Friday, 18 December 2015

Happy Christmas!

Happy Christmas!

A big thank you first and foremost for all your support of the school.

The building work is nearing completion and everything will be working fully in January.  The builders have been absolutely terrific, working with great skill dedication, but also doing so in a way which has allowed the school to continue its work safely and sensibly.  Lots of staff have had to make sacrifices, of course, including teachers and, especially, the site staff, but the result rather speaks for itself.

The cross on the front of the school has been made and installed for us by an artist from Stroud, Paul Grellier.  The four parts are reclaimed steel from Gloucester canal barges and Paul wanted that fact to link Gloucester with St Peter’s own familiarity with boats.  What’s more, these components, which strength the join between the sides of the boat and the bottom, are called the ‘knees’ and you can see why when you look at their shape;  there’s a pleasant echo there of kneeling to pray.  The final effect is clear and welcoming and – I think – dignified, and I hope you get used to seeing it as you come into the school.

We have said some farewells today to staff.  Miss Brown is leaving her post in the extended school to take up a new kind of career at St Rose’s in Stroud; Mr Villeneuve is leaving the ICT Technicians team to take up new opportunities in Surrey.  Miss Osman is leaving the modern languages department where she has done sterling and excellent work for us; she is moving abroad.  And Miss Halliday is leaving the English department after many years of excellent teaching to begin work as a primary school class teacher in Worcestershire.  We wish them all the very best.

Mrs O’Donnell will be joining the English department.  Miss Main, who has been teaching RE for us, will be able to join the languages department full-time as we are welcoming back Mrs Doust who has been away on maternity leave.

Recently we have enjoyed some important successes.  The ‘Carols by Candlelight’ in Stroud was a lovely evening with beautiful singing and readings and with an important contribution by singers from The Rosary School.  All the music department earned enormous gratitude.  I have rarely enjoyed a play as much as I enjoyed the senior drama production of John Godber’s ‘Teechers’.  Not a hint of a fluffed line and complete commitment from start to finish.  Couldn’t stop laughing!

The PE department continues to excel in competitive sport.  This term, in all sports, they have played 182 competitive fixtures – an extraordinarily high number – and have won 70% of them.
The boys’ U-15 and U-18 rugby teams are now in the last 16s of the national NatWest Cup;  the year 7 boys are still in the national football cup, and the U-13 and U-15 girls’ football teams were knocked out having reached the last 32 of their national cups.

The tennis squad, under the direction of Mr Keiran Montagu, has won the Tennis Education Establishment of the Year award for Gloucestershire and has enjoyed its best year of success in the history of the school.  To single out one key achievement is hard, but perhaps the best is that the U-18 boys are in the Top 5 in the UK.  Quite an achievement indeed.
I am also very grateful to heads of faculty for committing themselves energetically to the idea of ‘faculty fortnights’ where extra activities are organised to help promote the work of each subject.  I do not want any of our students to look forward to ‘dropping’ a subject!

We will continue to rely on parental support.  And there are a few things I should like quickly to mention, please.
Firstly, please can I remind you that we must insist on proper school uniform and on the best behaviour both in school and when travelling to and from school.   Skirts which are too short, trainers, ear-rings, nail varnish, all those things create work for tutors and staff, and inevitably in a school of this size there will be inconsistencies and children feeling hard done by.  None of that ‘unfairness’ would exist if students did their best to present themselves at school in the way we’d like them to do (details of uniform requirements are on the website).  I know parents do a lot – and spend a lot – to help with all of this, and I thank you for that, but it is important.  St Peter’s needs to have a good reputation:  everyone here now will have to say on application forms in the future that they came to St Peter’s! 

Similarly, we need to improve our attendance rate.  Please do all you can to ensure that students attend all sessions.  Our target is 95% attendance. 

Please discourage your children from phoning (or texting) home during the school day without our permission.  Sometimes, small misunderstandings are escalated because of this and problems which can be quickly solved become bigger.

We are working gradually to make the canteen menu offer as healthy as possible.  Please support the canteen.  We are working to persuade students and to educate them about the importance to teenagers of good nutrition but, as you will understand, there is some resistance to the winding-down of fried chicken options.  If you can help us to promote vegetables, fruit, and a more varied and balanced diet, everyone will benefit, I am sure.  The food the canteen staff cook is excellent, and we need our customers to be both happy and understanding, please.  The spring menu is on the website under the Parents and Community menu.

We allow students to go out to the toilet during lessons.  We do not want this to be abused, and we suspect that it sometimes is.  In the new year, there will be a new system for the use of the toilets, which will involve collecting a key from an office nearby.  Students who need the facilities will not be stopped from using them.

Two final things.  Please help us to get all library books returned as this saves us money and helps all children to benefit from the library facility.    Needless to say it’s the popular books that go missing!

And can you help us with Apple watches?  I am of the age where I think that an apple watch is something to do with orchards and cider-making but we are concerned that if students are accessing smart-phones by ‘looking at their watches’ we may have all sorts of problems.  I don’t want to ban Apple watches – or similar – because I don’t really know the impact they will have and I don’t want to look silly; but if you are lucky enough to be able to give a son or a daughter an Apple watch for Christmas, would you be so kind as to agree with them that their phones need to be switched off at school except when they have received express permission.

I preferred the first half of this newsletter to the second half, but I do believe that without addressing the issues in that second half we will not continue to celebrate the successes and achievements of St Peter’s High School.

Thank you for everything; have a lovely Christmas.  God bless you and all your families.


Tuesday, 17 November 2015

‘As Golden October Declines into Sombre November’


May I begin by copying to you all the message which Catholic schools received from Cardinal Vincent Nichols concerning last Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris:

This morning I wish to express my horror at the events that took place in Paris last night. This random killing of innocent people is utterly despicable and a course of action which must be rejected unequivocally by all.

Today I offer my prayers, with those of the entire Catholic Community in England and Wales, for those who have been shot dead as they enjoyed moments of relaxation and entertainment. I pray for the bereaved, for those who have been traumatised. I pray for the City of Paris that it will courageously recover its poise as one of the great cities of the world. I pray for the police and security forces who will continue their front-line fight against this evil madness. I pray, too, for the Muslim communities in France, and here in England, that they may not be victimised because of the actions of these violent and ruthless extremists but strive always for the way of peace and cooperation with the wider society.

May God bless France. May God give us the courage and wisdom to resist this violent and inhuman extremism. May God guide us all into the ways of peace.

+Vincent Nichols


Our school continues to work for charities and to answer appeals.  The recent ‘Wear it Pink Day’ raised £1000 for cancer charities and the sixth-form efforts for Children in Need raised over £1200.  Thanks to all the families and staff who supported these events.

Building Progress

With wintry weather coming, the builders are redoubling their efforts, with more workers on site and weekend working established.  The target for completion is still early December, and it is hoped that everything will be tidied up and gone by 11th December.  (Sometimes even the best laid plans, etc.)

The Design and Technology block is finished, however, and the teachers have resumed work in their ‘new’ rooms.  The atrium is, of course, the star of the piece: a whole new teaching space at the heart of the block, which energises the place and inspires good work.  Parents will be able to visit formally in the forthcoming sixth-form open evening, on Wednesday 2nd December from 18.30 - 20.30.

Year 11 Mocks

It is not too early, then, for our year 11 students to start thinking about sixth-form courses.  Every year 11 at St Peter’s has a guaranteed place at our sixth-form.  And the count-down begins for real in January when year 11 will return to a formal week of mock examinations.  My warning is that taken as themselves mock exams have little value unless they are prepared for, and are accepted as a stepping-stone to the real thing.  Therefore, year 11 students need to start preparing for these mocks at the beginning of December, ensuring they have all their notes in order, their revision books tidy and ready and all the guidance from their teachers at hand.  Christmas holidays should be full of fun, of course, but for year 11s room needs to be found for good, old-fashioned revision.  Which can’t – let me tell you – be done by downloading an App.

Collecting Children

We need to be scrupulous about students going off site.  It can be a significant safeguarding issue for us.  We cannot allow students to leave school without permission from parents and carers (and we prefer this permission to be written, although we recognise that sometimes it must be verbal).  We cannot allow older siblings to ‘give permission’ for younger brothers and sisters to leave with them.

School Food

Mrs Smith and Mr Blackshaw are working with the governors’ food committee to introduce a new, healthier, menu across the board in the kitchen.  We are doing this firmly but gradually;  we want to make some changes but we do not want to lose your support nor the students’.  However, we want to ensure that the diet offered by the kitchen – at breakfast, break and lunch – is the best we can provide.  I have spoken to students at assemblies about this.  We need their help; we invite them to try without prejudice new meals which appear; we are offering ‘suggestion books’ where they can make positive comments or constructive criticism.  Please support this move as warmly as possible and feel free to contact me with your own comments as the changes appear.


Please don’t forget to support the Christmas events which are coming up, including the PFA Christmas Fair on 21st November from 1 o’clock till 4 in the school hall, and the Carols by Candlelight on 10th December, at 7 o’clock in the church of the Immaculate Conception, Stroud.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

October 2015

October 2015

Firstly, may I thank you all for your support of our ‘building fund’ appeal which was included in the summer letter to all parents and carers.  We have been able to raise several thousand pounds, which is extremely helpful to us as we cope with the incidental expenditure associated with the building project.  (It is hard to put a precise figure on the outcome here, as some families send in cash donations and others signed up for direct debit arrangements:  many thanks to you all.)

Also on the subject of money, but in a different way, I am concerned about the security of bikes on site.  We are going to look at the bike shed security and improve it, but it is never going to be perfect and students with expensive bikes should consider proper insurance, I think.  This week, attempts have been made with bolt cutters to steal expensive bikes.  One was taken, and the thieves seem to have left the others with their security chains half cut through.  I had thought that with all the builders around, it would have been harder to access the bikes;  however, other staff suggest that the building work may have made it easier to come on site with bolt cutters and not look too out of place.  Either way, we need to work together to guard against such thefts.

A more positive note now.  Open week has passed very successfully this year.  I thank Mrs Gittins for all her work in managing the business and I thank all the staff, parents and students who have gone out of their way to make the daily visits and the open evening successful for the school and its visitors.  I think the school looked especially good on the open evening itself, with crowds of families attending – with an unfortunate knock-on effect regarding parking! - and what I judged to be a good atmosphere.  It was nice, too, to see England rugby player Charlie Sharples in that day, working with Keiran Montagu and our primary schools.

I have heard lots of positive feedback from parents and visitors and I hope that you agree with me, if you were one of those shown around, that a good impression was given of the school.

Lots of our visitors are keen on sport – and not just on rugby – and it was splendid to be able to report to them in my open evening speech that the girls' hockey team has qualified to attend the national championships, an event dominated, it has to be said, by teams from independent schools.  Many congratulations to them!  The Under 15 Boys tennis team beat Whitchurch School from Cardiff 6-0 to reach the last 16 schools in the country. Ella Mora reached the 2nd round of a Women's British Tour Event in Swansea - this is an amazing achievement!  Congratulations all round!

Mrs Gittins and Mrs Layhe are concerned that some girls are wearing their skirts too short – what is acceptable on the hockey field or the tennis court is not really acceptable in lessons!  We are beginning to look at different styles of skirt so that this uniform rule can be more easily enforced in future.  However, it will take us time to evaluate options and to consult with students, parents and governors, so in the meantime can we ask you to do your best to ensure that your girls do not wear their skirts too short, and that they look smart and presentable in their uniforms.  Thank you.

Many thanks for all your support of the school.  As I made clear when I spoke to parents during open week, the school relies on the cooperation between staff, parents and students to be what it is.  Every student at St Peter's has asked to come here – no-one has been sent here – so we need to build on that to guarantee that all students are helped to do their best.

And don’t forget to get your tickets for ‘Singin’ in the Rain’!  The box office is open each day.


Philip Rush

Friday, 25 September 2015

Dear Parents and Carers,

Thank you for all the support you have given us in making sure the new school year has got off to a good start.  All the students look smart and ready for work.

I am delighted by the high numbers of students returning to our sixth-form or joining us for the first time in year 12.  High numbers at this stage helps us to offer as wide a range of courses as possible to all students.  They also tell us all that St Peter’s is an attractive school.

We have had some hiccups with the year 12 timetables, partly through coping with such strong recruitment, but chiefly to do with the complications of moving from one set of option blocks to a completely new one in order to deliver the government’s new 2-year model for A levels. Apologies to any year 12 affected;  I hope things have settled down now.  It’s important for all students to do their very best from day one in the sixth form so that we can all be sure that the right options have been chosen.

Year 7 look especially smart and enthusiastic.  They have made a great start to life at St Peter’s.

Our new heads of year are also settling in.  Mrs Brindley is the new head of year 7;  Mrs Natasha-Moore has moved up to year 8.  Many of you will know Mrs Tassinari who has taken over as head of year 9.  She is already showing us the benefits of having a senior member of the pastoral staff available throughout the day.  Miss Bhaiyat has moved with her year group to year 10 and Mr McDermott has taken over the reins of year 11, repeating his work last year.  Mrs Gittins continues to oversee key stage 3 (years 7, 8 and 9) and Mr Lax has taken over from Mr Coughlan overseeing key stage 4.

Attendance at the first series of our information evenings has been excellent, and I thank you all for that.  We are trying to give you a flavour of the targets and issues facing all our students. 

You will know now about our ‘open house’ Wednesdays and this has already proved to offer an opportunity for parents to raise issues with us.  Please contact us if you want to make use of this.

The building programme is on schedule and progress is obvious every day.  The students have been very sensible in adhering to the new access routes and to the health and safety rules we have to follow.

Just a word about buses and transport, please.  Firstly, buses.  Two things.  If your child uses the Bennetts Coaches service through Brockworth, please check the published timetable on the website (  Bennetts have worked very hard with us to make this service work, but the cost is a tight timetable.  Traffic congestion and roadworks can delay this bus and there is little margin for manoeuvre.  However, we know this, and no student will be penalised if this bus happens on occasion to arrive at school a few minutes late.  I am very keen to maintain as many bus routes as possible, and sometimes we have to compromise a little on the arrangements.

Secondly, if your children catch the number 9 bus into the centre, please help us to ensure that they do so safely.  The buses immediately fill up at that stop, and it really needs three buses to cope with the demand.  This means that some students will have to wait.  They generally do so politely and patiently, but I was a little worried to see students running for the bus, without taking (in my opinion) quite enough care in crossing the road.  I am telling them about this at school, but we need to work closely here.

And if you collect your children by car – which many of you do – please do so safely.  The best practice, please, is to drive into the main car park after 4 pm when all the buses have gone.  We are worried about the number of students being collected from the main road outside the school while the buses are still leaving.  None of us wants an accident.

Lastly, congratulations to Joe Williams who has won a national poetry competition for poems responding to Thomas Gray’s ‘Elegy written in a Country Churchyard’;  the ‘Elegy’ was one of the poems Joe studied in his Year 13 A-level English Literature course last year.  He attended the prize-giving last night, which took place at Stoke Poges church where Thomas Gray is buried, and read his poem to the audience there.  He has just begun his studies for a degree in English at Goldsmiths College, University of London.  Well done, Joe!

So, thank you for a great start to the year.  Please let us work together to improve and progress through the new year;  please help us make 4 pm as safe as possible!


Philip Rush

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Welcome back!

Dear Parents and Carers
I am extremely pleased with this year’s exam results and with the school’s successes across and beyond the curriculum.
The building project is progressing well and is on schedule.  We have two teams of builders in -  one for the major project and a second doing some additional work.  Both teams are led by former students of the school.  We are asking all families to contribute to our voluntary building fund.
I am proposing some changes to the way in which we report to parents on student progress.
‘Open house’ Wednesdays.  The senior team will be available after school each Wednesday to meet with any parents who have concerns or suggestions.
Homework is the key to success and those students who undertook their homework tasks with the most commitment were the students who excelled in the recent exams.  Healthy eating is also essential and we have decided to ban formally the consumption of ‘energy drinks’ at the school.
We continue to insist on the highest standards in our uniform.  Skirts which are too short and hair which is unacceptable cause issues for us, which can be easily avoided.
We are making some amendments to the timings of the school day, but the start and finish times are unchanged.
There have been some changes to bus timetables and to the cost of single travel on Stagecoach buses.
Please complete the reply slip you received in the post.  We are very keen to move to a predominantly electronic style of communication so your email addresses are important to us.  We are inviting all parents to sign up for Insight, which enables you to access your children’s data, and to use the school App to keep in touch with school events on line.  Both these facilities are accessed via the school website. 
The App, which is a relatively new initiative, is at
Success and Hard Work
We ended the summer term in a flurry of activity and visits. 
One of the school’s biggest successes in the last week of term came on the tennis courts.  The school tennis team came a brilliant fifth place in the nationals this month.  The team made the last eight but were narrowly beaten by Merchiston Castle from Scotland.  They then went on to beat Sutton Tennis Academy (Cheam) with Rhodri Atkinson and Ollie Palmer putting in fantastic displays and winning both their matches with brilliant performances to finish in fifth place in the country.
This is a truly exceptional performance from a team at a comprehensive school.  Well done to the boys and thanks to Keiran Montagu, the coaches and the whole team for all their hard work
Congratulations also to the Under-15 boys who won the County title by beating Bournside.  We wish them well as they progress to the regional stages in September.  They did not lose a single match in the whole season winning every fixture 6-0: a brilliant performance! Very well done to the team:  Rhodri Atkinson, James Holden, Miles Ray and to Brandon Thigpen as well as to Luke Fullard who was unavailable for this match but played for the rest of the season.
There is a lot we can learn from the tennis success.  These young people have enormous talent, which has been recognised and developed, but they also work very hard.  They devote many hours each week to practice and fitness and dedicated time to tennis.  The combination of talent, coaching and practice leads to national success of a truly remarkable kind.
This pattern exists throughout the school.  In every area of the curriculum, we have talented individuals;  in every area of the school we have talented teachers and coaches;  in every subject we have students who are prepared to give time to their school work.  As a result of this, our A-level results, once again, provide us with something to celebrate.
This year, the percentage of A* and B grades at A-level has gone up to 45%.  This is a terrific achievement and it is worth underlining that this means that nearly half of all the results we received were A*, A or B.  No wonder our students were able to take up places at terrific universities, including this year two students, Alessia Tarantino and Gianluca Bertone who gained the high standard of A-level results required to begin courses in medicine.  We are very proud of them and indeed of all our sixth-formers.
Of the one hundred and fourteen students who took three or more A levels, 3 students got 3 or more grades at A*/A and thirty-eight secured three passes A*-B.  Amongst these students were some exceptional performers:
·         Pat Davie                            (2014)                 Economics, Jesus College Oxford.
·         Josh Gittings                      A*A*A*                  Mathematics, Warwick
·         Matthew Robertson       A*A*A*                 Medicine, Cardiff
·         Freya Sheer-Hardwick                A*A*A                   Mathematics, Warwick
·         Lawrence Padfield         AAB                       Choral Scholarship (TBC)
·         Sam Brown                        AAC                       Media Apprenticeship NHS
·         Theo Bulless                      AAB                       Chemistry, Birmingham
·         Katherine Dunn               A*AB                     Psychology, Birmingham
·         Jamie Ellis                          AAB                       Engineering, Portsmouth
·         Abbie Jarvis                       A*AB                     History, Exeter
·         Kim Jones                           A*BB                     Mathematics, Birmingham
·         Jack Kirk                             A*AB                     Politics, Bath
·         Matt McKeown                            AAB                     History, Exeter
·         Fran Stansfield                 AAB                       History, Exeter
·         Harry Stansfield              AAB                       tbc
·         Chris Thomas                   AAB                       Physics, Exeter
·         Martha Tomlins               A*BB                     Nursing, Plymouth
·         Jordan Vertannes            A*BB                     History, Cardiff
St Peter’s ensures that students are on the right courses, but we do not place barriers in students’ paths.  Not every student can achieve an A-grade at A-level.  For many of our students a portfolio of passes at C, D and E grades is a real success, which reflects hard work and dedication.  They will go on to college courses and employment with confidence and satisfaction and we congratulate all of them.
Nonetheless, I wish our young people could all work on their A-levels as consistently and with such dedication as our tennis teams.  Those who do work, as we see every year, gain the very top grades and get to the very best universities;  like the tennis teams, like the rugby teams and the gymnasts, like the school choir and drama groups – the list goes on and on - they demonstrate that attending a Catholic comprehensive school is simply no barrier at all to competing with the most expensive and most exclusive schools in the country.
I am so disappointed when I find some sixth-formers who prefer to lounge their time away, who abuse the privilege of being allowed off site, who hand in work late, work which is often incomplete or shoddy.  These are not a large number, and Mr Barnard and his team work with them thoroughly and personally, but it upsets me that they need such cajoling when they have been given such a marvellous opportunity.
Let’s just take this summer’s tennis team as an example:  they did not prefer to lounge their time away;  they did not abuse the privileges afforded them and they did their work as well as they could.  Every sixth-former, every student in the school, should follow that example.
In this coming year, sixth-form courses are changing.  Most are moving in the first year of change to two-year courses.  It is therefore really important that students are on the right courses, courses where they can succeed and excel.  The sixth-form team and teachers will be monitoring work very closely for the first six weeks on the course and at the end of that period, students will receive a formal letter confirming their places on the courses they have begun.   Should we be unable to make that confirmation, students will have met with tutors and college heads to discuss their choices and perhaps to make changes.
At GCSE, we have sustained the progress made last year.  We are looking at almost identical overall figures as 2014, with some 64% of students getting 5 GCSEs or more at A* to C (including English and maths) and with over 75% of grades at C or better.    Over the next few weeks, Mrs Stenson, our data manager, will help us to understand in detail all the results and identify areas where we need to focus improvement.
Eight students gained all ten GCSE passes at A* and A and 27 gained 7 passes at A* and A.  There were 121 A* grades across the board:  all subjects are enabling students to excel.
As I write this, the building work looks rather frighteningly messy!  Nevertheless, everything is going to plan and we should have all the rooms available to us at the beginning of term, though work will continue – in replacing the walls room by room – until November.
In the end, we shall have much better buildings, and in particular we will have a much better teaching area for Design Technology;  we want this area to be a growth area in the school, with a wider range of academic and vocational courses on offer. 
The building costs money.  We received a huge grant from the government – and we’re spending every penny of it! – but other expenses come along which we have to fund from our annual ‘capital grant’.  One such expense, this time, has been on asbestos which has had to be removed. 
We regularly ask parents to contribute to our building fund, to help balance the books with this kind of work, and I need to ask you to contribute again, please.  If we received £10 for every student this year, we should get £17,000 which would make a huge difference to our building budget for this year.  We will all see the benefits of the newly refurbished buildings.
I ask you to contribute in this way.  Not all of you will be able to – times are hard – but if you can, would you please do so now at the beginning of the year, so that we know where we stand.  I am asking for £10 per student for the building fund to cover the whole year.  I enclose with this letter a bank form, if you want to pay the money in instalments or directly from your bank, and a ‘building fund envelope’ in which you can return cash to your child’s tutor.
Very many thanks for your help here.  
Several parents have told me that the current assessment letters are confusing.  The nature of this confusion lies in the fact that students are often given good grades for their work – both for homework and for classwork – but then told, in these letters, that they are failing to meet their targets.
I am addressing this issue in three ways.
Firstly, I am changing the school grading system.  It is now incredibly complicated with levels in some key stage 3 subjects – but not all – with letter grade GCSEs in most subjects but with new numeric grades in English and maths and with many A-levels dropping the AS option.  I have proposed that we place above all this our own scale which uses words we understand.  At the end of this letter, you will get a copy of the new table.  It may look daunting at first!  But for every grading on the report letter, students will be given one of these new ‘words’ and you will be able to see at a glance how they are doing, and where they ought perhaps to be doing better.
Secondly, I am asking teachers to be more confident in assessing work.  I see homework books which praise work – sometimes with stickers and all sorts! – and then award grades which are ‘below target’.  Teachers I think are afraid of students becoming complacent, but I think there is a case for praising students who work well and for telling them that, yes, you are on target, even when the target is high.
Finally, I am asking teachers to give more time to the assessments for the letters, to make sure there are no embarrassing gaps and to make sure that assessments are accurate and exact.  I am asking tutors to add personal comments about each student to show you that the school understands each student and knows their strengths and where they can improve.  To balance this, I am suggesting that we dispense with the final written report of the year:  I want the three assessment letters to be as good as reports and to show parents how their sons and daughters are progressing through the year.
I ask you to support me with this.  During the year, and at the end of it, I shall ask formally for comments about the termly reporting system, and if we need to change it, in part or altogether, we shall discuss how to do this.
I want you to feel confident that you know how students are doing, how they can do better, and so on;  I want you to feel sure that the teachers at St Peter’s know your children well.
‘Open House’ Wednesdays
Support for our work from parents and carers is crucial to us.
We are beginning a new idea this year.  Members of the school leadership team will be available in school from 4 pm till 6.30 pm each Wednesday so that parents can speak to them about any issues they are concerned about.  Some weeks will have a special focus – pastoral concerns, progress, etc  (Just to ensure that things go smoothly, we do ask for parents to email by 11 am with a brief mention of their concern or the topic you want to raise.  Please email Reception:
If you are concerned about behaviour, progress; if you want advice about working at home to support the school;  if you would like to get more involved in the work of the school -  all these may be reasons why you should want to come into the school to talk to one of the senior members of staff. 
These meetings will take place in the Board Room at the bottom of the site, so parking will be easy.
We are monitoring homework closely, and in July 2015 we conducted a full scrutiny of students’ work.  There is still work to do, and there are still areas of inconsistency, but we are pleased overall by the progress being made.
In a nutshell, each subject will set twelve homeworks over the year, and students will be given a week to complete each homework.  Students need to learn how to manage their time so that they complete all homework to the best of their ability.  We invite all parents to engage with this, and to look at the work and the marking.  It is important for St Peter’s that all students make progress.
We also ask parents for support regarding uniform.  We do want students to look smart, to feel business-like and confident in class, and to give the best possible impression of the school to our neighbours.  On the other hand, teachers perhaps have more important things to do than nag students about their appearance.  This is an area where students can really help the school – if they look smart from the start – as so many of them do! - we can focus on the key areas of teaching and learning.
We are particularly concerned at the moment about girls’ skirts and boys’ hair.  As I mentioned in the newsletter/blog, some boys are copying footballers’ hairstyles which may look good but is not appropriate for study and school.  We are always in a difficult position when we try to address inappropriate hairstyles:  we do not want to keep students out of class – and damage their education – because of their hairstyle, but we can’t accept a free-for-all.  Please help us to work together so that hairstyles – especially boys’ hairstyles – are moderate and sober enough to work with a school uniform. 
Secondly, some of the girls’ skirts are too short.  Sometimes this is because the skirt no longer fits;  more often it is because the girls have rolled them over.  In the new term, Mrs Gittins and Mrs Layhe are going to be scrupulous in addressing this issue.  In the long term, we shall consider changing the uniform skirt to one which is harder to roll;  in the short term we may have to insist that girls who seem unable to come to school in a long enough skirt wear trousers.
The sixth-form dress code has been very successful in bringing a maturity to the behaviour of many of our sixth-formers.  The boys have opted for a smarter look than the girls, and in the new term we shall be warmly inviting all sixth-form girls to try and dress as smartly as the boys.  Girls need to pay particular attention to skirts and to trousers which should be tailored.   The sixth form dress code is on  the website:
It may be wrong, but people judge a school superficially and instantly by the appearance and behaviour of its students.  Everyone who attends St Peter’s has to state this when they apply for courses and jobs:  it is therefore in all our interests that everyone who attends the school looks smart.
New School Day
We are making some amendments to the school day, with an extra study period in the morning and with more even lunchtimes.  Details of the school day will be on the website and in planners.  Start and finish times are unaffected.
We need to say a few things about the buses.
Firstly, there are some changes to timetables – (particularly to the Brockworth-Hucclecote-Abbeymead service) -  and these are shown clearly on the school website ‘buses’ page; please look closely to check details.
Secondly, to pick up the idea of behaviour in public judging a school, behaviour of St Peter’s students on public buses must be exemplary.  It only takes three or four selfish individuals to damage the reputation of the whole school. 
We are concerned that in anonymous online surveys, students have told us that the only bullying they experience at St Peter’s is on the buses.  This must stop.  Those three or four selfish individuals are not only damaging the school’s reputation but intimidating other students. 
This new year, we shall be working on introducing a ‘prefect’ system for sixth-formers and older students.  They will be given the opportunity to apply to be a prefect, and they will be allocated a small ‘common room’ in recognition of their contribution.  We want them to set the highest standards around the school, and to manage the dining hall;  we also want them to keep an eye on the buses.  They will not be marshals:  they will simply inform us if incidents occur which should not have.
Please let us know of any problems your sons and daughters experience on our buses.
The school transport system is at threat and we are concerned, as St Peter’s relies on its buses.  We passionately believe of course that what St Peter’s offers warrants the cost of the bus fare.  But every year, the cost goes up, and there is little we can do about it.
There is a case for all under-18s to be given free travel on the county’s buses.  This would increase their sense of worth, enable their families to choose schools freely, and would benefit everyone who drives on the county’s roads.  David Drew, the Labour Party candidate for Stroud in the last general election, was convinced by these arguments and include the proposal in his ‘local manifesto’.  However, the seat was won by Neil Carmichael (who has become the chair of the education select committee).  It would be good for everyone in Gloucestershire if we could persuade Mr Carmichael of the strength of this argument.  All schools would benefit, and all families could choose the school they want for their children, whatever their income.
Indeed, Stagecoach are increasing the cost of their single ticket to £1.40.  However, they are keeping the weekly cost for St Peter’s students at £13.00.
Our job is to ensure that in every way the quality of education at St Peter’s warrants this expenditure, that its distinctive Catholic nature, the quality of teaching and learning available, the commitment of its staff to extra-curricular activities – music, drama, sports, the Duke of Edinburgh Award – and its care of all students continue to be excellent.
I should add here that limited financial help towards transport costs is available from the county for families on limited income.  [See their webpage at or speak to the school.]
Healthy Eating
We are very pleased with progress made in the kitchens and the dining hall over the last two years.  The food is more varied and healthier and the ‘cashless catering’ arrangement – though it does have its moments! – helps us to monitor what students are buying.
We shall be working in the next term to ensure that our kitchen offers meals and snacks which are fully compliant with the ‘school food plan’ as firmly recommended by the government.  We believe that a good, balanced diet not only helps children’s health but also helps them to work better at school.  We shall keep you informed about this project as it develops.
We are facing a small problem, however, with students bringing ‘energy drinks’ into the school.  All the advice we have received confirms that this is a bad practice:  such drinks are not healthy and the caffeine and sugar they include – or similar chemicals – do not help students to concentrate on their work.  We have therefore decided that these drinks will not be allowed in the school in future, and if teachers see them, whether they are being drunk or not at the time, they will be confiscated.  This sounds a little severe, but we prefer dealing with this problem in this way to dealing with the behaviour issues which ‘energy drinks’ promote.  Please support us in this so that we can avoid conflict with students.
I hope you have all enjoyed the break and are looking forward to another year’s work at school.  The autumn term is an extremely important one – we get nearly half the year’s work done in this one term!
Many thanks for your support of the school.
Yours sincerely,
Philip Rush