Dear Parent / Carer
The last seven weeks have flown by and the start of term seems a distant memory. The school is back in full swing after so much disruption, and it is great to see the large number of students involved in extra-curricular activities and taking up the opportunities to go on trips. Each day I read the behaviour and rewards report and it is really pleasing to see the high number of rewards that students are earning. All year groups are working towards their end-of-term reward targets, with Key Stage 3 being offered in-school treats and Key Stage 4 off to Winter Wonderland if they meet the criteria set.
Over the last nine school days we have had our Year 6 to Year 7 morning tours, with nearly 500 visitors being hosted by colleagues and our wonderful sixth form guides. The tours followed on from our online virtual Open Evening, which saw 30 of our students conduct live online Q&A sessions about the school.
The tours have been an opportunity for the school to show potential new parents what the school is about, warts and all. My message was that we are all accountable for ensuring that the children who come to The Priory School leave as well-rounded young people with skills that will allow them to be successful in the next stage of their life.
Our work to ensure the safeguarding of our students is continual. Over the last seven weeks we have been holding safeguarding assemblies, and all students should be able to say who they would speak to if they have a concern.
Year 8 had a very successful online safety enrichment day, and Year 7 will begin online safety sessions as part of their computing lessons after half term. The sad death of Molly Russell in November 2017 is a reminder to us all about the challenges faced with online safety.
“Online safety for our children and young people needs to be a pre-requisite, not an afterthought.”
– Prince of Wales
Please make yourself aware of your child’s online activity and who they are ‘friends’ with and what they are accessing. With many students ignoring the social media age limits, it is incumbent on parents to check Snapchat, WhatsApp and TikTok accounts. Be aware that these apps have hidden corners that you may not be aware of (e.g. the My Eyes Only tab in Snapchat where we have only ever seen concerning content).
The Wellbeing Department has been working hard this half term to ensure we are offering targeted support to those who have been identified. Our new Govox app has been a huge success and has meant that we have been able to intervene early with support for identified students. We have group and individual one-to-one work being accessed at present, with different techniques explored – coaching, mentoring and talking therapies. Should you wish to discuss support at any time, please do contact firstname.lastname@example.org and we can ensure someone makes contact with you. Should your child have any updates regarding their medical needs, please contact email@example.com.
This half term our focus for reading has been tied in with Black History Month. Our library has a fantastic range of diverse books that have been out on display and highlighted through the bulletin to encourage students to try something new and, more importantly, learn something new about black history.
We have once again signed up to Bookbuzz, a reading programme that aims to help schools to inspire a love of reading in their students. As part of the programme, our Year 7 students have had the opportunity to choose their own book to take home and keep from a list of 17 titles. These are all carefully selected by a panel of experts to ensure quality and suitability and to encourage reading for pleasure. Students will receive their book after half term.
Year 11 PPEs
Public examinations for Years 11 and 13 will return to normal this year. To prepare our Year 11 students for the rigour of an exam season they will sit a series of pre-public examinations (PPEs) from Tuesday 22nd November. It is really important that Year 11 students prepare well for these examinations as their results will be a good indication of the grades they will achieve in the actual examinations in summer 2023. Teachers have made students aware of different revision strategies and online resources, but if your child is still unsure how to prepare for the examinations then they should ask their teachers for further clarification. The results of the PPE examinations will be sent home in the January Year 11 progress check.
Year 11 pathway process
As Year 11 embark on preparing for their PPEs they are also being asked to look at where they will be studying next year. Mrs Hadaway (Head of Sixth Form) has already hosted a Year 11 virtual assembly about the Pathways Process. The next event for this year is the Year 11 Pathways evening, which will be happening on 3rd November at 6.30pm. We would like to see all Year 11 students attend this evening with a family member. Seats for each talk are limited and need to be booked using the EventBrite booking system which can be accessed here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-priory-school-post-16-options-evening-tickets-428039807587?aff=ebdssbdestsearch&keep_tld=1.
Key Stage 3 assessment (Years 7 to 9)
There has been a change in Key Stage 3 assessment this academic year. Each Key Stage 3 student has been assigned a learning plan for each of their subjects. Shortly after half term, parents will be informed of their child’s learning plans and the information used to generate the plans. There will also be a link to each subject’s learning plan criteria so parents will be more informed about their child’s progress when they receive their child’s progress checks.
TPS Challenge – Key Stage 3
We have been delighted to see the progress made by students in Years 8 and 9 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 half term, but it is great to see students making an early start.
Free school meals
Free school meal vouchers to the value of £15 to cover the October half term break were issued on 12th October 2022 via an email from Edenred. If you did not receive this email, please check your ‘junk’ folder. In these challenging times there are an increasing number of families who are eligible for free school meals. If you wish to check whether or not you are entitled to them, please visit the following website: https://www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/ufs/HCWH.eb?ebd=0&ebz=1_1665998875676.
Learning support base
The old Sixth Form centre has now been fully converted into our new Learning Support base. We are one of the four schools in Hertfordshire that have been asked to host one of the Special Resource Provision (SRP) centres for Speech, Language and Communication that are opening from 2022/23. Up to 20 places will be offered to young people with an EHCP that meets specific entry criteria and these will be allocated by a local authority provision panel. Students attending the SRP centres have access to a mainstream curriculum, but the aim is that the stress of a mainstream environment is reduced as they have a safe space to be in when necessary. The students will be in mainstream lessons along with their peers and have access to the wide variety of opportunities available at the centres.
Sixth Form block
The new Sixth Form block is well underway with the deadline for completion towards the end of March 2023. Students and governors had a tour of the site this week as part of our Raising Aspiration programme.
Key Stage 3 girls ’toilets
Following on from the refurbishment of the Key Stage 3 boys’ toilets, it is the turn of the Key Stage 3 girls’ facilities to be upgraded. New floor-to-ceiling cubicles will be going in and CCTV cameras installed in the communal wash area.
We say goodbye to Mr Mayers (Media and English departments) who is relocating to Scotland and we wish him all the best for the future. Mrs Robertson (EU) will also be leaving (just after half term) and we wish her all the best in her new post.
We have a number of staff who have just gone on maternity leave or who are about to: Mrs White (Head of Key Stage 4) and Miss Rosler (Assistant Headteacher) have just had babies, and Mrs Hadaway (Head of Sixth Form) and Mrs Watkins (Head of P&E) will be starting their maternity leave from Monday 31st October.
School Governor at Strathmore Infant & Nursery School
Strathmore Infant & Nursery School are looking for enthusiastic people to join them as community governors. You don’t need to be an experienced professional – it’s about attitude as well as expertise. Whatever your background, your skills could transform the school. They particularly welcome interest from under-represented groups within Hitchin’s diverse community. Being a school governor is a commitment and a responsibility but offers you the chance to see first-hand the impact you can make in improving education for children in your community. If you’re interested and would like to have an informal chat about the role please do get in touch with the Chair of Governors by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Being safe over half term
We all want our young people to develop their independence, make the right choices and stay safe. Hitchin is a great place to live, but there are areas that have become hotspots for anti-social behaviour where young people from Hitchin and outside of town gather. The secondary schools in Hitchin, the police and other relevant services work closely to co-ordinate our efforts to counter anti-social behaviour. Windmill Hill, King George V Playing Fields and the covered area of Hitchin Market are regular hotspots where trouble occurs. Please check where your child is going and who they will be with.
“Parents walk a fine line between discipline and grace – values have to hold even when circumstances change or call for compromise or compassion. It’s the ultimate challenge to be both firm and fluid, soft and strong, yielding yet rock solid.”
– Kristin Armstrong