Letter from Mr Edwards (12/09/22)

Dear Parent / Carer

The death of our beloved Queen Elizabeth II last Thursday has brought the nation together in sorrow and remembrance. On Monday 19th September the school will be closed as it has been decreed by King Charles III that the day of the Queen’s funeral will be a bank holiday.

Additionally, these are economically challenging times with high inflation and an energy cost crisis meaning members of our community will face difficulties.

‘Families, friends and communities often find a source of courage rising up from within. Indeed, sadly, it seems that it is tragedy that often draws out the most and the best from the human spirit.’ – Queen Elizabeth II

On a more positive note, the summer break saw our students achieve well in their A-level, vocational and GCSE exams. We must not forget that these exams were sat against a background of unprecedented disruption to learning. The success achieved by these young people is a testament to their hard work, the support of their families and the dedication of their teachers. There were many who achieved excellent results; Atul Siburanj achieved 4 A* at A level, and James Henley-Waters will be reading Medicine at Cambridge.

Also achieving excellence over the summer was Jess Astill who is both a talented actor and an exceptional athlete. Jess took part in the World Athletics U20 Championships in Cali in Colombia and ran in the 4×400 Metres Relay where the British team won the bronze medal.

New colleagues

The start of the academic year heralds the arrival of a number of new colleagues to The Priory School, and as this term progresses we will see six members of teaching staff go on maternity leave.

New teachers

Sarah Lebaigue (Art), Jose Sala Diaz (Head of Media), Lisa Coulson (Geography and History), Helen Hardwick (Maths), Victoria Gaskin (Head of MFL), Jose Santos (MFL), Febe Van Beek (Music), Rachel Buchanan (Social Sciences & Post 16 Vocational and AP Lead), Ben Ruewell (History), Oan Shah (Business Studies) and Kelly Roberts (Learning Support).

New members of support staff

Matthew Fellowes (Cover Supervisor), Charlie Jefferies (Sports Mentor), Catherine Huckle (Learning Mentor), Yuliia Vuiko (General Assistant – Café) and Annielle Walker (Reprographics & Admin Assistant).

Key information

At the start of the new academic year I like to draw your attention to key information about the school and our expectations.

School day

The school day is from 8.50am to 3.30pm, with a couple of adjustments to timings at the end of the day: Years 7, 9 and 11 will finish at 3.30pm and Years 8 and 10 will finish at 3.25pm. Students are expected to leave the school site in their full school uniform and behave in accordance with our expectations. Students using the local BP garage must adhere to the rules set by the garage staff. Mr Parsons and myself are on duty each afternoon by the garage and will sanction those students who are behaving in an unacceptable manner.

The school offers students and staff a free breakfast from 8am in the morning comprising cereals, basic toast and spreads. We are continuing with our staggered break times; this eases the pressure on the Café, which makes this downtime less frenetic for all. Lunchtime is between 12.30pm and 1.30pm when students are on a year group rota for the KS3 and KS4 Café.

School policies

The school website includes all our statutory and other key policies that are regularly referred to when dealing with stakeholders. These can be found by going to the home page and clicking on the ‘Abouttab. The school updates policies on a rotational basis, so from time to time specific policies may not be on the website. Please feel free to contact Emma Sangster (emma.sangster@priory.herts.sch.uk) if you cannot access a specific policy.

Communication with the school

To ensure that our students make the best possible progress, it is essential that communication between the school and home is open, honest and in the best interests of the student. We are fortunate to have a very supportive parent body, and the vast majority of communication with the school is constructive and carried out in a collaborative way. However, every year there are a small number of parents who are abusive to my staff. Like any public-facing organisation, my staff have the right to feel safe at work. The school will challenge parents who are abusive and, if necessary, involve the police. Mistakes and errors of judgement are sometimes made by the school and where that does happen we would look to rectify the problem as amicably as possible. However, if parents are unhappy with the school they can follow the school’s complaints procedure, which can be found on the school website.


The safeguarding team, led by Mrs Nearney, continues to support students and their families with any safeguarding concerns. Over the next few weeks all students will have a safeguarding assembly and be reminded of who they should speak to if they have any concerns. At the end of this month all of Year 8 will have their Online Safety day as part of our whole-school curriculum day. Later in the year we will have an Online Safety Parents Evening that will help parents in supporting their child to be safe online.  If you have not already done so, please download the Securely App which will allow you to monitor your child’s chromebook use. If you have any safeguarding concerns over the course of the academic year, please contact childprotection@priory.herts.sch.uk.

Student wellbeing

If your child has any updated medical information, please ensure that you email this to medical@priory.herts.sch.uk. It is vital that our records about your child are up to date so that we are able to support them appropriately. If the medical information remains the same as that provided on the essential forms originally handed in, or you are aware that the school has already made any necessary updates to your child’s records, you do not need to provide us with that information again. Please use this email address to update us throughout the year.

Student Wellbeing will now be supported by an NHS Mental Health Support Team. We are the base school for North Herts. The aim of this new initiative set up by the NHS is to support and intervene early for mild to moderate mental health and support CAMHS in doing so. Mrs Laycock will still be our in-school qualified counsellor and Miss Follano will be the Senior Mental Health Lead at The Priory School. If there is ever a concern regarding your child’s wellbeing, please do not hesitate to send an email to cfollano@priory.herts.sch.uk.

Behaviour for Learning

The school has a clear Behaviour for Learning policy that sets the framework for how we reward and consequence students. Students are made fully aware of our expectations through tpsQUAD, assemblies, form time and specific activities. The Behaviour for Learning policy, in conjunction with the Anti-Bullying policy, Drugs policy and Searching, Screening & Confiscation policy, provides the framework for how we deliver a safe learning environment for students and staff.

We aim to acknowledge students’ achievement both in and outside school hours as often as possible. Students have the opportunity to pick up daily reward points as well as Headteacher commendations. Parents can make nominations for Headteacher commendations for achievements outside of school hours by emailing Emma Sangster (emma.sangster@priory.herts.sch.uk).

Often behaviour concerns are brought into the school due to issues in the community and online. As a long-term resident of Hitchin, I am well aware that there are pockets of anti-social behaviour within the community where vandalism and drug/alcohol misuse are not uncommon. The school works closely with the police, social services and other outside agencies when dealing with young people who have become known to the authorities. The school reserves the right to take interest in and impose sanctions for any misconduct by any student at any time, beyond the bounds of the school day/week/term, where such misconduct prejudices the good order and welfare of the school and its students.

School detentions will be held in the school hall from 3.30pm on the following days:

  • Tuesday – Years 7 and 8
  • Wednesday – Year 10
  • Thursday – Years 9 and 11 and SLT detentions

We must not lose sight of the fact that the vast majority of the students at The Priory School have excellent behaviour and are a credit to their families.

Punctuality & attendance

The school day starts at 8.50am for students so the expectation is that they are in school by 8.45am to give themselves time to hand in their phones and get to their tutor room on time. The school monitors the punctuality of students, and support strategies and sanctions will be used for identified persistent offenders where necessary.

The school has high expectations regarding attendance, with 96% being the baseline for all students. Failure to attend school regularly directly impacts on the progress a student makes, increases their anxiety, interrupts the learning of others and increases the workload of teaching staff. The school works in conjunction with parents where attendance is an issue. Where attendance does not improve, the school will support the Local Authority in issuing fines. Please find attached a brief guide to the protocols the school works to regarding attendance.


At The Priory School we pride ourselves on how well our students wear their uniform. At the end of last term I wrote about the changes to the school uniform with regards to PE kit:

  • Key Stage 4 students (Years 10 and 11) will come to school wearing their full school uniform and change for PE.
  • Key Stage 3 students (Years 7, 8 and 9) can still come to school wearing PE kit on the days they have PE. We will be reviewing this process at October half term to see if we will continue with this approach.
  • Girls are not to wear cycling shorts – the girls’ PE kit list states ‘black sports shorts’.

Make-up and jewellery – The school policy is that students do not wear make-up or jewellery (including any kind of studs/sleepers) and like the rest of our uniform policy this is non-negotiable. Please note that if students get their ears pierced during the holidays they will be asked to remove earrings/studs/sleepers (even clear ones).

Financial support

These are challenging times for all families, some more than others. Uniform grants are available through the Hitchin Education Foundation and an application form can be found on our school website (https://www.priory.herts.sch.uk/information/financial-support/). If your financial circumstances changed over the summer holidays I would strongly urge you to look to see if you are eligible for free school meals (https://www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/services/schools-and-education/at-school/free-school-meals/free-school-meals.aspx).

Teaching & learning

At The Priory School we have high expectations for students and what they can achieve regardless of their ability. We have professional and dedicated staff who will engage and challenge our students. Students must come to school prepared to study having had a good night’s sleep, possessing the right equipment and having done their homework to a high standard. They will need to take responsibility for their learning, be resilient when faced with challenges and show respect for those teaching and supporting them.

‘Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.’ – Pele

If you have concerns regarding the quality of learning, please as a matter of urgency raise this with the class teacher in the first instance.

Key events coming up this half term

This half term we have a number of key events that you will receive more information about closer to the time:

  • Welcome to the 6th Form (for Year 12 parents) – Thursday 15th September
  • Welcome to Year 7 – Thursday 22nd September
  • Welcome to Year 10 – Thursday 29th September

 Curriculum Day Thursday 29th September

The students’ normal timetable will be suspended on Thursday 29th September. Instead, each year group will participate in a range of activities linked to specific themes:

Year 7: Applying Maths Day

Year 8: Online Safety Day

Year 9: Sex Education Day

Year 10: Science Trip

Year 11: English Day

Years 12 & 13: Team-building

Open Evening Thursday 6th October

Having reviewed the feedback from stakeholders, we are going to continue with holding our Open Evening as a virtual event. However, pre-booked tours will run from 11th to 19th October to allow potential new families to see the school in action. Thursday 6th October will therefore be a normal school day for students, with no early finish. Friday 7th October is a school INSET day, so students will not be on the school site.

School developments

Stage 1 of our football facilities development has been completed, with our 3G pitch fully up and running. Work is currently taking place on improving two grass football pitches for the September 2023 season. We are in the process of working with the Football Foundation to secure funding for a new sports pavilion that we aim to have in place in the next 12 months.

The internal remodelling of the old 6th Form block to create a new Learning Support facility is due to be handed over at the end of the month, and our 6th Form students have been temporarily housed in different areas around the school while the new 6th Form block is steadily going up with a planned completion date of February 2023. Over the summer holidays, two new mobile classrooms have been installed as part of the expansion of the school whilst we await the completion of the 6th Form block.

A regular topic of conversation with our Student Leadership team has been the state of some of our school toilet facilities and the behaviour of a minority of our students when in them. We have upgraded the KS3 boys’ toilets with wall-to-ceiling cubicles and, like the existing KS4 boys’ toilets, CCTV will be used in the communal hand-washing area. Work will start on the KS3 girls’ toilets during October half term, with the aim of improving the KS4 girls’ toilets by Easter 2023.

Energy efficiency

As part of reducing the school’s carbon footprint, we have been working closely with the Local Authority and secured funding to improve the energy efficiency of the school over the last 18 months: new cladding and windows have been fitted to the Science block and current 6th Form area; photovoltaic cells are on most of our school roofs; and a full upgrade of our internal heating systems has been completed. With the astronomical increase in gas and electricity costs, we face a huge additional financial burden. We will be implementing as many energy-saving strategies as we can to reduce our financial liabilities.

‘The ability to read, write, and analyse; the confidence to stand up and demand justice and equality; the qualifications and connections to get your foot in the door and take your seat at the table – all of that starts with education.’ – Michelle Obama

Kind regards

Geraint Edwards