WEEK 16 - Friday 12 January 2024
On Tuesday morning, in my Year 11 Assembly, I talked to them about the brevity of their time left in our school and the fact that there were now just 73 school days before their first formal GCSE examination (there are now only 69!). In fact, even that isn’t true as they are doing GCSE and BTEC assessments all the time, in the form of coursework and the like. It is the biggest year of their lives to date but I always try to reassure them that they are not alone and surrounded by a team of staff whose job it is to help young people like them every year. We know what we're doing, and they just need to play their part, do as they told and engage fully. It has the potential to work spectacularly well and we will continue to reiterate the importance of taking up every opportunity that is offered to them.
This next few weeks is significant for Year 11 and we try to capture the work that is going on in our Year 11 Success Bulletin which is sent to parents and students each fortnight. Here it is, for those that may have missed it or who wish to see what is coming when your child reaches that age. Next week is another big week for them. On Tuesday, some of our Year 11s will be heading to the University of Hull for a revision day, along with students of the same age across our Trust. This is the first event of its kind and demonstrates the power of collaborative working across our schools. I am sure the students will rise to the occasion and get a lot out of it. Then there is the Success Event on Thursday evening for all students and parents, where there will be range of revision material available as well as tips and advice that can help the revision. I will also speak to parents about the remaining support available in the run up to exams.
To that end, I must remind you of our Year 11 Mock Interview Day coming up on Friday 2 February. this is the date each year on which only Year 11 students are in school, with other students working from home. This gives us the unique opportunity to bring in a swathe of business visitors to provide interview and mentoring support for our year 11s, followed by an intensive target setting session with their teachers. Above and beyond the benefits of the day, this is also a watershed for some; the day on which everything drops into place and they recognise that now is the time to really step up their preparations for the summer’s exams.
We have written to the students outlining what is expected of them on the day and I would like to thank all parents in all year groups for your support with this event.
Whilst there is a great deal going on ‘under our noses’ each day, this is the time of year when we begin to look firmly ahead to the next year as we advance our curriculum and staffing plans, in conjunction with our colleagues in the Central Team. This gathers pace on Tuesday when I will present our requirements for next year, teaching and non-teaching staff, and seek their support to begin our recruitment. We must start early as it is common for school staff to be looking for new challenges this early in the year even if it means they do not actually move until September. We have a strong record of recruiting well due in part to getting in there early and we hope it will be the same again. That said, our numbers on roll are closing in on our capacity and so we do not anticipate being too active this year.
Like most people, I watched the ITV drama, Mr Bates versus The Post Office recently. It was a tough watch and, ironically, my wife and I finished the final episode on Sunday evening before returning to school on Monday morning. The contrast between the chronic lack of integrity shown by Post Office leaders on TV and the enthusiasm and selflessness shown by my colleagues in school on Monday was stark. Their commitment to plan and prepare great lessons and resources for your children was humbling. I am very lucky to work in a sector where honesty, integrity and public service are taken so seriously.
The theme of Monday was through-school collaboration and so we had all our Academy staff on our Heads Lane site (including Penshurst colleagues). This made for a great atmosphere, as secondary staff learned more about the teaching of phonics from their primary colleagues, and the primary team got to spend the morning in the Sixth Form centre, where I reminded them of the importance of their work (all the way back to when children are in nursery and reception) in developing the young people that occupy the Sixth Form centre each day. It will not be too long before our first ‘through-school’ student reaches the Sixth Form having spent all their school life within our single organisation. It is an exciting thought.
Finally, I have felt a renewed energy this week after a very relaxing Xmas and New Year break. We were fortunate to visit Sicily for the first time over New Year and it was a wonderful experience full of great moments, such as climbing Mount Etna (at least a little way), experiencing Palermo on New Years’ Eve (not for the faint hearted) and even paddling in the sea in January. The kids absolutely loved it, and I can confirm that I did manage to visit Vitelli’s Bar, the iconic setting for a famous scene from The Godfather Part 2. Another thing ticked off the bucket list.
This is a much shorter term than the previous one but absolutely jam-packed with activity and events so high energy levels are essential for all of us to bring our best to our school, and our students.
Enjoy the weekend and thank you as always for your ongoing support.