Friday, 7 April 2017

Happy Easter


It has been an extremely busy and productive half term for staff and students.

Ethos and chaplaincy

Our thanks to our chaplain, Mandy Baker, and to Fr. Kevin, parish priest of Our Lady’s, Churchdown, for all they do to help us to sustain and develop the ethos of the school.  This half term all year groups had a service for Ash Wednesday, which marks the start of Lent, and it was lovely to see student teams distributing ashes.  We have also held Lenten reconciliation services for each year group where students had the opportunity to go up for individual confession which many did.  We thank the priests of Gloucester and Stroud deaneries for their support with reconciliations.  This week, the last week of term, all students have attended liturgies in preparation for Holy Week and Easter which have been very well received by students.

Fifty students and staff attended Flame 3 at Wembley Arena on March 11th. We were delighted that Romana Protsysyn participated on stage with other CAFOD representatives from the diocese while Clare Walker joined the CAFOD team at the event and helped to run a lunchtime activity.  Well done both!

Last weekend ten year 10 students visited Kintbury Retreat Centre and had an extremely good time “Sharing the Good News” (the theme of the retreat) with students from four other schools who are now firm friends.   Thanks to our Head of year 10, Mrs Tassinari, and to Fr. Kevin for organising this.  


 

The Messiah at St Peter's R.C Church

Last week saw one of the highlights of the term: the St Peter's High School Choral Society performance of highlights from Handel's Messiah at St Peter's Church in Gloucester.  Former pupils and staff joined current students and staff as well as some professional musicians for an exceptional performance of an extremely demanding piece.  Our thanks go to all the singers and musicians and especially to music staff Mrs Smith, Mr Figliola, Mrs Greeenow and, especially, to our director of music, Mrs Catherine Perfect.  It was an evening where I was extremely proud to be connected to such a talented and committed group of people.






Faculty fortnights
Extremely successful faculty fortnights have taken place in science, maths and humanities this half term. 
In science faculty fortnight sleuthing students solved a murder using forensic techniques while Mr Foxsmith transformed the school gym into a planetarium. The fortnight culminated in an entertaining science show. Pupils roared with laughter as they watched their teachers being subjected to number of entertaining yet risky experiments.

St Peter’s science department has also been named as a Science Learning Partner. This follows a series of CPD courses that were held at the school for internal and external members of staff. Day-long practical sessions have been held for trainee teachers and subject knowledge extension events for existing teachers plus a range of courses for science technicians.   
Highlights of maths faculty fortnight included an external speaker for year 10, a maths competition for visiting teams of year 5 students from our main five Catholic feeder schools, and participation in Maths challenges.  Four students from years 8 and 9 (Amelia King, Mary McAteer, Sean Bryden and Lottie Wilkinson) finished sixth out of nineteen in the regional maths team challenge.  Also, in the individual challenge for years 9 and 10, two of our year 9 students achieved a Gold certificate, John Harvey qualifying for the European Kangaroo competition, and Sean Bryden for the Olympiad.  In addition, eight students achieved a silver certificate and eleven a Bronze certificate.  Well done all!

During the humanities faculty fortnight we were delighted to welcome Lord Tyler as part of the Peers in Schools programme.  He spoke to A Level Politics students - as well as some Year 11 students - and was thoroughly engaging throughout.  He commented that our students asked the best questions of all the schools he had visited as part of the programme.  Thanks to Miss Fearn for organising this visit. 


All KS3 students in RE have produced some really creative and informative pieces of work as part of their multi faith studies this half term.  Work has been expressed through art and craft (canvas paintings, information posters, artefacts and working models), drama (one student made a puppet theatre and told the story of Abraham using the puppets), extended writing (one pupil explored their Jewish ancestry and made a family tree), textiles (traditional Hindu clothing was made), food (traditional food was made from across the religious traditions studied and shared) and use of media (films, music, websites and interviews were made). 
 

Other news

‘Hope’ is a charity which supports some of our students to cope with a family member’s life threatening illness.  They will be featured on BBC 1’s ‘Lifeline’ programme on Easter Sunday.  Two of our students – Leanne Rogers and Katie Blagden will be appearing in the programme.  More details are available here: http://www.hopesupport.org.uk/

 
Girls sports news
  • The Under 16s won the Gloucester District netball tournament.The Under 13s won the Wycliffe invitational netball tournament.Emily Lacy has been selected to attend Severn Stars Super league netball trials for the Under 17 squad.
  • The Under 14 hockey team won the Wycliffe invitational hockey tournament.The Under 14s football squad won the Gloucester District tournament and came second in the county.Mary McAteer attended the South Wales Regional Football Training Camp.St Peter’s won the Gloucestershire Schools Gymnastics cup and Armani Parker represented St Peter’s in gymnastics at national level.
  • The senior netball girls defeated the staff in a very competitive match.  The player of the match was Head of year 9, Mrs Roberts-Moore!
  • Year 11 student Grace Riglar has won the Golden boot for Bristol City and will be training with them next year.Our thanks to Niamh Cooney and Venice Agbyani who have given up lots of their free time to teach, coach and umpire lessons and fixtures.


Boys PE news:

  • Brooke Turner, Max Stephenson and Joe Langbridge will represent the Gloucester Rugby  Academy in the Wellington U16s Rugby Festival.
  • Aaron Hinckley has been selected to play for the England Under 18 Rugby squad in an Easter tournament.
  • Rhys Dunn has been selected to represent England in the Under 17’s rugby team against France.
  • Years 7 to 11 all reached the National Schools football semi finals.
  • The U12 and Under 15 teams reached the final of the National Schools football tournament.
  • Congratulations to Archie Brennan and Rhys Sarson who have professional contracts with Cheltenham Town Football Club.
A huge thank you to our PE staff for all the extra-curricular work they undertake and to parents for their time and effort in supporting this.


House Sport

This week has been House Week with students in years 7 to 10 competing in football and netball.  The current scores include all positive points on SIMS as well as house sport results for hockey, rugby, football, basketball, gymnastics and netball.  Well done to the winners so far, Severn House:

Severn – 6068

Thames – 5963

Wye – 5637

Avon – 5473

The ‘Spirit of the Games’ awards this term are for students who had positive attitudes, showed resilience throughout wins and losses and had a positive influence on other members of their team. Each of these students has won an extra 50 points for their house.  The winners of this terms Spirit of the Games award are:

Year 7: Iona Neal and Mac Cheers Berry
Year 8: Daniel Onakoya and Grace Harris
Year 9: Ethan Dunbar and Hope Martin
Year 10: Conor Howard and Izzy Limbrick
Year 11: Zenon Heggs and Lydia Ravenhill

Thank you to Miss Hadley and the PE staff for organising House Week and congratulations to the winners of the Spirit of the Games awards!


National Citizen Service 
This year we had the highest number of students sign up for the National Citizen Service.  This is a scheme  for young teenagers who do adventure activities, team building skills and leadership activities during the summer holidays. The NCS have limited spaces and were very impressed that over a hundred of our year 11 applied and with the quality of the applicants.


Students with English as an additional language

In March ten students with English as an Additional language passed their ESOL exams in Reading and Writing. Seven of them also attained passes in Speaking and listening. The students are from India, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, China, Syria, Albania and Vietnam. We congratulate them for their hard work and progress in learning English.


The Tenner challenge
Twenty five year 7 and 10 students took part in the Business Studies department’ ‘Tenner Challenge’ where they were given £10 and had to come up with a way of making a profit.  A wide variety of projects was organised including cake sales, selling sweets and popcorn, guess how many sweets in the jar, dog walking, selling refreshments at sporting fixtures and making jewellery.  Two year 10 students, Eyhana Hennessy and Maya-Lewis Chaplin, were the most successful.  In four weeks they managed to generate a magnificent profit of £215; a percentage of this profit has been donated to a Guide dog charity. Zoe and Demetrious in year 7 also made a very respectable £80 in profit.

 


 
Year 9 options
Year 9 Options evening takes place on the first Tuesday after Easter, 25th April from 17:30-19:00 with a talk by me at 17:30 which is repeated at 18:30.  Students and parents will have an opportunity to visit option subjects to talk to department staff.  Students must return their option choice sheet to the KS3 office by Monday 2nd May.


Staff news

Mrs Fennell is retiring after 15 and a half  years teaching sociology, history and politics at St Peter’s.  We wish her a long and happy retirement.

Mrs Greenow begins her maternity leave after Easter.  We wish her well and thank her for her work in the music department as well as with her 11B form who have given her some lovely presents to express their thanks to her.


Attendance, punctuality and behaviour

The vast majority of our students are respectful, sensible and considerate but we have had some disappointing incidents this half term which are damaging to the reputation of the whole school.  I have reminded all students about the importance of respecting others and the school environment and that failure to do so, including while travelling to and from school, will be dealt with very seriously.   Some students have let us down with their poor behaviour on public buses and this has been addressed.  Other students are asked to report any silly or disrespectful behaviour to a member of staff so that we can address it. Students have been reminded that mobile phones must be off and completely away during the whole of the school day and that if they are seen they will be confiscated.
We continue to look for your support in improving punctuality and attendance.  Students should aim for at least 97% attendance.  Research shows that students with 95% attendance or more achieve their target grades whereas students with 90% attendance or below attain one grade lower than their target grade.  This is important for all of our students but particularly for key stage four and five students who are preparing for external examinations.  Simply put, if students are not in school then they do not make good progress.
 

Revision
Staff have been extremely generous with their time and have put on lots of extra revision sessions but of course this needs to be backed up by students’ private revision.  Students preparing for external examinations should spend a good proportion of the Easter break revising but can balance this with regular breaks for relaxation and exercise.  It is a good idea for them to check that they have all the necessary notes and materials and to work backwards from the exam timetable to ensure all topics will be covered.  A quiet indoor space without distractions, including music, is important too.   

Research has found that ‘spaced learning (when students revise one subject for a chunk of time followed by a completely different subject and then a third etc) helps rather than hinders the recall of information.   Ebbinghaus’s ‘Curve of Forgetting’ is also interesting as it shows that we need to revise things several times before information is fully retained.  He found that memory decays the most rapidly in the first hour after learning and then continues to decline until it levels off after one month.  Therefore, through regular revision, forgetting will decline and more information will be retained.


Summer uniform
When we return after the Easter break students will need to wear polo shirts and jumpers rather than shirts, ties and blazers.  Year 9 students have been asked to donate their blazers to second hand uniform(if they are not needed for younger siblings). It is usually still quite cold when we return after the holiday so students must have their jumpers and coats with them. 

We are looking forward to being able to open the field but remind students that food is not allowed in the barn or fields as these spaces are used for PE lessons.  Please can I encourage you to remind students to use break and lunch times to go to the toilet and, if necessary, fill up water bottles then (which they are not allowed to do during lesson times.


Diocesan residential weeks
The Diocese is holding two Living Your Faith Residential Weeks in August.  Week One 7 - 11 August (Age 7 - 11) and Week Two 14th - 18th August (Age 12 -16).

The weeks are intended to encourage children and young people to engage in their faith through fun, games and spiritual input.  They take place in the beautiful surroundings of the Marist Convent in Nympsfield.  For more details contact Stephen Spurrell on 07860849460 or at livingyourfaith@hotmail.co.uk
Communication and Show My Homework

A reminder to please let us know if any of your contact details have changed.  Do continue to use the website, school app and twitter to keep up to date with news and events.  The PFA have also set up a Facebook account - St Peter's RC High School PFA which you are invited to like and follow.  The PFA help to raise funds for additional items for the school and are always looking for new members and new ideas.  The next meeting of the PFA is on Monday 24th April at 6pm in the Rosemary Steele block at the bottom of the school.  
 
Please remind your sons and daughters to check Show My Homework regularly.  Students have individual log in details but all homework tasks can be accessed via the link on the home page of the website so there is never an excuse for homework not being done and submitted on time!  
 
We return to school on Monday 24th April and hope that all our students have an enjoyable break.  Have a happy and holy Easter. 

 

Friday, 10 February 2017

February Half Term 2017


It has been a short but very busy half term. 

Year 11 mock results

Year 11 students have completed mock examinations and received their results prior to parents evening appointments this Tuesday evening.  Some of the results did not match the students' target grades but there is plenty of time to address this as long as students are prepared to work with staff as well as independently on homework and revision.

Faculty Fortnight, Careers Week and events

This half term we have been busy with Geography & Business Studies faculty fortnight followed by English faculty fortnight, both of which involved lots of interesting activities for students. See below for the display created by our librarian, Mrs Watkins, for the Harry Potter quiz evening:


Mrs Beeton, our careers adviser, organised a very successful Careers Week and invited lots of visiting speakers to talk to groups of students who wished to find out about a number of career paths. 

The RE department invited Pam Moon to deliver a talk to sixth form students on the Shroud of Turin which was accompanied by an exhibition. On Wednesday this week parents and friends were invited to a similar evening event. 

On Holocaust Memorial Day, January 27th, students from years 9, 11 and 12 attended a webinar with Mala Tribich, MBE, a survivor of the concentration camps.  The students found it very moving.

Thanks to all of the staff in these departments for their work in organising these events which supplement the curriculum.


A date for your diary

The Year 9 RIMS parents evening takes place straight after half term on Tuesday 21st February and students should have brought home letters about this; you may need to check their bags!  It is important that parents and careers attend such evenings so that we can work together to ensure the students progress as they should.

Good news

This half term we have had year Masses for St Angela Merici (year 7) and for St John Bosco (year 8).  Members of our CAFOD leaders group travelled to London to receive their Leaders' certificates at the CAFOD headquarters in London.  Our chaplain, Miss Baker, has again organised a trip to 'Flame,' the largest Catholic youth gathering at Wembley SSE Arena, and has a full coach plus a waiting list.  Thanks to her and Fr Kevin for all their time and work.

110 year 13 students have made university applications this year; many have already received conditional offers and some students even have unconditional offers.

Almost 60 students have enrolled in the Bronze Duke of Edinburgh scheme this year, a record number.

The First XI football team reached the last 16 in the country in the ESFA Under-18 national cup.  This is the furthest we have got in the competition and they lost to a very strong Millfield side.

Congratulations to Reece Dunn in year 12 who has been included in the England Under-17 development squad.

Attendance

We continue to look for your support in improving student attendance. Students should aim for at least 97% attendance.  Research shows that students with 95% attendance or more achieve their target grades whereas students with 90% attendance or below attain one grade lower than their target grade.  This is important for all of our students but particularly for key stage four and five students.  Simply put, if students are not in school then they do not progress.

Road safety for cyclists and pedestrians

One of our students was recently hit by a car and was lucky to escape with a broken collarbone rather than anything more serious.  Stroud Road is an extremely busy main road and we urge students to use the pedestrian crossing and to be attentive to traffic, including cyclists.  We are working with Gloucestershire Road Safety Partnership to consider how we can improve the safety of our students as they arrive and leave the school. All pupils who are cyclists should wear cycle helmets.  We also ask that parents are considerate of neighbours of the school when picking up students at the end of the day.  If you wait until 3.50 you can come into the bus bay and safely pick up your sons and daughters from there.


Half term break

I wish students and their families a good half term break.  I am looking forward to it as much as them after an extremely enjoyable but action-packed first half term as head teacher!

Buses: a letter from John Dix

"Dear Parents,

As you may well be aware, there is currently a home to school bus service operating between many of the villages situated in close proximity to the A38, and St Peter’s High School.  This service currently commences at Standish, taking in Stonehouse, Nympsfield, Uley, Dursley, Cam, Frampton and Whitminster.  This covers a large geographical area, and whilst we intend to operate a service from those areas again next academic year, we are proposing to incorporate more pick-ups in other areas to enable us to split the route into two.  This will create two, shorter routes that will benefit all concerned.  Our intention is to incorporate a section of Stroud, with a bus likely to travel from Stonehouse, through Ebley to Merrywalks, then to St Peter’s.

In order for us to do this, we need a sufficient number of children to subscribe.  If you live in any of the afore mentioned areas and would like your child to travel on a bus service exclusive to school children, please visit our website and sign up via the ‘school routes’ section.  You will need to select your school, then the route (A38), and complete the online forms.  This process will display the route in its current format with only 49 seats.  Please sign up regardless as we will amend the routes as soon as we have sufficient demand and, should the amended routes not be to your liking, you are free to cancel at no obligation.  Once we have 49 children subscribed, subsequent subscribers will get a message informing you that you have been placed on our waiting list.  Again, please ignore this – we can only sign children up to established routes but we will be able to split the route and assign children to the correct route once we have an idea of numbers and where children live.

It is our hope that we can establish two routes, serving a wider area and a greater number of children, and at the same time cut journey times to and from school.  This however, is dependent on numbers, and we would urge you to sign up as early as possible to help us get these routes in place.  If your child is a new starter in September and you are not 100% sure of their place, I would encourage you to sign up as soon as you are aware that you have a place at St Peter’s.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us on 01452 886633 or info@johndixtravel.co.uk and we will do our best to help.

Yours sincerely,
John Dix
Director"


 

 


Monday, 16 January 2017

Happy New Year


We have completed our first full week of term, year 11 have had mock exams and I have taken over the reigns from Mr Rush.
Carols by Candlelight
The term ended with Carols by Candlelight at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Stroud.  The church was packed with parishioners, pupils and staff ( both past and present), parents and friends of the school.  Our choir were joined by several former music students and the pupils of The Rosary School participated beautifully also.  The evening was delightful and a lovely start to the Christmas season.


Mr Rush
Mr Rush retired at the end of December after thirty three and a third years of teaching and leading St Peter’s.  The staff presented him with some wine glasses and wine (Spanish, of course!) as well as a cheque which he is using to pay for a two day photography course and overnight stay in Wiltshire which he has already booked.  He was presented with a cake made by Mrs Cameron, his former PA, which incorporated some of his passions: reading and writing poetry, music, and walking the Camino de Santiago.  We were delighted that his children and grandchildren were able to attend as well as his wife Caroline.  This evening the leadership team and the governors are taking him and Caroline out for a meal.  It is a measure of Mr Rush’s commitment to the school that this term he is continuing to teach GCSE RE for us as well as his A-level creative writing group.

 
 
Staffing

In January Mr Barry Upward and Mrs Wendy Briggs joined the maths department and are settling in well.  This week we say farewell to Mr Joe Knight who has been part of our site team for several years and who was also a student at St Peter's.  He and his family are leaving the area and we wish them well in the future.

Year 11 mock exams

Last week our year 11 students had a week of mock examinations which have gone very well.  Thanks to the PE department for vacating the gym during a cold and wet week!  Students will receive their results on development day on Tuesday 7th February followed by parents evening when they will be able to discuss their progress and plans for KS5 with teachers and our careers adviser.  We hope to see all parents and carers at this evening.  This will be followed by three further ‘snapshot’ assessments prior to study leave and examinations.  I hope year 11 students respond well to the feedback on the mocks and organise their time so that they can revise steadily over a period of months rather than leave it until the last minute. 


Attendance and Behaviour
Attendance remains a key area which we need to improve.  The government target for attendance is 95% but even if a student attends school for 95% of the time, he or she will miss a whole day’s work every four weeks.  If you miss school, you miss lessons, and you miss chances to improve and develop.  Recent figures reveal that at St Peter’s students with attendance of over 95% ‘overachieve’ by making more than expected progress and that students with less than 95% ‘underachieve’ by making less than expected progress.  Even students with attendance between 90% and 95% seem to be quite significantly under-achieving.  We all need to work together to improve attendance throughout the school and we look for your support with this.


As you know we amended our behaviour policy last term.  It can be viewed on this webpage: http://www.stpetershighschool.org.uk/docs/Policy-Documents/ (click on Anti-Bullying and Behaviour policy).  Of course it applies to a small percentage of our students.  I am including here Mr Rush’s comments on this from last term:

The key change is significant and concerns fixed-term exclusions.  The new system is firmly incremental.  For a ‘first offence’ a student receives a one-day exclusion, for a second two days, and so on.  Each exclusion is followed by a formal meeting with parents and carers.   A five-day exclusion constitutes a ‘final warning’.  There is no six-day exclusion:  this is a permanent exclusion.  (For serious offences, a permanent exclusion will be triggered as now.) 

The key thing, in this system, about an exclusion is not really the length of time away but the progress through the gradient.  This ‘progress’ – I am not sure in the present climate whether the word ‘progress’ is quite the right one here – is emphasised at each formal meeting.  Secondly, there is no dilly-dallying with students who do not change their behaviour.  It will be made absolutely clear at the ‘three-day’ mark that we are heading for a permanent exclusion, unless there is a change in behaviour, and the school will put in place at that point the kind of formal intervention programme we are familiar with now.  But if there is no change in behaviour, inevitably a permanent exclusion will follow.  We will want, let me stress, to see a change in behaviour.

 Contact

Please maintain your contacts with the school and let us know of any concerns you have so that we can address things as soon as possible.  We can’t always fix things immediately, and sometimes different people have very different perceptions of the same thing, but we value your help in identifying issues.  Open House Wednesday takes place every week at the very bottom of the school in the training block from 4 – 6pm should you wish to discuss concerns with me or a member of the leadership team in person.  We do ask that you email reception@sphs.uk.com by midday of that Wednesday with some idea of the area of concern.
 
Important information and updates (including school closure in the event of sever weather) are displayed on the school website (stpetershigh.net) and can also be seen on the school's twitter feed(@StPetersRCHigh).  If you have a smart phone, it is well worth downloading the free St Peter's app; details can be found here: stpetershighschool
 
Neighbours
I have received complaints from neighbours of the school who live in the slip road off Stroud Road where some parents park to pick up their children .  Some driveways are being blocked which means the person is unable to get out.  Some parents who have parked in this way have even been rude to neighbours trying to leave their driveways.  This does not foster a good relationship with our neighbours.  Please can parents who pick up students at the end of the day wait until 4pm when they can come into the school's bus bay or park sensitively nearby.
 
I look forward to a good but short half term and to your continued support of the school.
Stephanie Layhe
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

Monday, 5 December 2016

Christmas is Coming!

Christmas is Coming

There are two school events planned to mark Advent and the Christmas season.  The drama department is presenting The Snow Queen on Tuesday 6th, Thursday 8th, Friday 9th and Saturday 10th December, at 6.30 pm, with an additional Saturday matinee at 1.30pm on the 10th.  I am assured that Santa’s grotto will be open for visitors before each performance. (£6 and £4)
On Thursday 15th December, at 7 pm, the school choir will celebrate Advent with what has become a traditional evening of Carols by Candlelight.  This is held at the church of the Immaculate Conception in Stroud and will feature special guest stars from the Rosary School.  You are all welcome;  please support us.  (£3 and £1)

League Tables

As we draw to the end of the longest term of the year, it may be time to reflect on how well the year is going.  It is going badly for West Ham Utd.  They have been inattentive in lessons, have lacked intensity and commitment in training and have wasted their time at home, preferring parties and Twitter to homework and reading.  As a result they are near the bottom of the table and falling.  Possibly, if they do their work over the holidays and catch up with their learning they can pull things round.  But as far as their GCSEs go, this is pretty well the last chance to change things.  If they haven’t got things in order by February, Easter will be too late, and no amount of last-minute revision will solve the problems.  They can look forward to a year at least in a lower league and having to retake their exams.

I am asking sixth-formers and year 11 students not to fall into the same trap.  Christmas is a time to collect our thoughts about exams and to begin a regime of learning and study which will see us through to the exams in May.  It is not all boring and it is not all work.  And hearing the crowd cheering is so much more fun than trooping off to an empty stadium and a few half-hearted boos.

Attendance

One of the key areas which we as a school need to address is that of attendance.  The government target for attendance is 95%, which sounds high and ambitious.  Actually, as we’ve said before, if you attend for 95% of the time, you miss a whole day’s work every four weeks.  If you miss school, you miss lessons, and you miss chances to improve and develop.  Recent figures reveal that at St Peter’s students with attendance of over 95% ‘overachieve’ and that students with less than 95% ‘underachieve’.  Even students with attendance between 90 and 95% seem to be quite significantly under-achieving.  Everyone needs to work together to improve attendance throughout the school.

Staffing

Several key staff are moving on to new posts at the end of the term.  Mrs Churchill is continuing her career elsewhere, and we are very grateful for her first-rate teaching and for what she has given the school and its maths department.  We will welcome Mr Upward in her place.    Mrs Endacott is leaving to take up an RE post in a school much nearer her home, and Mr Rumsey will be taking on more RE teaching to cover her classes.  I am very grateful to Mrs Endacott for her excellent contribution to the RE department, and to Mr Rumsey for returning (briefly) to his calling as a teacher of RE.  We also welcome back Mr Edwards who will be teaching in the business studies department following Mrs Richardson’s leaving us for family reasons.

In January, Mrs Layhe will take over as headteacher, and Mrs Gittins as senior deputy.  They will lead a hard-working team, ambitious for continued success at the school.

Masses

The school continues to be grateful to Miss Baker and Fr Kevin for their work on school liturgies and Masses.  Last week’s year 10 Mass for St Francis Xavier, one of our patron saints, was a true example of how our students can focus on the spiritual in their lives and can set high standards of behaviour and commitment.  We are holding Advent penitential services, and this week the sixth-form colleges are running retreats in Stroud.

We have raised a lot of money for charity this term, with nearly a thousand pounds collected, for example, for ‘Children in Need’.

Changes

We have amended our school’s behaviour policy – it will be on the website shortly.  I hope that it will need to apply to only a very few of you!

The key change is significant and concerns fixed-term exclusions.  The new system is firmly incremental.  For a ‘first offence’ a student receives a one-day exclusion, for a second two days, and so on.  Each exclusion is followed by a formal meeting with parents and carers.   A five-day exclusion constitutes a ‘final warning’.  There is no six-day exclusion:  this is a permanent exclusion.  (For serious offences, a permanent exclusion will be triggered as now.) 

The key thing, in this system, about an exclusion is not really the length of time away but the progress through the gradient.  This ‘progress’ – I am not sure in the present climate whether the word ‘progress’ is quite the right one here – is emphasised at each formal meeting.  Secondly, there is no dilly-dallying with students who do not change their behaviour.  It will be made absolutely clear at the ‘three-day’ mark that we are heading for a permanent exclusion, unless there is a change in behaviour, and the school will put in place at that point the kind of formal intervention programme we are familiar with now.  But if there is no change in behaviour, inevitably a permanent exclusion will follow.  We will want, let me stress, to see a change in behaviour.

Buses

There is no nice way of putting this:  I have failed to create a new route to school passing through Stonehouse, Eastington and Ebley.  We tried hard to promote the route, but there was insufficient interest, in the end, from the parents who would have to pay for it.  Mr John Dix has been extremely generous of his time and of his staff’s time, but our recruitment did not find the number of paying passengers we need for a route to be viable.  I apologise to the parents and families who did sign up but who are now disappointed.

I have expressed my concern about these bus problems to the Gloucestershire Association of Secondary Headteachers and they are all extremely concerned about the effect of reduced services and higher fares on all secondary schools in Gloucestershire.  Our local MPs are fully aware of my views.

Farewell

I joined St Peter’s High School in September 1983 after three years at Saintbridge and two at Churchdown.    In the thirty-three-and-a-third years following that appointment I have, I regret, made just about every mistake a teacher can make.  But as Oscar Wilde observes, ‘Experience is the name Tuppy gives to his mistakes.’  (You’ll have to read Lady Windermere’s Fan to find out exactly who Tuppy is, but right now I’m identifying with him.)

I have been lucky enough this year to be teaching RE to a lovely year 11 group.  After 60 years a Catholic, I have finally learned why it is called the ‘Apostles’ Creed’ – because it has twelve doctrines.  One of these is belief in ‘the holy catholic church and the communion of saints’.  That is what I have experienced at St Peter’s - a team of dedicated and caring professionals who work to educate the young and to build a better society.  I also remember, in thinking of ‘the communion of the saints’, of all those colleagues and students who have died.  Remarkably many.  I remember them fondly and I ask you to pray for them with me. 

Another doctrine in the Creed concerns the ‘forgiveness of sins’;  I ask you all to forgive me my shortcomings and failings.

Mrs Layhe, as I say, will take over in January, with Mrs Gittins at her side.  What I have done badly they will do well, and what I have done well they will do better.


 Philip Rush


Thursday, 20 October 2016

Our First Half Term
October 2016

The school has ended the first half-term on rather a high.  The house week provides a wonderful opportunity for a wide range of students to take part in proper, competitive sport and I am delighted by the standard of the hockey and rugby played this week and by the enthusiasm of the students involved.  A huge thank-you is earned by the PE department, especially by Miss Hadley.

The PE department also took our top rugby players to important national festivals in Ipswich and Norwich.  They did not win all their matches – that is a hard ask – but they did beat Hampton School.  And speaking as a man whose brother-in-law attended Hampton School, this makes everything pretty worthwhile from where I’m standing.  Well done!

And the evenings of our final week have been filled by a marvellous performance of The Pirates of Penzance which has been not only a credit to the students involved – wonderful talents emerging here, there and everywhere – but also to the staff, led this time by Mrs Perfect and Mr Waring.  A huge thank you to all.

This last fortnight has been the modern languages ‘faculty fortnight’ with talks to year 9 students, lunchtime films and more.  Studying modern languages is essential for the future prosperity of the country and I would advise all key stage 3 students who are even the slightest bit interested in learning languages to give GCSE French or Spanish very serious consideration.

We also had a very successful even promoting STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and maths – to girls.  Caroline John STEM Manager, Gloucestershire - from Graphic Science, part of the training group who support public engagement in the research community - came to speak with girls in years 10 and 11 to inform them about the many aspirational career opportunities in STEM areas (science, technology, engineering and maths).

Our guests including Renishaw, Tata (IT), University of Bristol Research and CLG Engineering told us about their own career pathways and gave the students the opportunity to consider their own aptitudes and preferences for the workplace.
We are really grateful to Caroline John, STEM Manager, Graphic Science; Lucy Ackland, Design and Development Engineer, Renishaw; Alicia Gonzalez Buelga, Research Engineer, University of Bristol; Susie Jutsum, Geotechnical Engineer, Tony Gee; and Maggie Davis, IT Support Specialist, Tata Consultancy.

Students will follow up this event with a visit to the Skills Show at the NEC Birmingham in November.  Thanks to our careers adviser Mrs Sarah Beeton and to Head of Progress Mrs Haywood for organising this event.

The students returned to school dressed very smartly.  I have had numerous comments about this from staff, parents and members of the public and I am very grateful for all the work done by parents and carers to achieve this outcome.  Thank you.

Our dedicatory Masses for the start of the new school year went extremely well.  |Our chaplain, Mandy Baker, and Fr Kevin prepared and led the liturgy expertly, the music was splendid, and behaviour and focus were of the highest standard.

Our A-level results in the summer were good, and were very similar to last year’s.  Changes to GCSEs and to the way the school’s success is measured make  us look less good overall, though in each department pass rates and overall success rates remained high.   One of the issues which affected us was in science where, although most students take ‘double science’, quite a number of our students take a single science to ensure they move on from year 11 with a C grade or better in science – an important qualification – but this process has cost us in the final analysis.  We have remedied this for future years.

Mrs Layhe and I have planned a visit to St Paul’s RC School in Sunbury-on-Thames, Middlesex, on the 19th October.  This is a Catholic comprehensive which in theory should be similar to ours (admittedly in a different part of the country and without grammar schools) but which has achieved higher results (84% A*-C in GCSE).  We need to see what they are doing!

As you are all aware, our summer holidays were dominated by buses.  There were some teething problems, in September, with some routes and with the provision of adequate buses but these have largely been resolved.  There is I think one key route which has not been sweetly replaced and that is one that would run through Stonehouse, Eastington and Haresfield.  We are trying to put on an extra bus serving Stroud via those destinations. 

Please do not be shy in applying for free travel.  Families on low incomes (as well as families who live more than three miles away from the school but where we are their nearest school) are entitled to free transport.

We also installed new gates.  The electronic gates have made the school safer.  They have, it is true, created work for the receptionists, and infuriated sixth-formers who are not allowed out during the day.  The gates were introduced to make the school safer between 9 and 4.  I believe this is important.

I was getting increasingly concerned by the numbers of sixth-formers who were registering in the morning and then piling into one another’s cars to drive off.  The register said they were here but they were not;  they were expected in lessons, but they often came back too late.  I am concerned about the safety of cars filled with sixth-formers, I am concerned that parents may not have given formal permission for under-18s to drive off in this way.  It would be good to think that we can return to this privilege and allow sixth-formers to manage their time freely, but in order to achieve the level of confidence in their behaviour which that requires, we must draw a line firmly now and insist on a different work ethic in the sixth-form.  Study periods are periods for study whenever they fall and sixth-formers need, in order to compete for jobs and university places, to prioritise study during school hours, and beyond.  Some sixth-formers have definitely returned to St Peter’s looking forward to jaunts out in friends’ cars to fast-food restaurants.  I want that to stop.  It is dangerous and I do think that parents are not all fully aware of where their children are, nor what they are doing.    Some local schools allow free egress to sixth-formers and some do not; we need to draw a line firmly before we start deciding on privileges.

I note that attendance in my own sixthform classes has been about 98% with one absence due to illness.  This is a very marked difference from last year!

Our new head of sixth, Mrs Pearce, has made an excellent start to the year with tighter procedures and a clear vision for improving standards in the sixth-form.  Recruitment to the sixth-form was good, with over 450 students overall, and retention so far is high.

We welcomed a number of new staff to the school in September:  Mrs Farrelly in the business studies and economics department;  Mrs Frampton to teach on the health course, with Mrs Pearce; Mr Versaci the new teacher in charge of business and economics.  Mr Clayfield, Mr Fox-Smith, Mrs Garner, Dr Piercy, Mr Morrison and Mrs Stephen all joined the science department.  Miss Foley joined the modern foreign languages department, Miss Graves the design technology department (as maternity cover for Mrs Lawton),  Miss Ridout art, and Miss Gilbert RE.  Mrs Knapton is our new library assistant, Mr Bateman works as a TA in the drama department, and Mrs Szoke has joined the maths department.  Mrs Lee is our new head of maths.  She has already been working closely with Mr McAteer, Ms Lally and Mrs Melton to ensure that the department can continue its excellent progress.

Since September, we have appointed Jacinta Norton to teach RE for Mrs Eakin who has asked for unpaid leave while she fully regains her health and well-being; Mr James Dart to English as maternity cover for Emma Hilliam; Mr Liam Gittins and Mr Paul Donovan as TAs, all starting immediately.  Mrs Wendy Briggs will start work as in the maths department, from January.

At the beginning of the half-term Mrs Gittins and Mrs Layhe are joining the diocesan headteachers’ conference in Rome and are scheduled for an audience with Pope Francis first thing in the morning.  I hope his blessing of our school will remain with us for the years to come.

When we return after half-term, we come back on the Tuesday.  Please avoid the temptation to come back on the Monday! 

Tuesday is All Saints’ Day and a holyday of obligation, so there will be Masses in the morning, during period 2 for some pupils, and during period 3 for others.  Parents and carers are most welcome.  These Masses will take place in the Sports Barn, which is not the warmest place in early November.  Students (and all who come) are encouraged to wear warm coats.  I know that ‘All Saints’ is a popular clothes shop these days and I have seen some of their clothes.  They may not be suitable.


Philip Rush