WEEK 1 -Friday 10 September 2021
I am writing this - my first Blog of the new school year - on Thursday afternoon, having just seen our last students leave the site. Today has been the first time that we have had all of our students in the school following the staggered start and it has been marvellous to welcome them back.
And it has been busy!
With another full year group entering into Year 7 this year and growing numbers into the Sixth Form too, we have over a hundred more students in our school than we did last year. Of course, that is a great position for our school to be in as it creates the financial security that allows us to fund our continued development both in terms of infrastructure and the staff group. This year, we have welcomed 15 new colleagues to our school and our growing reputation has enabled us to buck the national and regional trend in terms of teacher recruitment. We have managed to attract teachers from other schools who are looking for new opportunities as well as snapping up some of the best talent amongst local teacher training providers. They make up a really strong new team that will complement and refresh our existing staff body.
Of course, the success of any school is due to the students and, for that reason, I am always keen to thank them for what they do to make our school what it is. And I also fully appreciate the support we receive from our parents, especially during the past difficult 18 months.
Which brings me to the issue of Covid testing. Whilst many of the covid-safety measures have disappeared from our schools and workplaces, regular LFD testing remains one the best ways in which our community can wrestle with the virus. We have conducted a significant number of tests this week as students have returned and the negative tests that the overwhelming majority of students have produced is great reassurance for them, their families and friends. Likewise, the handful of positive tests that have arisen have also helped us to prevent transmission in our school. Those students will now isolate for 10 days.
As the rules change on the matter of isolation, please let me remind you that we will no longer be handling track and trace if a student tests positive. Any student who tests positive needs to isolate and report the matter to the NHS who will conduct any tracing that is required. This will mean far fewer students being required to isolate due to a potential contact in school which we hope will reduce the huge disruptions that we faced last year.
We will continue to offer all students free packs of LFD tests and we urge you to support us by regularly testing your child so that we can prevent any wider transmission in our school.
I had my own bout with the virus during the summer as, despite being double vaccinated, I came down with symptoms in early August which I immediately knew was an indication of Covid. A test quickly confirmed that to be the case and I was confined to isolate away from the rest of my family for 10 long days! Sadly, I missed the GCSE and A Level Results Days and the Year 11 and 13 Proms. That was a real blow although there were plenty of other staff on hand to make all of those events a real week of success.
Thankfully, my family and I emerged from isolation in time to enjoy something of a summer and we enjoyed a week in Surrey as well as a week in Cumbria, taking in a few concerts and cricket matches along the way. I know that the weather was pretty miserable for most of August but I hope that you managed to spend some time with your families enjoying the ‘summer’.
I will end with a final point about uniform. As a school, we are firmly committed to the values that are underpinned by a quality uniform and we will never shake from that. It is probably no secret to you that maintaining uniform standards is one of the hardest things for any school to do. If you have ever wrangled with your son or daughter about what they have chosen to wear, imagine doing that every day in a school with over 1200 students in it!
Nevertheless, our uniform standards are very high, thanks to you and your young people and our job is made much easier because of that. As we strive to raise standards and consistency even further, this week has seen some students (and, may I say, one or two parents) challenge our standards and our expectations. This has caused some students to have to go home to get changed before starting school and some students to sit out a day working in the reflection room. Our pastoral staff have worked tirelessly to ensure that all students and parents have been supported to get the uniform right and I thank them for that. They have done a remarkable job this week. Once again, thank you to all of you parents who have supported us by making those uniform adjustments where necessary and ensuring that the young people can focus on learning and enjoying their time in school. You make our school what it is.
Take care and have a lovely weekend.
Mr V Groak