From the Headmaster - September 2014
I can't believe that we are at the end of September already – it does seem to be true that with increasing age, the years, months and weeks do seem to pass much more quickly even if some days do seem rather long. The start of term has been exceptionally busy for us all. On a personal note, I have enjoyed spending time with some New Year 7s during their visit to Stratford a week or so ago and I was fortunate to be able to lead some of the teaching during the recent Year 11 Geography trip to the Lulworth coast in the glorious early Autumn sunshine last Tuesday. These activities have provided a welcome break from the substantial number of meetings with Heads of Department, following the summer's examination success. We are always keen to review our approach and improve our practice. Individual meetings with subject leaders are a useful mechanism for effective self-evaluation. I am fortunate to have Heads of Department that are committed to continuous improvement.
As many of you will be aware, there is a programme of government reforms to educational qualifications taking place over the next few years. The first of these changes will soon be upon us. In September 2015 all students taking English and Maths at GCSE level will begin courses following the new specifications. In September 2016 most other GCSE subjects will follow. These changes are taking place nationwide and will affect boys currently in Year 9. GCSE grades will no longer be awarded on a scale of A*-G. Instead, all new GCSEs will be reported on a 1-9 scale, with 9 being the highest. A levels are also changing, although the current grading system will remain extant. We are finalising our plans for post 16 and we will publish our Sixth Form Curriculum Offer early in the New Year. However, for this year at least, we will continue to use attainment Levels in Key Stage 3 and grades in Key Stages 4 and 5 to assess pupils' attainment. If there are any questions you may have about the changes to GCSE or A level, please feel free to contact Dave Dempsey at firstname.lastname@example.org
As part of our strategy to strengthen pupils' ability to improve their work, we have introduced Responding to Feedback Time to our weekly pastoral programme. With the guidance of their Form Tutor, pupils are being given the opportunity to correct the errors in their work, extend it and respond to their teachers' questions and comments. Pupils are advised to use green ink so their teachers can check their responses when they next mark their work, creating a 'learning dialogue' between the pupil and teacher. We hope that this will deepen our pupils' understanding of the subjects they are studying and help them to develop the skills required to learn independently. So far, pupils have responded positively. It is always good to see pupils actively engaged in improving their work and making progress with their learning. If there are any questions you may have about this level, please do contact Debbie Brake at email@example.com
It is great to hear that all the Stratford trips have gone well so far and I am pleased that boys seem to have settled quickly in Year 7 and that boys and girls in Year 12 have made a really positive start to their sixth form studies. I am also very proud of all of the boys and girls who represented the School over the last few weeks in our Sports fixtures. I have enjoyed listening to some remarkable match reports in which committed play and sportsmanship was clearly evident.
On Friday afternoon we enjoyed the inaugural performances of the House Language plays and songs - a welcome addition to the programme of House Activities. The standard was simply outstanding and I wish to congratulate those who performed in Spanish, French, German and Welsh to an engaged Year 8 audience. I was particularly pleased with the behaviour of pupils. Indeed, this seems something of a theme so far this year. I was passed a match card from a recent table tennis report which had the comments “These young players were good sports and very polite. They are a credit to Sir Thomas Rich's". I have also met a man in reception from the company that tends to the School grounds; he insisted on seeing the Headmaster to report on the good behaviour on the School field when lines were being painted. However, my favourite letter of the week was from a retired couple from Cheltenham who wrote:
“Yesterday (23/9/14) My wife and I, both being retired, were returning on a 94 bus from Gloucester to our home in Cheltenham. Bus travel is a rarity for us so we are not aware of how busy or not these buses are. We were on the bus at around 4.00 p.m. and it was very busy but the driver continued to stop to collect, almost exclusively, boys aged possibly eleven upwards. I would estimate around 20-30 of them. There were no seats available but they organised themselves so as not to inconvenience any other passengers. We admit that we expected a lot of noise, shouting, silliness and worse but these blue blazered boys, whilst enjoying light banter with each other were a model of good behaviour. Their smart school look remained - no ties ripped off or shirts hanging out. They are a credit to your school in a day when youngsters readily receive adverse criticism it is a pleasure for us to write to you with such praise. Very well done to all at the school, it gives us all hope for the future."
Receiving this letter reminded me that it is our values, our ethos, and the way we do things that underpin the education pupils receive at Rich's. We aim to provide an environment of high standards and high expectations so that pupils develop resilience, and are encouraged to think for themselves. Pupils then develop tolerance, kindness and leadership. These are the characteristics of true Richians. The most impressive quality of Sir Thomas Rich's School is not, in reality, defined by our achievements but rather by who we are.