Welcome to the first edition of the term of Heads-Up! For the benefit of new parents, this is the School’s fortnightly newsletter and round-up of what has happened and what’s coming up. Underneath my introduction are links to various items and events on the School’s website, as well as a spotlight on a member of staff. I hope you enjoy it and find it interesting; feedback is always welcome – to Emma Brumby.
Term has started well and there is an energy and momentum around school. The new pupils seem happy (lots of positive comments, many of them, as ever, about the food!) and the revised structure of the week is also working well. I’d like to publically acknowledge and thank the Support Staff who worked tirelessly over the holiday. The fruits of their labour is evident all over the place, perhaps most noticeably in the Prep School and in Stratton House. The School is fortunate indeed to have such a dedicated and conscientious team of maintenance, grounds, domestic and catering staff.
As I explained on Speech Day last May, the academic focus at the School has now shifted from ‘effort’ to ‘engagement with learning’. On the reports this will replace effort. Effort is still expected, of course, but equally so is contribution, attention, curiosity, interest, enthusiasm and positivity that pupils show in class or in their learning. For example, do they get involved in class debate? Do they ask questions, argue (politely) with the teacher? Do they work independently in their spare time: visit museums or exhibitions, attend lectures, read relevant books, academic journals or magazines, follow on Twitter some of the leading people in a particular subject? Starting this term, for pupils in Year 5 and above, the reports that you receive about your son or daughter will have one of six engagement grades on it in each subject. In addition, for pupils in Year 10 and above, ‘attainment’ grades will also be replaced, in this case by a ‘Current Working Grade’ and an ‘Aspirational Grade’ (i.e. what the pupil is capable of, in the department’s professional judgement, if he or she really goes for it). I will write to you separately and in more detail in the next few weeks to explain these changes in more depth.
Earlier this week you received by email a link (also below) to the address I gave to the Senior School in Assembly on Wednesday morning. I challenged the pupils to ask themselves the question ‘why not me?’, to think about what is in their stretch zone and about what their targets and ambitions are. Please do discuss what I said with your son or daughter; as a school, we believe this emphasis on life skills to be of vital importance. As I made clear, it’s not about everyone getting a string of A* grades or being brilliant at sport or at playing an instrument. It is, however, about pupils getting stuck in, challenging themselves, giving 100%, seizing opportunities and not being afraid to fail sometimes (and then learn from it).
May I highlight three important events taking place in the next eight days. Tonight at 7.30 p.m. there is a drinks reception hosted by the WSPA (Parents’ Association) in the Thomas Arnold Hall. All parents are invited and I look forward to seeing many of you there. Secondly, next Tuesday (13 September), there is an Introduction Evening for all parents of children in the Prep School. This will start at 6 p.m. in the Prep School Hall and will give parents an opportunity to meet their child’s teacher and also to hear the new Head of Prep, Phil Titley, outline his educational philosophy. Finally next week, but very importantly, on Friday (16 September) the School is hosting a Gala Charity Dinner in aid of the charity Walking With The Wounded. I am delighted that Ed Parker, the co-founder, will be attending as guest of honour. It promises to be an enjoyable evening and what makes it even more impressive is that it is being organised entirely by a pupil in the Upper Sixth, Charlotte Brumby, as her Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) project; she will get marked on it! More details are below and I would encourage you to have a look; there are still places available and it would be wonderful if we could fill the TA Hall in support of this magnificent cause. Please do join us if you can.
As well as to the other events listed below, may I draw parents’ attention to the forthcoming Open Morning on Saturday 8 October. For the first time in recent years, this will be a chance for visitors to see both prep and senior parts of the School on the same day, i.e. there are no longer two separate open mornings. Given the importance of the event and the fact that the pupils are, of course, our best ambassadors, their attendance is compulsory. I am grateful for your support and understanding of this requirement. More details will follow shortly.
Next week, Rick Clarke, the Deputy Headmaster, will send out a link to the 2016-17 Parents’ Handbook on the parent portal. As you would hope and expect, this will contain a lot of helpful, useful and detailed advice and guidance and I would please ask parents to read it carefully. If you do have any questions or comments thereafter, please contact your child’s tutor in the first instance.
Finally, some of you will remember Mike Thompson, who retired in 2014 as Head of English after thirty years at the School. Starting on 17 October, Mike will endeavour to cycle from Land’s End to John o’ Groats as fast as he can (knowing Mike, it will be pretty fast). The ride is to raise money for the Brain Tumour Charity and is both in memory of and in tribute to Dave Syrett, another very popular former member of staff (and, before that, a professional footballer) who died of a brain tumour in July, aged just 60. Hopefully, Mike will come and talk to the pupils about his ride once he has successfully completed it. There is more information below and also a link to his Just Giving page. I know Mike would be grateful for any support.
Autumn Term 2016
WSPA Drinks Reception for all Parents - Friday 9 September
WSPA Annual General Meeting - Monday 12 September
New Pupils Parents’ Evening - Friday 30 September
Open Morning for the whole school - Saturday 8 October
Sixth Form Information Evening - Wednesday 12 October
GCSE Parents’ Information Evening - Thursday 10 November
WSPA Fireworks Party - Friday 11 November
GREASE - Thursday, Friday, Saturday 17, 18, 19 November
Curriculum Enrichment Day - Wednesday 23 November
WSPA Christmas Fair - Saturday 3 December
A Candlelit Christmas in the Minster Church - Wednesday 7 December
WSPA Christmas Dinner and Dance - Saturday 10 December
End of Term Service - Friday 16 December