I’ve been looking forward to the start of the 2017-2018 academic year since about May 2016. It was back then that I learnt I had been successful after two days of Headteacher interviews and, with the first year in a new headship very much about setting the compass for the long-term, I knew that the ‘next’ September was when ‘The Friary should be ready to step on.

Even so, there has already been a great deal accomplished which has put us in good heart as we look to the year ahead. We have a much stronger staffing body with excellent subject specialists, particularly in key subjects like English and Maths, and we have recruited passionate, committed and skilled teachers across the curriculum who will certainly take the school forward. There are a few bumps on the horizon – with new courses, falling budgets, teacher shortages, etc, and this will be the way for the foreseeable – but we are charting a stable course at present.

Elsewhere, we have managed to work to a tight budget yet still radically improve the school site – a testimony to the finance and site team who deserve their own TV show for budget makeovers. It was wonderful to see the stunned faces of students as they arrived at the start of term and saw the changes. We also know that a superb new SEND facility, extended Maths classrooms, extensive redecoration, art gallery, and so on, will only help us to improve exam results.   

Looking more broadly, the support of the wider community has been integral to these positive steps, especially with so many parents, businesses and community leaders buying into what we are trying to achieve. The parent support for Saturday School reaped rewards for many children this summer and the PTA have been stunning (smashing their ambitious £10,000 target). Local businesses, like Arthur Price, The George Hotel, Packington Pork, Joules Brewery, etc, have backed us financially, and the fact that we were heavily over-subscribed for September 2017 shows many new parents are liking what they see.

I wish I could give you the full picture on the Summer 2017 results but, with new courses and new measurements, we do not get final confirmation till late October. We can say in the Sixth Form our students made good progress, with well over 80% off to universities (a quarter heading to Russell Group venues), and we are equally proud of the apprenticeships and jobs that have been secured. Meanwhile, the Year 11 results brought us strong results, especially in English, and with our overall Progress looking positive, and many students choosing us for Sixth Form, we have a lot to be pleased about.

Equally, we are well aware where we need to improve and the staff, the governors and myself are determined to tackle under-performance. Many of the innovations from last year will continue – such as Saturday School, ACE Meetings, Raising Aspiration Evenings, etc – but we are not resting on any laurels. We have invested more curriculum time in English and Maths, our shorter lunch-break is already sharpening the focus on lessons and learning, the restrictions on day-use of mobile phones is bedding in very well, and our stronger staffing capacity means we have a relentless focus on making sure lessons go well every time.

My final word for now is to ask for your continued backing. We are throwing the kitchen sink at pushing exam results as hard as we can, we are still maintaining our extra-curricular provision, and we are not losing sight of the pastoral support that young people need in an increasingly complicated world. We can do this most effectively when we have your patience, your respect and your support. At times you will question us, we will readily answer those questions, but we have to have the recognition that we both want the same thing – every child to flourish, be happy and succeed.

We are looking forward to the year ahead, we hope you are too, and  we look forward to talking to you as the terms roll out.

Matt Allman
September 2017