Welcome Back

Monday, 11 April 2016

Dear Parents and Carers,
It was a fantastically busy end to the Spring Term – and we now warmly welcome students back for the summer term hopefully refreshed and ready to learn.

I wanted to share a few events with you from the end of term that you may have missed. The first was the school being one of the first in Brighton & Hove to be awarded the ‘School of Sanctuary’ status – in recognition of the work that we have done to welcome and support students joining us from other countries, in particular those who are migrants or refugees. One particular project in school , ‘Moving Stories’, a partnership with the University of Brighton, drew acclaim – it was a series of films made by students explaining their experience of moving to the UK and to school here. They were powerful statements of the hope, determination and optimism shown by our students and we are exceptionally proud of them.

In the same spirit we held our 4th ‘International Food Festival’ with over 25 students, families and staff planning and cooking a host of culinary delights from their respective countries: Italy, Spain, England, Takjikistan, China, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Egypt, Czech Republic and France. It was fantastic to see staff and students alike talking to the student chefs, reading about the dishes they had sampled and giving their feedback on the food. The students did a great job representing Blatch and their home countries.

The 4th Blatch International Food Festival

The 4th Blatch International Food Festival

We also had a visit from a Dutch school for a sports festival at the end of term. 60 students from Rijnlands Lyceum joined us to compete across a range of sports. They were wonderful guests and commented on the politeness and kindness shown by Blatch students. The Sports Leader students who helped to support their day did a wonderful job.

Another development was our staff working group on uniform meeting to discuss the school approach to a new uniform due to be introduced from September next year. Parents overwhelmingly stated that the key factors for them in a successful uniform were cost, comfort and ease of cleaning. The staff group supported this fully, and added some additional factors which, along with the parental voice, will form the basis of the choice of new uniform. These are (in no particular order); a gradual transition over the next academic year to the new uniform, to prevent any wastage of current uniform, a gender neutral uniform (as currently), a uniform that is the same cost for each item, e.g. jumpers, regardless of size required, a uniform that is the same across the school to reduce cost of changes from year to year, a uniform that is easy to check and avoids debate, and a uniform that is smarter than the current one. The next step is now to source many options for the uniform, and to have a period for students to give their views on the uniform options provided. The idea is that we end up with a new uniform that all can be proud of, feel confident wearing and represents all that we stand for in terms of expectations, equality and self-confidence.

Looking forward to the summer term, there will be much to enjoy, and some exciting developments that will enhance the school for all students. Work has begun over the Easter holidays on our two new ‘C South’ classrooms; these will be ready in the next academic year. In addition, we are underway with new temporary classrooms that will be used while a full heating upgrade is provided for the west wing of the school. This will lead to a much more comfortable classroom experience once completed. In addition we will be adding much more external seating for students, and as summer comes it will lead to them getting plenty of vitamin D we hope!

Students received information just before the holiday about Enrichment week this year – and all details are available on firefly for parents and students. The week is the week beginning 4th July and there is a great range of activities for students that enhance their experience in school. Often the most memorable aspects of school are the additional activities and experiences we are able to provide – and I’m pleased we are able to offer this structured enrichment again this year.

Another development that is incredibly exciting is our plan to move towards having a school dog. This has been achieved successfully in a number of schools, and there is a growing body of evidence about the positive and enriching effect a dog in school can have, particularly for specific students for whom it can play a therapeutic role. It is, however, a large undertaking and one we are not taking lightly. The process involves significant training, and we will be working with animal welfare organisations to ensure that this works well for the dog itself and for all staff and students. With this in mind, if you are concerned about allergies or anxiety for students linked to a dog in school, could you please get in touch (with Ms Thompson – Deputy Headteacher) in order that we factor this into our planning.

We look forward to hosting Year 8 parents on the 14th for Parents’ Evening; please do make appointments if you haven’t managed to yet as it is incredibly beneficial to have those conversations about progress, particularly in Year 8 where it is vital to keep momentum for students with their learning.

Finally a note for Year 11 parents on the build up to exams. We have made slight adjustments for the arrangements this year – all to enhance the student experience and calm the transition to exams and sixth form as much as possible. Students will therefore make a gradual transition to study leave once examinations begin in the week beginning 16th May. Normal lessons remain timetabled until 12th June, but Year 11 are to be given a series of sixth form privileges to encourage independent time management and study during this time. Please can you ensure that you are clear about these expectations as well, so that you can support us in ensuring a really positive and effective study period up until exams are completed. Until the 18th May students are in all lessons and in full uniform. From the 18th of May they are in non-uniform, and from the 20th May students have access to study leave and the use of the RIC as a study base during the school day. This will mean that, when in school from the 20th, they have 3 options: they are either in an exam, in their timetabled lesson for revision or support from their class teacher, or in the RIC studying independently. The RIC will be a quiet study area, and students will need to sign into school there to ensure we have an accurate record of all on site. A timetable of additional revision sessions will also be shared with students and a copy sent to parents in addition. From 20th onwards, year 11 students will also be given permission to use the sixth form canteen area, which is open all day. This allows them to take breaks when it suits them for their revision, rather than working to the usual school routine. Once exams are over, students have had presentations in form time over the past few weeks about a fantastic opportunity for the summer to be involved in the National Citizen Service summer programme. It’s a great programme that mixes volunteering, outdoor activities, skills development and a taster of university. For more information visit their website http://www.ncsyes.co.uk/ . We’ve shared with all of Year 11 how to sign up and we’d really recommend that as many do as possible.

Thank you for your on-going support,

Mr Harrold
Head Teacher