27th March 2016

Easter Letter from the Principal

As term 2 of this school year draws to a close I am writing with updates and to highlight some of the events we have had going on this term, to inform you of a change to lunchtime arrangements after Easter, and also mention our plans for Easter revision sessions for students sitting exams this summer.

It has been another busy and non-stop term with some fantastic successes and experiences for many of our students. We officially opened our new building, with the school student council joining Ian Lavery and invited guests for speeches and a ribbon cutting. The first ever full KS3 parents’ evenings have been completed with a strong turnout from parents and lots of positive and challenging feedback which we will be taking on board next term. Year 8 and 9 students will also shortly be considering their option subjects for GCSE studies next year. Options evening for Y8 and 9 parents and students is on Wednesday 27th April, please mark this date in your diary. A separate letter with more detail will be coming home soon about this from Mrs Moore.

Celebration assemblies, rewards certificates and attendance letters have been shared with students and school attendance continues to improve overall. May I remind you of the importance of attendance at school and our target of 95% attendance for all students. Whilst some students find this target difficult to hit due to medical or other unforeseen issues, and many students work fantastically hard to make it into school through challenging personal circumstances or conditions, we know there are a number of students whose attendance can easily improve with a little more effort and willing. It is not too late in the year for students to make a huge impression on their overall attendance by achieving as close to 100% as possible in term 3.

Around 40 Post-16 students have experienced a wonderful week in New York and 16 lower school students have enjoyed a creative writing week in Shropshire. Over 30 students also visited Disneyland Paris for a week as part of a STEM trip. We have had dancers at Newcastle Eagles and students at England rugby and many other sporting events and fixtures, and our recent Sport Relief day raised over £1,500 for charity including a large number of mile runners and walkers – a really positive day for all staff and students. Please do check out the News section of our website for regular updates on school life.

Building work on the new fitness room facility and community changing rooms to the rear of the Training Shed has begun in earnest and is moving at pace with bricks now being laid. This facility will be complete and open for the start of next school year.

Our school House System has been relaunched this term with all staff and students getting the opportunity to join in events such as Sport Relief Bake-Off, House Spelling Bee, football, fitness and dance. New logos for the Eagles, Falcons, Magpies and Vipers Houses have also been designed by students and these will be finalised and published shortly after Easter. Well done to all students and staff who have so far contributed to their House; more competitions will be coming online after Easter.

To facilitate House and other activities at lunchtime, and also try to make learning for KS3 students more productive around the lunchtime lessons, we are going to trial a one lunch system after Easter and remove the split lunch. Year 7 and 8 students will be allowed to go for lunch 20 minutes early to avoid queues, which will mean they receive an extended lunch (1 hour) to try to encourage a greater rest period and also the opportunity for students to engage in our Active Lunchtimes programme which we will be able to relaunch once all students are on the same lunch period. Yard areas will be closely managed to enable a Y7 and Y8 only space and extra food outlets will be made available. Morning break times currently work well and we feel that students are now well settled in our school and will be able to manage this transition smoothly. We will review lunch provision for 2016-17 once we have trialled a single lunchtime over the summer term.

At the end of term one I wrote with updates on the back gate, behaviour, uniform and shoes. I am pleased to say that the majority of students are continuing to perform incredibly well with regard to complying with school life and behaving well. Uniform and shoes continue to be checked as students enter the building and during tutor time and lessons and uniform is generally very positive. Lateness is improving, although a small minority of students are still failing to make it into school on time, please allow me to remind you that the bell for the start of our school day rings at 8.40am and students need to be on site at this time.

I also highlighted language and positive communication as a concern before Christmas. For a very small number of students this remains a challenge and their conduct towards staff has at times been poor. Our staff expect to be spoken to with courtesy and respect, and I expect the same of them in their dealings with students or parents. Any student who speaks inappropriately towards a member of staff, using foul language in particular, will be sent home to complete their school work. I will be booking meetings with parents of any students who feel it is appropriate to behave in this way to discuss alternative educational options away from AHS.

Finally, exam preparation for Y11 and Post-16 students should now be moving into top gear. The Easter holidays are a perfect opportunity for students to begin their full revision programme, balancing a revision timetable with some rest and relaxation at this potentially stressful time. We have a full Easter programme of revision available (shared with students in assembly, directly to you via SchoolComms message and on the front page of our website / Frog homepage also) where staff will be coming into school in their holiday time to work with students.

Revision materials are available on Frog and from class teachers and formal Year 11 homework will be removed after Easter to allow students to manage their own time and revision as exams will come around quickly on our return to school. A full after-school programme in the build up to exams will also be available – students should take advantage of this to support their preparation.  Staff are working as hard as possible to prepare students; should parents need any guidance in supporting their child then please do get in touch with us at school. I look forward to all of the hard work of students, parents and staff paying off with some fantastic exam results in the summer.

Please accept my warmest wishes for a good Easter break.