WELCOME TO OUR BLOG
A moment of reflection
30th April 2021
I know it has been a long time since we did a blog but the unpredictable nature of schools, Covid and exams means that our focus has been purely on the pupils, staff and the wider community we serve.
I am sat writing this as my year 11 class, who I have taught throughout key stage 4 and much of year 9, are completing a formal assessment which will form part of their evidence for their final GCSE grades. It feels like the end of a journey and as they pack their bags, in preparation for their next stage, we could not be more proud of them. Year 11 are focused and determined, there is virtually no sound as I teach them as they are all listening to every word, wanting that extra mark, that higher grade, pushing themselves in everything they do. The system that they are confronted with has changed throughout their time completing GCSE’s and finally now that they have some certainty and can give it their best shot, they are doing just that. I have just 1 or 2 more lessons with them, the final push as it were and I will miss them when their time at Hastings ends. This is the case for all the year 11 pupils that leave us, we get such an emotional attachment to our classes as we put our hearts and souls into giving them every possible chance which means asking teachers to grade their students is such a hard job. I hope that they all pack a bit of Hastings to take with them and remember that they will always be part of our family. Though we will be sad to see them go onto a new chapter in their lives we will look forwards to seeing them in the future as teachers, electricians, hairdressers, gardeners, farmers, scientists, mechanics, shop workers and all manner of other professions and we hope that everything that we have done with them has equipped them with the skills to play an active part in society and make our local community a better place.
As we start to reflect on what has been a tumultuous year thoughts turn to the next class, the next GCSE group and what the next academic year will bring. With Covid this year has been so different and we have had to adapt quickly (and often!) and all of our pupils have responded magnificently. With a chance at some sort of normality also comes opportunity. We talked a lot at the start of the year about the Japanese word Kiki, we were hoping that from a crisis, opportunity would spring out. I don’t think that anyone predicted that the crisis would still be an ongoing part of our lives a year later but the opportunities are there and there has been lots of hard thinking and research about how we utilise these opportunities going forwards. Covid restrictions have meant a massive change to our standard school day, with whole day lessons, staggered starts, breaks, lunches and finish times and all the changes that has entailed. Part of the opportunity is thinking about what we have been forced to change and which of those changes on reflection make the school better. For the first time in my career the timetable at this stage of the year is blank as no idea has yet been discounted. At school we will be working with staff over the coming weeks to decide what should stay and what should go, as we do this piece of work we will also seek parent and pupil viewpoints . This relates back to the packing of bags because as we move on to the next part of the journey and as lockdown restrictions start to lift we have the opportunity to carefully consider what should remain in our bags that we take with us and what has served its purpose and is now worn out and needs to be left behind.
If this year has taught us anything it is that our pupils are much more resilient than the press give them credit for and as I look around my classroom now I can see that radiates in every pupil here. I hope that all of our pupils take the opportunities that come their way and show that they are not the Covid generation, they are so much more than that.
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions
6th October 2020
Well what a few weeks it has been! It has certainly been a busy start to the school year, clearly evidenced by the fact that this is the first blog in a long time…….
It has been great to get all pupils back in school, challenging, but great. We have been overwhelmed by the support that has been shown for the school; in the local community, from parents, pupils and everyone in our wider Hastings family.
In these strange times it seems like important decisions are being made every minute, of every day. In the last couple of weeks, we have had to make quick informed decisions about such things as; who should need to self-isolate, how do we set work for remote learners whilst the majority of other pupils are in school, how to run an Open-Evening (if you have watched it you will know that I am no film star!), where can pupils go when it rains and many others……
Whilst Hastings is an amazing place in the dry, when it rains we could do with some extra facilities. I would love a canteen / dining room / sports hall, where pupils could go, still have space and ultimately have a better lunchtime experience. I would love a few more classrooms, as during Mocks every single room in the school can be in use for the whole day. It would be great to have more outdoor playground space or even one of those amazing playground covers where about 100 pupils can sit under it; nice and dry. These are all on what we call the ‘Wedding list’; this is the list of things that we happily give out to anyone who visits the school, who might be able to fund something that will improve facilities for our students. (If anyone has a large amount of money they would like to donate please let us know; I can happily spend it!)
None of the above are difficult decisions. When making any decision we consider the following; what we think is best for our pupils, what keeps them safe and what gives them the very best chances in life. This core purpose makes the difficult decisions easy to make and the support we get from parents re-affirms that this is the right approach to take. Sometimes there are differences of opinion, but we will always discuss and work together to reach a positive outcome; finding the best way forward for your child.
We like to hear the views of pupils, parents and staff; ensuring that we take into account all perspectives when making future decisions for the school. The school are currently completing a large piece of work, gathering pupil, parent and staff views, which will help the school to identify what approach we should next take, following the completion of the 50-day timetable. Whilst this is a difficult decision to make, the decision will be made simpler by taking into account the feedback, from all groups, that has been shared with us.
The world is a fast moving place at the moment and even locally this feels like the case. We don’t know what will come next, but what we do know is that our pupils are at the heart of everything we do. The difficult decisions that we have to make become easier when, on a daily basis, we can see our pupils being successful, developing into inspirational young adults and achieving their aims and goals,
12th June 2020
We are now two weeks after half term with a firm focus on getting the school ready for year 10 returning in small groups to see their teachers. The school has been rearranged, staffing considered and a huge pile of guidance sifted through so that, as a school, we can offer the very best of a bad situation for year 10. Whilst all of this is happening we have a huge amount of home learning taking place and a wider focus linked to our CARES value of self-development.
Today’s blog is entitled #Notonthejobdescription which has become the catchphrase of the week. Jobs have ranged from standing on the gate in the rain conducting temperature checks, setting up classrooms and moving lockers to allow for social distancing and even starring (in the loosest sense of the word) in a safety video! The team of staff on site have worked long hours to make sure we are ready. This has made us all think about what else is #notonthejobdescription and I would like to reflect on what this feels like for pupils. In our Hastings family we try to make it as simple as possible for pupils; come to school to be part of our community, work hard and be ambitious for yourself, take responsibility for your work and your actions, make the most of the enriching curriculum on offer and do everything you can to develop yourself further so that you are ready for life beyond Hastings. So much of this is much harder when our pupils are not in school.
- How do you feel part of a community that you never see or interact with?
- How do you keep motivated when always working alone?
- How to keep taking responsibility when the situation appears to have no end?
- How to access all the extra bits of school without being there?
- How to know the areas for development without conversation or face-to-face guidance?
I do not have the answers to all of these questions, but we look to find a path that we can follow. We are using videos, phone calls and rewards to keep in touch with our Hastings family. This has included extending what we do for parents, many of whom have been shocked to get a certificate and chocolate treat! We are encouraging pupils to reach out to each other and staff to keep up their levels of motivation. We are asking pupils to reflect on their lives and the lives of others so they keep pushing themselves, even from a distance. We are learning ways to grow as a community with wider aspirations and wider skills and hobbies and finally we are trying to give precise and informed feedback to enable pupils to keep progressing without being in school.
We are fortunate that next week sees the start of a slow and gradual return to some normality with year 10 arriving back in school, we hope that soon this will be all of us together again. Until then, most of what we are all doing is #notonthejobdescription but I am so proud of our staff, our parents, our pupils, in fact our entire Hastings family for the ways that they are doing a job that they never could have imagined at the start of 2020.
How does your garden grow?
22nd May 2020
As a child l spent many happy summers in my Grandpa’s allotment. Apart from the stinging nettles l remember fondly the hours we spent picking and shelling peas, collecting and delivering eggs and harvesting an abundance of fruit and vegetables. I like to think that l have carried on the family tradition and every summer l like to grow my own veg. The feeling of spending time outdoors and eating food straight from the garden feels just as good as it did when l was a child. However, what l didn’t appreciate then, that l do now, is the time and effort that is required to prepare the soil, the incessant weeding and watering and the constant lookout for unwanted pests. I now understand that it takes a lot of commitment for a garden to grow.
I am reminded of this for two reasons. Firstly, this week is Mental Health Awareness Week, which focuses on the power and potential of kindness. We often think of kindness as something that we do for others and can forget that, ‘Being kind to yourself is one of the greatest kindnesses’ (taken from one of my favourite pages in Charlie MacKesy’s beautiful fable, ‘The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse’). For me, my little allotment is a space which allows me to take care of myself, it helps to reduce stress and allows me to focus on just one thing at a time.
Secondly, it reminds me of what happens in the classroom and around school on a daily basis that we can’t provide, in the same way, remotely. In order to know what needs weeding and watering l need to see the plants in front of me. We really miss seeing our pupils. We miss the human interaction that takes place in the classroom, the ways we can offer reassurance with a small nod or spoken words of encouragement. We miss the conversations in the corridors and on the playground. We are missing seeing those early signals which let us know when someone might be struggling or in need of some extra help. Instead, we keep doing our best and thank you for doing yours too.
Just as all too often we forget to be kind to ourselves we can also forget to appreciate these small acts of kindness. The things that, once they are not there, we find ourselves missing the most. Mrs Loxley recently shared with us an extract from a poem about appreciation, written by one of her students. She beautifully captures how appreciation can so easily pass us by but, when caught, makes all of the difference.
All that leaves me to say is that l wish you a lovely half-term. If you are spending time in the garden don’t forget to weed and water those plants and more importantly feed yourselves some kindness!
A good time to be a teacher?
8th May 2020
A member of staff this week was walking into school and someone politely said hello and ‘It’s a good time to be a teacher!’, it provoked a reaction and conversation and hopefully the person feels a little more informed but it has certainly inspired my blog this week…
I am lucky, in lots of ways really lucky. I work at an amazing school, with motivated pupils and staff that are always willing to go the extra mile. In normal times I often walk around school as I leave and tell staff that are still on-site to go home (not that they listen). Collectively we want the absolute best for all the pupils we are involved with.
So surely this is a great time to be a teacher, no lessons, no kids, sat at home relaxing? Just a really long holiday?
I hope that all of our parents (and wish the wider public) realise that is just not the case.
This week my wife has been off work, she works in the NHS as a radiotherapist and has been busy over the last few weeks, really busy. This has meant that I have been at home with my own children most of the week, easy you say? A bit of home-learning? I can sympathise with all parents trying for some kind of structure. It is hard to be helping the kids, setting lessons and ultimately with Miss Bradley trying to run a school. Online meetings started as a bit of fun but sometimes children just don’t understand please don’t disturb me I am in a meeting (my youngest has made guest appearances in several!), online lessons? Well setting work, uploading resources is fine but guiding pupils who need help or advice is so much more difficult using only a text box. This is without contacting those who are having difficulties accessing the technology, safeguarding issues or just keeping a school going trying to plan for whatever the future looks like. I have been fortunate that this week I have been able to be in school a bit more. I have felt a real sense of purpose and after several weeks of just trying to work through the issues day to day there is some planning for the future. We have plans in place for transition (new year 7 pupils look out for the email next week), the timetable and how we might support pupils when they return. We know that there might be some details on school re-opening in the coming days, we get this information at the same time as the whole of the UK, no heads up, warning or early briefing and that means you are constantly in a state of flux waiting for the next announcement.
In consideration of the wider staff of the school, we all like the communication with pupils, routine and structure and all of that is gone. Teachers are sat in front of screens not pupils, responding to messages not questions and constantly worrying about the young people that they have nurtured and worked with over sometime many years. Our student support team are on the phone not seeing the pupils in person, causing constant worry.
So a good time to be a teacher? No
A good time to be a teacher will be when we come out of the other side of this virus. Seeing our classes again, being in a full classroom, sharing the successes of all pupils and ultimately for me those first assemblies when I know that everyone has returned safely and our Hastings family is back together again. We know that this might take a long time but we have to be patient, follow the advice and ultimately we will return to a time when it is good to be a teacher.
I hope everyone has a safe weekend with time to reflect on both VE day and the journey we are on,