From the Headmaster - 17 September 2020

Posted by MM - Thursday 17 September 2020

As we are coming to the end of week three of the new term, it’s clear that our students are displaying all the characteristics of true ‘Richians’ and are immersing themselves in their studies with enthusiasm, focus and determination. My thanks to parents for the support you are continuing to provide at home both in responding to changes as they occur, and in assisting students’ learning.

There is no evidence base to steer the logistical challenges we face, but there is evidence that reiterates the importance of great teaching which offers opportunities for deep and meaningful learning. While elements of our staff INSET days at the start of term were, of course, focused on the practicalities of returning to school, we also took the opportunity to re-examine what makes learning distinctive at Sir Thomas Rich’s. Our ambition is to promote great teaching, use appropriate assessment and make every second spent in a classroom count, with tailored intervention for the few students who require extra help, and indeed a strong focus on academic and pastoral support throughout the school. Our full Curriculum Policy is available on the school website, but in particular I’d like to refer you to the seven key aims of our curriculum, as outlined in the hexagons on page 2, which are to:

  • foster enquiry and creativity
  • develop self-discipline and a thirst for learning
  • develop intellectual curiosity
  • develop resilience and collaboration
  • encourage pupils to think for themselves
  • provide pupils with high levels of core knowledge and understanding
  • value academic endeavour.

Certainly, all of these aims have been exemplified in students’ work over the last three weeks.

Further possible changes

We are highly likely to slightly amend the timings of the school day from Monday 28 September. This is partly to shorten lunch and put registration at the end of the day for Years 7-11, but we have also asked coach companies to arrive earlier at the end of the day as some students have been waiting far too long for pick-up. We will let you know details next week, as soon as we have spoken with all coach companies and finalised our plans.

As a school community we find ourselves continually adapting and responding to feedback, and that applies as much to the Senior Leadership Team and staff as to the students. We have to remember that as George Bernard Shaw put it: “Both optimists and pessimists contribute to the society. The optimist invents the aeroplane, the pessimist the parachute.” Whilst some days can be challenging, I continue to be optimistic and it is evident from walking around the much quieter corridors with classroom doors open that teachers at Sir Thomas Rich’s are meticulous in both their planning and in addressing the concerns of students and parents; I am confident that together we are all working hard to ‘get things right’.

Face coverings

As I outlined in my last newsletter to parents, having reflected on the latest Government guidance, we made the decision not to introduce the mandatory wearing of face coverings in corridors and shared spaces for the time being. I am aware that some (but by no means the majority of) Gloucestershire secondary schools have introduced the wearing of face coverings in public areas, but it’s worth bearing in mind that these schools will have very different sites and building layouts from Sir Thomas Rich’s. We have this matter under constant and careful review and we may ask students and staff to wear face coverings in corridors as we continually assess risks. Nevertheless, I would like to reassure parents that shared spaces are only used by one year group bubble at a time and are thoroughly cleaned in-between different year groups using them. I have mentioned that we are slightly amending the timings of the school day, which we hope will help with corridors, we have also updated our Covid-19 risk assessment, and students and staff will be moving around the school only when necessary, keeping to our one-way system and using outdoor routes wherever possible. Any student or member of staff who wishes to wear a face covering may do so, of course.

Mental Health and Wellbeing

The mental health and wellbeing of students remains one of our key priorities in these uncertain times, and we are proud to be part of the Trailblazer initiative, run by the Gloucestershire NHS Foundation Trust. As part of the Trailblazer ‘Young Minds Matter’ scheme, Education Mental Health practitioners are based in 70 Gloucestershire schools and we are very lucky to have NHS colleagues based with us in the school. If you are concerned about your child and would like some support, please contact the Head of Year for an initial discussion:

Year 7 Mrs Jennifer Robinson
Year 8 Mr Zak Hinds
Year 9 Mr Nick O’Neil
Year 10 Mr David Tilley
Year 11 Mr Neil Stewart
Year 12 Miss Ellen Jauncey
Year 13 Mr Barry O’Neill

Alternatively, you are welcome to contact the Head of Key Stage:
Head of Key Stage 3: Rhys Davies
Head of Upper School: Peter Daniell
Head of Sixth Form: Matthew Lynch

Barnardo’s See, Hear, Respond service

See, Hear, Respond is a service provided across England by Barnardo’s and other national and local community-based organisations in response to the coronavirus outbreak. See, Hear, Respond provides support to children, young people and their families who aren’t currently seeing a social worker or other agency, and who are struggling to cope with the emotional impacts of coronavirus. See, Hear, Respond supports young people up to 18 years of age, and those with special educational needs under the age of 25, and will contact every referral made, so no child is missed. Help is available in one or more of four ways:

  • an online hub of support and information:
  • online counselling and therapy
  • face-to-face support for those most affected and at risk of some of today’s most pertinent issues, such as criminal exploitation, and
  • helping children and young people reintegrate back into school.

You can access via the See, Hear, Respond service via its self-referral webpage or Freephone 0800 151 7015.

Virtual Open Days

We are also releasing Virtual Open Day resources on 22 September, so if you have any friends or family members who are interested in a Sir Thomas Rich’s education, please point them to the school website and complete the form at:

School Life

Colleagues in the Chemistry, MFL and Business and Economics departments have recently started Instagram accounts – you can follow them at: @strschemistry, @strsmfl and @strsbusinessandeconomics.

Twitter: @strsglos
Instagram: @sirthomasrichs

M SR Morgan

Matthew Morgan,