“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” – Henry Ford

I am sure that many of you have children who are gamers. The computer games industry is a multi-billion pound one and budgets allocated to some games can rival those of blockbuster Hollywood films. I know my children have often waited for months for the latest game to be launched, pre-ordering it to make sure that they are among the first people to experience it.

And yet it’s not unusual for early reviews of these games to complain about bugs and glitches that make the playable experience less enjoyable. Back in 2020, Sony took the unprecedented step of recalling the game Cyberpunk 2077 because of its unplayability. This is the equivalent of Marvel pulling one of its films because the visual effects look awful. These glitches are not always a surprise to the company. In the games industry, flaws are expected and game developers will then issue ‘patches’ (which are in essence bits of reprogramming) to correct these errors. The argument, as I understand it, is that waiting for the product to be perfect would lead to games never being released- it is only through the extensive testing by thousands of gamers playing the game that the final version can be finalised.

Last half-term, I wrote to you following the feedback you gave us when completing the parent/ carer survey. Improving behaviour is a priority for the school- like all schools since Covid, we have dealt with increased incidents of defiance, mobile phone use, and verbal/ physical aggression. There is no silver bullet to improving behaviour- if there was, all schools would employ the same strategy and behaviour would be good locally and nationally. Students as a whole suffered during the two lockdowns and, whilst there has been some minor investment in the form of catch-up funding, schools have also had to consider the impact on children’s social skills and mental health.

Our strategy for behaviour recovery focuses on the following key areas:

  • Regular continuous professional development for staff
  • Revamping the tutor programme to focus on interactions and language used to resolve conflicts
  • Improving facilities for students to make their day-to-day experience better
  • Improving the provision for mental health where possible
  • Improved tracking of student behaviour, with weekly meetings to focus on students whose behaviour needs improvement (this also includes additional support where necessary)
  • Sharing behaviour data with parents/ carers through the Class Charts app

We have also been running weekly SEN (Special Educational Needs) briefings that focus on students’ needs and strategies for staff to use to support these students. I have deliberately not included this point in the above list because I wouldn’t want to imply that SEN students are responsible for poor behaviour. But it’s an additional way in which we are trying to improve staff understanding of individual needs.

Class Charts was introduced two and a half years ago because it is very easy for staff to record positive and challenging behaviour using this system. At the beginning of the half-term, when I led House assemblies with the whole school, three hundred thousand positive points had been awarded and the ratio of positive to negative was nine to one. It’s always important to focus on the vast majority of students who are getting it right on a daily basis.

From the beginning of half-term, we have been sharing the behaviour data via the Class Charts app. The aim is for us to use this app more and more as time progresses. The rationale behind sharing this information is simple: firstly, I think it’s important to let you know how your child is behaving; secondly, I am hoping that this will lead to improvement in behaviour if parents/carers are able to support the school by discussing behaviour at home. I am expecting there to be some glitches- in the first week alone, parents raised a few with us that we were able to resolve after contacting Class Charts directly. Yesterday after school, Mrs Emmett-Callaghan, who is leading this initiative, delivered training to staff so that we can use this system more effectively. It will take time. Please bear with us.  

A few thoughts about detentions.

(1) I am hoping that the joined-up thinking by sharing behaviour via the Class Charts app will lead to a decrease in detentions. When I was at school (a long, long time ago), I’m embarrassed to admit that I wasn’t particularly bothered about getting a detention. I was, however, bothered about my parents finding out- the telling off and subsequent punishment at home was always worse to me than the school detention. It did make me improve my behaviour. My mum might not agree, but there were definitely times when I chose to do the right thing rather than incur my mother’s wrath!

(2) Schools do have the authority to set detentions, as set out in the ‘Behaviour and Discipline in Schools’ document below:

‘Behaviour and Discipline in Schools’ – Download (PDF)

Schools do not need to have permission from parents/ carers to set these detentions and they can be with during the day or after school (including weekends, although I don’t know any schools that do this and I would never want to).

(3) All detentions will now be set via the Class Charts app so it is really important that you have downloaded this app to your phone. We will also be using the app to record attendance. Details on how to download this app are included in the school’s weekly message on our website.

Last Tuesday was a staff training day. The whole of this day was devoted to behaviour management. Jarlath O’Brien, a HIAS Inspector, led a whole-school session on behaviour management. The rest of the training focused on scenario-based training for all staff, teaching and non-teaching. More sessions are scheduled in for the rest of the school year. 

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I have to end this on a sad note.

Those of you who attended the school as students yourselves may remember Mr Nick Bacon. Mr Bacon gave the school over 30 years of service and was Head of History for much of this time. Even after he left, he was a regular supply teacher and was a frequent visitor to the school. I was contacted at the beginning of half term with the sad news that he had passed away. I’d like to take the opportunity to thank him for everything he did for the school and to offer my condolences to his family. I have received a number of emails and letters from the community, all of which have stressed what a positive impact he was on you all. He will be much missed.

Best wishes

ALARIC GOVAN
Headteacher