Thursday, 26 May 2016

Half-Term Blog, May 2016

Let me begin by congratulating Mrs Layhe on her appointment as headteacher from January 2017.  Mrs Layhe has worked at St Peter’s for many years now, and has proved herself both as an outstanding English teacher and as a strong leader.  She knows, understands and supports the key Catholic values of St Peter’s and will be able to take it on to reach higher standards without compromising those values. 

We have other staffing changes from this September and I shall ensure that you get a full picture of those after half-term when things are clearer.  We have been able to appoint some excellent business studies teachers, and also specialist teachers of health and social care, to work alongside Mr Freeman.  Dr Starkey is leaving to take up a new challenge in another school, and they will benefit enormously from his skills and energy;  Mrs McHale is retiring after a long and successful career with us in the art department, in the training school and on the leadership team;  Mr Barnard has accepted a promotion at a local school, and we have had to replace him as head of sixth-form. 

This week we interviewed an extremely strong short-list of candidates for the post of head of sixth-form and appointed Mrs Sian Pearce who is currently an assistant head of sixth in a Bristol school.  We are very pleased to have been able to make this appointment - although it is always sad to disappoint other excellent candidates.  Mr Barnard will leave the sixth-form in a very strong position but we hope the sixth-form can go on and build on that to ensure that standards are as high as possible.

I was very pleased by the part our year 10 students - our future sixth-formers! - played in the interview process.  Every candidate was impressed by their questions and seriousness, and Mrs Pearce commented that they “care about the school and their education”.  A big thank you to them:  it is students like these who make St Peter’s what it is and who will help to continue the improvements in the sixth-form.

One of those improvements is the introduction of the ‘vocational pathways’ this coming September.  All year 11s were given a leaflet about the enrolment procedure and about the new pathways and I hope you have seen that.  The information is on the website now.

All sixth-formers would do well to consider the extra-curricular opportunities provided by the school’s commitment to the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme.  Mr Peake and Mr McAteer have taken over the running of the scheme and are building up a new team of staff to manage and run it.  I was lucky enough to have been invited to Buckingham Palace, as headteacher, to attend the presentation at which our former student Leo May received his Gold Award.  A huge accolade for his hard work, and a lovely sunny afternoon in Buckingham Palace Gardens for him and his parents (and me!).

I was also invited, along with many other local headteachers, to the presentation ceremony at the Madrasah Al-Fateha which is held at Widden Primary School.  Excellent to see some of our students shining there, and once again showing hard work, commitment and charity in their work outside St Peter’s.  It was a privilege to be able to attend.

Everyone is looking forward to the half-term break, I think, except perhaps our older students who are deep now into their public exams:  for them the week off is a week of revision and exam practice.  We are planning internal exams for years 8 and 10 in the second half of the summer term and parents and carers of students in those years will receive a letter explaining those and giving dates.  (These letters are now sent by email, with hard copies to collect from Reception.  Please ensure that we have your correct email address;  an email to will help us fix that.  The more homes we can reach by email, the better.  Thank you.)

Have a good half term!  But don’t forget we have an important final session ahead of us.  We all have to keep pressing on until mid July to make sure that the summer holidays refresh us rather than make us stale.

 Philip Rush

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Mayday News

Mayday News

If any of you have visited the school in the last few weeks, you will have seen the finishing touches to the big building programme.  Mrs Layhe has organized some excellent canvases with Mr Peake's photographs of students, and these make the reception area very colourful and lively.  We have a new trophy cabinet – with some very old trophies amongst all the new ones! – and, of course, we have a portrait of Mr Montagu and a plaque recording the dedication to his memory of the new block.

We had a lovely Mass, concelebrated by half-a-dozen priests, all long-time friends of the school, including Mgr Liam, Fr Kevin, Fr Donal, Abbot Francis, and Mgr Michael English.  Many friends of the school from far and near arrived, to remember Mr Montagu, to meet his family and one another and to pray for him, for his family and for the school.  The refreshments were served by our kitchen staff in the new Design and Technology atrium and everything went very well indeed, thanks to the cooperation of all involved.  A very good day!

Despite such good occasions, sometimes as a headteacher I get a rather jaundiced view of what goes on at St Peter’s.  It’s true, I know about the success of the school jazz band who played at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival last weekend, about sport successes, and about individual successes which cover so many fields including ball-room dancing, acting and so on.  I am also delighted to have been invited to Buckingham Palace later this month to receive, on behalf of the school, a plaque celebrating our work in offering the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme to our students.  I was also deeply impressed by the seriousness with which our exam classes - years 11, 12 and 13 - took their special Mass at the end of last week.  It was a lovely atmosphere.

But I am afraid that, despite all this, some weeks are coloured by my having to speak to a very few students whose behaviour is unacceptable.  Neither I nor the governors will accept bad behaviour at St Peter’s.  I will not allow students to swear at teachers, to threaten others or to disrupt learning.  We have a very well managed system of sanctions here at the school, including short-term exclusions, and most students respond well to these, accept their punishments and learn the error of their ways.  In nearly all cases, students apologise for their actions and make a fresh start. 

Some do not.  Some - a very small handful - are not able, for whatever reason, to conform to our rules.  Rules which are there to help a large community work and play together.  As head, I have had to decide to permanently exclude students who will not work with us.  Each one of these exclusions upsets me.  But we cannot allow our principles and our pastoral care to be compromised.

It is not the best part of the job as headteacher to be responsible for permanently excluding pupils and, as I say, having to address such issues does give me a jaundiced view of St Peter’s.

However, last week, I was lucky enough to be asked to teach year 7 and sixth-form classes, and also a year 11 English lesson.  What a reassuring experience!  The students were polite, friendly, co-operative to a fault.  They were intelligent, articulate and confident.  (Of course they were!)  The year 11 class, who are preparing for their GCSEs of course, were creative and confident and - to be honest - amazingly talented.

So I want to begin by thanking all those students.  They are what St Peter’s is about.  We have something very special to offer our students and I am so grateful when I see that something special come alive in our young people.

Thank you to all parents of year 9 students for getting the ‘option choices’ in so promptly;  we are already at work creating a timetable from that information.

I am hoping that the good weather we glimpsed over the Bank Holiday weekend will become more reliable and that we can use the fields at lunchtimes quite soon.  We have some rules about that and I should appreciate it if you would ensure that your sons and daughters are fully aware of them, and of the fact that you know what they are!  It’s good to play ballgames on the field, but not to engage in rough play.  So rugby tackling is out.  The fields have to be used for PE in the afternoon, so students are not allowed to bring any food on to the field, nor to drop litter.  Finally, they must make a move off the fields in time to prepare for lessons and to start them promptly at 1.40. 

Finally, may I pass on a message I have received from Michelle Vaughan, the Group Scout Leader of 15th Gloucester (St Peter’s) Sea Scouts:  “St Peter’s Beavers, Cubs and Scouts are looking for new members to start an exciting journey on land and sea. We are the only Sea scout group in Gloucester and currently have a small number of spaces in all sections for boys and girls aged 6-15. We enjoy many outdoor pursuits, Kayaking, hiking, cycling and survival skills but to name a few.  Beavers and Cubs meet on a Weds from 6-7.30pm in St Peter’s Primary school hall, Horton Road. Scouts meet on a Friday from 6.30-8.00pm at Gordon League Rugby Club, Hempsted Lane, Gloucester. Please ring Michelle Vaughan 07963 603725. We are also always grateful for more adult support in all sections for any amount of time, please ring to discuss.”

Let me close by returning to the lovely Mass last week for the exam years.  The exams are indeed fast approaching for GCSE and KS5 students and revision should be well under way.  Allow me to remind you of what Sister Eileen used to tell us when I was at school:  “Revise like you haven’t prayed, and pray like you haven’t revised!”  We wish them all the best with their work and their exams.   I ask them to do no more than to do their best!

Philip Rush