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Headteacher’s Letter 19 May 2023

Dear Parents and Carers

It is very difficult to provide a one size fits all summary of how the first tranche of GCSE examinations have gone, except to say that the broad reaction amongst the students has been fairly positive. It is important that we prepare our students really well, but that they also feel well prepared and experience success in the early stages of the examination season. There will be ups and downs but we are on our way and all students will see the light at the end of the tunnel in the not-too-distant future.

Year 13s

Last Friday, Mr Ward led a moving and celebratory final assembly with our year 13s. They are ready and seem fired-up to fulfil their potential and then move onto their next adventures. They and we are looking forward to their leavers’ ball at the Oxford Boathouse on Wednesday 28 June. One final opportunity to be together, enjoy one another’s company, and then enjoy one of the longest summer holidays of their lives.

Year 11s

We spoke to the Year 11s last week and were able to say, without hesitation or exaggeration, that they have been and are one of the most committed, engaged and positive year groups we have ever had the pleasure of educating and supporting. And so, we go on to the examinations with confidence but also have a great deal to look forward to as well.

Our Year 11s will have a special leavers’ assembly on Wednesday 14 June that will include a delicious buffet, farewells from staff, and an emotional surprise. We then have the Year 11 Prom on Thursday 22 June, followed by the visit to Thorpe Park on Monday 26 June. Their opportunity to enjoy being together and our chance to say thank you for being such a great group since they arrived back in September 2018!

We ask that the parents and carers of students in year 11 look out for a separate letter from Mrs Lee, Mrs Armistead and myself next week. It will contain details on all of these events – plus hoodies! Furthermore, we shall be asking you to consider donating uniform items (blazers, ties, skirts and PE kits) as part of our pre-loved uniform initiative, that started almost twelve months ago.

Staffing Updates

This is a good time to share some exciting news regarding appointments we have made to our school in recent weeks. Ms Elvin and Ms Stokes will be joining the English and history departments. Ms Knight and Ms Forrest have also been appointed as our new pastoral assistants, with Ms Knight joining just after half term and Ms Forrest in September.

Ms Knight will immediately support Mrs Faulkner with our year 6 transition programme, and so will be spending term 6 getting to know our new year 7s in their primary schools and on their transition days at CNS. She will then be their pastoral leader next year. Mrs Cottrell will remain with her year 7s into next year, with Ms Forrest becoming the current year 8’s new pastoral leader from September. In the meantime, Mrs Lee (current pastoral leader with Year 11s) will switch to support year 8 throughout term 6 – adding additional capacity in the final seven weeks. We feel very confident that we have further strengthened our pastoral team and look forward to Ms Knight and Ms Forrest, in particular, getting to know students and being available to meet and get to know parents and carers as well.

Ms Hancock (Deputy Headteacher and DSL) will write to all families later this year with a fuller outline of the pastoral structures across years 7 to 13.

A Week Assembly

It happens to be my turn to deliver and design the resources for the A-Week tutor programme next week. It is worth reminding you that we look at the tutor time over a ten-day period. In Week A, we begin with a whole school assembly on the Monday. On the Tuesday this is followed by a reading activity that relates to the assembly. Wednesdays and Thursdays are then tied to an oracy activity that seeks to deepen and broaden thinking around that topic. The week ends with a related careers presentation. The B-Week programme is more focussed on ‘belonging’ and enables individual tutor groups to explore personal health and wellbeing, with a greater emphasis on team building and the fun quiz on Fridays.

My assembly and theme for next week will be all about what a brilliant school looks, sounds and feels like. I think it’s time that we all stood back and explored what we want to achieve as a school and to draw attention to the idea that every community (whether that is a school, family, business or team) is merely ‘the sum of their parts’. We know that truly exceptional achievements rest on an entire community being a place in which everyone feels they belong and in which everyone contributes to the same goal. In addition to asking staff how we might be ‘even better’ at what we do, we need to encourage our students to answer the same question and be united in striking out to do something extraordinary and exceptional together in the years ahead.

My metaphor will be the Apollo mission and the fact that whilst Neil Armstrong was the well-known spearhead of that mission, his moon landing depended on the courage, creativity and curiosity of many thousands of other people who dreamt, designed, manufactured, assembled, tested, monitored and problem solved one of the greatest achievements in human history.

And so, if our school is merely the sum of its parts, how do we increase the value of that number?

And finally…

Our staff wellbeing team have been encouraging all members of staff to talk and think about their own mental health this week. Whilst we can appear to be NPCs to our students, we are also complex creatures with our own helpful and unhelpful thoughts, feelings and habits. We are living in an era in which openness and frankness about our mental health and wellbeing is no longer discouraged. As we approach the half term, I would also like to pay tribute to my colleagues who have juggled so much this year and never once hesitated to go the extra mile for our students and for our year 11s and 13s in particular.

When it finally arrives, I hope you have some lovely plans afoot for the weekend!

Yours faithfully
Barry Doherty

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