Dear Parents and Carers,

I’m going to write separate bulletins for each school this time around because I want to talk about the recent surveys that so many of you participated in and that information is really only of interest to parents of children at that particular school.  I will return to a joint bulletin from the next one. I understand that, although the majority of parents with children at Westfield have in interest in Samuel Ward because that is where their children will go to secondary school, not every parent with children at Samuel Ward is especially interested in events at Westfield. As the partnership develops over the coming years, I hope that there will be more opportunities for SWA students to benefit from the link with WPA by working there to develop their skills as sports leaders or reading ambassadors, or in other ways we have not yet foreseen. There will be another short survey sent out in the next few weeks to ask your opinions on that partnership. In the meantime, if those sections of the bulletin don’t interest you, please just skip over them.

Thank you to those of you who responded to the recent survey. There were 198 responses from parents and carers to the SWA survey, representing around 10% of our parents and carers. Of those people who responded, 62 left a comment. As well as being able to read the responses from SWA parents, I am able to see the average responses from all of our 8 trust secondary schools. It is interesting to compare.

Some general observations are that SWA parents are slightly less satisfied than parents across trust secondary schools on average. Surprisingly, more SWA parents answered that they neither agreed nor disagreed with 16 out of the 17 statements than the trust average, and with 14 out of 17 more than the parents of any other trust secondary school. We have a significant number of people sitting on the fence.

It isn’t possible to tell from the responses whether parents neither agree nor disagree because they are well informed but don’t feel strongly one way or another, or because they just don’t have the information they need in order to make a decision. I can only think that it is an issue of communication. I am conscious that since the pandemic we have seen far fewer parents on site. I am thinking about how we can provide opportunities for parents to visit school more often and to give me some feedback on what it would be helpful to hear more about, and how. If the bulletin isn’t the right channel, would a relaunched facebook page be better? I would be very interested to hear your views.

There were some common themes that came out of the survey. Parents think that their children are reasonably happy in school but don’t feel they know enough about what their children are learning. Parents feel that they know who to contact if they are concerned about their child’s progress, but don’t feel they know enough about how to support their child at home. Parents feel that the school keeps their child safe, but only 40% would recommend the school.

Behaviour is a theme that has come out in the surveys across the whole trust. When we asked if you thought behaviour, including bullying, is dealt with effectively, the proportion of you who agreed was similar to the trust average (44% SWA, 45% USP) but the number who disagreed was much lower, amongst the lowest of all the 9 secondary schools (14% SWA, 23% USP). Again, lots of parents seem to be unsure. Incidentally, the student survey also raised a concern around behaviour, specifically to the statement “behaviour of the other pupils in the school is good.” The responses were very similar to the trust averages, but nonetheless we have asked students to complete an additional survey which deals with behaviour only, to help us to understand what students think the problems are, how widespread they are and what we need to do to address them. Behaviour in secondary schools has been a challenge nationally this year and we are determined that our school will have the highest possible standards to allow students to achieve the best they possible can.

The comments that many of you left were very helpful. The high number of supply staff came up regularly, as we knew it would. There are concerns around how consistently staff use the behaviour points system, closely linked to the staffing issues. There were also some very nice comments congratulating and thanking us.  All the feedback, positive and negative, is useful. There are two separate documents which capture the positive and the negative which are attached to this email.

Dr Geall and I will be holding a Parents’ Forum on Monday 19th June at 6.00pm. We would be very pleased at that meeting to talk to parents about how we could communicate more effectively, how we could include parents more in the life of the school and how we can help parents to support their children both academically and emotionally. It is also a chance for you to share any concerns or irritations that you have so we can try to address and resolve them. We will hold that forum in the studio. There is no need to sign up in advance – please just come along.

Other news this week is that there are some changes in the sixth form team. Mr Maltby is leaving us at the end of this term to take up a teaching post at a sixth form college. He will be replaced as Head of Sixth Form by Mr Wilson, who will join Mr Hogg, Deputy Head of Sixth Form, in leading Haverhill Community Sixth Form. Miss Coe is leaving the sixth form team to take up post as our new child protection officer, building on her history of excellent work in safeguarding. We are delighted to welcome back Mrs Pawley who is the new sixth form inclusion officer. I am sure that Mr Wilson, Mr Hogg and Mrs Pawley will be an excellent team.

I’d like to thank all those staff who took a group of students on an outward bound trip to France over the half term holiday. I’m told that they had a fantastic time and that the students did the whole school a credit through their excellent behaviour on the trip, living out our school values of aspiration, bravery and compassion in full.

We are looking forward to a lot of nice things between now and the end of term, but two things stand out especially.  The Summer Fete returns this year for years 7 and 8 after an enforced break. It will be good to see lots of parents at that event. I’m assured that your children have been thinking of lots of creative ways to separate you from your pocket change to raise funds for local charities. We are also excited to hold the first annual SWA Rewards Festival. The students with the highest balance of reward points will be invited to an extended afternoon of activities to recognise the fantastic year that they have had. There will be more details about those things closer to the time. 

The weather is looking to be glorious next week. A reminder that blazers do not need be worn to school during the second half of the summer term.  All other uniform rules still apply.  Please make sure your child is bringing a water bottle - they can refill them in school at our water fountains.

It was bittersweet to say goodbye to Year 13. They looked amazing and incredibly grown up on their last day. I’m sure they have bright futures ahead of them and look forward to hearing about their next steps. Year 11 have their last day of compulsory schooling next week – a milestone for them. There are still some important exams ahead and they will need to hold their focus, but they are doing a great job so far.

On Sunday a group of year 9 & 10 students will be holding a car boot sale in our car park from 7am until midday. This is to raise money for the Croatia24 expedition. Please come along if you can to support them and hopefully find some bargains .

Have a good weekend,

Andy Hunter

Executive Headteacher

Westfield and Samuel Ward Academies