As we near the end of this academic year, I cannot convey just how proud I am of all our students and staff with the way they have coped over the last 11 months. It hasn’t been without challenges, that is a rather obvious point, but I want us to celebrate the huge successes that have been achieved.
In general, few of our students are significantly behind with their learning. This is clear across the school where around 90% of students are working at the levels we would expect them to be at this stage. That reflects the positive approach the majority of students took to remote learning, and the stoic efforts they have put in if being required to self-isolate at home, alongside their positive attitude to their lessons in school. Our students continue to be ambitious and strive for excellence with 85% of the Sixth Form hoping to attend university in the Autumn; nearly half we hope will be heading to Russell Group universities. In their work outside of their subjects many have been involved with the University of Cumbria and the University of Northumberland in a young researchers’ project which has produced three excellent academic papers; countless others have undertaken numerous MOOCS to widen their learning in a range of interest areas.
The staff have completed a very robust process of awarding the students’ teacher assessed grades for this summer. While the external process of moderation continues until the end of this week, the internal moderation and care that has been taken in determining grades has been impressive. The full record of the evidence bases used to grade the students and our Centre Policy, outlining how this process worked within school, are all available to view on the school’s website in the Exams section.
Our Year 11 have had an extended Sixth Form Induction, which has enabled them to refine A Level options as well as get a grounding in their chosen subjects. We have hosted a STEM careers day to extend the aspirations of our students around high-end engineering and science pathways. Working with INSPIRA and our own careers staff, we currently have no Year 11 students who are projected to be NEET (not in education, employment or training) in September. Our Year 7 students took part in a fantastic Respect Day, jointly planned with one of our parents, which was a great success.
The students have taken part in Maths competitions, fieldwork in Geography from Year 7 through to Year 12 (who stumbled across the filming of BBC’s Countryfile while in Yorkshire), members of Year 9 have had a problem-solving afternoon with the Army, students in Year 8 and Year 9 have been engaged in outdoor activities with Mr Mothersdale, other Year 9 students have been on reward trips. We have had Dance opportunities which many students have participated in, we have just finished recording the Summer Concert (watch out for the recording on the school website). Our Duke of Edinburgh Awards are back up and running with students doing various training activities and walks. Our Houses’ activities have been numerous, both with competitions and fund raising; they culminated with Sports Day this week. In Open Spaces we have dozens of students involved in Cumbria in Bloom and we are in the final of the LEAF Award.
It has been an odd half term and it is easy to think of the challenges that have come the school’s way, but we should certainly congratulate the students on all their success and look forward with optimism to next year.
After the Prime Minister’s recent announcement and subsequent DfE guidance, we are busy planning for September, with no bubbles and a return to normal in the majority of what we do as a school. There is a lot to update you on, and I am sure we will need to communicate further with you at the end of the summer holiday, as things become clearer.
Testing at the start of the Academic Year
We have been instructed to provide on-site testing for all students when they return to school in September. Each student will be offered two supervised lateral flow tests, which the Department for Education hopes will help identify asymptomatic cases of Covid-19.
The first of the tests we will offer to all students over the course of the INSET days on Thursday, 2 September and Friday, 3 September, with a second test then being taken on the Monday or Tuesday when the students return to school. We will send out further details and paper copies of consent forms later in the summer.
Students will then be asked to take Lateral Flow Tests at home for the rest of September, when the policy will be reviewed by the Government.
I have attached to this newsletter the official parent guide from the DfE on the changes announced last week, as it best explains the various aspects: Information from the DfE for Secondary Schools – July 2021
Reminder of school day timings
As many of you are aware we have a smaller than average canteen that only has the capacity for a fraction of the school’s cohort. It is for this reason we will return to our system of two 30-minute breaks next year, one being the official lunchtime of Years 7, 8, 9 and one the lunchtime for Years 10, 11, 12 and 13, when these year groups can buy proper hot meals in the canteen, and we have the capacity to serve the students. This also allows us to run clubs during the other break when we know the students have had time to eat during the day.
The school day timings are:
I have attached to this letter the Term Dates for next year for Cumbria Education Trust schools. These vary slightly from the Cumbria County Council Term Dates and I would ask that parents note this. In particular our students return to school on Monday, 6 September and finish slightly later in the summer term on Friday, 22 July.
The school year next academic year is one day shorter than normal, as account has been taken of the additional bank holiday for the Queen’s Jubilee, even though this officially falls in the half term break in the summer term. The additional day of holiday has been placed on Friday, 17 December 2021.
Generally, parents who have used the online system for Parents Evenings have found this very useful, and more convenient than the old face to face events. Some parents have missed the in- person contact though, and we know that around 20% of parents who were previously attending face to face events have not engaged at all with the online system.
Therefore, next year we will be taking a hybrid approach. Quite what this will look like, we are not 100% sure yet, but it is likely to be either a block of time where face to face appointments are available and a block of time for remote appointments, or it will be evenings where staff will be mixing the two types of meetings.
We will have the system in place for the Year 13 Parents Evening in late September!
New Head Boy and Head Girl
Congratulations to Arran Craig and Yasemin Cengiz who were appointed to the role of Head Boy and Head Girl last week. They will oversee the Student Leadership Team for 2021/22 which consists of:
- Head Girl: Yasemin Cengiz
- Head Boy: Arran Craig
- Deputy Head Girl: Susannah Bell
- Deputy Head Boy: Dylan McGlone
- Associate Members: Elkan Hershon and Thomas Harmer
- Student Heads of Houses: Natasha Fell, Craig O’Hara, Ben Hoskins, Kate Mattinson, Frankie Martin, Thea Maidwell, Grace Kennedy, Abigail Rome, and Alisha Thompson.
We are really looking forward to the students being able to work across all year groups again, to make sure that they are heard and, indeed, have impact on the way the school moves forward.
Parental Questionnaires – initial feedback
Thank you to all the parents who have completed the parental questionnaire. The initial results have been very encouraging and overwhelmingly positive. However, there are always some things that make us think and reflect, and these currently include:
- Do we have specific Year based Newsletters next year and whether they need to be more regular than monthly?
- Homework needs to be consistently set on the SIMs App from September
Should we be reporting more on students’ social development? How would we do this?
- Some parents would welcome some help on how best to support their children with their studies in specific subjects.
Once the survey closes we will of course take time to read all the comments and see how we can continue to improve what we do and what changes we will make as a result.
The students recently completed their questionnaire. The results, when benchmarked against other schools nationally, are positive in every single category, which is pleasing. One area that we have identified, even though it is positive on benchmarking, is that after the last 18 months we need to get our Student Leadership activities back up and running so that the students can contribute more to developments in school. We will be feeding back in greater detail to the students in the new term, and using the results to help push forward future developments at the school.
Exam Results Days
The A Level and GCSE results days are both in the same week this year, the A Level results being available on Tuesday, 10 August and GCSE results on Thursday, 12 August. The Joint Council for Qualifications has embargoed all results until 8.30am on both days and this is the time we will open for students to collect their results.
A dedicated area of the school website (Teacher Assessed Grades Information) has been created showing the Evidence Bases that were used for determining student grades and the school’s Centre Policy, which explains the process of awarding within the school, including moderation. Guidance about the appeals process is also available from this area. More detailed advice will be sent to all Year 13 and Year 11 students this week.
Wellbeing over the holidays
There are lots of places to access support for wellbeing over the holidays and these are all listed within the Schools Wellbeing app created with Edukit. Many students have already downloaded this app, and we would encourage any students who haven’t done so already to do so. You just need to search for Edukit and then put in your school email address to create an account. One of the best sources of support with a direct link from the app is Kooth.
There are also lots of summer activities taking place locally such as this offer in Brampton – Fun 4 Kids – Brampton Area Action Group – and keeping active is a great way to support wellbeing.
As a school we have around 200 staff who I am always grateful for, due to their commitment to ensuring we provide the best we can for the students in our care. We have a very stable staff body here at WHS and we see relatively little staff turnover. That has been a pattern for a number of years though, as inevitably people do like to retire at some point, or move onto promotion elsewhere, there are always some staff leaving at this time of the year. This year we say a fond farewell to:
Teaching Staff Leaving
Mark Humble – After 35 years at the school Mark is hanging up his DT tunic to retire. He has had a terrific positive impact on countless students, as well as helping to train dozens of trainee teachers in his wider role within school.
Caroline Bouch – 25 years after starting at WHS Caroline is taking her well-earned retirement. I know she will be missed by everyone in Learning Provision, especially the students.
Carolyn Tait – For 13 years Carolyn has been a stalwart of the RE and PD departments in school and also has enriched so many students with her love for organising Ski Trips and so much more. Her retirement, I am sure, will certainly be active!
Sian Lynch – Leaves us to take up the post of Head at History at RRMA. I am sure Sian will be an excellent leader and her career will continue to flourish.
Charlotte Shaw – Is leaving to concentrate on other projects (including quite a thriving microbrewery!)
Siobhan Lamb – Is leaving us after successfully completing her NQT year and we wish her well in her new post closer to her home.
Support Staff Leaving
Pat Crabbe – 21 years after starting, Pat will be officially leaving this summer. I am sure her voice was a memory many students will remember from her midday duties, as well as her vice like grip on spare locker keys!
Eleanor Fry – Having been associated with the school for 19 years, Eleanor is retiring. She has had a myriad of roles, but no doubt is best remembered by the students for being the Chief Invigilator for their external exams. I am sure she will enjoy her retirement.
Anne Latimer – For 9 years Anne has been a valued member of the Science Technicians team and we wish her well for the future.
I will end by saying a huge thank you to all the parents who continue to support their children in their academic endeavours, but also place such trust in the school to help nurture their development as individuals.
Have a restful and wonderful break, and I look forward to seeing all the students on their return in September.
Mr Chris McAree
Year Group News
Congratulations Year 7! By the time you read this we will have completed your first year at William Howard. It’s amazing to think how quickly it’s gone since I was stood in front of you all for your first assembly back in September. You have been an absolute credit to yourselves throughout the year. You have all shown a great attitude throughout the school and, as I hoped I would be, I’m really proud to be your Director of Learning. The biggest things I’m proud of are the really small day-to-day things that I witness. The basic manners, such as holding doors open for each other, the thankyous to staff at the end of the lesson and, most importantly, the way you have looked out for each other when other students have been upset or ill. You really are growing into a great bunch of young people. There is one group of students in particular that I would like to highlight, and that is those students who have joined the school part way through the year. That must have been a very daunting thing to do, but all of you seem to have settled really well. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all the staff who’ve worked with you, including the cleaners, lunchtime staff, caretakers, all the office staff, IT staff, teachers and, in particular, Mr Dawson and Mrs O’Connor, who have worked closely with me to ensure a successful year.
Looking forward to next year there are two things I would like us all to focus on:
- Being ready to learn at the start of lessons – this involves things like making sure we are properly equipped for the lesson, and that we are switched on and ready to go.
- Secondly, I would like you to think of yourselves as role models for next year’s Year 7. You will be the students that they look up to and who they get their ideas from of what it’s like to be a student at WHS.
Have a brilliant summer Year 7 and I look forward to seeing you all in Year 8.
It seems unbelievable that already we are sending out the final newsletter of the year, and Year 8 students have now had two years at William Howard School. As I have said to the students many times through the two years, it is important that they appreciate how much they have achieved in this time, and the progress they have made since joining the school. A focus of this term has been reconnecting, and many students have been given opportunities to do this through Miss Elliot’s baking afternoons, trips to Talkin Tarn with myself, or Mr Mothersdale’s outdoor skills sessions. A highlight of the term for me was watching the Year 8 students record their pieces for the Summer Concert – it is always enjoyable to see students loving what they are doing and excelling. Looking forward to Year 9, I hope students get to enjoy the full range of opportunities we offer at William Howard, and a year of uninterrupted education. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Miss Elliot for all her hard work as Year 8 Student Manager – she makes such a positive difference to so many students across the year group and they are lucky to have her supporting them. I’m really looking forward to working with both the students and Miss Elliot again next year.
I hope you all enjoy a fantastic Summer.
We have had a fantastic end to the year with lots of students participating in opportunities we were fortunate to make available. The weather has held out for our visits to Talkin Tarn and our Agriculture students had a lovely day at Croft Farm, learning about farmers being the guardians of the land and the environment, and meeting a beekeeper.
The virtual Kooth session was very informative and Heather was wonderful in guiding us around the Kooth app. Do have a look at Kooth.com if you feel you need support and guidance with mental health.
Sgt Murphy and his team, from the armed forces, conducted a session and were really impressed by the dedication our students showed, with everyone fully participating. Sgt Murphy noted you “were a pleasure to work with”. I hope that you will transfer the skills of problem solving, leadership and resilience into the classroom.
Mr Tidmarsh has enjoyed his time working with some of the boys, developing skills in resilience and discipline through sport. It has been great to see the boys respond positively to the challenge and earn themselves small rewards. Mr Tidmarsh will continue to work with some of you in Year 10. Ms Ledger has also enjoyed her time working with a small group of students to develop a positive attitude to learning.
Ms Sawdon had the pleasure of taking a group of students to Harraby to participate in a sports session with Evolve Sports. Evolve coaches were impressed with the participation and enthusiasm shown in both the practical and theory, and commented that your “sporting ability was incredible for such a young age”. Well done to all those involved.
As we wave goodbye to Year 9 and approach Year 10, I want to take the opportunity to thank you for being such a wonderful year group. Your commitment and dedication throughout the last year is something you should be proud of. I hope you all have a wonderful summer break and return in Year 10 ready for the beginning of your all-important GCSE years. As always, do be mindful of our school values and ensure you return showing:
- Respect – use good manners, actively listen and respond positively and value difference.
- Responsibility – self regulate, attend, be on time, engage, and create a calm and organised environment.
- Resilience – seek help and accept support, have courage and encourage others and learn from mistakes.
Please do revisit the uniform policy over the summer before purchasing uniform and ensure all items adhere to the policy.
We look forward to welcoming you all back in Year 10. Staffing timetables have been adjusted and you may have a change in tutor to support you throughout Key Stage 4. We are looking forward to seeing the return of tutor time in September, and hope this will allow you some stability and support throughout your GCSE years.
As always, your school experience is what you make it: “some people want it to happen; some wish it would happen, others make it happen.” (Michael Jordan). Make it happen Year 9!
At the end of every year I find myself saying ‘next year can never be as busy as this one’, yet lo and behold it always is, and this year is no exception! I am sure you all agree it has been a strange year and, as a year group, we have faced so many challenges. I am exceptionally proud of the students – they have shown determination and resilience throughout. Not only have we experienced the national lockdowns, we were then met with a Covid-19 outbreak in the year group, which thankfully has passed, plus two weeks of internal assessments – phew! This week provides students with the opportunity to catch up with assessments, if they did not manage to complete them in school or at home. Mrs McGahan and I would also like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your support in recent weeks. I know first-hand how it feels when the phone rings and it turns out it is about track and trace. The support and understanding given by each of you has certainly made making some of those calls a lot easier.
Already we have been preparing for next year and, with that in mind, I would like to again reiterate the importance of uniform. We have spoken individually to students about aspects of their uniform. We will return in September as Year 11 students, role models to younger students in school. It is therefore imperative that we give a good impression and set the standard in school. Some of you will receive a uniform letter this week. We understand that the pandemic this year has, at times, made purchasing uniform difficult. However, we would very much appreciate your support in ensuring uniform is in line with school policy when students return in September.
One area that will be a primary focus next year is punctuality, both to school and lessons. We have a small number of students who are persistently late. Lesson 1 now starts at 8.45am, and students need to be in classrooms ready to learn. We would welcome your support in ensuring this happens.
I am sure many of you watched the Euros final last Sunday, probably on the edge of your seat like me! It was wonderful to see the successful journey of some of the players who started out in school teams and local Saturday clubs and are now representing their country. In assemblies we remind students continually that there is no ceiling on achievement and that no dream is crazy – if you want it enough you will get there. You never know, it might be your child who is the next astronaut, premier league footballer, musician, dancer or famous author.
Once again, thank you for all of your support. Both Mrs McGahan and I look forward to working with you all next year. Have a wonderful summer break.
Year 12 breathed a sigh of relief following their mock exams, which ran with very little disruption. This was the first set of exams these students have sat in such a formal way and I am confident it will have provided both staff and students with a picture of the work and support needed to achieve success in Year 13.
As I wrote in the last newsletter, students have been introduced to the UCAS process in PD and I have asked that students write a draft personal statement over the summer break. Resources to support this are available on the UCAS hub and Unifrog and, as long as students know the subject they are applying for, they can put pen to paper, or should I say fingers to keyboard and make a start. Years of experience have shown me there is a reluctance to do this, but it really is better to start early. It is worth saying that, as restrictions start to lift, universities will be looking to offer open days which are hugely beneficial when making university choices.
I can’t wait to celebrate with our Year 13 students at the Halston, which is now confirmed for Thursday, 2 September. If anyone is unable to attend this new date I will need to know by Saturday, 31 July so that I can adjust the numbers and get a refund of the deposit.
I hope that everyone has a refreshing break and enjoys the sun that I have ordered so I can sit in my garden watching the birds and reading copious books!