I am writing as we finally reach the end of what has been an enormously challenging year for everyone associated with the school. For our pupils, their families as well as for our staff it has been an incredibly difficult year and I must admit from a school perspective it is nice to have finally come to the end of it.
As difficult as it has been, it would have been far worse, but for the amazing efforts of our pupils and the tremendous support shown by parents. We are extremely grateful to all our families for the forbearance, flexibility and support they have shown to the school. However, I would particularly like to add my thanks to staff at the school, both teaching and support who have gone further than ever before to try and provide the best possible education for your children given the constraints of the circumstances. I have been humbled by their dedication and determination to do everything they can, which given they too have had to contend with the struggles that this year has brought to everyone has been exceptional. I am very grateful too, for all those communications that parents have sent in to thank either specific teachers or groups of staff. Unless you have been in receipt of one of these it is hard to express how much it means.
As well as specific challenges unique to this year, the normal work of the school has continued. As part of this we commissioned with the Trust a Challenge Partners review of the school that took place in June. Challenge Partners are a national company who specialise in reviewing school provisions. They are not Ofsted but still grade on a four point scale, with ‘Leading’ being the top grade. I am pleased to say that the school was awarded ‘Leading’ in both areas that receive a judgment, Leadership at all Levels and Quality of Provision and Outcomes which led to a ‘Leading’ judgement overall. The school was also granted an ‘Area of Excellence’ in Mathematics. There are a number of very positive comments in the report including ‘exemplary behaviour was apparent throughout the two days’ and ‘excellent relationships between teachers and pupils’. Other aspects which received particular attention were excellent questioning, teacher subject knowledge, the breadth and depth of the curriculum, careers guidance and support for vulnerable pupils both academically and in terms of personal development. An area the review team felt the school should think about moving forward was giving pupils more opportunities to develop their oracy in lessons. This review was a very positive endorsement of the school’s work and we will look to move on from this further in September.
As with the end of any year there are a number of changes to staffing ready for September. Mrs. Dennis leaves the school from her role as SENCO and Assistant Headteacher after 17 years at the school. She has played a huge part in the success of the school during her time here and she will be missed by pupils and staff alike. Her work supporting SEN pupils, as well as her support of mental health work across the school has been exceptional and led to the school being accredited with the Wellbeing Award for Schools. She has always been completely committed to the school and its pupils and we will be very sorry to see her depart. In September Mr. Alderman will be taking over as Interim SENCO until Mrs. Parker returns from maternity leave to take this on in a substantive role. Mrs. Dennis will be replaced on the senior leadership team by Mrs. Gibson who in turn will be replaced by Miss. Cook as Head of French. As a result of this Mr. Webster will join the lower school pastoral team with responsibility for Year 8 next year. Mr. Townsend has joined the Middle School pastoral team with responsibility for year 10 next year. Mr. Turley has taken on responsibility for Pitt House. The only other departure from the teaching staff is Mr. Afolayan who left from the Maths department at Easter. He will be replaced by Mr. Kay who joins the school in September as Key Stage Five Coordinator in Maths. We also look forward to welcoming Miss. Wigg to the French department to add additional teaching in this area.
I would also like to reflect on some of the successes that we have achieved through the year. We have tried as far as possible to continue with as many opportunities as possible for the pupils. It has been great to see Geography fieldwork restart last week and where possible we’ve continued to give pupils an opportunity to broaden their knowledge and skills. One of the ways this was done was the Cambridge Chemistry Challenge. Year 12 pupils produced some exceptional outcomes in this, in fact some of the very best we have had as a school. Our pupils also enjoyed massive success in the recent round of LAMDA examinations. Taught almost entirely online there were a range of exceptional performances, especially at the Grade 8 level which is equivalent to half an A level. This has been a brilliant area of growth for the school in the last few years and I would encourage all pupils to consider it as an option in the future.
Finally, we fervently hope that September will see a return to normality for schools. If it does that will be great and we will continue making up for lost time. If not, we will be in contact with families as soon as we know any different to share arrangements.
We do know that students must be offered two Covid tests on their return to school. In order to assist families planning for the start of the new academic year, students will receive their first test on the following days.
- Years 7, 11, 12 & 13 – Tuesday 31st August, so lessons can commence on Wednesday 1st.
- Years 8, 9 & 10 – Wednesday 1st, so lessons can commence on Thursday 2nd.
Form groups will be required to attend our school testing centre (the Main Hall) at particular time slots on their given day. These slots will be communicated early in the summer break.
In the meantime I hope that all our families will be able to enjoy a well deserved and relaxing summer break and I look forward to seeing pupils return in September ready for a new and hopefully very different academic year.