Friday, 27 March 2015

Happy Easter!


Happy Easter!

Last week at St Peter’s – Visitors to the school – Year 10 lessons – Year 9 options – Building bids – Orchard - Forthcoming events – Summer uniform

A Good Weekend

Last weekend was a good one for St Peter’s.  I was delighted by the good sense and good order shown by our students during the partial solar eclipse.  The weather was perfect for the event, and the holes in the technology department roof provided the perfect ‘camera obscura’! 

Last Friday afternoon, Miss Fearn of the history department organised a full parliamentary election debate with candidates from Gloucester and Stroud constituencies, including Stroud’s current MP Neil Carmichael.  This was a fabulous opportunity for our sixth-formers to meet working politicians face to face and to learn about our democratic system and the issues facing voters in this spring’s election.

Throughout the day there had been a whole series of activities, coordinated by Mr Hudson and Mr Devane from the ICT department, to mark the anniversary of the Philippines cyclone which so devastated that country.  Special lessons for key stage 3 classes were managed by year 10 students, and in addition there was a cake sale, a candlelit prayer service and other sporting events long into the night.

And, finally, we and the parishioners of Stroud Immaculate Conception enjoyed a wonderful performance by the school Choral Society, led by Mrs Perfect, of John Stainer’s ‘Crucifixion’.  John Stainer’s great-grandson, Andrew, was in the audience and he enthused warmly about the quality of the choir which was pitch-perfect throughout.  A marvellous way to mark a Friday in Lent.

A Good Visit

A local secondary headteacher visited the school this last Monday to undertake a review for us of our ‘pupil premium’ provision.  She praised the quality of teaching and learning which she saw, the quality of marking and homework, and the honesty and enthusiasm of the students whom she interviewed.    She identified some areas where we can work a little more efficiently in administering the pupil premium funding and in ensuring that all students achieve their academic potential.

In the last six months we have welcomed four senior staff on formal visits to St Peter’s:  two senior staff in large comprehensives similar to ours, and two inspectors.  All four of them have focused their praise on the things which we most hold dear:  teaching and learning, homework, and ethos & behaviour.  We are always striving to improve and we are sensitive to any adverse criticism, but sometimes we can afford to reassure ourselves that the staff at St Peter’s are providing a first-class education.
 
Year 10 English and maths

You will all be aware that we changed our pattern of subjects for this year’s year 10 students:  they have one fewer option but more time for English and maths.  I have been speaking individually to all our English and maths teachers, and without exception they assure me that the extra time has helped them to teach more broadly and more carefully and for the students to learn more richly and more deeply.  I am very grateful to them for the quality of their work, and I am delighted by their confidence in the effectiveness of this change.

Year 9 options

All too soon, perhaps, our year 9 will begin their GCSE years and their option evening is fast approaching.  They will follow the same option pattern of our current year 10s.  However, we are not publishing option blocks in advance this year and this is essentially for financial reasons:  we cannot afford to run small groups.  We are asking students to place their chosen subjects in a priority order and then we plan to create efficient groupings from these so that the school can provide the requested options as efficiently as possible.  We are not planning to increase the size of option groups overall – subjects are still generously staffed – but we want to avoid having to run a group for 8 in block A while there is a group of 10 studying the same subject in, say, block C.  A group of 20 is for many subjects an efficient and sensible size.

We had great news about our building bids this week

We are delighted to receive the news from the Department for Education that we had been successful in our two bids to the Condition Improvement Fund for refurbishment of the design & technology and main blocks.  £1.1 million!!

The original 1964 buildings at St Peter's Catholic High School and Sixth Form Centre are past their serviceable life. We began the programme of work to refurbish or rebuild these buildings last year with the English block refurbishment which has been transformed.  The next phase in the programme will take place this summer following the approval of our two bids.  We are obviously delighted with this news.

The work will start in May 2015 and will be largely be completed by September when we return after the summer holidays.  The frontage of the school will be transformed – surely a huge fillip when students enter the school – and the design technology area will be modernised and improved. 

Orchard

Eagle-eyed passers-by may notice that we have taken delivery – from Day’s Cottages in Brookthorpe – of thirty apple trees.  All local varieties.  There will be a small orchard, then, at the Stroud Road end of the far rugby field, and we are dreaming of picking our own apple crumble from the branches before too many years have passed.

Forthcoming events
 
Hay festival coach

We have (provisionally) booked a coach to go to the Hay Festival on Friday 29th May (the Friday in Whit half-term).  Hay Festival is a lively affair in a lovely Borders town -  loads to see and do – but parking can be terrible!  So we think that enough of us may enjoy going by bus and enjoying a day out without having to worry about parking or driving back home.  The coach will leave here at 9, so will arrive around 10.30, and will set off home from Hay at 8 pm.  The cost is £17.50 for adults and £7.50 for students/ children.  Might sound a lot until we remember the cost of parking and petrol!  And any profits will go to the PFA.

Could you let us know if you’d like tickets, please, by emailing Mrs Cameron, rcameron@sphs.uk.com.   We need to know numbers by the beginning of May.  Thank you.

Lawrence Montagu Ball

Following on from the huge success of The Lawrence Montagu Ball last year, the extended school team is delighted to announce an even bigger and better Ball for 2015!  16th May is the date.

Last year, our guest speakers kept us entertained with stories about their careers and school life here at St Peter’s. The auction prizes were absolutely incredible and included: a signed Andy Murray tennis racket, a signed 1966 England shirt, a one-of-a-kind Harley Davidson leather jacket and a week’s residential revision prize with Oxford International College, just to mention a few! The prizes raised a staggering amount for the foundation and, with your help, we are hopeful of beating that amount this year.

It is a ‘black tie event’ with a 3 course meal and wine.  In addition, there will be guest speakers, an auction with some fantastic prizes, live music (St Peter’s Jazz band) and DJ until late. Tickets cost £40 and the proceeds will all go towards the Lawrence Montagu Foundation.  Champagne reception with canap├ęs starts at 6pm and everyone will be seated for their meal at 7pm.

If you would like to attend, please email Frank (fcarter@sphs.uk.com or call 01452509280) with the number of tickets, before Friday 1st May.  

We really do hope you are able to join us this year as, I’m sure those of you who attending last year would agree, it was a terrific and enjoyable evening in memory of a fantastic man.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Anniversary Mass

Fr Kevin will be celebrating a Mass in memory of Larry, at 4 pm on 28th April, in the drama theatre.  All will be welcome. 

PFA

Our school Parents and Friends Association are hoping to raise funds on Saturday 25th April at Sainsbury’s in Gloucester Quays, by helping with bag-packing.  We are lucky to have secured the slot at Sainsbury’s but now need student (or parent!) volunteers to help.  It is a great opportunity for the PFA to raise considerable funds – can your son/daughter help?  All we need is a few hours of their time between 10 and 6 on Saturday – perhaps they could bag-pack whilst you do your shopping?

The PFA is a very hard-working group of people who arrange numerous events throughout the year with a view to assisting in financing the school minibuses, as well as providing vital funds for one-off items to ensure that your children get the very best opportunities in all areas of their education.  Your support is essential to its success!!   

Summer is Coming …

And we look forward to seeing students in their summer uniform – polo shirts, with sweaters on chilly days – when we return after the Easter break.  It would be really good to see the whole school smart from years 7 to year 13 for the final, sunny, term.

Please enjoy a good Easter break.

Philip Rush

 

 

Friday, 13 March 2015


Keeping Up to Date

This morning I attended a meeting of Gloucestershire secondary headteachers where we listened to a presentation by Sir David Carter, the Regional Schools Commissioner for the south west.  He began his talk by saying that the “only innovation that works is great teaching” and I couldn’t agree more. 

We have been working hard at St Peter’s to set high standards in teaching and learning and to support all teachers in the classroom.  We walk around the school each lesson and have a very clear picture of how hard – and how intelligently – teachers are working and how well students are engaging with lessons. 

Sir David also spelled out that in an outstanding school, the norm is a good lesson with distinct elements of excellence.  It is not practicable, he says, that every lesson can be the perfect lesson.  I think that when I walk around the school I see just that, good lesson after good lesson, and often I am able to see real elements of excellence – a role play in English going well, some practical work in maths to turn abstract ideas into concrete examples, a board game in history, and so on.

There have also been some excellent extra-curricular events lately.  A top-class start to a revised debating society, for example, a visiting poet to the English department, and a lecture on recent Russian and Soviet history from an Oxford university don.  Many thanks to all staff who work to provide these and other extra-curricular opportunities.

There are always exceptions, lessons that don’t go as well as hoped, students losing concentration, but I am sure that St Peter’s is making progress towards providing the outstanding education we all want.

Primary Visit

The English department was delighted to have been invited to spend an afternoon working with year 5 pupils at St Peter’s Primary school.  Everyone seemed to have a really good time retelling an old Irish story from ‘The Tain’ both in drama and writing.  The teachers came back really impressed with the standards set in these year 5 classes and full of enthusiasm to do more such work.

Arrangements are in hand for similar visits to other Catholic primary schools whose pupils come here.

Flame 2

Mandy Baker, our chaplain, and Margaret-Mary McNeill, our senior science technician, along with other staff, led a coach full of students to a big Catholic youth gathering at Wembley Stadium, ‘Flame 2’.  St Peter’s was conspicuous in the size of the group who went, and it is lovely to see the chaplaincy having such a big effect on how young people see themselves.  They are the future not only of the church but of our society.

The Living Your Faith Summer Camps, run by the Clifton Diocese, will be held during August and 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. Week one 3rd -7th August (age7-11 years). Week two 10th-14th August (age12-15). For more details contact Stephen Spurrell on 07860   849460 or livingyourfaith@hotmail.co.uk or look on the website http://www.livingyourfaith.co.uk/

Music Events

We have two important music events coming up.  They’re very different, but both look to be of the highest quality.  Stainer's ‘Crucifixion’ is  a twentieth-century choral work which is most appropriate for Lent and will be performed on Friday, 20th March – next week – at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Stroud. 19.00.  It is a one-hour piece, in English, and features solo performances from Laurence Padfield (bass) and Roberto West (tenor).
In quite a different key is ‘Bondlive’, a week later, on Friday, 27th March at the school. 19.00.Bondlive’ features theme songs from the Bond movies from Goldfinger to Skyfall, all accompanied by St Peter's Jazz Band.  Evening food included and bar. 

Tickets for both of these events can be purchased from St Peter's reception.
Low Income Travel Grants

Parents in receipt of working tax credit at the maximum level (i.e. not reduced to income) or whose children qualify for free school meals are entitled to an additional level of transport assistance. Parents will be required to submit an application for free school meals if their child is not already receiving them in order that eligibility can be confirmed with the checking service provided by the Government. Alternatively, parents can provide paper evidence of their benefits, in which case all pages of the current tax credit notice will be required.  Assistance with transport on grounds of low income will be subject to an annual review whereby transport may be withdrawn if the financial situation has changed.

i) The County Council will provide help to low income families with a child aged between 8-11 years attending a primary school where the pupil attends their nearest primary school and their home to school walking distance is over two miles.

Qualifying parents will need to reapply for transport under this criterion when their child turns eight years old and they are no longer entitled to transport when the statutory walking distance increases from two to three miles.

ii) The County Council will provide help to low income families with a child aged between 11-16 years attending a secondary school where the pupil either attends one of their three nearest secondary schools and  their home to school distance is between two and six miles or attends the nearest suitable school preferred on grounds of religion or belief, where they live more than two miles, but not more than fifteen miles from that school.

School Day

I am proposing some changes to the school day.  We are finding the ‘long lunchtimes’ rather too long (and the ‘short lunchtimes’ a little too short!) and we are proposing a one-hour lunchtime each day.  This has some knock-on effects to lesson timing.  I intend to put a detailed note about this on the website next week and will invite comments from parents.  It would be nice if we could begin a new day after the Whit holiday so that it can become embedded before the September re-start.

Sport

You will all know just how successful the school has become, under the guidance of Keiran Montagu, in coaching tennis players.  Our first team has been seeded in the national finals, which is almost unheard-of for a maintained school and a huge achievement for us.  We enjoyed a recent visit to the school by Bob Brett, the current Performance Director for the Lawn Tennis Association (UK tennis).  Once again we were told what an impressive set-up we have here and how lucky our talented players are to be able to develop their skills and experience with us.

Xavier Woodcock has been selected to represent Gloucestershire in the national cross-country championships in Lancashire.  We are delighted to be able to support Xavier and are excited by his achievements.

The website – and the PE department website which has a link there – carries all up-to-date news about fixtures and successes.

Parking

You will probably have seen from the website that we have a couple of complaints from neighbours about inconsiderate parking.  I am sure you understand that we need to be on the best of terms with our neighbours and that it is good for us to seek the highest reputation in all ways.  I am grateful for the support I received from parents collecting students from school when I spoke to them about this matter.

Finally- revision is a priority

We are approaching the time of the year when the word ‘revision’ will be used almost daily.  It’s really important for year 11 students and all sixth-formers to be managing their work and learning and making it a priority.  A little each day is the key.

Year 12 are working well, but lots of teachers tell me that they need to be working with  a little more energy and enthusiasm.  Don’t leave things too late!

Read each day.  Read over your notes.  Read the books you are studying.  Read books you’ve chosen which relate to your studies.  Read books, magazines and newspapers for pleasure.  Reading is a really important key to success.

 
Philip Rush
Friday March 13th 2015