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Hessle High School

WEEK 15 - Thursday 21 December 2023

Roy Wood said that he ‘wished it could be Christmas every day’.... really? Can you imagine?

Life in a large secondary school in the weeks building to the Christmas break is less festive than you might think. Although there is a tree up and some decorations, for everyone’s sanity, we try to ensure that life goes on pretty much as normal. I used to work in an office long ago where, at the first sign of advent, normal work would be pushed to one side for the sake of parties, gift giving, quizzes and God-knows what. Productivity dived and everyone was fed up by the time they broke up on the last Friday before the Big Day and headed to the pub.

If schools acted in the same way, the consequences don’t bear thinking about. For every child who’d quite like a bit of ‘Home Alone’ as a treat for finishing their work, there would be plenty more who would sit there, wondering why on earth they’d bothered turning up. When I was at school, ‘watching a Christmas film’ on the last day just wasn’t possible. There was one TV in the entire school, and it took two caretakers half an hour to push it from A to B on its huge trolley. With the introduction of computers on every teachers’ desk, came the temptation for them to flick a movie onto the screen during the last week of term. Headteachers, not wanting to appear like Mr Scrooge, would cite some copyright law as the reason why students wouldn’t be allowed to watch a Xmas film. And those teachers who still did so would be looked down upon by colleagues for letting their guard down.

The reality is that schools do function better when students are engaged and challenged by their work; they feel safer in routines and less anxious if they know that their time in school is being used to good effect. So you won’t see students watching TV on the last day of this term but that is not to say that there haven’t been opportunities for some festive fun either.

Last week I mentioned our Christmas Fair and Celebration Evening; this week I want to pay a tribute to all our students that performed in the Christmas Concert at Hessle All Saints Church on Monday evening, along with their parents and families who turned up to support us. It was a fantastic show, and I was impressed by the sheer diversity of age ranges, of instruments being played and of musical styles. The segue between the hard, politicised rock of our Consortium Sixth Form band into a choral rendition of ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’ was as inspired as it was brave. Well done, Mrs Webb!

I am always quite nervous ahead of my reading and I try to capture the essence of our school and our students whenever I speak in the church. This reminded me of a reading I gave a few years ago when I literally read the lyrics to a song written by Nick Lowe but best known as an Elvis Costello recording, called ‘What’s so funny about peace, love and understanding.’. I love the song and am a big Costello fan (he still tours, and I would hugely recommend him – not as good as Bruce but definitely on the same page). The song is a lament to an over-cynical world where sentiments such as love and hope are sneered upon.

Well, not at Hessle High School, they’re not. The song is an inspiration to celebrate the good deeds of our young people, of those that raise money for the less fortunate, of those who challenge themselves to perform in a school concert and those that dare to speak up for injustice through their choice of music. There’s nothing funny, or embarrassing, about peace, love and understanding. We need more of it.

To end, despite my fondness for some of the themes of Christmas, I’m glad it's not Christmas every day. Too exhausting. But I am looking forward to the break. After the main festivities are over, we are taking advantage of the time off over New Year to have a week in Sicily. We have never been, but it looks beautiful and, with the benefit of a hire car, we are doing some exploring of the island. I am hoping to see some of the ‘Godfather’ filming locations whilst the kids are excited about going on the beach in winter (I’m not sure it’s going to be as warm as they are thinking). Whatever, I am looking forward to spending some quality time with the family after a very busy term in school.

Whatever your plans, have a peaceful and relaxing Christmas break.

Thank you for the support you have given to myself and my staff in 2023 and I hope that 2024 is a time of happiness and joy for you all.

Mr Groak