WEEK 3 - Friday 22 September 2023
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.