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Hessle High School

WEEK 31 - Friday 17 May 2024

The Guardian newspaper this week ran a story that was headlined ‘Teachers in England stretched by pupils’ mental and family problems, MPs say’. 

This was a report from the Education Select Committee that had heard evidence from those that work in schools, but it could hardly be described as ‘news’, for this situation has been going on for several years now. It began with the austerity period when council and public sector funding was cut, and it grew worse during the pandemic.  

One of the reasons why the media and Government are playing ‘catch up’ is that it has been a ‘boiling frog’ situation, with an incremental increase in the demands placed on schools. Local Authorities, the NHS and the Police are all under strain and so the parent that cannot get mental health support for their child, or the student that cannot get a SEND diagnosis or the child that is being cyber-bullied, instead of turning to those specialists, they turn to schools, because we are the most accessible. 

For those of us that work in, and lead, schools, it is the biggest problem we face, even beyond underfunding, shortage of staff and the perverse accountability framework. 

The Labour Party are promising an extra 6,500 teachers which would be fantastic but, to recruit them, they will need to tackle the barriers to recruitment that currently exist. Whatsmore, it isn’t only teachers that we need and even the Guardian headline at the top of this blog refers only to ‘teachers’. The reality is that the people dealing with this bulge in societal need are support staff such as pastoral managers, safeguarding leads and SEND co-ordinators – all of them highly trained and dedicated but most of them not teachers. And not, therefore, as highly paid. 

The solution? More money for schools and for public services. It is no more difficult than that. 

*** 

Putting that to one side, it has been another busy week of recruitment for us at Hessle Academy. 

After appointing a new Assistant Headteacher to join Penshurst Primary School last week, we have focused on Hessle High School this week with the appointment of a new Head of Department for History, a teacher of RE, a cover supervisor and an Assistant Head of Year. The latter two roles are support staff, confirming their importance once again. 

We are in the ‘transfer window’ for teachers with the deadline of the end of May for anyone wishing to resign their contract and start elsewhere in September. It makes for a hectic period but we are fortunate to have lower than average turnover of staff. The roles described above comprise less than 5% of our total staffing on this site and so, barring a clutch of unexpected resignations next week, we will be able to plan our timetables for next year from a full staff once again. 

Our Year 11 students continue to impress everyone with their maturity and resilience. The GCSE exams have come thick and fast this week, two per day for many; but they are taking them in their stride, accepting the support from staff and placing their trust in their teachers and the hard work they have all done to prepare. The feedback has been positive with most feeling that the exams have been fair and accessible. Another round of exams follow next week before a half term break and then two more weeks after that before they start to wind down. Thank you for your support of our students at this time. 

*** 

Dua Lipa, Olivia Rodrigo, Tate McRae. If I didn’t have a nine-year old daughter, it is very likely I may never have heard of these singers. Like many people, as you get older, my musical tastes have become stuck in time, meaning that I listen to much the same music as I did twenty or thirty years ago. I like most genres, particularly soul, blues, rock and some pop. I even enjoy some jazz. Well, one album by Miles Davis to be precise, which I listen to most weeks. And of course, anything by Bruce Springsteen always features heavily on any playlist. 

But my daughter’s emerging enjoyment of music is a real joy and she has gradually introduced me to these artists, along with Taylor Swift, who I’ve obviously been aware of for years but whose music I had never really listened to. We like nothing more than sitting up on a weekend night and taking turns to play videos on YouTube. Through this, I have started to enjoy her music and she has even taken a liking to Springsteen. Well, some of his songs anyway and particularly ‘the one where he dances with Monica’ (see the Dancing in the Dark video from 1984, if you don’t get that reference).  

During half-term, we are going to Prague for three days as a family but also to see Bruce who plays there on the 28th May. I can’t imagine anything more exciting than taking my kids to see The Boss. Our tickets are at the back of a large airfield, a long way from the stage, but more room for me to dance with my daughter. I’ll be Bruce and she can be Monica! 

Thank you for your ongoing support and have a lovely weekend. 

Mr Groak

Headteacher