From the Headmaster - February 2020
Posted by MM - Saturday 29 February 2020
New building takes shape
If you have visited the School site in the last few weeks, you will have seen that the new building by the tennis courts is at last beginning to resemble the architect’s plans. Many thanks to all those of you who have supported our Richian 2020 Campaign, which aims to raise £100k+ to kit out the new block with state of the art facilities. As well as providing additional classrooms for our students and training spaces for teachers and school leaders, the new block will act as a centre for developing business innovation and entrepreneurship – further improving our already excellent careers advice and guidance, for which we have recently been awarded the ‘Quality Careers Standard’ – the national quality mark for careers education, information, advice and guidance. There is still time to contribute to the Richian 2020 Campaign online here, and we are, as ever, extremely grateful for all parents do to support the School.
On another pleasing note, I am sure most of you will have seen the recent news that we are the fourth best school in the county, according to the Department for Education’s ‘Attainment 8’ measurement, which is designed to measure each student’s average grade in eight GCSEs across a range of subjects. Pate’s Grammar School saw its students get an average Attainment 8 score of 81.4, Denmark Road High School was the next best performing, with its students achieving an average score of 75.9, Stroud High School achieved an average score of 75.7 and we scored 75, with the next best score being Marling with an average of 69.3.
Whilst this statistic, based on the average number of points scored per student, reminds us that last year’s Year 11 students and their teachers worked extremely hard, it is of course deeply problematic. This particular way of measuring our students’ success doesn’t take into account their starting point – ‘Progress 8’ (where a score is calculated by comparing each student’s Attainment 8 score to those nationally of other students who had the same Key Stage 2 SATs results) would be a better measure, and indeed both Attainment 8 and Progress 8 do not take into account the national situation, where girls still out perform boys.
The easiest way to judge a school is by its academic results. But this is a false – and lazy – approach, and tells us very little about what a school actually does with their students, and how far it has taken them. Judging by results doesn’t acknowledge that education is a journey, not a destination, and certainly does not account in any way for the high quality of pastoral care and the huge range of extracurricular opportunities Sir Thomas Rich’s offers all students. We should be more bothered about how much value has been added during a student’s time at the School, and it is more important to me that students gain impressive results while continuing with so many other activities, from scoring tries on the rugby pitch to performing in plays, bands and orchestras.
Speaking of extracurricular activities, I would like to mention the recent success of the Under 14 Rugby Team, who have just beaten St Peter’s in the semi-finals of the EDF Energy Cup to reach the finals for the fourth consecutive year, well done all. This week our Year 7s have experienced a wonderful residential trip in fantastic weather at the YMCA National Centre in the Lake District – see the School website for pictures – and I was lucky enough to be able to join them for a couple of days. It was a pleasure to see the students getting stuck in to abseiling, orienteering, canoeing and more with a cheerful, can-do attitude, and I was immensely proud of the behaviour and good manners on display, they were a credit to the School. While in the Lake District it struck me once again that consistency and continuity in all we do as a School really does pay dividends. Our Year 7 induction really isn’t just a couple of weeks of team-building activities in September, it’s a complex and well-thought through programme that extends throughout the year and I am confident that, by the end of July and before entering Year 8, the students will hardly a remember a time before they became a ‘Richian’.
Will this hard work by the School be reflected in the Attainment 8 scores when these students complete Year 11? Not overtly, but the experiences and opportunities available to each student throughout Years 7 to 11 will build a resilience, confidence and maturity that can only have a positive influence on both academic success and personal growth.
I am pleased to report that the company we engaged to carry out our recent parent feedback survey, Kirkland Rowell, has provided us with some interesting initial results. It is good to see that Kirkland Rowell’s analysis of questionnaires suggests that overall parents and carers are extremely happy with the provision for their sons and daughters. However, there is always room for improvement and I will of course consider all your suggestions very carefully. I will report back in more detail in my next email to parents.
Road safety and parking
I would be grateful if you could support us by once again reminding your children of the importance of road safety. In particular, I would strongly discourage the wearing of headphones whilst walking or cycling to school as this decreases awareness of traffic and makes accidents more likely to happen.
In relation to parking, we do also ask for your continued consideration of our neighbours, particularly during this period of building on the School site, which has limited the number of parking spaces available. If you have children in the Sixth Form who drive to School please do encourage them to park responsibly, and to be polite and considerate to the local residents.
Mental health awareness and pupil wellness
Satveer Nijjar, who works with Gloucestershire Healthy Living and Learning, ran a workshop back in January on self-harm awareness for students and staff here. Satveer will be running more workshops in the next academic year for students and parents, so look out for upcoming dates and booking information. In the meantime, please see the attached PDF for some suggestions for websites and apps which you may find useful.
From Monday 2 March to Wednesday 11 March our Year 8, 10 and 12 pupils will be taking an anonymous Pupil Wellness Survey in form time. Provided by Gloucestershire Healthy Living and Learning, every school in Gloucestershire has the option of participating in the survey and the data is used by our School to plan and review the early help we provide through our PSHE curriculum, PSHE workshops, PSHE trips and external speakers, pastoral assemblies, and pastoral support and interventions. GHLL uses the data on a wider scale to focus on areas to target within the county. Our pupils have taken this survey for many years now and this data has always proved invaluable.
As we plunge into another busy half a term – which no doubt already feels like a break-neck race to the Easter holidays for many – I would ask all parents to promote positive well-being with their children, and to take time to think and talk about good mental health. With the #bekind hashtag circulating widely on Twitter and elsewhere currently, I am all too aware of the pressure that modern life, and in particular social media, can place on mental health. While a good starting point is, of course, to be kind to oneself, being kind to others is also key – the old adage ‘do as you would be done by’ is well worth remembering, and one that I would encourage all students to bear in mind on a daily basis.
Support for families affected by divorce or separation
If your family has been affected by divorce or separation, you may be interested in a series of free sessions offered by Gloucestershire County Council, called the Family Transitions Triple P Programme. The Programme is designed to support parents and children through divorce or separation and looks at a wide range of areas from finances to the impact of a family split on your child’s behaviour and emotions. At sessions you meet other parents going through many of the problems that come with divorce or separation, and you’ll be introduced to ideas, techniques and strategies to help you through the day-to-day issues and ongoing stresses of your situation. These ideas can help you cope with stress, anger and change, resolve conflict, and to communicate better with your children and your ex-partner. There are five weekly sessions of two hours each taking place at Gloucester Academy GL4 6RN on a Tuesday at 8pm. The current programme started earlier in February, but it may still be possible to join the remaining sessions – see the Triple P website to book online or to enquire about future dates.
Coronavirus information and advice
I can reassure all parents that we have no confirmed cases of Coronavirus in the School, and we are continuing to monitor advice from Public Health England, which is being updated regularly. We will email all parents with the latest advice as we receive it, and post updates on the School website. Should there be any threat to the School community we will advise as appropriate. Up to date advice on Coronavirus is available here.
Whilst the likelihood of needing to use lockdown protocols is extremely low, it is important that we all know what we would do if there were a dangerous intruder in School. We will be therefore practicing this with students before the Easter break and we will let students know in advance. Whilst we would not want to worry students unnecessarily, it is right that we do all we can to keep them safe. I was enormously proud of the conduct of the School during the last evacuation practice and I very much hope that the same approach will be taken again.
Thank you to our supporters
A note of thanks must go to Bovis Homes and Bennetts Coaches, both of whom have recently contributed sponsorship money to the upcoming Netball Tour of Malta, which takes place in the Easter holidays. Under the auspices of Netball Coaches Mrs Brown and Mrs Lynn, our Sixth Form netballers have been working hard to raise funds for the trip, and the donations from Bovis Homes and Bennetts Coaches are much appreciated and will make a big difference. I must also thank EDF Energy, who have sponsored minibus travel to the School for Key Stage 2 students to take part in science activities, work which forms an important part of our outreach work with Gloucestershire primary schools.
We are most grateful to all our supporters, however big or small, whose generosity continues both to support current students and to secure the School’s development for the generations to come. See the School website here to find out more about how you can support our aims.
As I write, rehearsals are underway for the Spring Concert, which is always a highlight of our musical year and takes place on Thursday 2 April, just before the end of term. A lovely way to start the Easter break, and I do hope to see many of you there. Tickets are available from Reception.
Forthcoming Key Dates
- Tuesday 3 March: Year 13 Parents’ Consultation Evening
- Thursday 5: March: French Exchange Information Evening
- Thursday 5: March: World Book Day
- Friday 6 March: PA Quiz and Pudding Night, 6pm
- Wednesday 25 March: Malta Netball Tour Information Evening
- Friday 27 March: Free Dress Day (£2 for charity)
- Monday 30 March: Year 11 Parents’ Consultation Evening
- Thursday 2 April: Spring Concert, 7.30pm
- Friday 3 April: End of Spring Term, 12.45pm
- Friday 3 - Tuesday 7 April: Malta Netball Tour
- Monday 20 April: Summer Term begins
Richian 2020 is our ambitious fundraising campaign seeking to raise £170,000 to complete the new Business, Economics, Entrepreneurship, Careers and Outreach Centre and continue with our Sports’ Development Plan.
We need parents, local partners, alumni and businesses to help us achieve our goal – better facilities at Sir Thomas Rich’s mean an even better environment for our current and future pupils, as well as better opportunities for the local community, and will secure Sir Thomas Rich’s development well into the middle of the 21st Century.
To read more, click here.