Dear Parents and Carers,
One of the greatest challenges we have faced in schools since March is needing to keep an eye on the long-term, strategic development of the school whilst dealing with so many short-term, day to day priorities presented by trying to work alongside covid. It took us the first half of this half term to adjust properly to all of our new ways of working, but now we’ve done that there is some space to start thinking in the longer term again.
Since the school closed in March, I’ve been aware that the greatest current threat to SWA probably isn’t covid, which I think we can manage at least as well as anywhere else. The biggest threat to us is that we might lose some of the considerable gains we have made as a school in the last two years. If we let our attention be entirely taken up by dealing with the pandemic and not enough on keeping our trajectory of improvement, we might slip backwards. That must not happen. We are a much improved school and we must keep improving.
In my experience, school improvement happens in four phases; first you need to stabilise the school to stop things getting any worse, then you repair the damage until things feel more normal. The next stage is to work to actively improve the school and its results. Finally, you sustain that improvement over time.
I have no doubt that when I joined the school two years ago next week, the school required stabilising. We’ve done a lot of work since then and I think we are now stood firmly in the third, improving position, very much looking at the fourth stage of sustaining improvements for the future.
It is generally accepted in education that school leaders should have a clear vision for their school that everyone involved in the school knows. Until recently that vision was to repair the school and give it back it’s pride. I think we’ve done that and should now be looking to the future with optimism.
I talked to staff last week about my vision for the next five years. Put most simply, I want to achieve excellence in all we do. That goes, of course, for what we do in the classroom, but also for what we do outside of the classroom. I want teaching and learning to be excellent - not just sometimes excellent, or often excellent, but always excellent. I want behaviour here to be excellent, so excellent that teachers from other schools come to see how we do it. I want our inclusion and support to be excellent without exception. I want our trips and visits to be excellent. I want our transition support for Y6 to be excellent. I want our minibus drivers to be excellent, our receptionist to be excellent. Excellence in all we do.
You have a role in this too; to expect excellence from us and let me know when we fall short. I’m not suggesting that you should all complain more often, but that when you have some constructive criticism to share, you share it with me freely and honestly. Many of you already do, and I’m grateful for it.
There are a number of other things I’d like to draw your attention to. I told you last time about our new curriculum webpages. If you haven’t had chance to look at those and see what your children will be learning and when, please do. You can find them at https://samuelward.co.uk/curriculum
Thank you to those of you who completed the Ofsted Parent View survey last year. It gave a positive but honest appraisal of the school. Now we are in a new school year, the survey starts afresh. I would be grateful if you would complete it, so we can see where we are doing well and where we need to improve. You can find the survey at https://parentview.ofsted.gov.uk/
I’m really very pleased that the school musical will be going ahead in an amended, socially distanced format. It is on Tuesday 3rd, Wednesday 4th and Thursday 5th November, starting at 6.00pm. It will be live streamed to a secure address via YouTube. We’ve got a lot of costs to cover which would normally be done through ticket sales. Instead we’ll use a pay-per-view model, at the very reasonable cost of £5 per device. We’re still setting up the nuts and bolts of that, but we’ll share the link with everyone as soon as we have it.
Although covid levels are currently low in Suffolk it is likely that we will move to tier 2 in the near future. So it seems sensible that we continue with the policy of wearing masks in public spaces.
Your children have been a credit to you this half term. I hope they and you have an enjoyable half term break.