Message from Mr Clarke – end of first half term

Dear parent/carer,

Following an extremely rewarding yet significantly challenging first half term, I am delighted to be writing to all parents to celebrate the significant number of combined achievements of our school community. I would like to take the opportunity to thank all parents in what has been an exceptionally challenging time for so many of you, for consistently offering your patience, understanding and support to the school. It has been genuinely heart-warming to see and hear parents taking a moment, amongst your busy schedules, to offer a kind word to our exhausted yet unswervingly committed team of staff. On a personal note, it is fair to say that it is not an easy time to make the transition to headship but I remain thankful and grateful for your continued support. 

The care and compassion that you show to your children, and have so generously extended to us, is often evident in school and we hear it in their support for their peers and in the way that they express how they are feeling. With your support we have carefully monitored and managed the rates of transmission throughout the half term, collectively adopting additional measures where there have been higher numbers of positive cases, whilst still allowing school to operate in a way that affords students all of the benefits of the curriculum in its widest sense. I had hoped we would make it to the end of the half-term without having to implement additional measures in school but unfortunately, this was not possible.  I am thankful, however, that this was only two school days prior to the holiday which will therefore provide a natural ‘fire-break’ over the next week which we hope will aid to reduce transmission.

In this week’s staff bulletin, I took a moment to write to colleagues and to thank them for their extensive support for our students and for each other. An extract from this is included below:

‘It is fair to say that this term has presented another set of challenges for our school staff to overcome… the vaccination rollout for 12-15 year olds, ventilation checklists, transmission rates, contingency plans and the associated school response, combined with a new headteacher, our school open evenings, catch up curriculum, parents evenings, assessments, clubs, trips, preparations for productions and the million and one other daily tasks a school day demands. That overwhelming sequence and combination of events is enough to make even the most stoic of colleagues feel like it is all too much. This is a feeling that is seen, felt and expressed in schools up and down the country at the moment and the challenge of our wide-ranging roles in schools has never been greater. 

Whilst that paragraph is true, I honestly don’t believe our willingness as a staff to contribute, to take on that extra challenge or to simply support a colleague has ever been more apparent. I’ve witnessed a great deal of behaviours, conversations and decisions that make me prouder than ever when coming to work! Mental health, bereavement, menopause, covid, anxiety, stress, isolation……we have continued to approach these issues with a sense of togetherness and I’ve never experienced so many conversations where someone is coming to see me or other colleagues to ensure we keep an eye on someone else. If there was ever a culture I wanted to be present in our school, it is this one’.  

It has been a very challenging time and I believe it is absolutely essential that we continue to do all we can to support students, staff and their families. At the beginning of this academic year, we launched a two-year wellbeing strategy, outlining our commitment to students and colleagues’ mental health and emotional wellbeing. This work is set to continue and it has been amazing to see students in every form embracing the ‘connecting with people’ challenge over the past two weeks as part of our wider focus on the first element of the NHS 5 steps to wellbeing

Finally but most importantly, I want to thank our students. They have had a series of obstacles put in their way over the past 18 months but it has been inspiring to see how they have approached this first half term. Their conduct, empathy and enthusiasm have never been so positive and we remain proud of the way they have navigated through what have been uncertain times. We see daily examples of students devoting their time to support others and we know through a whole host of actions, choices and discussions that our school community continues to embrace and celebrate difference, striving to build the inclusive society that they hope to see beyond our school gates. 

I’d also like to share a conversation that I had last week with our Curriculum Leader for PE, who was keen to highlight the overwhelming numbers of students that are engaging with our after school clubs and how fantastic this is to see. He said that if he had three sports halls, that he and his team would be able to fill them each evening due to the demand from our positive and highly motivated students. 

Throughout this half-term, we have also witnessed some amazing work from our sixth form management team and school council, including a mock committee meeting with the mayor. We have watched as students engage wholeheartedly in wellbeing activities and a wide range of after school clubs and committees, reading activities in form time, charity initiatives as well as volunteering for the ever-increasing number of available leadership opportunities within the school and sixth form. This appetite for self-development has also been evident in students’ learning in classrooms and has quite rightly been celebrated in this week’s commendation assemblies.  This has resulted in hundreds of awards being given out, and we look forward to many more opportunities to acknowledge further achievement and endeavour over the coming year. 

In summary, it is fair to say that our whole school community is living up to our overarching aim of ‘Achievement for All’ and that the school aims feature heavily in our day to day life. I have never been so overwhelmingly impressed and proud of our school community and I am excited for what the future has in store. The next half term is as action-packed as ever and we hope to see as many of you as possible in the wide range of forthcoming events, including the school drama show, music concert and GCSE awards evening.  

I hope that the upcoming week is a peaceful and relaxing one and I look forward to continuing to work together over the next half term. 

With very best wishes

Russell Clarke, Headteacher