Hard to believe it is Friday already and the first week is out of the way. The Year 7s I have been speaking to this week, especially the ones at lunchtime today, appear to have had a really good first week. And they like the new dress code! All the year groups seem to have grown taller over the summer and speaking to students in the various assemblies as we welcomed them back to school this week and a new academic year ahead all seemed ready for the challenges that lie ahead. Year 11 are appreciating the trust of a new common room and when it is finally finished the Sixth Form have a brand new cafe/coffee bar in the Sixth Form Centre.
Driving around Bristol this summer I did seem to get stuck behind the same bus advertising Sidcot School and their slogan “We are more than an exams factory” which made me think for the latter part of August about what I would say to my colleagues on the first day back. Qualifications are extremely important, especially as they are the means to access the next stages of education and a way into careers as well as proof of a student’s attainment. But the best schools do this but much more and I haven’t met an educator who doesn’t want aspirational educational opportunities for all the students in their care. The two of the most joyous days in the school calendar, even allowing for the disappointment tears, are the ones in August when staff, parents and governors get to share and see the success of the students. There are some wonderful photos on the school’s website from this August and I am very proud of the achievement of the students of Wyedean School in my first year as Head. I used various social media quotes in my welcome back talk to all staff on the 1st September that illustrated the appreciation of our students and parents for the hard work of the staff at Wyedean School. As I sat in my cabin study this summer thinking about what I would say to staff on the first day back and the Sidcot bus quote floating around in my mind I also put together a collection of some of the photos from the school year just gone to show we are also definitely more than just an exams factory at Wyedean School and educating the whole student is a core purpose here. We need education to be celebrated more and often.
I have been asked several times over the summer what I think about the proposals, confirmed today, about the Prime Minister’s roughly outlined Green Paper on allowing all schools to become grammar schools and select their students if they wish. I am starting my 23rd year in teaching this autumn, having experienced a fair few secretary of states for education and five prime ministers. All I know is there has always been a lot capriciousness in educational politics, and always will be, but the basics remain the same. Schools need to be places people can be proud of to attend and say “that’s my school”. Strong identity, culture and ethos is way more than a uniform or a slogan. Schools also need to be a safe learning environment that allow students to be nurtured, challenged and ultimately to grow in their wider knowledge and understanding through compelling teaching and learning in order to take their place as citizens and in 2016 global citizens at that. If educational policy allows educators to achieve this with the right funding and framework and to get on with the job then as with most political debates, along with my colleagues I will wait to see what emerges in the detail. The last educational White Paper was launched only in May 2016, a month before the Brexit vote. That now seems to have been largely shelved. It’s fair to say 2016 has been a seismic year for the UK so far which is why more stability is needed in fundamental areas such as the educating of our young people.
The school has its Open Evening on the 29th September and again this gives Wyedean School the opportunity to showcase to our community the success and achievement of the educational experience at Wyedean. The summer exam results in GCSE, BTEC and A Level are some of the best in the history of the school but there is so much more as well to this school to see.
Today the school said goodbye to Dave Burgess, the business manager, who is retiring after 13 years of fantastic service to the school. Dave leaves a very big hole as a colleague and a friend. Dave epitomises the dedication and passion in all staff at the school who only want the very best for the young people in our care. Wyedean School wishes Dave, Jean and his family a long and happy retirement together and thank you for everything you have done for the school not least for this rookie Head helping him navigate the challenges of his first year. May the wind always be at your back and the sun shining on your face.
So we made the weekend and even with the sun shining it feels autumnal. “Last Night of the Proms” this weekend so it is definitely the end of summer. Instead of ploughing through the T.E.S or my ASCL briefing paper to try and fathom educational policy that can wait for now I am going to take the kids and the dog out walking to find the leaves turning. A much better use of time.