Dear Parents, Carers & Other responsible adults
I write as we approach both half term and Lent. This is a fascinating time of year as we see the days lengthen, Spring flowers emerge from their hibernation, and share a collective sense of anticipating Easter.
There are a number of matters which I thought it would be helpful to draw to your attention. This is, of course, a vitally important time for those students in Years 11 and 13 who are busy preparing themselves for external examinations. I recognise that this can be a stressful period for families, students, and the wider school community. Students in Year 11 ought to be busily preparing themselves for their mock examinations which take place in March. The steps we have taken to help the students organise themselves are the provision of revision guides, meetings with yourselves, and additional after school classes. I should like to draw to your attention that all of our students in Year 11 will shortly be issued with a Prom Passport. This is a very important document as it will enable all of us to be absolutely certain that the students are trying their hardest and as a consequence of this, deserving of attendance at one of our showcase events. Please note that we will also be arranging a Leavers’ Mass for Year 11 and Year 13.
Further details will be provided.
Whilst I am immensely proud of all of our students, I did want to take a moment or two to recognise some of the activities that have been happening for our students in school, for example our Year 8 students hosting a visit from one of our partner primary schools, St Begh’s, to the Science department (follow the link to this story on our school website – http://www.st-benedicts.cumbria.sch.uk/st-beghs-primary-schoolvisit/) At the time of writing a number of our students are en route to Austria for a half term skiing excursion. I am very grateful to those staff joining the excursion for making this possible.
At this present time we are focussing on some priorities which I felt it would be helpful to share with you. We are seeking to support and intervene with three particular sub-groups of students: our most able, those who are entitled to the Pupil Premium (what Ofsted call Disadvantaged), and those students who have special needs. I have been stressing to the staff and students the importance of good progress in all
subjects regardless of ability.
As I am sure you will be aware, students need to arrive at school in a timely manner in the morning, be punctual to lessons, and to have good and regular attendance at school in order to access the learning on offer and to receive homework. I should like to take this opportunity to remind you that it is vital that students also arrive at school on time. For clarity, students need to be on the site no later than 8.40am at which time a bell rings, which signifies everybody needs to move to registration, which commences at 8.45am. The school is securely locked at 8.45am as part of our safeguarding arrangements, and any students arriving after this time will be deemed to be late. It may be helpful for you to know that we will be concentrating upon timely arrival after half term, and that any students who arrive late for school regularly, will be placed in detention. Could I also take this opportunity to thank you for the consistently high standards of school uniform our students wear with pride, day in, day out.
I should also like to enlist your support in making sure that we have the highest possible levels of attendance. A small, but significant, number of students currently have attendance which is below 90%. This means that they are deemed to be persistently absent and as such, will not be making the learning gains they ought to. For those students falling into this category, we have put into place a range of measures to help improve matters. I have made arrangements for you to be contacted separately should your child fall into this category. It may be helpful to point out that it is not permissible to take term time holidays as authorised absence. There are very few reasons why absence from school can be authorised (for example, your child is too ill to attend, or has a medical or dental appointment where it has been impossible for this to take place outside of normal school hours.) The only other context in which absence from school can be authorised, is by securing advanced written permission from myself.
I should like to take this opportunity to thank you for all the support you provide to the school community, and to encourage you to continue to provide us with feedback, good or bad, whenever you feel the need to do so. I very much appreciate those of you who have taken the time to participate in our parental consultation group meetings, the next of which will on Tuesday 7 March at 5.00pm in the Meeting Room at school. This meeting is open to everybody. I am also grateful to those of you who have taken the time to complete the Ofsted Parent View questionnaire, which can be found at https://parentview.ofsted.gov.uk/parent-view-results
There are many very positive aspects to St Benedict’s School. It is very important, however, that we do not rest on our laurels and continue to work together in partnership to ensure that all our students make really good progress in all of their subjects. In closing, I should also wish to draw to your attention the fact that our new build, as part of Campus Whitehaven, continues to go extremely well and that planning permission was granted earlier this week.
I P Smith