Week 17: ‘No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.’–Unknown

Have a good summer

The end of term for me is always a time for appreciation. On the last day, we traditionally meet as a staff and thank the people who are leaving. It’s a bittersweet time because you’re happy when staff are able to move to a new opportunity but also sad to see good colleagues leave. This year, we’re having to do this virtually but I plan to invite them all back to do it properly when things return to normal. I’d like to start this blog by thanking the following staff for making this school a better place to work in: Mr Stacey; Mr Homewood; Mrs Finden; Ms Marsden-Broad; Miss Valettini; Miss Traynor; and Ms Lewis. In particular, I’d like to thank four of these members of staff who have given many years of good service: Ms Marsden-Broad who trained with the school back in 2016 and then joined as a teacher of mathematics in 2017; Mrs Finden who has been a teacher of mathematics since 2014;  Mr Homewood, Head of Design and Technology, who has been with the school since 2004 and is leaving to take up a promoted post at Testbourne school; and Mr Stacey who has held a variety of roles within the school since his appointment in 1997 and was instrumental in the development of the school site- I wish him a well-deserved retirement. They will all be missed.

I’d also like to thank the students, without whom (let’s be honest) there would be no school! One of the highlights of each week has been the high quality of work sent in by our students and I have loved seeing what they have all been up to. I can’t wait to see all 1103 of them back in September. I’d also like to thank the Year11s who were an amazing year group. The worst thing about lockdown for me was that they left without us being able to say goodbye properly. I am looking forward to seeing them on Thursday 20th August for their GCSE results and we are planning an Exams Presentation Evening and delayed Year 11 prom for them. Hopefully, these two events will give them a better ending to their time at The Hamble School.

I’d also like give a heartfelt thanks you all of you parents and carers, with a loud round of applause thrown in. I’m sure that teaching your own children for four months would have been the last thing on your minds at the beginning of the academic year and yet you have been brilliant. Homeschooling, as we all know by now, is difficult and it will probably be a relief to all of us when it is over next week. When I’ve worked at home, I’ve been camped in my office all day, on the phone or in zoom meetings, whilst my wife has been in another room on the phone to clients and work colleagues. Whilst all of this has been going on, my children have been left to their own devices, working independently on tasks with the occasional live lesson. If I’m being truthful, what I have done is not homeschooling- it’s been childcare (of a not particularly high standard). My hope at the beginning of lockdown was that they would develop some independence from this period but that may have been wishful thinking on my part. Most of the time they have worked fairly well but I’ve caught my youngest on Roblox on more than one occasion. Speaking to other parents, this is not uncommon. I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that teaching your children is much more difficult (even if I have, it bears repeating) and to be honest I won’t miss it in September.

Over the past four months, I have tried to keep you all informed of the many changes we have had to make. I sent out a letter this week, in which I detailed the school’s plans for September 2020. As promised, we have worked on a summary of the key points which are available below. I hope this makes it easier to see what changes we are making for next term.

10 Key Points for Parents (September 2020) – Download (PDF)

The most important changes are going to be the zoning of students at break and lunchtime, and the new one-way system we are implementing. We are going to set up catering outlets for each year group- these will be as near as possible to the zones we have allocated and I will need the children to behave sensibly in sticking to these zones next term. I would really appreciate you stressing the importance of this with your children because both of these changes have been made for their safety to prevent students from different year groups mixing with each other. We did consider introducing split lunches but have decided not to at this time. Like many of the decisions we have made for Autumn, we will review this one throughout the term and change if necessary.

All of these changes, especially after five and a half months out of school for some students, will take a bit of getting used to and that is why we are staggering the return to school for the different year groups. Just as a reminder:

  • Monday 7th September: Year 7
  • Tuesday 8th September: Years 7 and 8
  • Wednesday 9th September: Years 7 and 9
  • Thursday 10th September: Years 7 and 11
  • Friday 11th September: Years 7, 10 and 11
  • Monday 14th September: All year groups back

It wasn’t an easy decision to delay the return of year groups after such a long time away from school but, like most (if not all) local Hampshire schools, the consensus is that it is really important we have time with each year group to let them get used to the new systems and expectations. Year 7 are being brought in every day because they are new to the school; Year 11 are coming in twice because this is their most important year. On the days that year groups are not in school, we will run a timetable of live lessons (details will be sent out before September) and we expect full attendance.

The measures we are putting in place are to make the school as safe as it possibly can be and therefore full attendance is expected. I know that there are some families who have genuine medical concerns and have been worried by the government’s announcements that parents who don’t attend will be fined. Please rest assured that we will work with you on an individual basis to help reintegrate your child into school.  If you are concerned, please contact our Attendance Officer as soon as possible.

This week, we managed to run our Head Boy and Head Girl interviews, which was a welcome break from the non-stop planning that has dominated every waking moment over the past two weeks. Eight students- four boys and four girls- gave presentations to myself, Mrs Pennington-Chick (Deputy Headteacher) and Mrs Roome (Head of Year 10) on ways in which they would like to improve our school. They then answered questions from the three of us. This is always a highlight of the year for me but I was completely blown away by the students’ passion for making our school better and the manner in which they articulated their ideas. I spent two hours furiously scribbling down notes and shamelessly stealing their ideas- it has made me even more excited to return in September. They are going to be an amazing team and I look forward to meeting with them on a regular basis next year.

This is the end of the year but this is not my last blog. I am still awaiting some DfE guidance and things, as we know, change quickly these days. I will be blogging over the summer to keep you in the loop about any changes we are making and to update you on our plans for September. I am going to take a couple of weeks to recharge (and I have told my staff to do the same so that we are ready for the new year) but I will make sure that I update you at least once a fortnight. As always, please feel free to read or ignore.

For those of you who asked for summer work, we have produced packs for each year group (which more detailed ones for Year 10 to help them prepare for the start of their final year) but I would stress that these are entirely optional. Details of those have been sent out separately by Mrs Valleley in the last Home Learning Newsletter.

Finally, as a last reminder, Wednesday 22nd is officially our last day (and yours for all you homeschoolers out there). We are still running our Key Worker/ vulnerable children provision but we will be ending at 2pm that day so that we can say goodbye to some staff who are leaving us. Please have a very well-earned holiday and we all look forward to seeing your children back in September.


Week 15: ‘Wisely and slow; they stumble that run fast’ (William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet)

The long-awaited plan for schools re-opening in September was posted online yesterday and all around the country I imagine that school leaders spent the day reading the 35 pages of guidance and wondering how to implement all of this in a safe but ambitious way. Put simply: how can we deliver the best possible education (in all its meanings), whilst ensuring that students, staff and families remain safe? The previous guidance for Year 10s was relatively straight forward and, whilst the planning for this took us weeks as a school, it was much easier because we could compartmentalize areas of the school. This new guidance, which has at its heart the desire for all children to return to school in September, has a lot more ambiguity because it recognizes that all schools are different.

What is clear is that this will take a lot of planning in a relatively short space of time. I always think there’s a fine balance between planning and action. Rush into something without a plan and you’re likely to make mistakes but spend too much time planning and you’ve lost the opportunity to actually do something. In this particular situation, with the end of term only two and a half weeks away, there is a finite time for this planning to be completed. Please be assured that I will let you know the details as soon as I possibly can. When I wrote to Year 10 parents back in early June, my letter was 1361 words long- I will try to condense the plans as much as possible but there is likely to be a lot of detail that will need explaining.

In essence, the guidance sets out that:

  1. All children should return to school full-time in September
  2. Children will form large ‘bubbles’ in a year group, which means that we can mix classes where this is needed (for example option subjects in Key Stage 4)

There is much more of course and those of you who are interested may be interested in reading the guidance in its entirety:

Guidance for Full Opening Schools

As mentioned above, I will write with more details once I have had time to plan what is best for our school community and context.

In the meantime, a parent survey was sent out yesterday. It’s not the first survey we’ve emailed out- we sent out two to Year 10 parents when we were consulting about the possible return of those students to school. The first main reason for sending this out this one to all parents is because we would genuinely like to know what worked and what you think we should consider continuing next year- for example, many of the early returns have suggested that I continue with this blog next year. The second reason is that, as we have seen in Leicester this week, there remains the possibility that there could be local lockdowns next term. If that was to happen in the Hamble area, then we will of course provide online education again- one of the contingencies we are planning for is this so your thoughts would be very helpful. We will also put out a student survey in the next two weeks- thank you to the parents who suggested this.

Whilst I can’t elaborate on any plan for September at this stage, I can promise you this: we will do our best to ensure that the children at The Hamble School feel safe, secure and ready to learn. It is a non-negotiable for me that it feels like school when the children return. There will be restrictions on where they can go because we won’t have free movement but we will all work together- staff, students, and families- to make sure that the children get the best experiences they possibly can.

Beginnings are important and so are conclusions. Whilst this has been the strangest year of my professional career (and actually my life too), it is coming to an end in two and a half weeks’ time. Normally, this time of year has events such as transition days, rewards trips, Geography field trips, whole-school prize giving at St Mary’s stadium, Duke of Edinburgh expeditions, rewards assemblies, and Sports Day (to name a few). It creates a real sense of excitement and reflection on everything that has gone well, with recognition for many who have worked throughout the year. These events have been an important part of school tradition in every school I have worked at and I would hate for this school year to simply stop on Wednesday 22nd July without an attempt to recreate some of this. Therefore, in the last week we will look to run a virtual Sports Day and online Rewards Assemblies so that we can end the year on a high, with a sense of fun and recognition which are so important to the ethos and sense of community at this school.

We are all very excited to see your children back in school in September. Let’s finish this strangest of years on a good note and I will write further in the next two weeks to let you know what is happening.