8th May 2017

A Letter from the Principal

As term 3 of this school year has just started, I am writing to you to with updates and to highlight some of the events we had going on in term 2, and some things to look out for between now and the summer holidays.

Achievement assemblies, rewards certificates and attendance rates have been shared with students and school attendance continues to improve overall. You should have recently received an attendance letter explaining the standing of your child’s attendance at school. Student outcomes are inextricably linked to attendance and we expect all students to attend every day unless ill or excused for a relevant reason; please continue to let us know if your child is unwell. Evidence shows that students whose attendance falls below 95% achieve significantly less well than their peers who have 95% attendance or better. Whilst some students find this target difficult to hit due to medical or other unforeseen issues, and many students try very 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.
You may have also seen in the press that the Supreme Court have recently ruled that parents still may NOT take their children out of school for holidays in term time. We know there has been some confusion over this recently, so I thought I would just draw it to your attention to confirm where the law surrounding school attendance stands as only in exceptional circumstances will holidays be authorised during term time. Any other absences from school should also be authorised and students have to report to the Care & Guidance Office if they do not feel well (we will then decide if they are to be collected). Please let us know if your child contacts you directly as they should be following our procedures.

Punctuality to school has continued to improve significantly this year. However, a number of parents will have received poor punctuality correspondence regarding their child recently, and will be fully aware of sanctions that may be imposed should this continue. The bell for the start of our school day rings at 8.40am and students need to be on site at this time. It is obviously important that our students learn good time management skills for their careers after school and so that learning is not disrupted by late comers to lessons during the school day. Please do reinforce this message at home.

There has been excellent attendance by parents to our information and Parents Evenings over the course of this academic year and your support in this area is welcomed. Another round of Year 8 options was recently completed and we look forward to these students beginning the next step of their education and embarking on their GCSE courses. We do appreciate your attendance at all parental events because research shows that student success at school is directly linked to parental engagement.

Uniform continues to show our students in a good light and the vast majority arrive to school very well turned out. A small minority do find this area difficult and need reminding that blazers are compulsory, hoodies should not be worn in place of a school jumper, a clip-on tie is required and trainers should only be worn for walking to and from school and for PE and active lunchtimes. Students who are not in correct uniform may be isolated until a solution can be established or a uniform pass provided by a member of Care and Guidance. If you have any issues with uniform please do get in touch so we can offer support where relevant. There is also a wealth of lost property that builds up during the course of the school year! This can be collected from the Hamlet next to Care and Guidance on Wednesday lunchtimes. Items not claimed will be donated to charity at the end of every half term.

You may have seen ‘fidget spinners’ in the news and your child may have one or more of these and for many students they may be beneficial. Therefore, at this stage we’re just asking students to be sensible and not allow them to disturb learning, with a view that their presence will die away as quickly as it has arisen. However, many schools have taken steps to ban them so we will monitor their impact and let you know if we feel they are becoming an issue that inhibits learning.

Another area of recent concern has been the school car park at the end of the school day and the amount of traffic coming in and out onto a very busy Green Lane whilst students are leaving the site. Therefore, please take note that we are going to start locking the gate to the car park between 2.50pm and 3.10pm. If you collect your child in a car you’re welcome to come onto the site before 2.50pm and wait for the gate to re-open. If this is not convenient we would recommend an alternative meeting point e.g. the public car park opposite the school, just off Briardene.

There has once again been a wealth of trips, visits and enrichment activities since Christmas and I would like to pass on my thanks to all staff and students involved in representing the school so well. We have had a ski trip to the French Alps, week of creative writing in Shropshire, a languages trip to Paris for a week, and a Y13 technology visit to Berlin. Spamalot was a great success and students have represented the school very well at Newcastle Eagles and Newcastle Falcons events. Fundraising has continued with a very positive Comic Relief day and non-uniform days, and supporting the Teenage Market in Ashington.

Particular congratulations must go to all members of the Y8 boys football team and Mr Storey for a fantastic season. After reaching the last four of the English Schools National Cup (a competition entered by over 650 schools), the team went on to win both the U13 school league and County Cup competitions. Very well done indeed! Please do check out the News section of our website for regular updates on school life.

There is more to look forward to with sailing, Wimbledon tennis and Spain residentials lined up for the remainder of this year, and our traditional week of Challenge Activities and Sports Day at the end of the term. Prior to this there will be Summer Progress Exams for students in Y7 to Y10 and Y12. More information will follow on this from Mr Redpath in due course, but please be advised at this stage that these are key opportunities for progress to be measured and students will be encouraged to revise thoroughly and try their best.

Finally, exam preparation for Y11 and Post 16 students is now reaching its peak. There was a busy programme of revision provided over the Easter holidays and more will follow at May half-term. Revision materials are available and formal Y11 and Post 16 homework will now be removed to allow students to manage their own time and revision. A full guided study and booster programme in the build up to Y11 GCSE exams will also be shared – students should take advantage of this to support their preparation. Good attendance for Y11, 12 and 13 students in the run up to external exams is crucial and can we please enlist your support to ensure students are utilising their time at home to revise. All students will also be reminded about being quiet and respectful of those taking exam in their movement around school.

Staff are working as hard as possible to prepare students; should you need any guidance in supporting your child please do get in touch with us at school.
I look forward to all the hard work of students, parents and staff paying off.

Kind regards

Gary Douglas
Interim Principal