Dear Parent/ Carer
Happy New Year. I hope that you had a joyful Christmas and that everyone who was able to enjoy a break has been refreshed and re-energised. We have made a good start to the term and I think the students and staff have benefited from the rest.
For many of our students who will sit external exams this year, this is the last full term before those exams and the focus will increasingly shift to revision and exam technique. An important message for all those students is not to waste energy worrying, but do seek and take the advice of your teachers on the things you can be doing right now to put yourself in the best position to do well in the summer. The best way to avoid stress and to do your best is to start preparation early, so it can be broken down into manageable steps.
As part of that process, our Y11 students will soon formally receive their mock exam grades and they will be supported by form tutors and subject teachers to reflect on their performance and use it as a good check to see what they need to do between now and the summer. Similarly, Y13 students will have mock exams later this half term, with the same aim of giving an important benchmark to show where they are up to and what they most need to prioritise between now and June.
While this is going on, our Y8 students will be making some decisions about their GCSE options this term. This year in particular things are a bit different. Following consultation with students, parents and staff and looking carefully at the changes to GCSEs that are currently being introduced, we have made some changes to the way our curriculum will work for current Y8 (and future year groups) as they move through Y9, Y10 and Y11.
Students in Y8 have already had some information about the changes and this week there will be more key opportunities to help them start the process of decision making. On Thursday, the students will have some option taster sessions during their Enrichment Day and on Tuesday evening, we are running an event for parents of children in Y8, when they will hear from Mr Nixon (our Assistant Head in charge of curriculum) and Mr Maydom (Head of Y8). They will share with parents the presentation that will be shared with the students on Thursday. This evening is in addition to the normal Y8 parents’ evening (on 1st March) when there will be the usual opportunity to speak to individual teachers and, this year in particular, get advice on good option choices for each child.
Of course, not all students have external exams or choices to make about their future options this year and, while we understandably give some particular attention and support to those students who are approaching milestone moments in their school life, we are just as keen to make sure that our younger students are making great progress in their studies.
The English department are providing the ‘window into school life’ for this Blog and they are a great example of some of the hard work and thinking going on behind the scenes to make sure that students in Y7 and Y8 make a great start to their secondary school education. The team have been looking at the changes to the primary curriculum and to the English GCSE and adjusting their plans to make sure we build on the great work going on in the primary schools and help students make a great transition from the primary phase to their GCSE studies. In doing this, the department have been looking at evidence of the things that help students most to thrive when learning English and have built this into their planning.
Some of our English teachers are even involved in research projects, looking at the effectiveness of some teaching strategies we use so that we can refine them for the good of the students.
As always, there are a few dates for your diary below. I have also included some information about some of the events that will be happening in school during this half term that your children will be involved with.
I have already mentioned the enrichment day on Thursday, when we suspend the normal timetable to make space for some broader cross-curricular and extra-curricular themes and experiences.
Also this half term, we mark Holocaust Memorial Day with assemblies for each year group and our ‘Shoah Service’ with Y9 students. This service follows the pattern of an international service, which specifically remembers the events of the Second World War and calls us to be mindful of the horrors that can happen if we are not vigilant against division, hate and discrimination. In the service, we are reminded and inspired too by the many acts of kindness, goodness and bravery where people stood with the Jews and others who were being persecuted during that time.
Later during the half term, (even though we have only just celebrated the Epiphany!), we will mark the beginning of Lent with our Ash Wednesday services for all year groups, where students will have the opportunity to receive the ashes and make their personal commitment to positive change through prayer, fasting and good works.
One of the ‘good works’ we will soon be talking to students about is the ‘Sleep-Out’ which will take place in school on 16th March. As I noted in my Blog before Christmas, this event will be happening at the same time as a similar ‘Sleep-Out’ event for adults which is being run by the St Wilfrid’s centre. We are working with All Saints school, who will be hosting their own ‘Sleep-Out’ for their students and with the St Wilfrid’s centre to organise this event where we hope to raise awareness about issues related to homelessness and we hope too to raise some money to support the work of the centre.
Before I finish, I must also thank you for your support of the students’ efforts in their fund raising for their Advent causes and also for the donations of sleeping bags, socks and other items to support the homeless over Christmas. The response and generosity of students and parents was wonderful.
Dates for the diary
Y8 Parents’ options Evening; Tuesday 23rd January 7pm – 8pm in the Salle. (This evening will involve a presentation from Mr Nixon and Mr Maydom about the options process and the curriculum for Y9, Y10 and Y11. Individual subject teachers will not be available on this evening – the opportunity to speak to them is in the normal Y8 parents’ evening on 1st March)
Y13 Parents’ Evening; Thursday 25th January (5pm – 7.30pm in the main building)
Y9 Parents’ Evening; Tuesday 30th January (5pm – 7.30pm in the main building)
Y10 Parents’ Evening; Wednesday 7th February (5pm – 7.30pm in the main building)
Training Day; Monday 26th February (First Monday back after half-term break. School closed to students)
Y8 Parents’ Evening; Thursday 1st March (5pm – 7.30pm in the main building)
Some things going on in school this half term
Enrichment Day; Thursday 18th January
Shoah Service (Y9); Wednesday 31st January
Ash Wednesday Services; Wednesday 14th February (All year groups)