Dear Parents and Carers
With the clocks springing forward on Sunday, the loss of one hour’s sleep is certainly offset by the longer days and the promise of an Easter break next week.
Our history trip to the battlefields of the Western Front arrived back safely in the UK earlier this week. We are all so grateful to Mr Baker for organising and leading this residential trip, as well as Mrs Walker (Head of History), Mr Shadbolt (Site Manager) and Mrs Corley (Head of Art & Design) for volunteering. Lifelong and poignant memories are what school ought to be about, and we hope that the visit will be as inspiring to those who participated as it has been to so many of us when we first paid our respects, and saw where it all took place over one hundred years ago.
Let the environment be the product of you…
I would like to share with you the story of three year 8 boys: Joe Priestley, Joe Darlow and Isaac Kedward.
Last Wednesday, they jointly delivered a presentation to the Chipping Norton Town Council to seek their support to build a skate park in the town. Such a public presentation would scare most of us away but they did so with immense courage and craft to set out their vision, ideas and motivations.
It is easy to point out what’s missing in life but it’s quite another to try and do something about it, which is why we are all proud of these boys and ask that you consider signing their petition (currently 350+).
You can click here to add your support and consider forwarding the link to anyone who supports their goal to provide young people with a safe place to practise and exercise with their friends.
Their speeches would have made the English department proud with their oracy skills in action, emphasising the benefits to the town’s young people, local economy, health, fitness and self-esteem. Their persuasive presentation role modelled how young people must not simply be the observers but also architects of their local community.
Ofsted, Wellbeing and Working Together
I feel a certain duty to mention Ofsted, in a week that has drawn so much attention and reflection.
It is healthy that we appear to be reflecting on whether the way schools are held accountable remains fit for purpose, whilst retaining the need for all parents and carers to understand the schools their children attend. I have experienced seven Ofsted inspections in my career and have never had a reason to doubt the integrity and professionalism of a single inspection team. That said, many schools are like CNS in that they are expecting an Ofsted inspection at any time and experience an element of trepidation in the air.
The wellbeing and morale of members of staff is the foundation of every school’s success (or decline). Very shortly, we are revising our staff wellbeing policy and perhaps it is a useful time to draw attention to the enormously positive impact on us all when children engage in all of their lessons, or when families work with us when we encounter difficulties. CNS is not perfect but there exists a strong collaborative atmosphere between students, staff, parents and carers. Working with and for one another is good for everyone’s mental health and wellbeing, and certainly benefits the children that we are all dedicated to serve.
Education was certainly riding high in the national media for another reason this week. You will be aware of numerous references to absence and attendance in my letters to you this year. We have made no secret of the fact that too many students have missed too many lessons and that this will have an impact on their progress and life chances. If you have time, it is worth reading about and listening to a podcast on Terri White’s report that compares the national data for England before and after COVID. It is clear that the concerns are widespread; it is not simply the huge increase in persistent (≤90%) or severe (≤50%) absence, but a more general decline in attendance amongst most students. Fewer students have 100% attendance, and students are more likely to be off on Fridays, or for two or more days, than ever before.
We welcome any opportunity to pause and reflect on this challenge. Our underlaying assumption is that every absence story is unique; for some, it is indeed about toughening up and getting into school with a minor sniffle. For others, it is much more serious and cannot be so simply dismissed. How schools, parents and carers tread that line is fraught with risks. At CNS we hope that we get the messages right and that our determination to restore normal levels of absence are understood to be driven by the knowledge that attendance improves life chances.
We have celebration assemblies throughout next week for years 7 to 11 and welcome another opportunity to draw attention to our wonderful students! School finishes at the normal time next Friday and I shall write to you briefly next week before we break up.
Have a great weekend!