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Headteacher’s Letter 3 March 2023

Dear Parents and Carers

Many thanks to colleagues and of course our students for ensuring yesterday passed so smoothly. You will be aware of further industrial action on both 15 and 16 March. Information regarding those days will be with you by next Friday 10 March, at the very latest. Meanwhile, this week …

World Book Week

My thanks again to Mrs Bovington for organising CNS through its World Book Week. Whilst I remain sad that I did not get to dress up as the demonic headmaster again, I understand that joy will be back in the future.

I shan’t steal Mrs Bovington’s thunder with any pictures or write-ups (leaving that to the Easter edition of the CNS newsletter) but do wish to draw your attention to Mr Gent’s whole school assembly on Monday morning. In the week that the owners of TikTok committed to sixty-minute limits on its usage for those under eighteen years of age, Mr Gent’s message was one that the more books we read, the smarter, happier, more empathetic we become.

Visits to Primary Schools

Senior colleagues are working with me this week and next to visit all of our ten main partner primary schools. We have prepared an assembly to the year 5s who we hope will visit us again on open evening in October, and then in year 7 in September 2024. If you have children in those schools, we hope to see you there and to enjoy the materials we have prepared. It is important for us to ‘show’ the school with lots of photographs of the classrooms and facilities, but also to talk about our core passion – knowledge.

Keeping In Touch

Last week I was asked by an extremely supportive and involved parent why we lock the students’ toilets throughout the school day and did I think this was sensible. I asked the parent why they believed this to be true and was told that their child had said this was the case… It was a tricky situation to navigate because the student toilets are open at all times, except during lessons. During lessons, students can use the toilets in reception.

The exchange quickly led to really helpful conversation with the parent (which they have permitted me to share), because it made me wonder if we have any more parents and carers who have a slightly misleading impression of our school and why that might be the case.

We hope that you all have faith and confidence that we aim to do everything in children’s best interests, but also try to avoid anything that is in fact unreasonable, or difficult to justify or explain. We use student voice to try and pick up on any avoidable niggles but know that when all students feel they attend a sensible school with sensible expectations, they are far more likely to feel a sense of belonging.

Which leads me to say that we try really hard to ensure all of our expectations and ‘rules’ are very sensible and if they are not, we are keen to listen and review! In the meantime, if one of our rules sounds hard to believe or not quite right then do get in touch with one of us and we can, hopefully, clarify things for you.

How Major Policies Are Agreed

Regarding uniform, we hope we have always provided a very clear summary of what is expected, but also why we believe in a school uniform. Questions about uniform are amongst those I am asked about most and students are often surprised to learn that I personally cannot make changes without others’ approval. Instead, such policies are approved by governing bodies (that include parents and carers), but only after a consultation.

The last time we made some changes to our uniform was back in 2019 and this, some of you may recall, involved a major consultation and then a summary of parents’ and carers’ responses that led to the recommendations that were submitted to the governing body for approval. Meanwhile, we also consulted all students on this and a range of other issues through assemblies, student council and tutor time, at the same time. We called it ‘The Big Conversation’ and it led to some of the key changes that have been introduced in recent years.

I think it’s important to share this with you, both as a reminder to families who were with us at that time, and for the many new families, who may wonder where our school’s expectations come from and how we try to involve everyone when we pursue major developments.

From Listening to Responding

A good example of that commitment to consultation arose several weeks ago when Ms Hancock spoke to all students ahead of the annual sexual harassment and violence survey. Whilst that led to amendments to the anti-bullying policy, it has also helped sharpen some of our character education lessons and, perhaps most helpfully of all, prompted us to arrange a special online event for parents and carers.

At 6pm on Wednesday 26 April, all parents and carers will be invited to a presentation led by PC Chris Jones, our school liaison officer. He will clarify the law around online sexualised behaviours (for example, seeking, providing or sharing images) and how parents and carers are able to appropriately monitor their children’s activities and respond if and when concerns emerge. You will be able to join anonymously and ask questions via the audio link or typed questions. Perhaps put it in your diary ahead of the formal invitation?

And finally…

A quick well done and keep going to our year 11s who are approaching the end of their second round of mock exams across their core subjects. I have been asked to pass on the invigilators’ praise for their conduct and focus, and we all wish to further recognise both the year 11 and year 13 pressures and their responses. Whilst these generations have never had so much support and expert guidance, few of us would swap places during these demanding months.

Have a great weekend!

Yours faithfully
Barry Doherty

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