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Hessle High School

WEEK 24 - Friday 18 March 2022

Whilst on lunch duty a few weeks ago, one of our students asked me why I always walk around with a blue jacket on, carrying a walkie-talkie.

“It’s to make sure we can keep you safe,” I answered.

The student looked puzzled. “How does a blue jacket keep me safe?” he asked. After I had explained why myself and other staff wear bright blue jackets so that there is a visible adult to whom they can speak to if they are unwell or feel vulnerable or unsafe, I reflected upon the question. Do all the students understand what we do to keep them safe? Probably not, we felt, and so, this week, we have spent time with our students, starting with our younger ones, explaining to them all of the processes and facilities that we have to look after them. Let me share some of them with you…

When our new building opened in 2016, it was built along a very simple open plan design. This allows for very straight sightlines down corridors and lots of visibility over balconies and atriums. This means that just a handful of staff can supervise an entire school building when students are moving around it. In addition, we have CCTV installed inside and outside of the school. Behaviour in our school is good; however, we have over 1200 young people inside each day and mistakes are made. This high degree of visibility and CCTV ensures that we can investigate incidents if they arise and prevent it from happening again.

Sticking with our building layout, we operate a one-way system on corridors and a keep left route on staircases. This ensures swift and smooth movement and reduces risks of congestion and accident. Due to the straight corridors, this is easy to supervise and monitor too.  

Following Covid, we retained the use of our year-group social zones. This is of particular benefit for our younger students who know that there is an area in which they can play and socialise without contact with older students, should they wish.  

Back to the blue jackets and we have a carefully planned duty rota of staff during break and lunch. When I was at school in the 1980s it was very different; the teachers would sit in the staff room (playing darts and smoking, as I recall!) whilst dinner ladies tried their best to supervise us on the field and playground. I have to confess that this did not make me feel very safe, but schools are so much different nowadays. Each break and lunch, there are a minimum of thirteen staff on duty in busy locations, including most of the senior leadership team. This presence ensures a calm environment and means that students have plenty of staff they can speak to if necessary. I myself spend between 2-3 hours per day on duty, which is an invaluable part of my job enabling me to monitor behaviour and attitudes but, most importantly, to chat with the students about their hobbies, interests, ambitions and sometimes even their schoolwork!

Our duties cover the entire site which is marked out by our perimeter fence which ensures there can be no unwanted visitors during the day, as well as no temptation for students to slip out of school. At the safeguarding gate, traffic measures are also in place to make sure that vehicles do not pose a risk either.

Nearby, our reception team greet visitors but even here there are tight controls on who is allowed to enter the school premises and whether they may be unaccompanied or not. Students and parents can be assured that we know exactly who is on our site and what their business is.  

Most of the time, students are oblivious to what we do to keep them safe, and rightly so. It is our job to think about risks - we just want them to enjoy being safe - but, every now and again, it is important that they recognise that ‘school rules’ have a purpose and why it is important that we all have respect for them. I can tell you that there has been some very interesting feedback from students this week, who have shared comments such as, ‘oh, so that’s why we are escorted to the sickbay’ or ‘now I understand why I have to take a longer route to the canteen at lunch’ and ‘I wondered what the blinking red light on the corridor was; I thought it was Santa-cam!’. Okay, I made the last one up, but we have had some very interesting conversations which we hope has made our young people feel even safer in school and have a greater respect for our school rules.

One of the highlights of this week has been the assemblies delivered on the subject of ‘resilience’ by English Teacher, Mrs Davison. Each day, Mrs Davison has related her own deeply personal journey from Poland, where she was born and raised, living in very poor conditions and experiencing parental alcoholism and family breakdown. She spoke of the challenges that she faced, securing herself an education, relocating to another country, dealing with the trauma of her upbringing, learning a new language and then carving for herself a highly successful career in teaching and school leadership. You could hear a pin drop as the students listened to her story. The message was that nobody has to be the product of their circumstances and, through resilience and determination, we can achieve far more than we might expect. It was very emotional and deeply affecting for the students. 

And so we reach the end of another week and the prospects for the weekend and beyond are that we are set for some warm and sunny days. Our school field will be open from next week which brings a whole new dimension to schooldays, allowing students to enjoy the full site and the improving weather. Whatever you are doing this weekend, I hope you enjoy the sunshine and have a lovely weekend.

Have a lovely weekend.  

Mr Groak