25th September 2016

A letter from the Principal

Welcome to all new students and parents in Year 7 and other year groups, and welcome back to everyone else! I am pleased to be able to write to you to confirm that the new school year has started smoothly and students are settling quickly into their new classes and timetables.

I’d also like to pass on my congratulations to all Year 11, 12 and 13 students who achieved exam success this summer and those who have left move on with warm wishes; I hope all students are progressing well in their chosen next step. For any Year 11 students who are yet to take up their next option, or for those who may be trialling college or an alternative course of study, we will still consider applications onto our own Post 16 courses until the end of September.

In my final letter of last year, I highlighted some priorities for this year and I’d like to take this chance to remind you all of our expectations around attendance, punctuality, and uniform.

Attendance
Good attendance to school continues to be a huge priority for our staff and students this year; some fantastic improvements were made last year and it’s important this continues. Please encourage and ensure good attendance from your child and communicate with Mrs Phimister our Attendance Officer, or the relevant Year Manager, where you have concerns or need support – the more we know the more we are able to help. We would much prefer students to try school if they are feeling under the weather and then report to their Year Manager if they don’t improve as the day goes on. As always, please do not book holidays during term time as these will not be authorised.

Punctuality
With regard to attendance, school starts at 8:40am each day and we encourage students to arrive in plenty of time to make sure they are with their tutor when that first bell sounds. Students may enter via the back gate until school starts, at which point it is locked for security reasons and after this time all students should use the main front door. Students who like to arrive early have the option to go the breakfast club where hot drinks, juice and toast are served.

Uniform
Uniform has started well and the vast majority of students have arrived immaculate as always. Clip on ties and formal black shoes are items I mentioned before the summer and some students have shown they may be reluctant to meet our expectation of uniform in these areas. Uniform checks will be ongoing from this point onwards and letters will be given to students who need to amend their uniform – black trainers instead of shoes are going to be the most common issue. If your child does receive a letter please act as quickly as possible to rectify things as students will not be allowed to study with the main student population until they are in the correct uniform. The same applies to facial piercings and extreme hairstyles. We do have a large number of spare blazers and ties from our outgoing Year 11 students; please do get in touch with the Care and Guidance team if we can help you out with uniform. I’m more than happy to give students one of these ties or blazers if it means they can attend school dressed in our uniform.

Mobile Phones
I’d like to remind you of our position with regard to mobile phones. Students are allowed their phones with them and can use them sensibly at social times. Phones should not be seen or used in lessons unless a teacher gives permission e.g. to use the calculator function. When phones are used by students at the wrong time they’ll be confiscated and can be collected from the main office at the end of the school day. In terms of use at break and lunch, students have been informed that no photos or video images should be taken and any inappropriate social media use will not be tolerated. Phones will also be confiscated from students failing to adhere to these rules outside of lessons. Whilst phones cause little issue for the majority of students, as you can imagine, at times we see phones out and about in between lessons and students walking whilst using them; a potential safety issue and also the cause of some lateness to lessons no doubt. We are looking to change this culture throughout this school year by allocating ‘mobile zones’ where students can use their phone freely. We may also experiment with mobile free days where we ask students to hand their phone in for the day to see how it affects learning and how it makes them feel! More to come on this as the year progresses.

Finally, as much as is practicable can I ask that communication between students and home during the school day is made via the school office. Too often we are finding students taking calls or messages from family members that interfere with learning and have the potential to create an unnecessary conflict for staff. We are also finding that students giving regular updates and commentary on their school day via their mobiles can be a distraction for them. We would prefer students to concentrate solely on their lessons and learning, report issues or problems to staff members before calling home, and save discussion with parents until they are home – the old fashioned ‘how was school today’ conversation!

Student Data Collection Pack
It’s important each year we have up to date details for home school communication and agreement (or not) from parents for a number of school scenarios e.g. local school trips and visits or PE fixtures or permission to use student photographs. A pack of forms is being given out to students this week via Tutors. Please watch out for this and ensure your child returns it, once completed, to their Tutor.

A number of new staff have joined AHS this year and I am delighted with the appointments made and to introduce them to you below. We have recruited a mixture of experienced teachers and those just starting out in their careers and I am confident that they will continue to improve the experience our students receive each day in lessons. If one of our new teachers is taking over a class or tutor group that includes your son or daughter and you would like to meet them before a parents’ evening (dates attached), please feel free to contact the main office to organise and appointment.

Mr T ANDREWS English

Miss L MacDONALD English

Miss S APPLEBY Science

Mr A McDONALD Sports Apprentice

Mr S DONNISON Design and Technology

Miss A MYERS English

Mrs J EDWARDS English

Mr M NELSON Sports Apprentice

Miss G FENWICK Science

Mr C REAY Maths

Mrs C HUTTON-STOTT Science

Mrs S SYERS Science

Miss C KING Design and Technology

Mr J TAYLOR Maths

Miss S KING English

Mr C TURNPENNY Music

Mr G LARMOUTH English

Mr A WALKER Modern Foreign Languages

Mrs S LESLIE Modern Foreign Languages

Ms S WEST Design and Technology

As well as new staff joining us we have another addition to our extended buildings with completion of a new fitness and changing facility. Over £600k has been spent extending our sports provision and we are very grateful to Northumberland County Council, Active Northumberland, and the Ashington Leisure Partnership for their financial backing and ongoing support with this project. AHS students will benefit from these new facilities during their PE lessons and the changing rooms will replace the old pavilion on People’s Park and will be used by local football teams each weekend. Plans are also in place to open the fitness room to the local school community outside of school hours; I will confirm details of this with you in due course.

Finally, it is important we highlight changes to the GCSE grading system from the summer of 2017. Year 11 students will now receive a number between 1 and 9 in their English and maths GCSEs, instead of grades G to A*, all other subjects will remain on lettered grades. Students in Year 10 will be graded on the 1 to 9 scale for the majority of their GCSE courses, and Year 9, 8 and 7 students in all of them. A separate letter outlining these changes gives further details.

See below for a list of key dates for 2016-17.

As always, with the advent of a new school year I look forward to enjoying some wonderful efforts from our students and sharing them, and updates of our progress, with you. In the meantime, if you have any questions or queries please do not hesitate to get in touch with a member of staff at school.

Best wishes.

Gary Douglas – Interim Principal