Letter from Mr Edwards (13/12/22)

Dear Parents / Carers

On Monday morning at 5.30am, there was snow on the ground and the decision in the Edwards household was does the school stay open or shut. The decision was to open in the knowledge that some would applaud and others would not, but that is life and you cannot please all. It might have been cold, but the mega snowball fight at lunchtime on the school playing field reminded me that young people still know how to have fun. I wonder how many will remember this when they look back in years to come: https://twitter.com/TPS_Hitchin/status/1602298237960028160.

As we approach the end of term, we have a number of events on. Last week we had our excellent Christmas concert and it was announced that the school choir will be heading off to Canada in 2024. Unfortunately, our panto had to be postponed this Monday but has been re-scheduled for Thursday 5th January. The traditional Christmas lunch is planned for tomorrow Wednesday 14th December and our Presentation Evening is taking place at 7pm on Thursday 15th December. The last day of term on Friday will see a range of Christmas activities for students before we pass them back to you for the following couple of weeks. School will finish at 12.40pm on Friday and the start of the spring term will be Wednesday 4th January with a normal school day.

Ofsted

As you will remember, we had our ungraded Ofsted inspection on 4th and 5th October and the school remains a Good school. I was happy with the report, as it was a good reflection of where we are. We have much to celebrate, but also have areas we need to sharpen up on. You can access the report by following this link: https://www.priory.herts.sch.uk/about/ofsted/.

Staffing update

This term has seen a number of staff go on maternity leave. Where we were able to, we employed maternity cover from the very beginning of the term to help with the transition between colleagues.

Member of staff on maternity Subject Additional responsibility  cover Maternity cover
Harriet Lacey English (Lead practitioner) n/a In-house cover
Julieta Espinosa Lopez MFL n/a Jose Santos
Sophie Hadaway Art (Head of 6th) Faye Nearney Sarah Lebaigue
Carly Watkins P&E (Head of P&E) Mouri Hall Steven Palmer
Fiona Rosler Maths (Assistant Headteacher T&L) Katie Dolling In-house cover
Elizabeth White Music (Head of KS4) Lawrence Foster Febe Van Beek

We say goodbye to Alex Duric Head of Year 10 who has secured a promotion starting in January 2023. We wish her all the best for the future and thank her for all the excellent work she has done. Olivia Bradley will be stepping up to Acting Head of Year 10 until the summer term.

The recruitment of both teaching and support staff is challenging. There has been a decline in the number of teachers coming into the profession for a number of years, with the Government annually missing key recruitment targets. Recruitment of teachers for a January and Easter start is highly problematic. As we approach the end of term, we are a Science teacher down for January and to date we have been unable to find a Science teacher to fill this position. The Science department will be re-allocating teachers to protect our examination classes in Year 13 and Year 11 whilst we continue to look for a replacement.

Safeguarding

Over the festive season, members of our Safeguarding team will be on duty. If you have any concerns, please contact the school at childprotection@priory.herts.sch.uk. There has been much coverage over the last few weeks about social media and particularly the Government’s revamped Online Safety Bill that is due to be passed. We all have a responsibility to ensure our young people are safe from online harm. All parents should have the securly app, which allows them to see how their child’s Chromebook is being used.

Wellbeing

The Wellbeing department has been supporting numerous students this term and continues to monitor and assess for future support. We have seen our first Wellbeing parent event of the year, focusing on Teen Brain. To those of you who attended, thank you for coming along and supporting this event, we hope the tips given were useful. Next term we will have another parent event, this time focusing on Behaviour and Low Mood. More information regarding this event will be sent to you in February. Should you wish to discuss support at any time, please do contact cfollano@priory.herts.sch.uk and we will ensure someone makes contact with you. As always, should your child have any updates regarding their medical needs, please contact medical@priory.herts.sch.uk.

Scarlet Fever and Group A Streptococcus (GAS) cases

You will have already received a letter from Jim McManus Director of Public Health regarding the above. Hertfordshire Public Health have also put together a FAQ document, which has accompanied this letter.

Year 11

We will return after Christmas straight into the Year 11 pathways process. The first Friday back is the subject market place where students can speak with Year 12s about sixth form subjects. In the afternoon, students wishing to study with us will have taster sessions for all the different subjects we offer. Students going to college or interested in an apprenticeship will have a separate session. The following week, interviews begin; all Year 11s will have an interview with a member of staff by the end of January.

Year 11 have now completed their programme of pre-public exams (PPEs).  These examinations are a vital resource to show Year 11 students which areas of the syllabus they need to work on. The results of these will be sent home with the next Year 11 progress check on Monday 23rd January. Timetables for the summer examinations will be sent to parents and students early in the spring term from the assessment office. There will be a further opportunity to discuss the progress of Year 11 students with teachers at the parent consultation evenings on 29th and 30th March 2023.

Rewards

We have had another busy term with rewards and some hot competition between forms on the year group leader boards. It was great to see so many reward points being given out to Key Stage 4 as they strived to achieve what they need in order to attend the Winter Wonderland trip. The reward shop has done a steady trade again and we have a group of student leaders looking at what other stock could be in place to buy.

Headteacher commendations – platinum awards

This term we reached a landmark in headteacher commendations when we awarded our first two platinum awards. These are awarded when students achieve twelve commendations and went to Nat Edwards (Year 12) and Dan Baverstock (Year 13). We are expecting a goodly trickle of platinum awards this year as there are a number of students already sitting on the gold award for nine commendations. When a student achieves a platinum award their name will be added to our new celebration board along the SLT corridor.

Attendance

Our attendance across the school has been strong this term and is back to pre-pandemic levels. Please remember to call in to school if your child is unwell and that we set an aspirational target of 96% attendance for all students. Our attendance team work hard to support families where attendance is a struggle, but please keep communicating with us to ensure this runs smoothly.

TPS Challenge – Key Stage 3

We have been delighted to see the progress made by Year 8 and Year 9 students towards their Graduate badge. Staff have been busy reviewing content submitted by students in their tutor groups and have been really impressed by some of the entries and dedication made by the students. Some Year 7 students have also made a start on their Apprentice badge and again, form tutors have been reviewing these entries. Further information and the official ‘launch’ letters will follow after the half term break, but it is great to see students making an early start.

Organisation

Please take the opportunity over Christmas to restock pencil cases, label pieces of uniform with names and ensure things are in order for each school day after the holiday. A baseline expectation is that all students arrive prepared and ready to learn and you can help with this at home. Please contact us if you are struggling to get certain pieces of equipment or uniform.

Progress checks and parent consultations

Next term we have a busy few weeks with our virtual parent consultations and student progress checks. Year 9 students will receive their first progress check on Monday 23rd January. This progress check will contain GCSE target grades for English, Maths and Science, which will be helpful when choosing subjects to study at Key Stage 4.There will then be an opportunity for parents to discuss their child’s progress at the Year 9 parent consultation evenings on 8th and 9th February.

Years 7, 8 and 10 students have just received their first progress check of the year. Parent consultation evenings will be held for these year groups on 25th and 26th January (Year 7), 18th and 19th January (Year 8) and 1st and 2nd March (Year 10). These are valuable opportunities for parents to discuss student progress with teachers and to raise any concerns.

Key Stage 3 Assessment

Information sheets have now been sent to parents of all Key Stage 3 students detailing the learning plan their child has been assigned to for each subject.

Library

Our library focus for the final weeks of term has been on the World Cup. Our library has invested in a large number of non-fiction texts all about the football stars from the different nations represented in the competition. These have already proved popular. Please check our library Twitter page @TPS_LRC for a reading challenge over the Christmas break.

Vouchers for Christmas

Free school meal vouchers to the value of £50 to cover the Christmas period were issued on 5th December 2022. They will have come via an email from Edenred as per previous vouchers. If you have not received this email, please check your ‘junk’ folder. If it is still not found please contact Tony Foster on 01462 622300 ext. 204

Free School Meal Entitlement

We are all aware that we face challenging times; some more than others. If your financial situation has changed and you feel you are eligible for Free School Meals then please do apply.

You may be entitled to Free School Meals if you receive any of the following:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseekers Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • The guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit (as long as you are not also entitled to Working Tax Credit and you do not get more than £16,190 a year)
  • Working Tax Credit run-on (paid for 4 weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)
  • Universal Credit (with annual earned income of no more than £7,400 after tax and not including any benefits you get)

If you wish to check if you are entitled, please visit the following website:

https://www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/ufs/HCWH.eb?ebd=0&ebz=1_1665998875676.

Hitchin Education Foundation also provide grants for uniform and you can access an application form from https://www.priory.herts.sch.uk/information/financial-support/.

 

I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy Christmas and New Year.

“New Year—a new chapter, new verse, or just the same old story? Ultimately we write it. The choice is ours.”

– Alex Morritt

Take care.

Kind regards,

Geraint Edwards