Headteacher Weekly Bulletin 1st May 2020
I hope you’ve all had a good week? The vast majority of people I speak to are now in established routines as we approach the end of week 6 of lockdown / school closure. For some, there is little deviation from ‘life before lockdown’ (LBL) but for many it’s been a whole new world of adjustment. The resilience and adaptability of the human spirit is something to behold, don’t you think?
We’ve had a great week in School with numbers in attendance creeping up as we seek to cater for a range of evolving parent and student needs. Thanks must go particularly to our wonderful team of TAs who have been staffing the LRC, which opened this week as an additional facility. Their passion, professionalism and empathy for our youngsters is truly inspiring. Their attentions and those of the students were somewhat distracted earlier when Trafford’s biggest fox sauntered past the window as if he owned the place. Many happy returns to one of our attendees, Wesley Lawson, who turns 17 tomorrow.
I’ve spent today interviewing for a new teacher of Maths via Zoom, which proved fruitful and follows the appointment of a Head of Business Studies last week. Just one Science post to fill next week and we’re all good to go for September.
Anyway, I wrote my first weekly blog in January 2013 (the start of only my second term as Headteacher) following a parental survey that suggested the School’s communication with ‘home’ could be better. The weekly newsletter was one of a number of things we introduced in response and here we are over seven years later with 39 bulletins per year (I don’t recall missing many). I’m no mathematician but that equates to approximately … ‘a lot’. And, do you know what? I’ve enjoyed composing every single one as it has given me the chance to reflect on the ‘week that was’, to discover things about students and colleagues of which I wasn’t otherwise aware, to celebrate, congratulate and acknowledge, to preach and pontificate (try to keep to a minimum and only when I felt key messages needed to be heard) and, quite simply, to remind myself just how privileged I am to hold this role. Yes, at times, the last thing I’ve needed late on a Friday afternoon was to sit down and start typing (and I would admit there have been occasions when the positivity of the bulletin hasn’t always reflected my mood) and occasionally I have been forced to delay until Saturday morning. If / when I move on, retire or get carried out of my office in a wooden box, it would be interesting to read back over them all as a record of the journey we’ve been on as a School community.
I’m always surprised (and grateful) when I get a message that suggests someone actually reads the blog and I would be even more amazed if the students actually took time out of their busy schedules to have a browse, unless of course they have been alerted to the fact they have been mentioned. So, I thought today I would address this message to the students themselves. I will forward via Classcharts Announcements as well but I would really appreciate it if you could share with your sons and daughters. I hope they don’t see it as an imposition or a punishment.
Dear Wellington student (sounds a bit formal but not sure what else I would call you!)
How are you? As I said to your parents last week, that is a genuine question. We really are here for you and you MUST get in touch if there is absolutely ANYTHING we can do to help. Remember, there’s no such thing as a daft question (well, maybe a few when Year 7 first start!).
You may be aware that I write a few words every Friday – a summary of the week’s news really – to keep those at home informed and to celebrate all the brilliant stuff you do in School (and lots out of School as well of course). I know you’ve got far better things to do each Friday than to read it but you’re parents have possibly shared the odd snippet. Anyway, I’ve carried on writing a weekly ‘blog’ since we’ve been closed and several other letters and emails, I hope you feel like you’ve been kept informed. I’ve seen a number of you in School, spoken to some of you over the phone and sent a few messages out via Classcharts but I just thought I’d send you all a longer message.
First of all, I’ll just say a bit about the work you’re doing at home. On the whole, it seems to be going very well. Of course, you’re all so different, unique in fact, that you’ll respond to home study and this whole lockdown business in your own way. Those of you who are ‘worriers’ by nature (and I’ve got one of those at home) are probably a little more anxious than normal, those who take everything in their stride are no doubt super-organised and just cracking on and those who are ordinarily laid back might now be pretty much horizontal (literally). We are doing what we can to meet all your individual needs but let us know if we can do more.
It seems ages since that Wednesday when Boris Johnson announced that Schools would close two days later on Friday 20th March! I was amazed and so proud of how well you all responded. Your teachers were also brilliant in preparing the work for you in such a short space of time. Obviously, we have tweaked a few things over the four weeks of missed school in response to comments from you, your parents and teachers, with new resources becoming available and things we’ve learned that work or don’t work. For example, starting next Monday we have provided a ‘recommended’ daily timetable (some of you will follow this closely, others will choose to do your own thing as you have established routines – both approaches are absolutely fine) and we will now expect certain pieces of work to be submitted. What hasn’t changed in all this time is that we just ask you to DO YOUR BEST! We can’t ask or expect any more and your best is YOUR personal best, nobody else’s. What might be an hour’s work for one person might be 30 minutes or 3 hours for someone else. Work hard for each of those hour-long sessions, give it your best, and stop when the time’s up and move on. If you don’t finish something come back to it next time and if you can’t meet a deadline just let us know. Teachers will not be issuing negative behaviour points or sending snotty emails if you’ve given it a go. That is not, however, a ‘free pass’ to not try! If hear of your ‘cba’ attitude then I’ll be putting on full PPE and banging on your front door.
Those of you in Year 10 and Year 12, naturally we’ve got to expect a little more from you guys. After all, you’ve got a big year ahead next year. At this stage, who knows what that will look like but I do think the current situation will impact next year’s exams in some way. We shouldn’t worry and we will all adapt accordingly.
The aim of the work set for all of you is primarily to consolidate what you have been taught in the first two terms. If you come back with a deeper knowledge and understanding of everything you’ve done so far this year, then we won’t go far wrong. Inevitably, you’ll all return at different stages of your learning and it’s our job to ‘diagnose’ what you do and don’t know and fill any gaps, and that’s what we’ll do so don’t panic.
I know I’ve gone on a bit there but just wanted to reassure you all personally.
So, how are you feeling? Again, you’ll be responding in different ways. Young people tend to be pretty resilient and robust and things often wash over you but the current situation is bound to be affecting you all in some way, whether you’re aware of it or not. I remember vividly (I think I always will to be honest) the assemblies with Year 11 and Year 13 on that Thursday before we finished. I’ve got to admit it was tough; emotions were running high and, you may have noticed, I got a bit choked up at several points (Miss Tidbury’s message to Year 13 didn’t help). There’s a good reason for that; I CARE and it was heartbreaking to see the impact on you to be told that your GCSE / A level journey and, for some, your time at Welly had come to an abrupt end. All your teachers and all those who support you at School care deeply. It is the one thing I demanded of my colleagues when I first spoke to them as Headteacher in September 2012 and they have rarely let me down. I have to say, your Form Tutors have loved picking up the phone and chatting to you, although some of you have been a little embarrassed or acted a bit too cool for school. Teachers are finding this tough too – many of them have children and young families of their own. Personally, I’m certainly feeling more emotional than usual; daily chats with my elderly mum, clapping for the NHS every Thursday, Captain (now Colonel) Tom Moore’s fundraising walk and 100th birthday, the second series of After Life, the BBC’S Big Night In last Thursday, dogs doing cute things on social media, it’s all setting me off! Having said that, I’ve always been a bit emotional and being a fiery red head of Celtic heritage, let’s just say I had a bit of a reputation as a child, in my teens and into my 20’s both on and off the rugby field. Thankfully, you’ll be pleased to know I’ve mellowed with age and my ‘passion’ is now channelled to the good of Wellington School.
I hope you’ve had chance to watch the latest video we sent and also seen the pictures of the Reception windows in School that Miss Grey decorated; both state clearly how much we miss you, and we do! None of us went into teaching to sit at home setting work ‘remotely’. We like company, we like people. We want to be back in the classroom, on the corridors, on the astro, in the Dining Hall, sharing our knowledge, having a laugh, interacting, building relationships and being a community. I hope you miss us too, just a little bit? Actually, I’d love to hear from everyone what the one thing about School you’re missing is! For me, it would simply have to be the ‘buzz’ of a busy school, the noise, the atmosphere. I know that might sound a bit rubbish so let’s see what you can come up with. I mean that, please get in touch.
There are several benefits to our current situation but I’m sure we’d all rather be back to ‘normal’ sooner rather than later. When that will be, I cannot say. I will only go as far as to say we would love to see you all before the summer break and I am pretty confident that will be the case. We do know that the Government have stated 5 things that have to happen before they ease the lockdown, which basically mean guaranteeing we can keep you all safe and well. I have given lots of thought to what a return to school might look like and, at least in the short term, the school day / week will be very different. I will let you know more once we have any indication of a timescale.
In the meantime, keep doing your best, be creative, imaginative and innovative, try new things, get outside in the fresh air, stay active, eat well, sleep well (but not too much), be kind (your mums, dads, siblings etc are finding this tough too remember), stay brilliant and keep shining brightly. You can always find doom and gloom in the world but you lot provide us with the eternal light of hope and optimism!
If anyone wants to drop me a line and let me know what you’ve been up to, that would make my day. Parents have sent lots in via email and on Twitter but I would love to hear from you directly.
Anyway, I’ve waffled on long enough (7H, my rugby team, anyone who’s sat in an assembly and all the staff know how that feels). Make sure you’re outside clapping at 8 o’clock tonight for the wonderful NHS and other key workers (you might need an umbrella) and stay safe until we see you again!