8 September 2023

Image of Headteacher's Update

Dear Parents & Carers,

It is good to be back in school writing the first Friday Bulletin of the year. *

This is our most regular form of communication with home, and we encourage parents and carers to check regularly. As well as sharing the news, success stories and achievements each week, there are often also important notices concerning events in and around school. For this week, there is just my update; the Bulletin will resume its usual format from next Friday.

I would like to start the year by welcoming all returning students and by extending a warm welcome to those joining us for the first time. The first days back at school are always exciting, and it is heartening to see students and school staff getting back into the positive routines that define our community. Given the much publicised difficulties being experienced by other schools nationally in relation to their buildings, we are also very grateful to have had the time and resources to be able to focus upon a ‘normal’ return to school. We have offered support to other local schools facing difficulties and I can only imagine how hard the last few days have been. We work very closely with partner schools in Central Durham and sincerely hope that they are given the support needed from the Government so that all of the children our community can return to school as quickly as possible.

My first assembly with Year 7 highlighted the importance of being a positive, tolerant and kind member of our school community. Our students can trace their origins to over 60 countries. They attended 38 different primary schools and represent a number of different faiths. As a Headteacher I always think carefully about the words I use but other people often express important ideas much more profoundly. With that in mind, I shared a quote from Jo Cox’s maiden speech in Parliament that summed up exactly what I wanted to convey.

“While we celebrate our diversity, what surprises me time and time again as I travel around… is that we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”

Jo Cox, Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

That is true of the children within our school community, and I used a very simple example. When I asked the students if a picture of them in their new uniform had been taken at home this week, every student raised their hand. Whilst we are all unique individuals, we often share common experiences and are united by that. Our ethos is based upon all students being equal when they cross our threshold.

I wanted to finish by sharing two positive stories. Unusually, I have awarded three Head Teacher badges in the first week of term for the very first time. We emphasise the importance of not being a bystander and, in their final week of Year 10 back in July, three of our students acted quickly to support a friend who was facing real difficulty. We emphasise the importance of supporting others within our community; their actions made those words reality and we are very grateful and impressed with their actions. The second positive story relates to one of the situations that we might all dread at the start of a new year.  

Starting at a new school is challenging: a new uniform, a new building, new teachers, rooms, classmates, and classes. The potential to make a mistake is huge. Whilst starting to teach a complex Maths problem to their Year 11 class a colleague received a polite knock at the door. The student outside apologised for being late. The teacher assumed that they were a new starter and encouraged them to attempt the tricky GCSE maths question on the whiteboard. The student tried hard, but found it complicated and needed support. The teacher sat with them and worked through the answer. When asking if they had encountered similar complex equations in Year 10 the student explained that they were unsure, as they had just started in Year 7 and now realised that their lesson was next door. The first week of any new year is always interesting – well done to that student for at least having a go!   

Next week we will write to all parents to outline the year ahead for different year groups, answer some frequently asked parental questions, and Mrs McFadden will share detailed information about the curriculum, core subjects and setting.

Thank you for your ongoing support, and welcome to the new school year.

Mr O’Sullivan

* The Education Secretary will be encouraged that, whilst technically sitting down, I am actively doing something.