Week Three: ‘Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.’ – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Hamble Uniform

Firstly, I’d like to start with an apology over a misunderstanding this week with hoodies. Our decision to let students wear PE kit in on the days that they have PE (to avoid changing) is a sensible one and has largely worked well. However, there have been some instances where children have continually worn PE kit which does not meet the requirements of the school uniform policy. I know that some parents/ carers take issue with the school’s policy on uniform but my stance has always been that you either have a uniform policy or you don’t. if you do (and The Hamble School has had the same policy for about 5 years now), then my belief is that you enforce it. If you don’t, you end up with 1100 different interpretations which completely undermines the point of having it in the first place and makes it unfair on the students who comply. However, in our attempt this week to remove hoodies that are the wrong colour or branded, we have ended up in a situation where some staff have confiscated them rather than giving them the weekend to remedy the situation. That is my mistake for not being clear in my communications with staff and I am sorry for this. If you could make sure that your child is wearing the correct uniform next week, that will make it much easier for all of us.

It’s been a strange week across the country as we have moved to the tighter restrictions, imposed by the government and starting today. I had a stark reminder of it when the restaurant I had booked for a very rare night out with my wife phoned me to say that my reservation had to be moved earlier so that they could close by 10pm. What I think is a good thing, though, is that it’s a reminder that all of us that coronavirus hasn’t gone away and that we need to continue to be vigilant.

I watched a government briefing on Monday and the government’s chief medical advisor reminded us that we all need to reduce our individual risk. I mitigate my risk of catching COVID-19 by keeping a sensible distance from other people, washing my hands (or sanitising) frequently, and making sure that I sterilise my office after meetings. Students have their part to play- sanitizing their hands at the beginning and end of each lesson, staying in their allocated zone (even though that can be annoying for some), adhering to the one-way system, and keeping a sensible distance from each other. As always, I would ask you to talk to your child to reinforce these simple but key messages that will help me keep the school open.

Although we still haven’t had a confirmed case of COVID-19 yet, I know that some Hampshire schools have and I just wanted to remind you what to do if your child has one or more of the three symptoms (a high temperature; a new persistent cough; the loss of the sense of taste or smell):

Visit our Attendance page for more information – here

I am also attaching a letter from the NHS which is addressed to all parents and carers, which gives guidance on when to keep your child off.

NHS Test & Trace letter – Download (PDF)

Weather, hoodies, and coronavirus aside, it’s been a really good first three weeks back in school. This week, I’ve held meetings with all of the Heads of Department so that they can tell me about the adjustments they’ve made to their curricula and methods of teaching and learning. It’s been really interesting to see how departments have risen to the health and safety restrictions to think about different strategies they can use. We’ve also had to think about sensible ways of delivering assemblies (which we are now presenting to half of the year group with the other half watching in their classrooms) and we’ve just started discussions about ways in which we can promote the creative arts using different platforms. We have also recently invested in a new system for parents’ evenings which will seamlessly move you from appointment to appointment (something that just wasn’t feasible using Microsoft Teams or Zoom) and I’m excited by the new ways in which we are learning to work. It’s a challenge and is requiring some quick thinking from our staff but the end result, hopefully, is that we are able to offer the same kinds of experiences we always have but in a way that keeps all of us safe.

Have a lovely weekend and I hope you are able to take advantage of the good weather that seems to be forecast over the next two days.


Week One: “Tomorrow, is the first blank page of a 365-page book. Write a good one.” ― Brad Paisley

I’ve always loved the beginning of the new academic year and, in particular, the newness of September – old school memories of wearing a slightly-too-big uniform, the shininess of new school shoes, a pencil case filled with new stationery, and having a brand-new exercise book to write in. Even now, I relive some of those experiences by buying new shoes, a brand-new notebook for the year, and some nice pens (but not too nice because they invariably go missing at some point during the term). It’s also a time for new opportunities – every student starting or returning to the school is able to draw a line under the previous year and begin afresh, often with different teachers or, in the case of Year 9s starting their GCSEs, new subjects for them to enjoy.

The Chinese word for ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters – one representing danger and the other representing opportunity. I’ve thought about that a lot over the past few months and it’s definitely true that even when things seem difficult (and it certainly is a challenge for the students and staff to operate in this situation) there are always opportunities. Yes, it’s a pain sometimes to follow a one-way system but it’s actually making the transition between lessons calmer. Similarly, the inconvenience of having to go to only one catering outlet has led to reduced queue lengths and a quicker service for many students. It’s all about mindset.

It’s been a busy but enjoyable first week back at school with our overriding principles of making the school experience as normal as possible but also as safe as possible (two equally important tenets that are often at odds with each other). Our new Year 7 cohort, the class of 2025, started on Monday, eager and excited (with a few nerves thrown in); the other year groups have come back over the course of the week and I’ve seen a lot of excitement from students in all year groups (several of whom have privately admitted that they were bored being off for so long). It’s good to be back.

There have been a few tweaks to our plans as the week has progressed – one of the reasons why we had a phased start this week. The five catering outlets have worked well, with the students’ behaviour impeccable as they lined up. The new one-way system, with all of its bold yellow arrows, has also worked well with students being sensible and keeping to the left. Today we have 3 year groups in (Years 7, 10 and 11) with all 1100 students back in on Monday 14th September. The site, which has been quiet for far too long, now sounds like a school. I’ve missed that happy chatter of students around the place.

The key to all of this is our ability to maintain year-group bubbles. This has allowed us to run the timetable as usual (a timetable where students stay in a tutor group bubble just doesn’t work) and to run assemblies to go through the new expectations and procedures. There was some discussion over the summer about whether or not to run assemblies – some schools have done so and some have chosen to hold them virtually. For the moment, we have chosen to hold them in the hall, with hand sanitizer available on entry and exit and with all of the doors open to improve the ventilation. The guidance is really clear that mixed assemblies are not allowed, however, which means that we will have to discontinue our House assemblies for the moment. As I mentioned above, we are closely monitoring everything and I expect us to continue tweaking (and even changing things completely) as our theoretical plan meets the reality of 1100 students and over 100 staff coming together for the first time in five and a half months.

I’ve led assemblies this week with every year group. I really enjoy taking assemblies but I normally vary them for each year group. This week, I have delivered virtually the same script each day, which meant that by today (Friday) I could have delivered it without the slides. My Senior Leadership Team have been present for most if not all of these assemblies and I could almost see them thinking: ‘Is he about to deliver the same tired joke he has done the past four days?’ The answer to that question was of course yes, despite its failure to raise a collective smile at any point this week. A life on the after-dinner speaking circuit is obviously not in my future post-retirement.

There is a lot for staff, students and parents to take in so we have produced a ‘Welcome Back’ video which you can view on the school website. It is only a few minutes long and it is well worth watching so that you (and your child) can be clear about the changes we have put in place to keep everyone safe.

‘Welcome Back’ video – here

I have also been asked by the rail company to remind you that the wearing of face coverings is mandatory when your child is on the train platform. When staff are on duty down there, they will also be wearing face coverings.

Finally, although there is guidance out there on what to do if you suspect your child has coronavirus, I thought it might be worth a reminder so I have summarized the main points:

What to do if your child is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19)

There are three known symptoms of coronavirus:
– A high temperature
– A new continuous cough
– A loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell (anosmia

If your child has any of these symptoms, please do not send them into school. You should arrange to have a test to see if your child has coronavirus and everyone in your household should self-isolate until you have the results.

If the test comes back negative, your child can come back into school if they feel well enough.

If the test comes back positive, then your child should stay off school for 10 days. Your household will need to self-isolate for 14 days; if someone then falls ill with coronavirus, they begin a 10-day self-isolation. The rest of the family do not have to re-start the 14-day period   In the event that you, or someone else in your household, catches coronavirus, then your child needs to begin a 14-day period of self-isolation.

In all instances, please let the school know because we will have to contact the local heath protection team for advice. We will not share the names of people with coronavirus unless it is essential to protect others.  

If your child presents symptoms of coronavirus when in school, we will move them to the Medical Room (or another space if that is not available) and phone you immediately to collect your child to take them home.  

I hope you have a good weekend.


‘Every moment is a fresh beginning’- T. S. Eliot

I hope that you have all enjoyed a restful holiday. It’s been non-stop at home, with me spending most of the good weather cutting back our overgrown garden and redecorating the house in readiness for putting it back on the market. We’ve enjoyed some wonderful weather, which has meant a fair number of beach trips. Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve also ventured to a couple of theme parks (below is a great photo of myself and my daughter at Thorpe Park on Swarm wearing face coverings, which is a strange reminder of what life is like at the moment). There’s also been a fair amount of reading guidance and keeping up-to-date with what other schools are doing around the country. Overall, a good break in readiness for the new year ahead.

The start of a new academic year is always exciting and, for millions of children and staff, a lot more meaningful that the beginning of the calendar year. This is the start of my twenty-fifth year in education and I’m still as excited by the start of the year as I was back in September 1996 when I started my career. In some ways, it was very different- most of the rooms still had chalkboards; there was no internet and limited IT; staff didn’t have access to email so we wrote messages to each other in those days and left them in pigeonholes; there were no mobile phones. But the fundamentals were the same- students attended lessons and enjoyed socialising at break and lunch; schools offered a range of experiences inside and outside the classroom; and relationships were key to establishing good order throughout the school.

Yes, this new year will be different in some ways- students will have to remain in year-group bubbles throughout the school day; there will be constant reminders about personal hygiene; there will be designated areas for the beginning of the day, break and lunchtime; some staff and students will be wearing face-coverings. But fundamentally, everything will still be the same: students will still attend five lessons each day; classrooms will still be places of learning; and relationships, between students and with students and staff, will be key.

There’s been a lot written about the detrimental impact of the last five months. I’m not an expert in psychology but I do have my quarter of a century’s worth of experience in school settings and one thing I know is that children are resilient. Most will adjust quickly; some will need some support and we will do what we can. The most important thing over the next 2-3 weeks will be to re-establish a sense of normality around the school. In the same way that all of us have become used to queuing for shops, the students will quickly become used to the new routines that are essential to the school being able to reopen.

The relationships between home and school will be even more crucial this year. There is bound to be a lot of anxiety on all sides in the first few weeks: parents may be nervous at the thought of their children coming back into a school situation; children may be anxious about being back with lots of other children; staff may be concerned about working closely with students and other members of staff. We have risk-assessed and mitigated risks wherever possible and I genuinely believe that we have created a safe environment for adults and children to work together. We just need some time for all of us to get used to it.

A few reminders about what will be different this year and the reason(s) why I have made certain decisions:

Face Coverings:

This has received a lot of press over the summer, as I am sure you are aware. The latest guidance, released last Friday evening, is clear that face coverings do not need to be worn. As a school, we have discussed this issue a lot and I’ve exchanged communications with a number of local headteachers over the past week, as well as discussing my thoughts with the Chair of Governors. The current position is that we are not asking students to wear face coverings unless:

  • They have a medical concern or are living with someone who needs to be shielded
  • They are anxious about being back in school

In all instances, we are asking parents/ carers to contact their child’s Head of Year so that we can work with families. We are also asking for plain face coverings only- either disposable masks or washable ones. I will monitor what happens in school over the next couple of weeks and I will revisit this decision if it is clear that it needs changing.

There will also be some staff wearing face coverings or visors.

Year-Group Bubbles:

The biggest change for students will be the expectation that they remain in year-group bubbles throughout the school day. This will be difficult for many because their friendship groups may include students in other year groups. However, the guidance to schools is that maintaining these bubbles is crucial and my message to all students on their return will be that this is non-negotiable and will be enforced. In the event of an outbreak of coronavirus, the impact on the school will be much reduced if students have not been mixing together.

On the first day back, we will explain all of this to the students, as well as the new one-way system that we have implemented.

Transport and the Beginning of the Day:

Because so many students rely on public transport, it is not possible to have a staggered start to the day. All bus and train routes are private services so face coverings are mandatory for secondary school students. Students who walk or cycle to school will need a face covering if they want to use any of the local shops. I would appreciate you discussing with your children the importance of not socialising outside of their year group as much as possible for the reasons explained above.

Students should use either entrance to access the school and then they can either go to their tutor rooms from 0815 onwards or wait in their designated outside area until the bell goes for tutor time. If necessary, they can go to their locker to make sure they have everything they need for the day. They cannot be anywhere else.

Break and Lunch Times:

We have created 5 separate catering outlets to help each year group remain separate from each other (as well as a designated area nearby for the year groups to socialise). We have had to use school staff to help run these additional areas and, as a consequence, the food offer will be reduced during this time. We have purchased extra hot plates to keep the food warm but it is just not possible to offer the wide range of food that we have traditionally served. We can still use the fingerprint system because staff will wipe the sensors after each child has scanned their finger. This will help keep the queues moving because a return to cash payments would lead to longer queuing times.

We have also bought additional benches for the children to use during break and lunch. In the event of a wet break or lunch, the children will be able to use their tutor rooms as usual.

First-Week Back:

As you can see, there is a lot to go through with the children when they come back to school. For that reason, we are implementing a phased return. Just as a final reminder:

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

This will give us sufficient time to work with each year group to help them get back into the swing of things. On the days that students are not in school during that week, online work (a mixture of live lessons and set work) will be set for all year groups. Mrs Valleley is just finalising the timetable, which will be sent out to you in a newsletter on Thursday. The work itself will be on Show My Homework by 5pm on Friday 4th September. Please make sure that your child engages with this work.

Parents/ Carers On-Site:

There are restrictions on visitors coming onto the school site and I am afraid that parents/ carers are no exception to this. On the first day of term, we will not be allowing Year 7 parents/ carers on site because of the increased risks this brings. We will also not be allowing parents on site without a prior appointment. If you need to communicate with the school, please do so by phone or email and we will get back to you as quickly as possible.

Have a good rest of the week and I look forward to seeing all 1103 students back in school beginning on Monday 7th September when we welcome our new Year 7 cohort.