Dear Parents and Carers,
There is a lot to share with you this week. I hope you will have time to read to the end.
Number 14 Bus
I know the number 14 bus has been a source of frustration for many of you for a long time, arriving so close to the start of the day (and sometimes after the start of the day) and leaving so close to the end of the day. I’m delighted that, with the help of both Suffolk Schools Transport and Stephenson’s, we have been able to review the timetables from January. Next term, the number 14 will arrive at Samuel Ward at 8.25am in the morning and leave at 3.00pm and at 3.50pm in the afternoon. That will mean an earlier start for some students, but hopefully the days of students regularly arriving late for registration and having to leave period five early are almost behind us.
I firmly believe that an excellent education is reflected in more than exam results. We want to recognise those students who make the most contribution to the school through sports and the arts, so we will, beginning this term, award school colours to the most committed and effective contributors. The Arts and PE departments have been drawing up their lists of student nominations and the senior leadership team agreed the first twenty this week. Those students will be recognised at two levels. Half colours, which allows a student to wear a narrow striped tie in navy blue, royal blue and red, will be awarded to students who have shown sustained commitment and contribution to one or more arts or sports. Full colours, which allows students to wear a broad striped tie in navy blue, royal blue and red, will be awarded to students who have shown exception commitment and contribution to one or more arts or sport, or who are active at a higher level, for instance participating in a national team or orchestra. Because of the level and length of commitment required, it would be unusual but not impossible for younger students to meet the criteria. For them, colours are something to aspire to. We are looking forward to awarding the first round of school colours before the end of this term.
Year 11 Preparation Exams
Year 11 have almost completed this series of preparation exams now. It has been good to see so many of them in the canteen before the morning exams, having breakfast if they want it and working on some last minute revision. The way they have entered the exams has also been very encouraging. They line up in silence before being called in to the exam hall, making sure they are focussed, calm and ready to do their best. That is a procedure we introduced in the Year 10 exams last year and will continue to focus on, so that by the summer exam series it is second nature.
Thank you to those of you who came to the Parents’ Forum this week. We had a good discussion about the training we provide for staff and what training or support we might be able to provide for parents in the future. The staff training offer is quite substantial, so I thought it would be useful to share some details of that with you.
- Monday Night Takeaway
During staff briefing every Monday after school, one or more teachers spends five minutes talking to the rest of the staff about something they do which is especially effective, giving other teachers an idea to “takeaway” and try themselves.
- CPD Breakfast
CPD stands for Continuous Professional Development. Every Thursday morning Mr Sumner, Deputy Head, runs an open breakfast session for teachers to drop in and discuss various aspects of their professional practice. There are typically between six and ten teachers there each week.
- Twilight training
Every teacher attends seven twilight sessions over the course of the year, following one of our improvement strands. They are: maximising boys’ attainment, effective teaching of students with SEND, stretching the most able and ensuring the best outcomes for students eligible for the pupil premium.
- Typicality and Support walks
Every hour of every day, a member of the senior leadership team is on duty to support teachers across the school. We use that time to visit classrooms and get a flavour of what the lessons for that class are typically like and to see if there are any areas in which the teacher would benefit from further support. Those drop-ins often provide us with material for the Monday Night Takeaways. Sometimes teachers ask us to call into observe a particular class or even student and offer some advice on how to make the learning more effective.
A number of staff are engaged in a coaching relationship with another teacher to provide them with support to improve an aspect of their professional practice.
It was brought to my attention by those helpful parents at the Parents’ Forum that there is some confusion on our rules regarding coats. I think that there have been some strict rules in the past, but the current rules are straightforward. Students are allowed to wear coats anywhere on site apart from in classrooms, in the library or in assembly. They may wear coats in the canteen and breakout spaces.
When I joined this school last Autumn I was quite taken aback at the standard of some students’ behaviour both in lessons and in free time. We have all been working hard to improve that. We’ve given out nearly two hundred thousand positive points so far this year.
The C points are clearly working to make sure that behaviour in the classroom is right for learning. Since the start of term we have delivered around eleven thousand lessons, not including sixth form (5 year groups x 8 classes x 5 lessons = 200 lessons a day). There have been approximately five thousand C1s or first warnings, so less than one in every two lessons on average. Of those, only one in every twenty go to become C3s and end in a detention. We give out one detention every forty lessons, an average of five a day – not bad at all in a school of 1274 students. There is very little disruption in our lessons and, when it does occur, it is dealt with swiftly and effectively. The very small number of students who persistently behave poorly are all receiving support to help them find new, better ways of behaving.
We have a new signing in system called InVentry. As of now, visitors will sign in at reception and receive a sticker with their name and photograph on. From December 2nd, any student who arrives late or leaves early will need to sign in or out at the main reception rather than at the student window.
There was an information session for parents about County Lines held at West Suffolk College recently, at which almost as many parents were turned away as could fit into the hall. Clearly, and rightly, this is a cause of concern for parents. There will be a similar event in Haverhill in the new year, but in addition to that we are working with the local police to arrange for a police information desk to be available at our parents’ evenings. It will provide an opportunity for parents to talk to local officers about their concerns. They won’t be able to attend all the parents’ evenings, but once we know which ones they will be at, I’ll let you know.
We have an opening for a parent governor. If you think you might be interested, I suggest you contact Sue Kehr, Chair of Governors as a first step. She will be able to talk to you about the role and answer any questions you might have. SKehr@samuelward.co.uk
Thank you to those of you who came to the Aspire_USP event at the Arts Centre last week, an event we organise with colleagues from Castle Manor to provide Haverhill-wide information, advice and guidance. It was good to see so many students and parents from all year groups talking to local employers and education providers. It is an annual event I look forward to, not least because of the delicious, restaurant standard canapés provided by students from CMA.
Ofsted have changed the questions that they ask parents so that they are more in line with the new inspection framework. We aren’t expecting an Ofsted inspection for a good while yet, but nonetheless it would be helpful to complete that survey so that we can show the progress we are making. There are only fourteen multiple choice questions, so it should take no more than a minute or two. The survey can be found at https://parentview.ofsted.gov.uk/. I’d be grateful if you would fill it in. We intend to complete one more survey, this time with students, in the coming weeks.
- The next Parents’ Forum will be on 11th March.
- Progress checks for Years 7, 8 and 9 will be published next Friday, 29th November.
- There is a parents evening for Year 9 on 10th December. Booking will open for parents next Tuesday 26th November at 4.00pm.
- School will close on the last day of term, Friday 20th December, at 2.50pm
Have a good weekend,