Morning muster and other areas of focus for 2023-24

Dear parents/carers,

It is over two months since we held the first trust-wide student, staff and parent surveys.  Some real positives shone through but also clear areas for improvement.   Those areas tallied very closely with the views of school leaders.

One of the responses which really stuck out for me was the proportion of parents saying that their child was happy at school: 52% with 27% undecided.  As parents, the thing we want above all else is for our children to be happy.  That’s an area where we are going to take the first small positive step very soon- starting on Thursday 13th July with the introduction of “morning muster”.

What is morning muster?

From Thursday 13th July students will come together as year group at the start of every day, lining up as they do currently for their weekly assembly. That gives us the opportunity to greet students warmly and share any positive messages before the day starts.  We will also share reminders for the day ahead – holding doors open for visitors, saying please and thank you to staff serving in the canteen, showing their best selves to the new Year 6s on transition days etc.  After registering, checking phones are switched off and put away, the tutors will then lead their tutor group to their tutor room for the tutor time activity of the day.  The whole muster process should only take 3-4 minutes at most.  With our extended tutor time coming into effect into September, this is well worth the time.

Why introduce morning muster?

For a number of reasons including:

  • To reaffirm every morning our culture of kindness and high expectations
  • To ensure every child receives a personal warm welcome to school every day.
  • To guarantee all students receive consistent messages and opportunities.
  • To enable leaders to model the warm interactions we expect from all staff.
  • To enable students with issues over uniform or equipment to be assisted straight away.
  • To increase our ability to spot when students aren’t ok.
  • To make it clear that every day is a fresh start and a fresh opportunity.

There are some systems to help students and staff make the most of muster.  A whistle will signal at 8:38am to let students know that they need to line up in their tutor group.  At 8:40am a second whistle will signal that muster has begun.  At this point, tutors will have ensured that their tutees are silent, lined up correctly and ready to listen to the Head of Year’s messages.  If the weather is really foul, we won’t have muster because all the assembly points are outdoors.  If it is just some light rain, we’ll bring a coat and endure it. 

It is important to note that the huge majority of SWA students behave very well the huge majority of the time. 569 of our students have had zero after school detentions this year for C3/C4/serious incidents.  322 students have not received a single C point all year: utterly impeccable. Nonetheless, we think behaviour can be better and we think we can achieve that through a greater focus on those students who get it right.  In September we’ll be training staff – including our new staff- in some of the other changes we have planned to make Samuel Ward Academy an even safer and more successful place in which to learn.  Top of the list are:

  • refining use of reward (R) points to so that they are more obviously useful to students and that they are awarded fairly and consistently.  We’ll also undertake more training on awarding consequence (C) points to ensure more consistency in their use.
  • movement around the school buildings – some of the corridors are narrow and many teenagers become large.
  • further staff training to ensure that all teachers model our warm and calm approach to running a classroom and students are respectful and cooperative. 

More details will follow. 

In September we’ll share the dates of the regular open mornings for the Autumn Term- a chance to tour the school with me, see children and adults at work and have any questions answered.  If people are interested in seeing morning muster, we’ll offer some earlier slots so we can see it in action.      

In years to come I wonder if we’ll view this period of letting relatively young children have mobile phones as a terrible mistake, responsible for significant harm.  At SWA we will do our bit to discourage any mobile phone use at school by ensuring they are switched off and away at the start of the day and by confiscating any we see in use.  Please don’t undermine school authority by encouraging your child to ring you during the school day, or worst still by you ringing your child.  We know where every child is, every lesson- if you urgently need to contact your child, please use the school number and we’ll ensure contact happens without your child getting into trouble for breaking the school rules.

We are a hair’s breadth away from having successfully filled all teaching vacancies for September, having made a job offer Tuesday afternoon.  We have 8 teachers joining us out of our total of 76 teaching staff.  This is in stark contrast to this summer term where we have experienced several teacher vacancies which has resulted in significant numbers of students being taught by supply staff.  I have been teaching since 2001 and a senior leader since 2008.  I have never known recruitment to be anything like as challenging as this.  We can only hope for an improved national picture very soon. 

One way you can help us your child’s school is by sharing any job adverts through your social media platforms. We have one maternity vacancy which will come up in the autumn term - you can find the advert here:

It’s not an easy time in education right now: your support of your child’s school has never been more important or more valued.  Thank you for everything you do for our school community.

Kind regards,

Kev Geall