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.