‘I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.’- Charles Dickens

There has been a suitably festive atmosphere at school in the last 2 weeks. Last week, the school hosted its first whole-school production, Mary Poppins, for two years. It was an incredible event, with two of our local primary schools (Hamble and Netley) viewing it on Tuesday, and three performances in the evening for parents and carers. There was also a great turnout from staff. thank you to all the staff who ran this (the list of staff involved is far too long to mention everyone). it’s an important reminder that school life is not only about working hard for GCSE and BTEC qualifications. It’s a long time since I left school, but my clearest memories are not those of the lessons I attended. I have very fond memories of playing sport for the school, trips into London to see art galleries, museums and theatre productions (I grew up in London so it was easier for us to do this), being a member of the chess team, and a skiing trip where I accidently found myself on a slope that was far too steep for me. I still remember the fear and excitement as I hurtled down this slope before crashing spectacularly. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Memories like that are why we have tried hard to keep this half-term as normal as possible, despite the increasing covid numbers. I know that many of us have been concerned by the escalation in cases- my daughter tested positive this week and is devastated that she is now confined to the house until Christmas Eve- but our attitude has been to keep doing what we would normally do, with suitable mitigations in place. On Tuesday and Wednesday this week, we served almost 400 Christmas dinners to students in the Dining Hall. Part of the tradition is that I serve the children, ably supported by members of the Senior Leadership Team. This year, Mrs Pennington-Chick and Mrs Morgan pitched in to serve up all of these meals. I’m not sure what Mrs Morgan’s catering professional catering experience is, but both Mrs Pennington-Chick and myself rolled back the years to our previous experiences of working as McDonalds’ crew members (mine is considerably longer ago).

Yesterday, we took 50 Year 11 students to Alexandra Palace in North London to watch a wonderfully-atmospheric production of A Christmas Carol. Although I’ve read the novel many times and watched countless film versions of it, I had never seen it staged until yesterday. The Year 11s, whose behaviour was exemplary, thoroughly enjoyed it too, especially a couple of ‘jump scares’ that made the students sitting next to me jump up in fright. Thank you so much to the staff who ran this event and to Mrs Barkshire for inviting me. As an English teacher, I love being able to go to the theatre.

As you know from our recent correspondence, we are having a slightly staggered start to the beginning of term. This is because we have been asked to offer one lateral flow test to all students. A programme has been sent out to you explaining all of this and you can find the letters on our school website. We will be delivering remote education on these two days. The Xelabus service will not run on Tuesday 4th January but will operate from Wednesday 5th January.

We have also taken the difficult decision to switch Year 11 Parents’ evening (on Thursday 6th January) and Year 7 Parents’ Evening (on Thursday 13th January) to virtual ones because of the new covid variant. The plan is still to move back to face-to-face evenings once it is safe to do so.

The escalation of covid is a concern. We have been living with this pandemic now for 21 months and it is frustrating to still not to be able to run a school normally. I would urge everyone to continue taking two lateral flow tests each week as this helps to reduce the amount of covid in the school itself. Packs have been given to all students. Thankfully, we have remained open every day this term but I am aware that several local schools have been forced to send year groups home because of a lack of staffing. Testing regularly keeps everyone safer and reduces the risk of having to put year groups on remote education.

Finally, I would like to thank everyone in the school community for their support and kind words throughout the term (and the year). I hope that you all have a good Christmas break and I look forward to seeing your children back in the New Year. Happy Christmas!

ALARIC GOVAN
Headteacher

“There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.”- A Christmas Carol

When I used to teach English (which sometimes seems like another lifetime but was actually only 3 ½ years ago), one of the texts I particularly enjoyed teaching was A Christmas Carol. Most of us know the story of Ebenezer Scrooge realising that he has been focusing on the wrong things in life, and his miraculous determination to make a change for the better. My favourite film versions of this novel are either A Muppets Christmas Carol or the Billy Murray classic Scrooged, and that probably tells you something about the kind of films I like to watch over Christmas (I am also hoping to go to my local cinema to watch Elf). Christmas can be a great time for family, celebration and togetherness and I’m sure that most of us are looking forward to spending it this year with friends and families after last year’s restrictions due to coronavirus.

Unfortunately, we are still having to risk assess and take coronavirus into account. Next week, we are staging Mary Poppins, our whole-school play. Every morning, whilst driving into work, I have listened to more and more stories about plays being cancelled or audiences being restricted to online viewing only. This is a great shame as one of the thrills of performing is having a live audience in front of you. This isn’t a criticism of other schools- just a reflection that contexts are different for individual schools.

At the time of writing (Friday morning), the plays will still run as intended but I am putting the following mitigations into place:

  1. All staff and parents/ carers should wear a face mask, unless there is a medical exemption. A recent piece of research estimated that this reduced the chances of transmission by approximately 50%.
  2. I would ask everyone to take a lateral flow test before attending. If this test is positive, please stay at home. I will not, however, be asking parents/ carers to evidence this test or to demonstrate that they are either fully vaccinated or immune because they have had a positive PCR test result within the past 6 months. I know that theatres and some other venues do this, but the logistics of staff checking (and perhaps refusing parents/ carers on the door) is not practical. We are a school.
  3. Hand gel will be available at all entrances. We will also sterilise all seats before and after each performance.
  4. We will ventilate the hall as much as possible. This does mean that it will be cold so please wrap up warmly.
  5. We cannot socially distance parents/ carers by the recommended 1m without reducing the numbers and most of you have already booked your tickets.
  6. As the performance is only one hour long, there will be no interval. We have decided to cancel refreshments as this could lead to closer mixing of adults and children.

We will also be looking to live stream or record the plays, so if you decide that you would prefer not to attend then please contact the school for a full refund.

In the last week of term, we are running Christmas dinners. Again, the plan is to still hold these. One of the highlights of the year for me is serving the children during these meals. To mitigate the risks of students mixing with other year groups, we will be setting up different tables for each year group. As this is pretty much what happens anyway, the children shouldn’t notice the difference.

Lastly, a quick word on surveys. Thank you to all parents who have completed the Parent Survey that was sent out last week. The closing date for this is Monday 6th December at 0900. The link for this survey is below:

Parent Survey – The Hamble School

We are also going to ask the children what they think about school- what they like, and what they would like us to change. Over the past 2 years, we have built three canopies (a fourth is going on the field behind Durban/ Beijing this year) and replaced four sets of student toilets. All of this is in response to what your children have asked for. As we go forward, I would like their input to help myself and the staff make this school a better place for everyone in the school community. Students in Years 7-9 will complete these surveys during their IT lessons but we will be putting the survey on Class Charts for Years 10 and 11. Please encourage your child to have their say.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend.

ALARIC GOVAN
Headteacher