From the Headmaster - September 2015
In the Grammar School Heads Association's first newsletter of the Autumn Term, Charlotte Marten, Headteacher of Rugby High School reminded us that the rhythms of the school year are rather different from those of the natural world. She suggests that as green turns golden and then brown and the sap sinks to the roots the very opposite happens in the world of school leadership.
Whilst I am not feeling quite as energetic as Charlotte and certainly do not feel that now is the time when anything seems possible, particularly within the context of a dwindling budget, it is true that if things are to be accomplished this is the term in which to do it.I can well remember the first assembly I attended at Sir Thomas Rich's, over eight years ago, when my predecessor Ian Kellie impressed upon the School the need to work hard in the Autumn Term. He rightly indicated that well over half the content of the year's course is covered by Christmas. Despite teaching for over 10 years, I was struck by this stark reality and whilst exam preparation in the spring and early summer is critical, the success of the year really does ride on the next three and a half months.
As I am sure you are aware, the School celebrated outstanding GCSE and A Level examination results in the summer and it is one of the most satisfying aspects of teaching to see the outgoing Year 13 cohort move successfully on to their intended university courses and in some cases directly to well suited careers. 76% of all grades at GCSE were A* or A and 44% were A* - a phenomenal achievement placing us as the 24th best state school in the country according to the Daily Telegraph and the 7th best boys' school - our highest ever placing. At A Level over 95% of the grades were A* – C and the average grade was an A. All 7 Oxbridge candidates were able to take up their places to read a wide variety of subjects. These statistics remind us that pupils and their teachers at Rich's work extremely hard. However, what really pleases me is that our pupils routinely manage such impressive results while continuing with so many other activities, from scoring tries on the rugby pitch and performing in bands and orchestras to acting in plays.
I am pleased to report that our new Year 7 and our new Year 12 pupils seem to be settling in extremely well. I am also very proud of all of the boys who represented the School over the last few weeks in our sports fixtures. I have enjoyed listening to some notable match reports in which committed play and sportsmanship was clearly evident.
The School is a busy and vibrant community and our facilities are in constant use by pupils, staff and the public. With this in mind, Gloucestershire Police have requested that we ask all visitors including parents to be considerate of local residents and mindful of the safety of children when parking outside of the School, especially at the end of the school day when the car parks and the surrounding roads are particularly congested.
Working in partnership with parents is a key aim of the School. I would like to take this opportunity to remind all parents that we aim for our pupils to have as close to 100% attendance as possible. The School's average attendance figure is around 97%. The government is keen to improve pupils' attendance in all schools. They have a defined a Persistent Absentee as a pupil whose attendance is 90% or less. For example, a pupil who has eight days away from school in the Autumn Term will be classed as a Persistent Absentee and the Local Authority will be notified.
Pupils who arrive at school after the registration period are marked as a code "U" in the register, which counts as an unauthorised absence until valid authorisation has been given. Should your son or daughter not be able to attend school then you should notify us as soon as possible on the first day of absence either by contacting the school reception or your child's form tutor. This should then be followed by a letter or email explaining the full absence on the pupil's return.
If a pupil is absent and the School has not been notified, then we will contact the pupil's home to confirm the absence and to ensure the child has not gone missing. Requests for leave of absence for 'exceptional circumstances' should be addressed to me, with as much notice as possible. It is very rare that I am able to authorise an absence. The impact of absenteeism upon education is highlighted by the Department for Education:
'Pupils with no absence are around 10.2 times more likely to achieve the English Baccalaureate than pupils missing 15 – 20% of Key Stage Four lessons.'
It goes without saying that it is important for pupils to attend school at every opportunity to develop their talents and to maximise their potential. This coming Friday is Speech Night when we come together to celebrate last year's achievements. I very much hope that this academic year will be just as successful.