WEEK 7 - Friday 22 October 2021
As we reach the end of this first half term of the school year, it is appropriate to reflect on the achievements of the past seven weeks.
On return to school on 6 September, we were delighted to welcome another full year group of Year 7 students. Two-hundred and fifty excited eleven year olds joined us that week and it was a pleasure to meet them. In the days and weeks that followed, they settled in extremely well, found their way around the building and brought real enthusiasm and energy to their learning. They have coped with everything that has been thrown at them and handled it with maturity and aplomb. As I have explained to you a few times, there have been a few challenges over lunchtime this year as we have settled in a new catering company, and our youngest students have needed the most support with this. I am on duty everyday in the canteen and can clearly see a more efficient service now and that the children have plenty of time to eat and the full range of choice. I hope that we are now providing them, and you, with a service that they expect but please continue to inform us and challenge us if that is not the case.
Our older students, especially those in Year 8 and 9, have enjoyed the benefit of a full curriculum now that they are able to move around the building to Science and Tech labs, Art rooms and the like. They are excellent role models for our younger children and their resilience in dealing with the unpredictability of schooling since March 2020 is commendable.
Which brings me to our GCSE students in Years 10 and 11. We have held two Parents Information Evenings this term, at which we have set out our plans to support these students. The key message I have tried to get across is that there is no point in worrying about what has happened; the future is all that counts. The pandemic has caused a break in learning - but it has affected everyone. So, if everyone is behind, essentially nobody is behind! There is huge experience and expertise in the school and the children will continue to benefit from this, of course, and there will still be the same number of Grade 3s, 4s, 7s, 9s and so on available when they come to sit their exams, just as the world will still need engineers, doctors, care workers, mechanics, plumbers, teachers, shop assistants. The world has changed but the opportunities are still there waiting to be seized. That is our message to our students, and we believe it.
The world, and our country, also needs great people; those who are innovative and hard working and who have great character, who tell the truth and look after others. Those are the kind of people we are trying to develop at our school and, after seven weeks of interacting and working with our young people, I believe that is what we are doing. The high standards we are striving to set every day are bearing fruit; uniform has never been smarter, attendance is above national average and the record of behavioural incidents is well down on previous years. This is all being achieved by our highly committed staff, employing consistent approaches and working hard with students to teach the behaviours we wish to see. You will rarely hear shouting in our school; when a child makes a mistake, we prefer our adults to explain things through with them and reiterate our values and our standards. It is working.
Some people challenge me on this and ask ‘what has uniform / hair colour got to do with learning?’ It is a fair question but I would answer it like this….
Every day I wear a suit to work. A tie and black shoes. It takes me seconds to choose my suit and tie and that is it. If I wasn’t wearing a suit to work, it would take me longer to decide what to wear. I would have to consider how my clothes might match or not, whether they were appropriate for who I was going to meet. I would need to think about what others might wear and whether I might be over or under dressed. All of these thoughts and decisions would be an unnecessary distraction from what I have ahead of me that day. During the day, crucial minutes might be wasted talking about what I, or others, were wearing. I might spend time comparing myself favourably or, more likely, unfavourably with others, hitting my self esteem. It would all be a waste of time.
Wearing school uniform protects children, usually far more impressionable than I am, from that kind of worry, concern and effort. That is why we insist on school uniform, worn to a common standard.
Tomorrow afternoon, my family and I are flying to Spain. I cannot wait. It has been two years since I have been abroad and I am even excited about parking my car at the airport and getting on the shuttle bus. It is a bit ridiculous really. We have five days planned in Barcelona and, miraculously, have managed to get tickets for the Barca v Read Madrid game on Sunday. Our children will get to experience a city that my wife and I have visited many times and love to bits. Whilst sitting in the sun, with a glass of wine and some tapas, I will recharge after a busy half term but look forward with real optimism to the rest of the school year; it is such a privilege to be the Headteacher of this school and to lead such a great team of people dedicated to serve our young people and their families. Thank you for all of the support you have given to your children, to my staff and to the school these past seven weeks and I hope you enjoy some quality family time.
Take care and stay safe
Mr V Groak