Dear Parents and Carers,
We are now well settled in to the new school year. Today is our first non-uniform day of the year, raising money for MIND, the mental health charity. For that reason, today feels like a good time to mention a few of the things we do to support children with social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs.
We employ seven inclusion offices who work alongside heads of year to provide support to those students who need it most. Their job is to identify and remove barriers to students’ learning. It is an unusually expensive pastoral staffing model, but it’s one we believe offers excellent support for our children. Several of those IOs are trained as Emotional Literacy Support Assistants (ELSAs) which increases our capacity to support students to make sustainable changes to their approach to learning and their mental health in general.
We also have The Study, a space dedicated to supporting students who need some help with SEMH. That might mean a quiet space to get on with some work, or a specific intervention with our Trauma Informed Practitioner, Mrs Jarvis. We have increased the staffing in The Study this year and we are in the process of converting the room next door so that we can knock it through, giving the Study much more space and flexibility. We have two school counsellors based in the Wellbeing Centre (previously the pavilion), where we have built three new meeting rooms to accommodate visiting practitioners for the Mental Health in Schools Team. We also have access to our excellent school nurses.
Our support for students is the best I’ve seen in any school. If you think there is more we could do to support your child, please let me know.
We have a few more students with covid now, but still fewer than most schools I talk to. There are five positive cases in Year 7, one in Year 8, one in Year 9 and two each in Year 10 & 11.
The patterns suggest that students are not passing on covid in school. If that changes, we are ready to put some precautions back in place to slow that down. In the meantime, please remind your child to test twice weekly – picking up cases when they are asymptomatic is our best defence by far.
Sam Speaks is our own version of Ted Talks, hosted fortnightly in the sixth form block and open to all students. This week we welcomed Tracey Hopkins to talk about women in engineering, based on her own experiences of working for Nintendo Japan. Upcoming talks are on the themes of How I Beat the Bullies and Women in ICT, amongst other things. If there is something you are passionate about and would like to share with our students, please contact Mrs Cavilla-Perkins to talk about coming and delivering our own Sam Speaks talk.
If you are interested to know more about our ASPIRE offer, have a look at the website - ASPIRE FOR ALL 2021/22 | Samuel Ward Academy where you can find resources and links and watch our series of Reach Road interviews with ex-students of SWA, including The Crown’s Tom Byrne.
Harmful Sexual Behaviour
There is a newly sharpened focus in schools on harmful sexual behaviour, following some research Ofsted published in June of this year. They found that online and in-school sexual harassment and abuse are frequent and that some children consider incidents of harassment or abuse so commonplace that they see no point in reporting them. Many of the children interviewed for the research said that they had been sent explicit sexual material by other children or pressurised into sending nude pictures of themselves to other children. They also made the point that these things happen much more often that adults realise.
At SWA, we deal with a small number of incidents like this each year. However, I completely accept the point that maybe we as adults just don’t know about the things that children are experiencing. We hear very few incidents of sexist name calling or sexual comments, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t happening.
We have begun to address this issue this term with a new Expect Respect project. I have delivered assemblies to the students which cover out right to expect respect from each other and not be subjected to unwanted sexual attention, looks or comments. There are posters up around school reminding students that they have a right to expect respect. There is also a version in your child’s planner, so if you would like to see it, ask them to show you. We are actively encouraging children to tell a member of staff if someone talks to them or about them in an unwanted sexual way. We are also encouraging students to report leering or staring, and of course any unwanted touching.
Many of the sexual behaviours that children display as they are growing up are completely normal and healthy. If you are worried about your child’s behaviour, there is some excellent guidance available from the NSPCC at Understanding Sexual Behaviour in Children | NSPCC
As always, if you are concerned about your child for any reason whatsoever, we are here to help. Your child’s year team should be your first port of call.
New Sixth Form Development
We are very shortly going to submit the planning application for our proposed new development. I will let you know the outcome as soon as we have it. I am confident that planning will be granted and I expect to start the first phase - the renovation and expansion of the theatre - before the end of this school year.
It is our open evening next Thursday, from 6.00pm until 8.30pm. I know many of you will have children in Year 6 who will be keen to come and look round. We are very much looking forward to seeing you.
Have a good weekend,