Headteacher’s Update

A New Year makes us all reflect on where we are and where we are going and as we enter 2019 we carry an equal balance of caution and excitement.

The caution comes from school budgets which seem to be growing tighter year-by-year and very much determine what we can and cannot do. Elsewhere, we have a new curriculum to build for our Year 9s as they head towards their GCSEs and are keeping a close eye on the approved qualification lists to make sure we stay ahead of the game in our offer. Equally, we are always conscious we need to be looking for new ideas and approaches to keep us at the forefront of local schools – we believe schools need to retain a freshness and vibrancy that keeps demanding teenagers hooked in; very much a case of retaining what we are doing successfully, but also adding new angles and tweaks that move us all forward. All of this needs care, thought and planning, but this process also means there is lots to look forward to.

We are already swinging into the exam season with our Year 11s and Year 13s facing vocational exams throughout this term, as well as formal mocks that help us all to gauge what we still need to improve upon, so it is very much all systems go. Recent changes mean we are also more ahead of the loop lower down the school so we are thrilled with the Year 7-9 masterclass and booster programme and the Year 9s already blitzing through vocational ICT and Sport courses. Finally, at the top of the school, our GCSEs successes mean we have an exceptionally bright Sixth Form who are challenging us to stretch them to the nth degree. It is all pretty relentless and it is this which demands we retain our drive, spark and urgency.

Last term ended with the news that we are heavily over-subscribed in Year 7 which is fantastic news and this emphasises the importance of us all remaining determined to set the lead in creating a school which inspires and enthuses. We loved ‘Sister Act’ but know that ‘High School Musical’ in the Summer Term will proudly present the younger talent coming through. We loved our Sixth Form Open Evening and celebrating our very different local offer and are excited at the interest this has generated in and beyond our current Year 11. We loved taking our Year 11 linguists around Paris and seeing their GCSE French confidence rocket, but we also look forward to the many field trips ahead of us – whether it be Normandy or Andorra, History or Geography, theatre trips or Oxbridge tours.

Of course, we are working hard on getting parents on board in retaining high standards of behaviour and attendance which are very much the bedrock of any successful school. Absence levels are currently at a record low and we are working hard to retain a balance of keeping families on board, but also taking seriously our responsibility to educate every child. Likewise, we are tying behaviour very much to rewards so field trips and excursions are now explicitly tied to excellent conduct and this has been a shock to some families who suddenly realise their child’s opportunities are reduced if their application in school negatively impacts on others. Looking forward, it is likely we will act on the shorter skirts as a small group of parents insist on buying mini-skirts for school, likewise on end-of-school parking restrictions as a small minority families block bus routes and pavements as picking their child up is more important than the safety of 1,000+ others.

We are fortunate in having many, many superb parents – the vast majority are totally with us and the PTA’s wonderful work is just one example – though if we cannot get through to the small minority then we know we have to act for the greater good. We always say we work with parents, and for their children, and any good parent knows the right decision is not always the most popular one.

For my part, the Spring Term stretches ahead and I am looking forward to it. I’ll be excited as the exam results roll in through the term; I’m looking forward to the stark messaging of Safer Internet Day and the friendly chaos of Pet Week; I’m champing at the bit to work on a couple of subject areas and re-arrange some staffing structures that need some tweaks with maternities and a couple of positive career departures looming; I’m already plotting the latest site up-grades; and I’ll be buzzing as our Year 11s talk futures with me, just like the new Year 7s who are already making plans for their life at The Friary.

School-life is frenetic and challenging for us all but for me the school remains a great place to be and the new term is only going to be exciting.

Matt Allman
The Friary School
January 2019