WEEK 8 - Friday 5 November 2021
“Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see” - Neil Postman
At the start of this week, The Queen addressed the COP26 Leaders and drew on this memorable quote when reminding them of their obligation to make the brave decisions that would protect the planet and the safety and prosperity of our future generations.
I love this quote and its shocking simplicity. As a Headteacher, it really speaks to the importance of the work that we do every day in school. We are not just preparing students for examinations - as important as they are - we are truly developing a generation of people who we hope are going to make the world a better place. I really believe in that and there are many times when I have more faith in our younger generation than I do in my own. Our students are astonishing in their resilience, in their positivity but also in their sense of fairness and justice.
As parents, you will all know how attuned teenagers are to unfairness or even a whiff of it. I see it everyday - if I ask a student to correct a minor uniform indiscretion, they will follow the instruction but they will make absolutely sure I am picking up the next student just as keenly. And they will let me know about it if I don’t! And rightly so. It is so important that rules, laws or expectations should be the same for everyone. That is the basis of a just society and why it is so outrageous when our political leaders are seen to be following a ‘one rule for them but no rules for us’ agenda. The little things matter; we ask our students to take off their outdoor coats when they enter the building and so, as adults, we do the same. And we remind each other politely if we forget. It is all part of showing that high standards are important but that we are all in it together and that we sometimes just need a reminder of our obligation to those standards.
Respect and kindness. These are the attitudes we want our young people to have; these are the messages we wish to send to a time we will not see.
The return to school this week has been a very positive one. Thank you for supporting us with the continuation of the face coverings. There have been much fewer Covid cases in school again this week and so the face coverings will continue for the foreseeable future. A small price to pay for our collective safety, we believe.
Next week is Year 9 Parents Information Evening and an opportunity for you to hear about the year ahead for students in that year group. Year 9 will obviously see the start of the GCSE Options Pathway process so there is much to share with you; please check your emails and make your bookings - I think it will be an hour of your time well spent. And it will be great to see you.
Finally, following a difficult half term, our overall school attendance is ticking upwards each day and I am pleased to say that it is now above the national average. We have spent a lot of time reflecting on the issue of attendance in recent months and it is true that for some vulnerable students and their families, it has been difficult to return to school. Nevertheless, the impact of poor attendance is substantial both in terms of academic achievement but also the lack of development of social skills.
Just one day of absence means that a student has missed five hours of learning. That may not seem like much but, on their return, it may take up to a week for them to recover as each time they return to each of those missed subjects, there will be disruption and anxiety as the student tries to ‘catch up’ or deal with the lost learning or experience. On top of this, one day of absence is also a loss of social contact - friends are talking about new things and the social confidence is diminished.
As Headteacher, I am very proud of the incredible work that my staff do every day. They can really inspire the students and enable them to do great things. But only if they’re here. As we hopefully get back to normal in the coming months, I hope we can work ever more closely with you to improve our attendance even further. When the students are in school, that is when the magic happens.
Mr V Groak