A New Year Begins

Tuesday, 06 September 2016

Dear Parents and Carers,

Welcome back. I hope that you, and your families, have enjoyed a rewarding and relaxing summer. I’d like to outline the news and updates from school, but also to recap on the procedures for returning to school, so this is a longer message – but hopefully useful and informative.

Returning to school

We will be welcoming students back later in the week, on a staggered start, and the details of this are below. We are spending today and tomorrow with training for all staff to ensure we do the best job possible this year. I’ll outline in another letter the training we do, as it helps to understand how we will be improving the school this year, and the ways in which we will be supporting your children.

The arrangements for Year 7 students are as follows. Their first day is Wednesday 7th September, and they begin the day in the theatre for assembly at 8.30am. They can enter school by either the Frant Road or the Holmes Avenue entrances and staff will be on hand to guide them to the theatre. We will have a fire drill for Year 7 only on the first morning, for their advance information we conduct these in silence to ensure an orderly and swift evacuation of the building. They will need their PE kit for the first day.

Year 10 will also begin school on Wednesday, and they attend for half a day. They report to the theatre as well, half a year group at a time. This is arranged by form group, so the following form groups are to arrive at 9.30am: VA, PS, GL, RN, GE, and HB. The remaining form groups are to arrive at 10.00am, these are: ZB, RW, KR, BM and JC. The first group of students will be finished by 11.30am, the second set by 12 noon.

We also conduct our entry interviews for students joining Year 12 at this point; these take place in Blatchsix. We have places on many courses still available, and would encourage any students who haven’t yet secured a place either at Blatchsix or another provider to come and talk to us about their options.

All other students return on Thursday and should report to their form room at 8.25am.

After the summer break it is always helpful to have a reminder of school timings, and this year we retain the 6-lesson day. There is still a single lunch break for all students. These are the school day timings. There is 5-minute movement time to get to lessons at the end of break.

8.25 – 8.55 Tutor Time / Assembly
8.55 – 9.45 Period 1
9.45 – 10.35 Period 2
10.35 – 10.55 Break time (whole school)
11.00 – 11.50 Period 3
11.50 – 12.40 Period 4
12.40 – 13.20 Lunchtime (whole school)
13.20 – 14.10 Period 5
14.10 – 15.00 Period 6

If for any reason your child is unable to attend school, we use an App called Studybugs to report absence. Absence can be reported at any time, so you can let us know as soon as you know that your child won’t be in school. One of the great advantages about Studybugs is that it automatically enters reports for illness from you as parents/carers straight into our school registers, which means we know right away if any children are unaccounted for.

For any general questions please contact studybugs@blatchingtonmill.org.uk which will forward any issues to the relevant person.

For information the Studybugs app is available for iPhone, Android and Windows Phone, or you can use the Studybugs website – see https://studybugs.com/about/parents. This should work on all computers.

News and updates

It has been a hugely successful summer holiday for Blatch staff and students. The examination results have been excellent, and it has been fantastic to see such large numbers of students achieving beyond national expectations. It is likely that when government league tables are announced this term it will be confirmed that Blatch students, on average, have made almost half a grade more progress than others nationally. We believe in the capacity of every child to excel, and it has been joyful to see this translate into reality for our students. I am a firm believer that with hard work and support from home, our school is one in which all students can thrive.

We’re very excited about our school development plan this year. We’ll be focusing on some broad areas: exemplary behaviour, developing highly effective leaders at all levels, and the outcomes of students’ learning and the quality of their work and raising achievement for specific groups, especially disadvantaged students. Within these areas, we’re undertaking specific developmental work, primarily on the structure of our curriculum. We’ll be working on the way in which we inspire students to love learning. On that note, we’ll be refreshing and re-invigorating our schemes of learning and sharing them with you via Firefly so that you, and your children, can better understand the long-term plan for their learning. We’ll be focusing on Fertile Questions, an enquiry based approach to learning that aims to produce successful learners who are curious, courageous, exploratory, experimental, imaginative, reasoned, disciplined, sociable and reflective. Simple! I’ve attached our school development plan for this year for you to see (School Development Plan [pdf]). I appreciate that for many busy parents this may be a document that you entrust to school and don’t usually expect to read – but I know for some this is interesting and helps you to understand what we are trying to do to support all children.

An additional curriculum change we are looking at developing over the coming year is our digital strategy for learning. We will be developing Firefly significantly to ensure it supports student organisation and learning at home, but we are also ensuring that we have a clear vision for how we develop students’ digital skills in school. We have excellent Computing and IT provision, both in specialist lessons, and across all subjects. It is vital students are prepared for the coming digital landscape, but we will be looking to achieve this through more targeted use of IT, rather than increased total time spent on devices. We will be aiming for students to spend a maximum of about 10% of total available lesson time on computers or IT devices, which overall is likely to be a small reduction. There are some exceptions where students use a device to support an identified need, and this won’t change. We want to ensure that students spend time developing their social skills, their concentration and their ability to communicate as much as their digital literacy. It will mean we are really focused on how we use time in IT, and will ensure that students develop these skills alongside the other aspects of their personal development.

In addition, we are reducing the use of mobile phones in school, and would ask for your support with this. We do not think it is helpful or appropriate to state a ban on students bringing phones to school, indeed for vulnerable students it can be an important aspect of them managing their safety. However, we want to maximise student concentration on learning, and personal development, and the overwhelming evidence in school and increasingly nationally is that phone use in school has a negative impact on learning. We are therefore reducing the use of mobile phones and they will not be allowed to be used at any time during the school day. The exception of being allowed to use them at break and lunch time does not now apply, apart from Year 11, 12 and 13 who retain this privilege. Students may have a phone with them, for use before or after school, but it will need to be switched off and put away all day in school.

While school has been closed for the summer we have taken the opportunity to significantly improve the site and have installed a new, safer fire alarm system, as well as upgraded heating in West Wing. This will make school safer and more comfortable for all students. In addition we have a new playground surface and more picnic benches installed (courtesy of Friends at Blatch) so students can enjoy break and lunch time more.

As is always the case each year, we bade farewell to a number of staff who move on to pastures new or retired. We said goodbye to Ms Andrews, Mrs Austen, Ms Blackie, Ms Brightwell, Ms Hurley, Mrs Nabarro, Ms Stein, Mr Cambers, Ms Gervais, Ms Hayward, Mr Holbrook, Mr Hone, Ms Kirby, Ms Murray, Ms Pinnick, and Mr Skilton-Day. We wish them well for their next roles or retirement.

This of course means we welcome new staff to Blatch, and I am delighted with the calibre of staff we have starting. We welcome a number of new teachers, Mr Foster (English), Ms. Tack (English), Mr Bissett (Maths), Ms. King (Maths), Mr Cossutta (Science), Ms. Lewes (Science), Mr Guilford (History), Ms. Harrington (Head of Geography), Ms. Sherwin (Geography), Ms. Diaz Chica (Languages) and Ms. Wayne (PE). We also welcome new teaching assistants, Ms. Halsey, Ms. Lower, Mr Smith and Ms. St Hilaire.

We also welcome a rather unusual member of staff, Milly Blatch. She is our school dog, who is now 15 weeks old and very keen to be in school, but will start gradually. She will be working primarily in student support, with students with SEN and in Inclusion. There will be opportunities for all students to interact with her over the year. We’ll be guiding students on how they need to behave around her, and she is undergoing a large amount of training prior to being in school. She’ll be starting gradually as she is still very young and we need to be sure her welfare is paramount. She will be a great addition to the school, but as we said last year, if you have any concerns about allergies or anxieties relating to her, please contact Ms. Thompson with the details.

A number of staff members are taking on new roles within school this year. At the end of the term Mr King will be stepping up from Head of Year 10 to join the Senior Leadership Team as Assistant Head Teacher. He will be covering the maternity leave for Ms. Hovell. He will, with additional assistance, retain an oversight of the Year group, and we will share the finer details with parents nearer the time. He will be joined in the Year 10 team by Ms. Silverman who becomes the Assistant Year Team Leader.

Ms. Moore will become our Professional Tutor, in charge of training new teachers. We have also undergone a major restructure of our admin and support staff across school, and a number of staff will be taking on new roles across the admin section. We are creating an admin hub, and services such as student services and receptions will be run differently. These changes come into effect across this term, and we’ll update you on those that affect you as they happen. Overall it will mean a more efficient and productive way of working, and we’re excited to see these changes come into effect. There are some roles within this new structure that we will be advertising this term, and so please keep an eye on the website for details if you know anyone with excellent admin skills and a desire to help us deliver an excellent education for all.

It promises to be an excellent year ahead. We will be doing our utmost to help your children learn and thrive in order to meet their potential, and with your continued support we will be successful.

Mr Harrold
Head Teacher