Thomas Alleyne's High School
Friday Roundup - 27th February 2015

Headteacher's Blog

This week I was asked to write a day in the life of a Headteacher for our local newspaper.
Please find my attempt at describing a typical day below although, as you will know as parents, no two days are 'typical' really when you work with young people.

A day in the life of

5.45 and the alarm goes off. A quick look out the window tells me it is going to be a good start to the day, the field out the back of our home has a thick layer of frost, the sun is not yet up but it is dry and perfect for a walk across the fields. The mobile phone is by the door but it doesn’t come with me on my walk. Having a calm start to the day and time outdoors enables me to begin the day feeling focused.

Back from my walk my husband is up and I think has made me tea virtually every morning since we have been married. He is a primary school teacher and at the moment teaches our son Ben. Some people warned us off teaching your own child but they tell me they love to be able to spend all day together.

Missing meals is easily done in my job and a bowl of porridge sets me up well. I eat this with Ben and at 7.00am, am in work mode, as Headteacher of Thomas Alleyne’s High School. Emails are checked quickly, there shouldn’t be any there as I always check them in the evening, however teaching is not a 9 to 5 job and I have a lot of staff who work long hours and choose their own working patterns to suit their lives as I do. I say goodbye to Ben and Andy remind them I love them both and head off.

My journey to work is thankfully brief and usually traffic free. (I have decided not to write this piece about one of the mornings when the A50 is shut as that produces a far from typical start to the day!) As I walk into school I make sure my eyes are open and feel relief and appreciation that the site is free from litter, and presentable. There are always some cars in the car park before I arrive even when I am in at 7.00. I know that the staff have been in setting up for the day and my mind flicks to how much I appreciate the hours they put into making sure they prepare themselves well.

Our senior staff meeting is at 8.10 and so the time before this is precious. I use the time to complete a few small jobs, signing requests for absences, completing emails or tidy up my office if we have had late meetings in there the night before. Then to Senior staff meeting. Many students are already on site and we pass greeting each other quietly - it is still early! At senior staff we review the previous day, ensure we are all informed if we have had child protection or behavioural issues. On occasion we debate possible consequences or follow ups which need to happen. I try not to use this time to do more strategic conversations but some mornings we begin to discuss polices as they arise.

8.30am - we conclude the meeting and head off to start our various days. I walk to my office passing our ‘gate team’ who have recently been working on ensuring we have a prompt start to the day. I feel appreciation as I reflect that the team are there every day whatever the weather and the numbers of students arriving late has decreased to the point where over 99% of students are on time each day. Today I stop for a chat with one of the team and discover we have a shared passion for mountaineering. We speak with students and share their frustration that one of our buses is still bringing them in late. I put it on my mental tick list to chase it up again with the bus company.

During the morning session it is important I am hands on and so I either go to see staff or place myself outside the school hall where I can see a fifth of the school as they walk to assembly. I pick up litter which someone has dropped and catch up with a student who I will be nominating for the police cadets. We agree to have lunch together that day so she can pass the forms on to me. With my assistant head, I then speak to James who is on report. My assistant and I look at each other and silently agree to ‘not celebrate too soon’ as we cannot quite believe how good his report is. It is lovely to be able to congratulate him and see him progress and I remain hopeful that he will manage to complete year 11 with success and we will prepare him well for the next part of his life. I return to my office once students are in their first lesson of the day.

At 9.10am spending the next 15 minutes with my PA is always a relief. She has the ability to remember things I have forgotten, prompt me and make sure I am clear regarding appointments. We check the staff absence list and I feel fortunate at how few illnesses we have. I book in a call to one of our staff who has been unwell. Finally she passes me updates from the local authority and responses to requests for statements for support for students. Today, these have not been successful.

From this point onwards every day is different but I never have a day behind my desk which I am thankful for.

I have a meeting today with our Partnership co-ordinator who updates me on: the progress of our plans for shared training across Uttoxeter schools; possibilities for shared contracting of grounds maintenance; updates me on the most recent DFE analysis of our results from last year and finally we discuss the arrangements for opening at a weekend to put on a ‘pop up’ shop to make it easier for parents to buy school uniform.

Then I do a school walk popping into classrooms to see how students are progressing, looking at their books and observing how teachers meet the needs of individuals. It is good to see students focused and working well with their teachers. I speak to one student whose behaviour has disrupted the learning for others. Following our conversation, he agrees to modify his behaviour and returns to class.

I am pleased that we have recently put a coat of paint on some of the staircases and have replaced desks which are over 20 years old but notice a broken blind and the tired looking staircase near our performing arts block. I know it is on our list but I wish at times I had a magic wand.

Breaktime is always busy, I complete my breaktime duty remembering our senior staff agreement not to get into habits of always going in the same direction and to the same places. I pop down to DT to see one of our first year teachers who I want to thank for being in at half term. As ever her classroom is busy at breaktime and students are completing coursework. On my way I pass one of our Maths teachers, in a work scrutiny earlier in the week, a number of students had commented on how supportive he always is in helping them when they don’t understand. I pop in and share that with him. It is his breaktime but he is sat with a student. I pass the staff on duty and remind myself to check an area where I cannot see anyone present. As I stand at the end of break on the main corridor, a Head of Department updates me on a conversation about one of her staff which has gone well. She, like a number of my staff, are always smiling and I think how fortunate I am to have people so positive.

11.20am: Next I work with another member of my senior team. We know which students we need to do better with and have called 6 of them to see us with all their books. We work through their books with them, listening to how they feel the school can support them and we remind them of where they are not fulfilling their responsibilities. They are incredibly mature and remind me of why I love my job so much and why that deeply held feeling of responsibility rests on me so heavily. So many people say they would not work with teenagers and ask me how I do the job I do, but some who work with teenagers as I do, know what an absolute privilege it is to spend every day with them. The last girl who leaves me brings me almost to tears as she tells me of her love of English and her disappointment in herself. She tells me she is going to sort it, she uses the words ‘it has clicked’. As she accepts the need to commit further, I am equally resolute that we need to do more for her. My deputy and I discuss common strands across what we have seen in the books and in our conversations and agree what we will say to staff in briefing and students in assemblies.

Lunchtime is always spent eating my lunch, probably far too quickly, but in the canteen with students. Normally I join staff for lunch but today I have arranged to look at the police cadet application with one of my students who finds me quickly. We discuss it and I agree to get it sent off. Her eyes are bright, I have that feeling that I know she will make a difference to people in the future.

I know I have a multitude of paperwork to complete but that can wait until students are back in lessons for the afternoon. Whilst I do not have my own class, I cover teachers who are on training or jury service. At the moment it is 2 year 11 classes who are studying a play called Inspector Calls. Written in 1945, it is a play about social responsibility and I enjoy the lesson drawing out their understanding of what this means to them how relevant it is today as we deal with terrorism and then ensuring they are well prepared for the exam.

It is my 2 weekly meeting with our Chair of Governors and we discuss staffing, progress on the school improvement plan, the local elections, school budget and 2 monitoring visits which are approaching from the Local authority. Given the financial pressure that schools are under, it is imperative that we plan well financially.

After school my evenings are varied, senior staff meeting finishes at 5.30 this week and I head over to the hall to catch our staff meeting with parents about the ski trip which will be happening at Easter. I watch the faces of students and parents as the lead teacher talks them through the trip and feel slightly jealous that an old knee injury has forced me not to ski again.

At the end of the day, often after 7.00pm, as I drive home, I reflect on the day’s highlights – whether it was seeing the smile on the face of a student who I congratulated for climbing last week, watching one of my staff teach well, securing additional funding training for our staff, or a conversation with a parent who has sent in a compliment for one of our teachers. These are the moments that make the long hours and hard work worth every minute.

I head home to my family, the fire is lit as I walk into the kitchen. We eat, chat and if there is no Cubs or Football, play a game of cards. I try to plan the weekend much to the horror of my son and husband who ask why we can’t just wait and see what happens.

Then I book a babysitter for tomorrow, Thursday, so that my husband I can go climbing together. Once our son is in bed, my husband marks his books while I catch up on some of the emails and work I want to get sorted before the next day. We share stories and discuss what we need to do on our house which we still haven’t finished renovating. By ten thirty I am in bed as I learnt many years ago that whilst many of my colleagues function well with 6 hours sleep, I need more! I think for a moment that I wished I read more at night but usually half way through the thought I am already asleep.

A Unique View of TAHS

Guest Speaker Due.....

On Thursday 5th March there is a guest speaker coming into school to work with a group of year 11 and 10 pupils. John Stankevitch is an ex St Helens and Widnes rugby league player who works in supporting education and business. He will be challenge the students perceptions and investgating what inspires and motivates them.

Key Dates Reminder

Year 10 Parents Evening -Thursday 5th March 4-7pm

PTA meeting - Wednesday 1st April 7.30 pm

Easter holiday - 3rd - 17th April

School opens on 20th April for students

House Lit' Quiz

The last two heats of the House Lit' Quiz gave victory to Mrs Bells' 9T2 for Torrance house and to 9W2 for Whitmore who pipped W3 in a tie break.

The final will be held on World book Day, Thursday 5th March.

Y11 French

Y11 French are preparing their final controlled assessments speaking and writing to be tested in the next two weeks. Please ask your child what their current grade is and help them to memorise their speaking and writing drafts.

Any problems see Mrs Clemett.

Post 16 Transport Consultation

Can the parents of pupils in year 11 please take time to look at the consultation regarding transportation for post  16 students. You have until April 2nd to comment on the proposals.

Sixth Form Geography in Italy

What could be more special for Valentine’s day than a trip to Italy, a cruise around the Island of Capri and dinner overlooking the Mediterranean! Well, for a group of Thomas Alleyne’s Geographers, what was more special was all of this plus the opportunity to study volcanoes, coastal landforms, sea level change and learn a bit of Italian from our coach driver, Vincenzo! On Friday the 13th (!) the group braved treacherous driving conditions and snow in order to reach the summit of Vesuvius, one of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes as a result of it being the most densely populated volcano in the world, and were rewarded with spectacular views across the Bay of Naples and a very real appreciation of the hazard the volcano presents to the local population. This was followed by a visit to Pompeii to identify the impacts previous eruptions had had on the area and for some Gladiator re-enactments! Valentine’s day was celebrated with beautiful sunshine and a sail to the Island of Capri to study the coastal landforms up close and personal, very up close for those students who ventured into the Blue Grotto. The following day the students visited Solfatara to experience the sights, sounds and smells of rotten eggs at a fumarole. The group also visited Pozzuoli, a town north of Naples, to learn about the isostatic sea level changes due to bradyseism. Other highlights of the trip included seeing dolphins in the Bay, experiencing the world’s best pizza, having a paddle in the Mediterranean and tasting some interesting Italian cuisine! Too sum up the trip – Bene!

Rotary Club Art Competition

All our talented artists and photographers, get involved and submit colour or Black and white Photographic images for this years Rotary Club Young Photographer of the Year Competition- hopefully our proud tradition and success in this competition will get repeated again!

Entries for this competition need to be J:PEG format in folders on J Drive before deadline of Friday 20th March 9:00am.

Please ensure the image file name is 'YOUR name, AGE and TITLE for piece' See Mrs Derby, Mr Parkes or Mr Robinson if you have any queries.

Thank you and good luck!

The images below are by Alex Hudson who entered the competition last year.

Ski Trip 2016!!

We have not even gone on this years trip and it is time to start planning next years!

The trip is booked for the Easter Holidays, 2016 and letters are now available from Mr Cartwright in room 43. In the first instance this is open to pupils in year 9 and 10 on a first come first served basis.

The deposit will be added to ParentPay on Monday and can be then paid, reply slips need to be returned to Mr Cartwright. For further details please do contact me at the school.

As the pupils who have been before say #bestweekofyourlife

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