Week 8: A(nother) week of change!

Seeds that you plant

Robert Louis Stevenson, whose great works of Literature include Robinson Crusoe, Kidnapped and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, once wrote ‘Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant.’ I think it’s easy to always focus on the harvest- after all, everyone likes to know what the end result is going to be, don’t they? But education is not an end to itself- at The Hamble School, we say that we want our students to be life-long learners. What does this really mean? I’ve been thinking about it a lot this week because we have been reviewing our provision in school and online. This isn’t just as a result of the government announcements earlier this week, although that has obviously been a factor and sharpened my thinking, but because we have reviewed and evolved our provision since the day, less than two months ago, when the Secretary of State for Education announced that schools would be closing for the majority of children until it was deemed safe for them to return.

To me, being a life-long learner is about embracing the idea that there is no actual end to the learning process. There may be resting points- Key Stage 2 SATs; GCSE results; A’levels; degree- but we continue to learn every single day. For me personally, I learnt more about English in my first five years of teaching than I had in my entire education up to that point because I suddenly had to explain my learning to other people (some of whom weren’t particularly interested in what I had to say) and help them gain their own understanding. Those of you who have been working hard to support your children during this period of homeschooling will no doubt recognize that experience. It is ultimately very rewarding but there are a number of frustrating speedbumps along the way.

The frustration for hundreds of thousands of young people in the country right now (145 of whom are members of our school community) is that there aren’t even any resting points. Students who have been studying diligently for GCSEs, A’levels and degrees, are now being assessed in a completely different way to what they were expecting. The goalposts have changes for them. I feel really sorry that this pandemic has affected them in this way but would reassure them that this is not the end. This is not the harvest.

For the rest of our school community- the 891 students in Years 7-10 and the 210 Year 6 students joining us this September- I’m sure that everyone will have learnt something. It may be that they realise how enjoyable school is compared to working at home; it may be resilience at having to struggle through something on their own. It could even be that they’ve learnt to help around the house more, skills that they will find invaluable later in life. As an educator and Headteacher, I’m hoping that these seeds are something we can nurture when we all come back to school properly.

Okay, I can’t avoid commenting on the series of announcements this week. I was a little surprised on Sunday when secondary schools were barely mentioned, then a little more surprised on Monday when DfE guidance was issued that made specific recommendations. Personally, I think that the government is in a difficult position at the moment and is having to react quickly to new information (not surprising that I sympathise with someone who has to make decisions that will please some people and infuriate others), which means that we all need to adapt to do the best we possibly can. With regards to Year 10, and the guidance that schools should ‘prepare to begin some face to face contact with Year 10’ from Monday 1st June at the earliest’, I am in the process of consulting with parents/ carers and my staff about what this might look like, as well as drafting plans, risk assessments and all the other things that are needed to begin to think about achieving this. It has kept me up most of the week and it’s become a common thing for me to wake up in the middle of the night and start taking notes on my phone. It will be a source of frustration (or relief, depending upon your viewpoint) to parents/ carers of students in Years 7-9 that these children haven’t been mentioned by the government, just as parents/ carers of primary children in Years 2-5 have also been ‘ignored’. Again, I think the government is trying to take a staged approach and I wouldn’t rule out further announcements over the next month. What I can say, focussing on The Hamble School children, is that we will review our online provision once I have completed the detailed consultation and planning required to address the announcements of this week.

I hope you all have a good weekend, take advantage of the relaxations in lockdown if you are able to do so, and enjoy the warm weather.


Week 7: ‘A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees’ (Amelia Earhart)

There are two main aspirations I have for everyone- staff and students- at The Hamble School: get the best outcomes you possibly can; and be the best person you can possibly be. This week, three examples of the latter have particularly struck me.

Over the past few weeks, staff and students have been creating a recycled rainbow memorial, using old bottles. Students cut up, reshaped (using a hairdryer) and painted these bottles, turning them into a beautiful flower installation. Parents donated chicken wire; members of staff brought in bottles; and the Art department provided the paint. On Thursday, the installation was completed and proudly displayed for everyone to see. Thank you in particular to Mrs Attard who coordinated this but there are countless others who made this happen.

About two weeks ago, the Rotary Club wrote to the school, offering to put together food parcels for families who could use the extra help. Mrs Barkshire has coordinated this effort and last week staff made deliveries to families in our community. I am so grateful to the Rotary Club and to school staff (from left to right: Mrs Wigginton, Mrs Brierley, Miss Sherrell, and Mrs Barkshire) who made this happen. A fantastic effort by #teamhamble.

Lastly, we were contacted to see if we were able to help the effort to produce more PPE for the NHS. The Design and Technology department have some very cool equipment, most of which is completely alien to me. Mr Homewood and his team have been making the straps which hold the face shields in place for PPE, using the school’s laser cutter. He has made a number of batches and sent them off to Keep Them Safe – South Hampshire. This is a local group where organisations can join and work together to supply PPE to front-line workers. This organisation has delivered over 15,000 items already. You can find more details on twitter- @Keep_Them_Safe (we are mentioned on there). An example of what has been produced is included below:

We may not be a school in a traditional sense at the moment but these three examples, plus the work and stories that I am sent each week by students in our community, reminds me that education (in its many forms) is still up-and-running.

A number of parents/ carers have said their child is missing teacher interaction. I’d just like to give a quick reminder about the work we are setting online and the ways in which we are offering this interaction. There are several ways in which your child can message their teachers about the work that is being set. On Show My Homework, there is a message function that allows children to ask questions of their teacher- most children have been telling their teachers how they are getting on, or asking for help regarding technical issues. Staff have fed back that these exchanges then allow them to give the children feedback, which in turn has led to the children engaging more. There is a ‘chat room’ function on Edmodo, which also allows this kind of teacher interaction. From a safeguarding view, all exchanges are recorded on the individual systems, which make them safe and easy to use. Please encourage your child to use these features- I know that our staff would love to hear from them.

Like everyone in the country, I am waiting to hear the Prime Minister’s plans this Sunday on what the next steps will be. I hope that you all have a safe Bank Holiday weekend, are able to safely take part in the VE celebrations over the next couple of days, and hopefully we will soon have a clearer idea of what the future holds.

Please stay safe.


Week 6: Looking for clarity in a sea of opinions

Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, once said: ‘Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your inner voice.’ It’s certainly been a week for opinions and it’s been difficult to hear my inner voice as each side has become more and more vociferous. On one side, a number of commentators have voiced the view, in interviews and online, that it is time for schools to reopen and children to restart their education; on the other side, people have been expressing concerns that it is still unsafe to do so and that we shouldn’t come back in the near future. Personally, I think they’re both right and therein lies the dilemma. The Prime Minister has said that he will set out the government’s plan next week for reintegrating us as a society and hopefully that will give us all a little peace of mind. I know it will help me- I’m so used to working from a plan in my working life that it’s new territory to be working towards an unknown end. Whenever the date of our return- June, July, and even September have been mentioned as possible times- we will be ready to welcome back the children and families of The Hamble School.

In the meantime, life goes on and we have to make the best of it. Last week, I mentioned the Home Learning Newsletter that Mrs Valleley and Mrs Wrench produce each week. It really is a labour of love and I hope that you all read it. Not only does it explain how we are trying to improve the quality of work we are setting, but it also celebrates the work being completed by the students. Reading it is one of the highlights of my week. In today’s edition, we outline how we are trying to help the students more by producing some narrated presentations each week. There is some research which has looked at what is most successful and having some teacher explanations one of the findings. Because this will be recorded, if your child doesn’t hear it properly the first time around, they can replay it. We were hoping to launch this earlier but there have been some technical difficulties with Show My Homework that we are still not entirely sure have been resolved. It will only be some subject areas doing this to start with and it will not be all lessons. Please be patient as we try to further develop our provision. Normally, we would trial this and give sufficient training before launching something like this but these are unusual times.

Home Learning Newsletter – here

An article on the BBC news site caught my attention yesterday. It offers twelve opinions on how life may change after coronavirus- some seem more likely than others. It’s worth a read if you have five minutes spare.

BBC News Article – here

I wrote a few weeks ago that the weekly applause for NHS workers each Thursday has meant that I’ve got to know some of my neighbours better- albeit that our talks have been ones where we’ve been shouting across the road. I’d like to think this sense of camaraderie will continue once life goes back to normal. I definitely think that technology has shown us some interesting new ways of conducting school business- this week, I have conducted lots of meetings via video conferencing and we even had our very first governors’ committee meeting online. Apart from everyone’s hair being longer than usual (four weeks after ordering clippers I am still waiting for some to turn up), the committee meeting was very much like the ones we normally have and we all agreed that the new format has worked very well. I don’t think online learning, though, will ever replace teachers- if we have learnt anything over the past 4 school weeks it’s that it is the personal aspect that we all (students, parents and teachers) miss- but I think the lessons we are learning now will absolutely help us to improve what we are able to do when we return.

When we return– I like the sound of those words. Hopefully, we will all know a little more about when this is likely to be when I write to you again next week.

Have a good week everyone and please keep safe.