Dear Parents and Carers,

You will know that we had a minor event two weeks ago when two local youths came to the school in the middle of the day. They came up the path at the side of Westfield school and hid in a hedge by our back gate. One of them made a half-hearted attempt to climb over the gate but couldn’t. They then hid behind the hedge for a few minutes before running off over the Rovers site. It happened at break time. We called the police and reported it, then sent the students off to their lessons. The youths were arrested on Wratting Road a few minutes later and we asked that they be charged with causing a nuisance.

Within hardly any time there were posts on social media sites saying that masked men had tried to break into C-Block and that the school was being locked down. Parents started messaging students, students started messaging back, and by the end of the day the exaggerated stories the students were telling me were unrecognisable from the truth. There was a lot of unnecessary upset and anxiety caused. I sent out a parent mail as soon as it was practical to do so, but by that time the rumour mill was turning at full speed. Our receptionists spent all afternoon answering the phone to reassure people that there was nothing to worry about.

Social media plays a central and valuable role in many of our lives, but it does mean that a misunderstanding or a jumped-to conclusion can spread like wildfire. Please consider carefully before posting about school issues on social media and please don’t post before ringing us to check the facts first.

There is some exciting news on appointments. Since Miss Hopkins was appointed as Assistant Headteacher last term, she has taken on the role of revitalising all the aspects of school life which fall outside of the academic curriculum, such as the house system.  Mr Guinivan was leading all the houses, but he has taken on a new role in Visual Arts and we wanted to give the house system a new lease of life so we’ve appointed three new heads of house. Congratulations to Miss Kirby-Smith (Brunel House), Mr Pickerin (Cavell House) and Mr Thomas (Darwin House).

Another important change is that we have decided to bring the Head Girl and Head Boy into Year 11 instead of the sixth form. As the sixth form grows it will take on more and more of its own identity and it didn’t feel appropriate to have the senior students in Samuel Ward being taken from the Haverhill Community Sixth Form. We received a lot of applications and spent a very enjoyable day interviewing candidates. It wasn’t easy to choose the two strongest candidates from a very strong field and it is a great pleasure to congratulate Nicole Dye on her appointment as Head Girl and Finn Ditum on his appointment as Head Boy.  

When the Mayor of Haverhill, John Burns, visited us on Wednesday to deliver a presentation to Year 8 on local democracy, he was met by our newly appointed senior students in their first official duty. Thanks to Cllr Burns and to Town Clerk Colin Poole for agreeing to come a long and talk to our students on that important topic. We regularly welcome visitors to the school to talk to students about careers or current topics of interest; if you feel that you’ve got something you could offer, please get in touch. If a less formal setting appeals to you, we are hoping to offer a series of Friday lunchtime mini-lectures at some point this year. If you could talk for fifteen minutes on keeping horses, playing the tuba, clay pigeon shooting, doing VSO… if you could talk about anything at all of interest, I’d like to hear from you.

Also on Wednesday this week, nearly two hundred Year 9 went to the Suffolk Skills Show so that they could investigate career ideas before making their option choices later this year.  I’m told they had an interesting and informative time and were a credit to the school.

Some of you might remember a TV programme from the 1990s called Back to the Floor, in which CEOs took a shop-floor level job in their own companies for a while to see what the organisation was like from a different perspective.  I think that is a great idea. We were short staffed in the canteen yesterday, so rather than walking around on duty as I normally do, I worked on a till in B Block at break and lunchtime. I was struck by two things. Firstly, the students were very patient and polite, as I would expect. Secondly, it is hard, fast, high pressure work. Our canteens are busy places and I hope that none of us who use them take them for granted. I’d like to take this opportunity to say a public thank you to all of the colleagues who keep us all fed every day, and have a smile for everyone they serve. Thanks.

Because reading is so important, I’ll repeat this paragraph from the last bulletin. It is vital for our students' outcomes, in all subjects, that reading is a regular part of their daily routine. Please encourage your child to read as often as they can. Twenty minutes a day can make a real difference to a child’s reading speed. As exams get longer and longer, the ability to read rapidly gives students an enormous advantage.

I’d like to remind you about our careers event called Aspire_USP at the Arts Centre. It is a chance for students and parents to come and meet local businesses and education providers and start to think about what kind of a career path to follow. One visitor will win a laptop donated by SJP Contracts. The event is on 13 November from 4-6pm and is open to students from all year groups. It would be good to see many of you there.

As I mentioned last time, we agreed at the last parents’ forum of last year that there was no longer the urgent need to meet every half term, so we would move to one meeting per term and see how that goes. The first parents’ forum of this year will be on Wednesday 20th November at 6.00pm in B Block breakout area. Any parent or carer is welcome to attend. The others will be on 11th March and 3rd June.

Finally, a request for help. A member of staff had her car damaged by another vehicle in the school carpark recently. Her car is a cream mini. The vehicle which crashed into it was red, judging by the paint left behind, and doesn’t belong to a member of staff. I appreciate it is unlikely, but if any parent or carer was on their way onto or out of school and noticed anything, I’d be grateful if they would tell me.

Have a good weekend and an enjoyable half term break,

Andy Hunter