Dear Parent/ Carer
With this Monday being a training day, I thought it might be nice to shed some light on what some of the staff will be doing.
The focus for teachers will be work on the huge changes that we’re in the middle of, with Key Stage 3, GCSE and A Level all changing at once. While we work on the practical job of preparing for the future and reviewing how well things have worked so far, we will also take time to bring ourselves up to date with the most successful practice in our own school and beyond. In particular on Monday, we will be going back to the techniques that allow teachers to respond to ongoing assessment within the classroom to adapt lessons as they go to ensure that no child is left behind.
A great deal of this is just done simply by taking the time to share successful practice from each other’s classrooms, but as noted above, we also look to draw from the evidence of what is working best across the country. As a teaching school, we are connected to educational research nationally and internationally and it is good to take every opportunity to ensure that our students benefit from proven techniques and strategies.
As well as tapping into the evidence of what works best, we are also actively engaged in the work of testing strategies to see if they actually have the intended impact. For example, we were recently the lead school in a major national pilot study, looking at application in the classroom of growing neuroscientific understanding as to how memory is formed. We have also been successful in a bid to develop and test the strategy of giving students audio feedback on their work, an approach that emerged within Notre Dame. We believe strongly that it should not just be assumed that a strategy works because it sounds like a good idea, rather that we should test and refine those strategies and that we should draw on the evidence found by others to ensure that we make the very best use of the time in the classroom with our students.
While you would expect staff in school to ensure that they are knowledgeable in the ‘science’ of teaching, of course, a school is about more than that. Nothing represented that better for me than the ‘Big Sing’ which we were lucky enough to host on the last Friday of the half term. On that day, children from all of the Catholic Primary schools across Sheffield gathered in our sports hall for a wonderful day of singing and liturgy, focusing on the goodness of God and His special call to each of us. The day was led by CJM music and the children were ably assisted by the ‘In Reality’ team from the Diocese and also by students from Notre Dame and All Saints. It was a fabulous community celebration, with times of stillness and times of enthusiastic singing and dancing. My thanks go to all the members of staff in Notre Dame and across the Diocesan schools who organised the day.
I will shortly hand over to the English department and so it is appropriate that I finish by highlighting some of the work they have been doing and are preparing for this week.
In the lead up to the half term, students have been taking part in Readathon, where they have been encouraged to spend time enjoying books while raising money for charity. This is an initiative that the English Department have led with great energy for many years and this year has been no exception.
Not content with that, colleagues in the English department are gearing up to mark ‘World Book Day’ on Thursday 2nd March. They will be dressing as characters from books and have been encouraging other members of staff to do the same. They will also giving book tokens out to students in Y7 and Y8 as part of the focus on reading for pleasure.
As well as the huge evidence of the difference that strong literacy skills make to education and life chances, there is no doubt about the great joy, inspiration and consolation that can be found in a good book. That is something we want to support with all of our students, whether they are already avid readers or still need some encouragement.