Trust. But Verify.
‘I don’t trust them, they’re kids.’
Is an interesting opening gambit for an article which is meant to outline the positive impact your school is having. But that is what Katharine Birbalsingh chose to do in an article published in the Times Education Supplement in July of this year. She is the Headteacher of the Michaela Community School in London, which operates a ‘no excuses’ behaviour policy.
How much trust should we place in young people? It is a question to contemplate both as a teacher and as a parent. In a previous bulletin I referenced a grizzled former colleague who bemoaned the lack of noticeable youth culture on the yard. He always had a unique world view and, whilst mooching around on bus duty, would say about the arriving students, ’How many of them would you turn your back on in class? How many of them would you trust if you left the classroom?’ As an enthusiastic teacher just starting out, I couldn’t actually fathom why someone would leave a classroom when they were meant to be teaching the children in it, but also felt that I would trust all, or most, of the students that I met. 22 years later I still believe that, but experience has also taught me that students need clear boundaries and a sense of structure. If those things are missing, they will move into the available space and fill it with ‘teenage spontaneity and youthful exuberance.’
There is also a parental aspect to trust. In my first year as Assistant Headteacher I was asked to speak at a meeting for new Year 7 parents. The session was based upon how different subjects were taught. After my presentation I asked if there were any questions. Indeed there were, lots of them. None of which were about subject specific teaching. ‘How can I check what my son ate for lunch today? How long should a school skirt be? What about ties? Why isn’t jewellery allowed? What temperature are the fridges maintained at if cooking ingredients are stored in the morning, but not used until the afternoon?’ I answered these questions to the best of my ability (read: badly) and then a new line of questioning opened up. ’Is it possible to come in and see my daughter working in the classroom? Can I volunteer as an assistant in my child’s class?’ Whilst beginning to answer, I noticed that the Headteacher was present and had taken a seat, ominously, in the corner of the room. She was listening intently. I stumbled through an answer, noting that we always welcomed volunteers and that we might be able to arrange something if they wanted to observe a lesson. At this point the Headteacher stood up and gave her perspective. Below is an approximation of that response:
“I think that you coming into school is a very bad idea. It suggests, either, that you don’t trust your daughter, or that you don’t trust us. School is where your daughter comes to grow up, away from her parents and the last thing she needs, as she becomes more independent, is her dad hanging around the place. She needs time and space to become her own person and we provide that. If it is that you don’t trust us, then we need to talk about that, because we’re experienced public servants and we know what we are doing and care about doing it properly.’
On balance, I think you’ll agree that her response was slightly better than mine. I’m also aware that this is a very difficult message to hear as a parent. The individual in question took it in the spirit intended and acknowledged that he had been heavily involved at primary school and moving away from that had proven difficult. Acting as a helper or observing your child on the yard might be sorely tempting, but it probably won’t improve your relationship at home.
Therefore, trust is hugely important. We have to trust the students. You have to trust both us and your children when they walk out of the door in the morning. Within that context, it is also important to acknowledge that mistakes will be made. Katharine Birbalsingh might well be correct not to trust some students when it comes to issues regarding uniform, for example. I wrote to all parents in July about uniform and we sent home a leaflet outlining the school’s policy at that time. The same leaflet features on the school website. I would like to thank the vast majority of parents and students for fully supporting us. The students look smart and represent the school wonderfully well. This week it has become apparent, however, that some parents trusted their sons and daughters a little too fully when they said that tight skirts and trousers made from stretchy material featured as part of our school uniform. They obviously don’t, but students will try these things in order to test the boundaries. We have been very fair with students this week and have provided time to sort issues with uniform out. Please support us by making sure that you are familiar with our policy (outlined below) and trust us when we say that wearing the correct uniform is important.
Reminder: HPV Vaccine
We would like to remind parents and carers that the HPV vaccine is being offered to all 12 and 13 year old girls in school this term. If you wish your child to have the HPV vaccination you must consent electronically. Please click on the following below for a copy of the information letter Beating Cervical Cancer from the Childhood Immunisation Team for Durham, Darlington and Teeside. The letter includes details of the electonric link to the form which can be completed on smart phones and tablets.
Mrs J Coady, Attendance and Welfare Manager
We have spoken to pupils this week about the importance of school uniform. Form Tutors have reminded all tutees of our uniform policy today, Friday 21st September. We will follow this up with a uniform check and reminders in assemblies next week.
A focus on being prepared to learn is very important at this early stage in the academic year. We strive to instill this in our young people.
We thank parents and carers for your support in this. Please see below a copy of our Uniform Policy which has been highlighted to emphasise the school's expectations. A copy of the policy is is published in our NEWS section on the website. A copy of the policy was also enclosed with the end of term information letter from the Head sent to parents at the end of last term.
Mrs Bell, Assistant Headteacher
We are pleased to announce that a new lunchtime French Club for pupils in Years 7 and 8 has started this week and is aimed to help students improve their French in a fun way. The club will be held in La10 during 1st lunch on Thursdays.
Mrs Wood, Subject Leader for MFL
Students in Year 11 are responsible for ensuring they have secured their options for post-16 careers. Please encourage your child to begin researching their options as a priority, early in this academic year.
A letter containing the ‘Information and Advice Evening’ dates for all of the local schools and Further Educational colleges this year was recently issued to students. Applications will be taken at these events for entry in 2018-19 and multiple applications can be made by students that will ensure they have options to consider after they receive their exam results. A copy of the letter is available here.
The first of these events will be held as follows:
· Durham Johnston 6th Form Open Evening – Monday 1st October (6-8pm)
· New College Open Evening – Tuesday 2nd October (4.30-6.30pm)
· Framwellgate Moor – Tuesday 9th October (6pm)
· Durham School – Wednesday 10thOctober (6-7.30pm)
· St Leonards – Thursday 4th October (7-9pm)
· East Durham College - Peterlee Campus – Wednesday 3rd October (5-7pm)
· East Durham College – Houghall Campus – Wednesday 10thOctober (5-7pm)
· Durham 6thForm Centre – Thursday 18thOctober (5-8pm)
If your child has any queries regarding career options or need help in completing applications then they must come and see me. If they wish to hand in any completed applications to me I will also email them to the appropriate establishment on their behalf.
Mr Kennedy, Subject Leader for Careers and Guidance
Year 7 Visit to Durham Cathedral 2018
Our annual Year 7 Visit to Durham Cathedral will take place on 25th, 26 and 27 September. If any parent or carer has not yet received their copy, please click on the link below.
Word of the Week
Sixth Form Notices
If you would like to keep up to date with what is going on in the Sixth Form please click on the following link - Monday 24 September 2018
Students of the Week
Students of the Week is to become a regular feature in the Friday Bulletin. Please see the first of the images below:
Portrait drawing: Evan Baker - 8JW Howling Wolf Scupture: Anastasia Banev - 7HH
The Year 7 sculpture homework has resulted in many fantastic outcomes and will publish a display of the of the homework shortly. Well done to all Year 7's who made such a great effort.
Mr Devlin, Subject Leader for Art
Music Department Notices
County Youth Orchestra
Durham Music Service are relaunching County Youth Orchestra. For more details, please follow the link.
Mr Holmes – Subject Leader for Music
PE Department Notices
On Tuesday the football season continued as we travelled to Greenfield School with Year 7, 9 and 10 teams. The Year 7 game was one-sided as we dominated going on to win 16 – 2. We also won the Year 10 game 5 – 3. The best game of the evening was the Year 9’s which Greenfield eventually won 3 – 2.
The netball season got underway on Thursday as our Year 9 and 10 teams took on Durham High. These matches are always of a high standard and last night was no exception. The Year 9 A team game was close at half-time but Durham High pulled away in the second half going on to win 14 - 8. The Year 10 game was a similar story as we eventually lost 17 - 1. The Year 9 B team also played last night and we were successful in that game winning 9 – 1.
Good luck tonight to our Year 7 football team who now travel to Easington in the first round of the County Cup.
Mr Hopper, Subject Leader for PE
Please find below a copy of the activities offered to students during 1st and 2nd lunch and after school.
Transport is provided for pupils living in the Brandon and Bowburn areas on Wednesday afternoons. The 'late buses' leave the school at 4.30 p.m. and stop at designated drop off points. Students who wish to travel home on either of the late buses should ensure that they call at the Reception (at break or lunchtime only) to sign up and confirm that they will be travelling home that evening.
We are so glad for the input we have received so far and by the excitement of the kids at school, but we STILL NEED YOUR HELP! If you are good at gardening, or have tools to spare or that you could donate to our project please let us know!
Our next site day will be friday 21st September 2018 from 9am-2pm. We would appreciate wheelbarrows on the day if possible, and if anyone has a strimmer and some saws these would be amazingly wonderful too. We have already MADE SO MUCH PROGRESS on site and have revealed all of the visible remains. But there is still much to be done!
Our involvement in the schools has already been like a roller coaster, but we are all loving every minute of it! Our next session tomorrow will be about Knights, and they will be designing their own shields for the Battle re-enactment. Next week we will be doing some re-enactment practice if all goes to plan! Fingers crossed!
A final thing to mention is that DREAM COMMUNITY CHARITY will be appearing at the 'OUR WORLD MATTERS FESTIVAL' at Selby Abbey, North Yorkshire this coming Saturday 22nd September. The day is going to be full of workshops in theatre, art and music; kid's activities; talks on why our world matters; and stalls from more than 10 different ethical charities. Then from 5pm their will be a delightful dinner that can be purchased from the Abbey, and THEN A N EVENING of worship with live choirs and bands. It sounds like an altogether fab day to attend as an individual; with friends; or as a family, and I would greatly recommend heading down to Yorkshire and joining the fun! The posters are attached, and you can follow it on facebook at: Owmselby
Now, I think that is about that but look out for our next emails to see how you can get involved and to follow what we are up to!!!!
Term and holiday dates 2018-2020