students are choosing to stay because of the trust they have in our provision; they know, like and respect their teachers, they have a choice of a wide range of subjects through our position as part of the Consortium Sixth Form College and they know that we care about them as individuals and unique young people. This recruitment success further supports the whole school as it aids in the retention of our staff who see Sixth Form teaching as part of their professional development.  

    Next week is our second Year 11 Mock Results and Progress evening in which our Year 11s will be able to receive their Exam Results Envelopes for their most recent mock exams. Once they have digested these results, they move onto their appointments with their class teachers to see what they can do next to improve their chances in the summer. Last term, we had queues out of the door at the start of the night and we hope for the same levels of engagement again next week. Thank you in advance to those parents/carers of Year 11 students that have already booked their appointments – we appreciate your support. 

    Finally, a very Happy Mothers Day to all of our mums, mothers, Step Mums, Foster Mums, Grandmas, Nanas, Step-Grandmas and even Great-Grandmas. You all play such an important role in the work that we do, caring for and supporting our children and young people and ensuring that they can focus on their learning and development when they come to school. It is greatly appreciated. 

    This weekend, I will try to strike a balance between making sure our children can pamper their mum, which will also means cooking a few nice meals, whilst also spending time with my own mum. I’m from Hull so that should be ‘mam’. We will meet up Sunday, along with my sister for some family time. 

    However you are spending time this weekend, hopefully you can share it with family and enjoy whatever fine weather there may be. Thank you for your support.  

    Mr Groak 


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  • WEEK 22 - Friday 1 March 2024

    Published 01/03/24

    I write this, on Thursday evening, having just booked two tickets to see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in Sunderland in May. This will mean I will see him three times on the 2024 leg of his World Tour – something I have never managed to do on any previous tour and surely a sign of my recognition that this could be the last time.  

    Even better, on the night in Sunderland, I am going with my sister. Joanna is five years younger than me, but I have always been inspired by her utter love for life. At Christmas, after a few glasses of wine, we made a pact for 2024; she would come to a Bruce concert with me. And I would go to see Pink with her (she is nuts for her). I haven’t fulfilled my half of the bargain yet, but surely will do when we get the chance. 

    When my son was a few years old, my wife and I spoke at length about when to have another child. We both have younger sisters, and we didn’t want him to miss out on the unique relationship you have with your sibling. And so our daughter came along and the relationship they have together is a joy to watch; not always the best of friends but deeply besotted with each other in their own way.  

    Of course, we see siblings and twins passing through our school all the time and it is lovely to see their personalities develop and see them looking out for each other. The sweetest moments come when a new sibling starts school in Year 7 and an older brother or sister suddenly starts to demonstrate a side to their personality which was hitherto unseen.    

    This week, we received the names of our new Year 7 intake and – of the 250 new students joining us – over 20 of them are siblings of current students. So, there will be plenty of protective big brother and sisters evident in September! 

    I have written before of the number of educational visits that my staff carry out each year and the great opportunities they provide to our students and, this weekend, we have another group of 40 students heading off to France. They left the site early Friday morning and will be back on Monday night. My wife (Head of Languages) is leading the trip and confesses that she is more worried about leaving me alone with the kids than she is about taking 40 other children to France!  

    This trip follows on the back of the most recent overseas trip for our Sixth Form students to New York as part of the joint Consortium Sixth Form College trip. Some of those students had never been abroad before and it is not an overstatement to say that those five days of independence will have been life changing for some. Whilst that group were in the USA, we also had a group of Sixth Formers heading to Stratford to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream by the RSC; another very special cultural opportunity, organised by Mr Burnett. 

    And just this week, our school was represented by our student leaders at the second annual TCAT Student Leadership Conference at Hull University. This event involved students from as young as four at our primary schools all the way up to some of our 18-year-old Sixth Formers. The theme was ‘sustainability’ and, speaking to one of our Senior Students (Joe Collins – Year 13), the event culminated in plenty of ideas for us to make our places of learning more environmentally friendly in the future. Great work by our learners and colleagues that organised it. 

    Finally, today marks the National Offer Day for Secondary Schools in England. Parents that applied for places at our school from September will begin to find out if they have been successful. By Monday, everyone should have been informed by the Local Authority and I will begin to communicate with our latest groups of families for what will become the ‘Class of 2029’ - the year that they will reach Year 11, or ‘Class of 2031’ for those that go all the way to the Sixth Form. I am delighted that we will once again be full in Year 7 and thank you for everything you do – as current parents/carers - to support us in making us such an attractive choice for parents and families to come. 

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

    Mr Groak


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  • WEEK 21 - Friday 23 February 2024

    Published 23/02/24

    One of the most worrying patterns since the pandemic has been the increase in the number of young people that are being home educated. A long time ago, this was seen as something of a lifestyle choice made by a type of parent that possessed the resources, time and wherewithal to provide a form of education that they preferred against that on offer from local schools. 

    Recently, it has become a choice made by desperate parents unable to navigate the often-complex challenges of pupil disengagement, challenging behaviour and perceived unmet needs. Rather than the actions of a parent/carer who can provide effective education at home, it is often the path of least resistance for a family in crisis.  

    Last year, it was reported that an estimated 140,000 pupils in England were home educated at some stage, and it is likely that the figure has increased further since then. Further studies show that some of the poorest areas of the country have seen the biggest increases, such as Hartlepool, North East Lincolnshire and Knowsley. There have been similar if not so great increases in our area of Hull and ER too, and we have also seen an increase at The Hessle Academy, mostly in the secondary phase at Hessle High. 

    The decision to home educate your child is a huge one and we do as much as we can to dissuade parents from doing so, unless we are convinced that the parent is able to do it at least as well as we could in school. Several meetings take place before we finally take the student off our roll as ultimately it is the parents’ decision. The Local Authority then take responsibility for ensuring that effective home education is actually taking place and it is common for students, within a few months, to return to school and usually to the place they came from. That has been the experience for us in most cases. 

    What can be done to prevent parents from feeling that home education is their only option?  

    Often the reason for the decision is a belief that the child’s needs are not being met in school and these are often linked to Special Educational Needs. Delays in securing Education Health Care Plans from local authorities often give rise to attendance problems which then lead to the decision to home educate. It is a multi-stage problem that is characterised by a lack of funding in each setting whether that be the school or the local authority. In a world where the adults are trying their best to keep children in school, happy and thriving, it usually comes down to a lack of money and staff which prompts families to make what must be a heartbreaking decision. With the young person the one to suffer the most. Sadly, the size of the problem may be hugely underestimated as there is not a single register nationally of children that are not in education. This proposal for a single register has been promised by the Government for a few years and it is supposed to be part of a Schools Bill ‘soon’.  

    I have written before about the changing ‘social contract’ that has weakened the expectation that children should be in school every day; this is a major cause of the lower levels of attendance to school since the pandemic. The home education issue is an extreme aspect of this wider problem which is going to take years, and a lot more resources, to fix. 


    The first week of the new half term has gone quickly in a blur of activity. Our Year 11 students have now completed their Spring Mock exams and will now spend some time next week on improving practical and coursework. There are now just 9 weeks until the first ‘formal, sit down’ exam and they are determined to make the most of each of those days and hours. 

    Some of our Year 9 students and families were in school on Wednesday evening to hear about our fantastic Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, run by Miss Moore. This has been a tremendous success at Hessle since it was relaunched in 2019 and each year, over fifty students complete the Bronze Award, with some of them going on to the Silver and then Gold Awards. This contributes to our vision for developing learners with exceptional character and they also build great memories along the way too. If your child is interested in this programme, please ask them to speak to Miss Moore. 

    Finally, yesterday evening was the first half of our Year 7 Progress Evening where over 75% of parents were in school, meeting with teachers and discovering how their child was progressing in school. The increase in parental engagement this year has been really pleasing and we hope to see as many parents in school next week for the second half of the year group. 

    And then a reminder to parents/carers of students in Year 9 that our Pathways Evening takes place on Wednesday 28th February next week, starting at 6pm. At this event, you will find out more about the subjects that students will be able to select for study at GCSE. We hope to see you all there. 

    Have a great weekend and thank you for your support. 

    Mr Groak


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  • WEEK 20 - Friday 9 February 2024

    Published 09/02/24

    s we reach the end of the first half of the Spring Term, I have been reflecting on what we have achieved as a school since Christmas. The first thing I always consider is how our exam groups are faring.  

    For Year 11, they are doing well. There have completed a week’s worth of Mock Exams this week and will finish them after half term. The attendance to school has been good and their attitude to their exams is really positive. We track them carefully and the data looks healthy; but of course, none of them have sat a formal exam yet nor submitted any coursework. In other words, there’s still a long way to go and nobody is complacent. Next week, some of them will be back in school, completing work and keeping their learning ticking over; their commitment, and that of the staff, is impressive and makes me very proud. 

    Our Year 13 are one of the most focused and driven cohorts we have had for many years. The vast majority already have their conditional university offers and are now working hard to achieve the grades they need. It is a pleasure to be amongst them as I was in last night’s Sixth Form Progress Meeting, where I held my own teacher conversations with the students in the class I teach. This is something I really value in my work and hope to always be able to find the time to keep teaching.  

    We’ve also been very happy with the continued improvements to behaviour, since we introduced our new behaviour policy in September and I thank you all for your support with this, as well as support with uniform standards. One area in which we continue to seek improvement is in punctuality at the start of the day. We have clear routines each morning which set the students up for the day ahead, and involve lots of PD work. If students arrive late, on a regular basis, this disrupts their preparation for the day and often causes problems later on. Punctuality is also a life skill and we see it as part of our responsibility to instil the importance of being in the right place at the right time if our students are to enjoy successful careers. It is also courteous and good manners to show up on time, wherever you are. 

    We expect all students to be on site and in their social spaces by 8.30am. At 8.31am, students sign in with our attendance officer instead and are then given a short lunchtime detention. If the school bus is later or there are extreme traffic and travel problems, then we take this into account. However, normal traffic is always busy at this time of the day and we urge everyone to set off in good time to ensure they arrive on time. Again, your support with ensuring that your child arrives into school on time each day is greatly appreciated. 

    The half term break will also mark, for us rugby fans, the start of the Super League season. As in every year, Hull FC start the season joint top and so I always enjoy this moment of optimism, which sadly doesn't usually last long! The season kicks off with a derby game at the MKM Stadium next Thursday and I shall be there with my son, and friends and their kids. My wife and daughter are heading to the in-laws in Surrey on Monday, leaving my son and I to spend some quality time together. His latest sporting obsession is darts. That suits me as I can still beat him at Darts! He has a week of sporting challenges planned for us, which includes golf (I’ll be favourite), badminton (he’ll thrash me), table tennis (him again), garden cricket (depends on the state of the pitch!) and the darts. A proper compendium of sports. “A bit like Superstars?” I said to him, referring to the TV classic of the 1980s. He looked blankly at me. At least I know what I mean. 

    Whatever you are doing over the weekend and during half term, enjoy it and hopefully the weather will begin to warm up too, with Spring not far away. 

    Thank you as ever for your support this half term. 

    Mr Groak


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