As I am sitting writing this letter, I can see the snow falling on the school grounds, quite the contrast to the weekend of glorious sunshine! This sudden change in the weather is not dissimilar to the situation we find ourselves in locally in relation to Covid transmission. We have enjoyed several weeks of low rates in school and were pleased to continue to return to routines that are far more typical of life at Haslingden High School and Sixth Form. However, over the past fortnight we, along with the wider community, have seen cases rise steadily to a position where absence rates linked to Covid are similar to those seen in January this year. Fortunately, we have the Easter holidays only a day away and this is very much welcomed, preventing any further transmission within the school community for a fortnight and hopefully allowing for a smooth and disruption-free lead up to the fast-approaching examination season.
Students in years 11 and 13 have been issued with their statements of entry for the forthcoming exams and will be issued with personalised exam timetables in due course. In the meantime, the full exam timetables and additional information can be found on our website. In terms of the ‘stand down’ dates for each year group, year 11 will finish on Wednesday 8 June and year 13 will finish on Friday 27 May. We have carefully considered these dates for both year groups and these give us the ability to organise leavers celebrations in the afternoon for all students, without impacting on the examination timetable. Mr Wilson – Head of Upper School and Miss Marsland – Director of Sixth Form will provide further details nearer the time to the relevant students and parents.
Looking ahead to the summer term, I would greatly value your support with two important issues. The first relates to the national challenge that all schools are facing regarding attendance. We have always felt supported by our parents on this matter, with average attendance rates being considerably higher than the rates seen across England. What is clear, however, as we continue to emerge from the pandemic is that the rates of attendance have not yet returned to the high levels seen previously. There are many factors as to why this is, one of which remains the unavoidable impact of ongoing Covid transmission, whilst some are far more complicated and relate to mental health and anxiety. One other concern that seems to be influencing decisions regarding attendance centres around attitudes towards education, particularly when the government has imposed forced closures on our schools. We remain certain that regular attendance (as near to 100% as is feasible) is vital and a priority for our students. We are keen to work with students and their families to overcome any potential barriers that may remain and politely urge all parents to continue to impress upon their children the many benefits that are provided by being in school. If you have any concerns or would like some additional support for your child, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org in the first instance and we will get in touch to see how we can help.
The second point relates to parental involvement. We have approximately 4000 parents and carers associated with the school and we greatly value your ongoing support and feedback. Our job would be unmanageable without your continued efforts and we hope you know that, as a team of staff, we want to work closely with all our parents, now more than ever. This can be evidenced in the launch of the Big Ask parent survey recently and having looked closely at the 206 responses, the results have provided a fantastic insight into life as a parent at Haslingden High School and Sixth Form. It was pleasing to go through the responses and see that the hard work of our staff and our governors is appreciated and acknowledged by so many of our parents and this has been well received by colleagues in school, who I can confidently say have gone above and beyond over the last two years in particular.
The following themes were identified as clear strengths from the survey:
- High expectations of behaviour, uniform and their child
- The range of extra-curricular activities on offer
- Celebrating students’ achievements
- A broad curriculum that prepares children for their next steps
- The school is welcoming and inclusive of students from all backgrounds
- Coped and communicated effectively during Covid
- Would recommend the school to another parent
- Well-led and managed
And in terms of areas for development, the following areas were identified:
- Making parents aware of what children are learning in school
- Their child regularly reading for pleasure
- Only 40% would be happy with the school determining the English Baccalaureate combination (English language and literature, maths, science, geography or history and a language)
- Their child being prepared for their career
What is reassuring, is that the areas for development above are all areas that we are currently working on in school. We have just updated the curriculum section of the school website, following extensive work in the autumn term to carefully sequence which topics are being taught in each subject across each school year. This half term has also seen the launch of the reading aloud initiative during form time and one recent highlight for me, has been reading ‘Three Hours’ by Rosamund Lupton to our year 11 students. The feedback regarding the options process has been overwhelmingly positive and has helped to shape our decision making regarding potential changes to our curriculum structure in the future. Further to this, we recognise the need to look again at the advice and support our students need in relation to education, training and employment in the future. I hope to expand on these issues at the end of the summer term as we look ahead to the new academic year.
And finally, linked to parental engagement, I am pleased to announce that in the first two weeks back in the summer term, we will be holding elections for the recently vacant school parent governor position. We will provide further details after Easter and in the meantime, if you think you may be interested in becoming a governor at our school, please see the ‘Become a school governor’ information provided by Lancashire County Council here.
We hope that you have some exciting plans over the Easter break and manage to spend some time as a family. We know that many of our year 11 and year 13 students will be revising, however, we also hope that all students, parents and carers are able to find some time away from work to relax and unwind.
Very best wishes
Russell Clarke, Headteacher