Headmaster's Blog - Monday 5th June 2017
As a Head, the time between January and April is when the balls for the coming academic year are in the proverbial air. Whilst much is known and predictable, there remains uncertainty for some colleagues, and we discuss possible changes to the curriculum, structure of the day, and pupil groupings. It is an exciting time of year but also one of inevitable uncertainty. I am delighted today to confirm that, following a number of discussions during half term, we are now fully staffed for September. Mr Gitlin and Mrs Yandell have begun looking at the many and various permutations that must be considered in order to write the most effective timetable and this will take into account a variety of considerations for both pupils and colleagues.
Changes in the timetable or organisation of the day will always take place following discussion with colleagues, and always with pupils at the forefront of any of our considerations. If it does not have a positive impact on the children, then we must question why we are doing anything. For senior pupils, we have agreed quite a significant change to the structure of the day from September. We will be moving from 5 lessons (an hour and ten minutes in the morning and an hour in the afternoon) to 7 fifty-minute lessons. The additional twenty minutes teaching time per day will be gained from what we felt was an unnaturally long lunchtime. Pupils will continue to start the day at 08.30 and will finish 5 minutes later at 16.00. Operating largely as single periods, we believe that the slight reduction in lesson length will enable pupils to focus and concentrate better. For some subjects - Science, Food Technology, certain others - it will also enable a very positive double period where the previous potential of two hours and twenty minutes would have been far too long. The general structure of the day that ensures consistency and predictability across all phases of the schools will remain consistent for all pupils, maintaining overlaps at lunchtime to enable pupils to continue to work and play together.
You will have received my letter with your child's report last week, detailing next year's Form Teachers. We will be delighted to be welcoming back Mrs Alison Jones who will be returning to our junior department, and wish Mrs Mertz every health and success on her maternity leave. I would also like to wish Mrs Eifflaender and Miss Cooper from our Nursery a happy and healthy maternity leave. As you know, we have been very fortunate to employ a new Mathematics and Business Studies teacher, Mrs Karen Griffin, hence the inclusion of Business Studies on the new Lower V options schedule. I am enormously grateful to Mr Sykes who has helped us out teaching History and RE this year, despite being employed solely as a Design Technology teacher. He will now be returning to his original passion as a DT teacher, as he continues to develop and build this important area of our curriculum. I am very pleased to confirm that Mr Peter Wilcox has agreed to return to Beech Hall on a part-time basis to teach History to our senior pupils. Mr Wilcox helped us out last year with our GCSE group and, when he told me some weeks ago that he would be retiring in July, I saw an opportunity for our pupils!
For infants and juniors, we will be looking forward to enhanced collaborative teaching, as children will be grouped for English and Maths / Literacy and Numeracy to enable all pupils to learn in the most effective, optimum manner. An increase in the school roll this year (now up 26% since last September) and for this coming September has meant greater opportunities. Following its inaugural outing this year, we have evaluated the seniors' Enterprise Tuesday and agreed some changes to further enhance its effectiveness. We are very pleased with the cross-curricular opportunity to teach transferable skills, although feel that half a day will be sufficient next year. This will allow us to increase core lessons in English and Maths. Because of the size of this group, it will also be separated into two distinct groups - those in Upper II and Form III, and those in Lower and Upper IV.
There will be a number of other less significant changes, such as moving Assembly to first thing on Monday morning, and a change to Form Time, to ensure that the PSHEE curriculum is taught in a more overt and robust manner. This will also include rolling out the development of our Sex and Relationships Education programme which we have been discussing throughout this year, and have consulted on with parents. Please rest assured that more information will be provided to you before we proceed.
So, it will be with an enormous amount of positivity and optimism that we will be welcoming pupils back to Beech Hall in September. For now, there remain six weeks of the school year. Juniors and seniors should be thinking about end of year exams, those in Upper V have just three weeks until their GCSEs are over, and girls don't forget to sign up for the Cheshire Ring Challenge. Finally, to the parent who asked me "are we getting rid of the silly form names next year?", my answer is whole-heartedly and unequivocally "no". We are beautifully unique and proud of it!
Mr J D Allen