Dear Parents and Carers,
We held a very successful open evening last week. It made me remember that many of you won’t have seen the school because we didn’t have an open evening last year and we haven’t been inviting parents to come in for parent’s evenings since we found how much more efficient and convenient it is for everyone if we do them on-line. For that reason, I thought I’d share with you some of the feedback we got last week, to give you a sense of what other people think of the school your children attend.
“That was great. What I liked most was the way the teachers made my child feel so welcome.”
“I read the Ofsted report and then I came and looked around. Wow. The school I saw isn’t the school on paper. We won’t be looking at Stour Valley now.”
“I was going to go for a tour of Linton, but I won’t bother now.”
If you haven’t visited the school as a parent, or haven’t been since we moved buildings in 2019, feel free to get in touch. I’d be delighted to show you around. Our last Ofsted inspection feels like a lifetime ago.
We also had a visit last week from the National Schools’ Commissioner, Dominic Herrington, a very senior member of the Department for Education. He had a tour of the school and met some students who he described as “delightful”. He asked one student what we could do to improve the school and she replied “nothing”. As it happens, I disagree with her; there will always be things I want to improve. Even so, I was very pleased to hear it.
I’ll be undertaking a student survey over the next few weeks to get some more detailed opinions from a wider range of students. I’ll also be asking parents to take part in a survey. In the meantime, I would be grateful if you could share your opinions of the school on Ofsted Parent View. I’m sure parents and children currently in Year 6 would welcome your opinions as they choose a school for next September. You can find that short survey here: https://parentview.ofsted.gov.uk/parent-view-results/survey/result/23433/12
If there is something that is bothering you but you haven’t raised with us, please contact us before leaving a negative comment to give us a chance to put it right.
Numbers here are still very low. There are 16 children confirmed with covid following a PCR test. There are none in Y7, three in Y8, five in Y9, six in Y10, one in Y11, none in Y12 and one in Y13.
Please encourage your children to continue to use a lateral flow test twice weekly.
The majority of students in Year 7 have made an excellent start to the year. Well done to them. It is clear, though, that some of them have missed out on the opportunities to grow up that Year 5 and 6 would normally have given them and are still a little bit more childish in their behaviour than we would expect. It is an impact of covid that I wasn’t really expecting, though it seems obvious now that it would happen. We are putting more resources into supporting Year 7, including advertising for an additional Learning Support Assistant to work with another class. We have also expanded staffing in The Study so we now have two full time members of staff there, enabling us to run more interventions like the social skills and friendship groups that will prove so valuable to those young people.
We will be returning to the usual system of changing for PE after half term. I have had some communication from parents who would like to stay with the current system of coming to school in PE kit on PE days and I’ll share with you now what I have replied to those parents. I do appreciate the convenience of not having to bring a PE kit in a separate bag, but it means that students need to stay clean and dry in their PE lessons or sit in wet, muddy clothes for the rest of the day. That would put unacceptable limits on the curriculum we could deliver in PE. During the time of the worst weather last year we were doing remote learning, so we haven’t been though a winter when we wear PE kit all day.
If covid numbers rise again in the future we will reconsider all of our precautions and reintroduce them as appropriate. That might mean we go back to coming to school in PE kit for a time. For the meantime, our uniform is smart and we should be proud of how well the students wear it. I live near a secondary school and the students that attend their look extremely untidy compared to those who come to SWA.
The planning application is being submitted this month for the new development on the site of the old A Block. The first part of the project will be the remodelling and refurbishment of the Studio. Many of you will have been there, either on open evening or to see a school performance. It isn’t the venue that our school productions deserve. We’ll be opening it out to expand the capacity, replacing the seating and putting in new lights and sound. Eventually, when we have a new reception block, the current reception area will become toilets to allow the theatre to function as a stand-alone venue. We also hope to add a recording studio and new music practise rooms. This extract from the plans shows what we hope it might look like.
A couple of people have mentioned to me recently that they have witnessed some students putting themselves at risk crossing the roads on the way to school. There is no suggestion that students are deliberately putting themselves at risk, but they are sometimes being careless which is increasingly dangerous as the seasons change the afternoons get darker. We would all hate for there to be an accident. I would be grateful if you would emphasise to your children the importance of crossing the road safely.
Domestic Abuse Champions
I met recently with a representative of the Suffolk Domestic Abuse Champions Network. They are looking for volunteers who are passionate about domestic abuse awareness raising and who are motivated to make changes to train as Domestic Abuse Champions. Champions will be able to recognise the signs and the impact of domestic abuse, whilst understanding risk and offering basic safety advice. The Local Conversation Project in Haverhill South and One Haverhill are in the process of developing a network of champions across the community in Haverhill. If you are interested in being trained to be a Champion, you can contact Helen Cullup at email@example.com or register directly for this free training at suffolkcpd.co.uk.
It has been good to get back to competitive football this term. Our Year 9 footballers beat IES Breckland in a convincing 6-1 display, whilst Year 11 couldn’t quite get on top and lost to IES Breckland 4-5. Year 8, meanwhile, beat Westley 3-1 away and Mildenhall 4-2 at home. Congratulations to all those involved in those matches.
Away from the competitions, participation is high. Over 120 students regularly attend the 9 different activities we offer at lunchtime, with 80 students joining clubs after school.
Have a good weekend,