Dear Parents and Carers,

Student Survey

I mentioned in my last letter that we had run a student survey which I intended to share with you. We surveyed 235 students in years 7-11. I’ve picked out some of the most interesting responses below.

  • My school encourages me to respect people from other backgrounds and to treat everyone equally

Agree/Agree strongly 87%

I’m really pleased with that response. It reflects all the work we do in tutor times, PD lessons, through pastoral teams and in our day to day actions.

  • I feel safe when I am at school

All the time/most of the time 83%

This is a safe environment. I’d like that figure to be closer to 100% though. We’ll have to dig a bit further to find out what the issues are that worry students.

  • My school encourages me to be independent and to take on responsibilities

Agree/Strongly agree 71%

Interestingly, almost no-one disagreed. 26% weren’t sure one way or another, so there is some work to be done there. I would be confident that this is a stronger response than you would get in many schools.

  • I enjoy school

Most of the time/Some of the time 83%

From what I remember of my own schooling, I would have answered something similar. It is the nature of compulsory education that not everyone will want to be there. Students in years 7, 8 and 9 were more likely to say they enjoyed school all or most of the time with 98% of Year 7 enjoying school at least some of the time.

  • My teachers give me work that challenges me

In all/most lessons 58%

This is a really disappointing response. An additional 35% agree that they get challenging work in some lessons, but that isn’t good enough. Interestingly, Year 7 are the year group most likely to feel least challenged with 13% feeling challenged in few lessons. We need to be better at picking up from the challenges of Year 6 specifically, and in providing high challenge in general.

  • Is bullying a problem at school?

       It doesn’t happen/it happens but teachers resolve it well 74%

This response was varied across year groups, with positive responses ranging from 98% in Year 7, to 86% in year 8 gradually down to 45% in year 11. I imagine this is down to a number of factors. There will be incidents we aren’t told about and consequently don’t tackle. There will also be incidents which happened in the past but have left a lasting memory. The longer a student has been in school, the more likely that is to have happened. I wonder if we were to ask Year 11 if they have seen a change in recent years what they would say.

In general, I am pleased with the responses to the whole survey. Students are, as you would expect, our most critical audience. I want our students to feel really proud of their school and of themselves. This kind of survey lets us know what progress we’ve made and where we still need to go. I won’t be happy until we can honestly say that we have excellence everywhere.

Hoodies and sweatshirts

As you know, hoodies and sweatshirts are not part of our uniform. The only exception is the school PE one, which we allow only in PE lessons or during organised sporting events. There have been more and more hoodies and sweatshirts creeping in despite frequent reminders to students that they are not part of the uniform.

For absolute clarity, no hoodies or sweatshirts other than SWA PE ones are allowed on the school site, and those can only be work in PE lessons. We will be insisting on a strict observance of this rule from Monday 9th March. Students wearing any other hoodies or sweatshirts should expect to be required to remove them at the school gate, which may lead to the hoody or sweatshirt being confiscated.  If students are not warm enough in shirt, jumper and blazer, they will need to wear an outdoor coat on top. If your child doesn’t have an outdoor coat and you cannot afford to buy one, please ask us for support. We will certainly support parents in receipt of benefits and will consider other requests too. On the whole, our students look very smart. It’s one of the things that visitors to the school often comment on. Let’s make sure we maintain those high standards.


We are sharing with you any information as we receive it. We are trying to take a measured approach, which means minimum disruption to learning but also puts measures in place to stem the possible transmission of this disease. There are currently no cases in Suffolk but we would be remiss if we didn’t considering how we would react if the situation deteriorated severely. The guidance from the government currently is that schools should remain open where ever possible and I agree entirely with that; my wife is a nurse and if she were to be at home looking after our perfectly healthy daughters because their school had closed she wouldn’t be in Addenbrookes looking after the sick people who need her. With the likely peak of the spread of the virus, assuming it will spread, being around April and May, the government are sensibly giving some though to the possible impact on GCSE and A-Level exams. We will plan for all eventualities but ultimately, I will take advice from NHS England and act accordingly.

We’ve advised all staff and students to wash their hands frequently with soap and water – the recommendation as I’m sure you’ll know is that you wash your hands for the length of time it takes to sing happy birthday twice through. We’ll keep you updated as any new news or advice comes to us. There is now a dedicated helpline for schools, parents and students. Details were sent out earlier this week, but I’ll repeat the details here:

Today, we have launched a new helpline to answer questions about COVID-19 related to education. Staff, parents and young people can contact the helpline as follows:

Phone: 0800 046 8687
Opening hours: 8am to 6pm (Monday to Friday)

Student Printing

I’ll repeat this note from my last bulletin in case anyone missed it and because the cap referred to is now in place.

As a school, we print a lot. We are trying to make some changes, such as introducing a new font for our posters and flyers which uses 30% less ink, but the biggest difference we could make is just to print less. Last year we printed 2.25 million sheets of paper.

We all need to cut down – staff and students alike. I will be talking to staff about this in the coming weeks. As for students, we will introduce a new spending cap of £3 per student per month. This will cover the needs of 95% of our students. The small number of very prolific printers will need to either print less or to ask us for a special exception.

House News

I said last time that “all three houses are tied on 210 points. Darwin have been either in the lead or joint leaders at every stage this year. Brunel have never been in the lead until now. It’s all to play for.” Well plucky Brunel have kept up with the pace and are currently joint leaders with Darwin after Brunel won the Year 7 dodgeball and Darwin won the Year 11 football and netball. The points for best supporting house have been tied for the last two rounds of fixtures – there are points there for any house that really ups their side-line game.

Upcoming events

The next Parents’ Forum is on 11th March at 6pm in the Sixth Form Centre. We’ll be discussing the possibility of forming a parents’ association to act as both an advisory board to the school leadership as well as a fundraising and event organising body. We’ll also be discussing assessment and what parents want from it.  As ever, all parents are welcome. If there is something you would like to discuss in particular please let me know in advance and I’ll add it to the agenda.

There is a Year 8 Parents’ Evening on Thursday 19th March and a Year 7 Parents’ Evening the following week, Thursday 26th March.

On Wednesday 25th March Year 9 are on their Out to Work day. I hope they are looking forward to that. On the same day Year 10 will have mock interviews. Thank you in advance to everyone who has volunteered to come in and help us with those.

Have a good weekend,

Andy Hunter