Summer Term News

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Dear Parents and Carers,
It has been a very busy week back after half term; the students are settled back in and have been brilliant at getting back to learning. The weather seems to be agonising over letting us have summer, but in general it’s warmer and that makes our school site much more pleasant for students at break and lunch. I want to thank FAB – our parent volunteers - whose fundraising has meant we have some new benches for students on their way. I’m so grateful to those parents who give up their time to help the school - they really are FAB!

We’ve made huge progress on the uniform changes for September and I’m delighted that we have finalised the design, materials and look of the uniform for the incoming Year 7s – it is really smart. The rest of the school will move to the uniform in a year’s time – although all students are allowed the new uniform if they want it earlier. I will share pictures of the uniform with you as soon as it arrives, but we’ve managed to get to a point where I think the uniform achieves all we hoped. The key headlines are that the uniform will be grey, with maroon/burgundy trim – so more modern but retaining the school’s heritage and association with burgundy. The uniform will eventually be the same for the whole school, meaning that there is no need to replace it year on year if it survives wear and tear. The uniform is very simple, and has smart black shoes, grey trousers or a grey skirt, white shirts, a burgundy and silver tie and a grey and burgundy jumper. We are looking to offer the option to wear shorts during the summer term – and will confirm this if it is achievable. We are not introducing a school blazer. We will be staying with the current uniform supplier, but are looking at a range of ways of improving the service offered to parents on uniform, to address some of the issues raised over the year – including delivery costs. It is really important that we try to ensure school is affordable for all (more on this later) and we will continue to try to keep costs low and standards high. All items in the new uniform will be gender neutral and the same cost across all sizes. There will be a separate letter sent out on uniform once the finer details have been confirmed.

Coincidentally, the Year 10s have chosen their jumper colour for next year (this is the last year this will take place) and the most popular vote was for grey! This is the second year in a row that students have chosen grey and that is a good sign that the new uniform will be one which students look forward to wearing.

It will be no surprise to many of you that follow education news that school budgets are incredibly tight and in real-terms we have to provide more with less funding. In setting and planning the budget for subjects this year it came to my attention that we ask parents for donations towards materials in technical subjects like Art & Design. This doesn’t sit very well with me. I believe passionately in comprehensive education for all, regardless of background, and anything we can do to make school accessible to all is a priority. When I was at school, I sometimes missed out on activities as my family couldn’t always afford to pay. I understand entirely the difficulty that some families face, and as such I am going to be stopping these requests for donations for supplies in school. I’m well aware that many schools ask for these, that it is standard practice and that at many primary schools parents even pay for after school clubs. However challenging our school budget may be, the solution cannot be to ask for these kinds of donations from all – many people cannot afford to pay. Conversely, we do often get offers of donations from individuals and organisations, in addition to the fundraising of FAB. In order to try to provide a means for those who can afford to donate, and to facilitate using these funds for the benefit of the school, I would like to launch a school fund to replace the donation system we have used. A couple of times a year we will email out to parents, carers and the wider community to ask for donations to the school fund – which we will set up and keep separately to other finances. We will then report back to the community on what we have used this for – it will be used for enrichment, for supporting those in hardship in our community and for other items or experiences to improve the school for students.

In line with this, I’ve also been contacted by parents regarding the cost of school trips, and a comparative lack of low-mid price options. This is something we will look to introduce. We do have enrichment week activities, and there is a range of lower-cost activities – but I’m sure we can do better.

It’s a hugely exciting half term ahead of us – and there are a great many events that you can be involved in too. We always welcome parents to our Special Open Evening of our student’s Art Exhibition on 21st June, from 6.00 – 8.00 pm, in which we proudly share the examination art work of Year 11, 12 and 13 – it really is superb. All students and parents are welcome from any year group. Similarly, the Lower School Musical takes place on 27th, 28th and 29th June and it is well worth getting a ticket. The show is Bugsy Malone. If you’ve never been to a performance before, come – the standard is incredible. We then have Sports Day on 1st July and again parents are very welcome to come and watch and support (although not compete!).

In school we will also be coordinating our Enrichment Week, where students take their learning outside the classroom, and experience new things and new ways of learning. It promises to be great. Year 7 in humanities are preparing for their Enterprise stalls – learning about business, charity and entrepreneurialism. We will also be selecting our Senior Students – we’ve had lots of applications.

Just a reminder that students can now access the Passport rewards account from home via the following link, There is also a link to it from the home page of the parent portal on Firefly as well. Please bear-in-mind that items in the Shop only show those currently available and not those that have been purchased with points already. It is fantastic that students use their points to pick prizes very quickly but means the Shop turnover is very rapid and we therefore keep restocking!

To improve communication we have a new App called Studybugs to report student’s absence and Miss Thompson will be writing to you soon with further details.

To let you know of other news, we took part in the Local Authority Ofsted inspection of SEND provision. The inspector was so impressed with the students they met – and thank you so much to the parents who were asked to meet with them. They were incredibly positive about our SEN provision – we always want to improve, but I am very proud of the staff members that work in our SEN teams and thank them sincerely.

Finally we are very excited that a joint project with Brighton University, looking to train students across the school as researchers into learning, has been approved for funding. It will be open to all students to register an interest and we will choose the students involved by random allocation. The work will be part of a 3-year project to investigate what makes the most effective learning environment – and we aim to work with schools around the world to learn from the very best educational systems. We have earmarked looking at schools in Finland and the USA to begin with, but the idea is to embrace the best practice internationally – wherever that may be!

As ever, thank you for your support of the school and of your children. We look forward to a successful last half term of 2016.

Mr Harrold
Head Teacher