Headteacher Weekly Bulletin 20.01.17

Good afternoon and I hope you have all had fruitful and rewarding working weeks.

I have every intention of being brief this evening as it is already 16.45 and I am only just beginning my contribution to the weekly school report. That is largely due to being out yesterday at a conference in London and playing catch-up for most of the day.  As I have said countless times before, these little excursions are invaluable to school development but I very often reflect on my return that it would be far easier if I just confined myself to barracks.  Anyway, I do endeavour to limit my time out of school to an absolute minimum and only when I am sure we can reap some benefit.  I’m also in a hurry to get home to catch up on the day’s events in Washington. In fact, I’m not entirely sure of the timings of Mr Trump’s inauguration but I’m sure there will be words to inspire us all from the new ‘leader of the free world’ (you must excuse my sarcasm).  Somebody suggested on the radio this morning that this is the first day of what could become the greatest soap opera on earth; you couldn’t make it up.  You have to be of a certain age to appreciate some of the Trumpton references on social media but I have had the odd chuckle.  Let’s just keep our fingers crossed and pray for the best. I’m sure he must have some sage advisers.

Reading through this week’s contributions from colleagues and, indeed, parents, it has been a week that merits lots of ‘congratulations’: Milan’s swimming accolade; the Year 7 & 8 girls’ handball team’s success; our ice-skaters, Tilly, Imogen and Lucy, and even the Year 10 ‘newlyweds’, all deserve a huge well done. I won’t give any ‘spoilers’, to coin a phrase that seems to have become very common these days, as you can ‘read all about it’ yourselves.

Most of all, congratulations to Dr Chard and her husband on the arrival of baby Sophie last Saturday morning. We really are going through a purple patch of Wellington babies.  We wish Miss Weeks well as she too starts her maternity leave today.

I was also pleased to read that Mrs Mackay has added further to our Careers’ provision with the visit of a representative of Arnold Clark this week to offer advice to students. I believe she had a number of ‘customers’.  Our school insurers, Zurich, have also offered their services and would be interested in talking to students who may be considering a higher level apprenticeship and may not have considered work in this field.  I am genuinely flabbergasted by the extent of the careers’ information and guidance Mrs Mackay and her team provide; I had none of this in my day.  It is essential that we do whatever we can to give our students that competitive edge in the jobs’ market, and I would repeat my request for any parents who could assist in any way to this end, to get in touch.

It is now barely 11 weeks until 41 Wellington sportsmen and women accompanied by 6 lucky staff depart for Cape Town on our first overseas sports tour. I considered it important that we endeavour to gel what on paper is a disparate group of male and female 13 to 15-year-old netball, football and rugby players.  I also deemed it necessary to enhance our fitness levels if we are going to compete with our southern hemisphere counterparts. With all that in mind, we had our first whole squad session on Monday evening; a proper ‘beasting’ you might say.  All the students worked extremely well and battled the pain dished out by PTI Beeley, as I kept telling them that they would thank me for it one day.  In all seriousness, it was fabulous to see students encouraging each other when the going got tough, even though this was the first time many had met, and with this kind of spirit, it certainly bodes well for April. We’ll be gathering each Monday until Easter for more fun.

Just a quick reflection having met with a number of my Year 11 mentees this week, as it is not just relevant to them. We do much in School to raise students’ self-awareness; of their emotional and physical self, of course, but also of themselves as learners.  The amendments we have made to our marking and feedback policy, reporting systems and more besides reflect and support this process.  I was disappointed, however, to a degree with the lack of precision and detail from some students when I probed as to what specifically they had to do in certain subjects to progress. It is meaningless in many regards to talk about grades or national curriculum levels (thankfully now a thing of the past for Year 8 and below); what our young people and their parents need to be aware of is exactly how incremental gains can be made. Of course, there is nothing wrong with, in fact I would strongly encourage, the visualisation of the ultimate prize, but we should be focused on short-term challenging yet achievable goals; what will I be able to do by half term, next week or next lesson that I can’t do today?  Ask your children how explicitly they will make progress in a particular subject and if they can’t tell you, have a glance in their exercise book as there should be guidance therein, and, of course, with parents’ evenings for the 6th Form and Year 10 down to Year 7 over the next few weeks, there is a perfect opportunity to clarify such matters.  If, at any stage, you wish to ask for further advice on how you may support your son or daughter, don’t hesitate to get in touch with subject teachers.  Dream big, tell them, but focus on the small things, the finer detail.

Continuing with that theme, I am in the process of meeting with all Heads of Department to review GCSE mocks and predictions and Mrs Stephens and Mr Cropper are doing the same to discuss A levels. The support and intervention my colleagues put in place each year is phenomenal.  It is not necessarily a case of doing more each year but we certainly seem to be getting ‘smarter’; it goes back to the precision I mentioned earlier.  I have every confidence that our teachers ‘know’ our students and their needs extremely well and can, therefore, prepare them appropriately for the summer. Of course, past papers don’t do themselves, controlled assessments don’t complete themselves and revision guides and notes don’t revise themselves, so we mustn’t expect the exams to pass themselves.  You get my drift.

Plans for the weekend? Probably the usual blend of reading (all work-related, of course), a bit of marking and preparation (yes, I do still teach a little bit), sport, providing a taxi service and red wine (in moderation). I hope you enjoy whatever you get up to and savour some quality weekend time with friends and family; it is very precious.

S P Beeley