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Hessle High School

WEEK 24 - Friday 15 March 2024

Occasionally, one of our students will ask me, “Sir, what do you actually do? I mean, I know what your job is, but what do you.... do?” 

When I first started in the role, I spent much of my first few weeks speaking to staff to learn more about what they felt about the school, what our priorities should be. After a few weeks, I did sometimes ask myself, ‘what else am I meant to be doing?’. It didn’t last long and soon projects, issues, incidents, celebrations and events filled my diary. Being a Headteacher is a fantastic job and a real privilege. I get to see people at their best and worst, deal with everything from the trivial and the mundane (what colour decorations do you want on the Christmas Tree?) to the life-changing and tragic, when some of our students find themselves in highly dangerous and vulnerable situations. 

Most of the time is just moving from one place to another speaking to people and generally ensuring that everyone has what they need to do their jobs to the best of their ability. Take today for instance. It began with a morning run. I have tried this year to get my exercise in early and it has definitely helped my energy levels during the day. After a 15 minute shuffle around the streets of Willerby, I’ll get ready for work, have a coffee, chat with the kids and be in school for our Senior Leaders’ meeting at 7.45. In this 15 minute slot, we check on staff absence or events that are happening during the day, make sure that all lessons and duty points are covered and prepare ourselves for the day. At this point in the term, the team are often operating on fumes, and it is an opportunity for us to take support from each other and pull together to lead the rest of the staff. 

I quickly check emails for ten minutes and then put my blue coat on, grab my radio and go out on duty. I’m on the main gate monitoring students arriving from 8.15 to 8.35 and this gives me the chance to wish them good morning and keep an eye on the overall safety and movement on the site at the start of the day. The entrance to our school is a mixed user environment with buses, cars and pedestrians all sharing the same space. The main mitigation to the obvious risk is a 5MPH speed limit and plenty of staff supervision.  

As students arrive they congregate in the spaces designated for them. Year 7s on the tennis court are the ones closest to my duty point and so I get to see how they look at the start of each day; always smart and well behaved which is good to see. 

Tutors come down to these areas at 8.30 and by 8.35, students are going into the building for their tutor period. 

My day today has been packed with meetings and planned phone calls so I squeeze in a quick meeting with Angela, my new Operation Manager. We planned the day, discuss priorities for next week. At 9am, I met with Claire Khan, my Finance Manager. At this time of year, we are looking to set budgets for next year so we spent some time making sure that we had a good idea of likely income and how we proposed to spend it. Our school has a budge in excess of £11million but the bulk of that is spent on staff salaries. Overheads consume most of the rest so there is not a lot of discretionary spending for Headteachers. Nevertheless, staffing has to be carefully managed as a few errors can cause a big problem down the line. 

After break duty, I spent some time on the telephone to Mrs Preston, our Primary Head of School, discussing the progress made by our Year 6 pupils in their recent mock exams. They have done well in Reading and Maths, and we were looking at some extra support we can put in place to improve their writing skills. Leading an all-through school has meant a huge expansion in my responsibility and a widening of my understanding of primary education; similarly some of the methods used to track and assess students at the High School are also leading to improvements in the primary stage. Friday is a busy day for duties so I was back on duty just before 11am for twenty minutes. A minor behaviour incident occurred which caused me to spend some time with the pastoral team sorting it out, before I was back to my office for a meeting with my Head of Sixth Form, Mr Jarman. Our Sixth form is a real strength of the school but there has been a drop in attendance recently of our Year 13s so we spent some time looking at the impact of the strategies he has put into place. This cohort were halfway through Year 9 when the covid pandemic started and faced two years of disruption during their GCSEs. Adolescence has not been straightforward for them at all but they are being well looked after and are on the brink of achieving strong outcomes before going onto their next destination which, for most of them, will be university. 

After Mr Jarman left, I started writing this blog for ten minutes before going back on duty yet again where I also had my lunch standing up in the canteen. Fishcake, chips and mushy peas – you can’t beat it! 

There was a twenty-five minute break between duties in which time I squeezed in another meeting, replied to some emails, approved some staff ordering, set up an agenda for a leaders’ meeting on Monday, added some messages to our weekly staff briefing and had another catch up with Angela.  

The second lunch break gave me the chance to speak to our Year 11s, who picked up their Mock Exam Results last night at Progress evening. There were some glum faces when a few realised that they hadn’t done as well as they had hoped. But – as we always tell them – there is still time to put it right. “The best time to start revising is at the start of Year 10,” we say, “the next best time is right now!”  

After duty, I gave a tour to a lady who has applied for a job in our pastoral centre. It is always a pleasure to show off our school and she was impressed at how quickly over 1200 young people can move around the building and settle into their lessons. Handing her over to my colleagues who were set to interview her, I headed back to my office to tie up the week. There is a staff briefing document for Hessle and Penshurst staff, which we aim to send out by close of play on Friday, this sets up the following week with key events and reminders and allows staff to get themselves organised for the week ahead so that they can switch off and unwind for two days. I write a short intro and make sure everyone else’s content is clear and concise. By this time, it is 2.50 and the first students are beginning to leave the site. I head out to bus duty to see them all off, in exactly the same place that I welcomed them six and a half hours earlier. And I wonder where the time has gone, and what exactly it has that I have done! 

I’m not quite finished as I then go to the main hall to cover a detention duty for a colleague who is still interviewing our prospective candidate. I tend to aim to leave by 4.30 on a Friday to get in a run before seeing the kids. Tonight, I am writing this quickly before leaving a little earlier in order to pick my son up for a dental appointment. Hopefully, we will be home by 5.30 and the weekend can begin. 

I tend not to do any work on Friday night. Instead, I might open a beer and flop in front of the TV with my wife and kids, watching The Apprentice and then possibly whichever Super League game is on TV.  

Tomorrow, we’ll be at the MKM stadium for the Hull FC game and then spending some time relaxing on Sunday before getting ready for another busy week. 

Whatever you are doing this weekend, find time to enjoy it and thank you for your ongoing support. 

Mr Groak