Monday, 5 September 2016

A New School Year

Dear Parents and Carers,

New staff • Sixth-form changes • Exam results • Buses • Email contacts •
Uniform  • Home School Agreement • OfSTED • Show My Homework  •   ‘Open House’ Wednesdays

We shall shortly be welcoming everyone back to a new school year at St Peter’s and I am looking forward to another busy and successful year.

We are welcoming quite a number of new staff; several are replacing staff who left at the end of last year, but others are required by new courses and changes in the curriculum.

Mrs Pearce, as you will know, is our new head of sixth-form;  she has been working with Mr Barnard and the heads of colleges to ensure a smooth transition.

There have been some changes to the sixth-form.  We have amalgamated two colleges – St Luke and St Matthew – because we have found that the aims of these colleges are overlapping considerably.  The new, larger, college will be called St Lucy’s.  We will now have three complementary focuses in the sixth-form, an accelerated college, an academic college and a vocational college.  This reflects the different aims of the students in our sixth-form.

Mrs Farrelly is joining us in the business studies and economics department, and she will also teach on the new health and social care vocational course in the sixth-form.  Mrs Frampton will also teach on the health course, with Mrs Pearce, and Mr Versaci is the new teacher in charge of business and economics.

We welcome a number of new teachers to the science department:  Mr Clayfield, Mr Fox-Smith, Mrs Garner, Dr Piercy, Mr Morrison and Mrs Stephen.  We needed some full-time staff to replace leavers, and some part-time staff and maternity cover, so there’s quite a list!  We are delighted to have been able to appoint teachers of excellent calibre to these science posts.

Miss Foley will be joining the modern foreign languages department, Miss Graves the design technology department (as maternity cover for Mrs Lawton),  Miss Ridout will teach art, and Miss Gilbert will teach RE.

Mrs Knapton will be our new library assistant, Mr Bateman will work as a TA in the drama department, and Mrs Szoke is joining 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.

A-levels this year, 2016, are very similar to last year’s results, and I think that that is good.  In 2016, 138 students took A-levels.  The percentage pass rates remain strong:   44% gained A*- B passes;  71% A* - C, and there was an overall pass rate (A* - E) was 98%.  These are very similar percentages to last year’s.  Students succeeded across the board in gaining places at universities and colleges.  Universities this year have included Oxford, Manchester, Sheffield, and many others.  Mr Barnard and his team did an excellent job in managing all of this and in setting high standards for the students.

I regret to say that it has become increasingly difficult to compare GCSE results with previous years because of changes at the very top in the standards that are being applied;  this year the grades in several subjects I think have suffered from changes in grade boundaries.  The BBC is reporting a ‘significant decline’ in passes and top grades nationally;  we do not appear to have seen quite such a significant decline at St Peter’s.  Overall, our GCSE grades seem a little down this year although there are bright lights.  The measure of progress in English has increased to 82% which is outstanding.  A* to C pass rates in English, maths, double science, languages and RE remain very encouraging.

Particularly worthy of mention is the achievement of the most able in the maths department, which was an area we needed to improve.  As well as a very high number of A* and A grades in the GCSE, there were excellent passes in the ‘further mathematics’ paper which is a particularly demanding course.  Three students gained A* with distinction, a grade only available in a handful of exams at this level.

There is an issue with attendance in the sixth-form;  too many students are missing lessons, without good reason, and it seems clear from an initial survey of the results that this has had a negative impact on achievement.  Funding for sixth-forms is dependent on students being full-time.  We can no longer allow the privilege of sixth-formers going off site during the day.  We are improving the canteen options for sixth-formers and are to run a sixth-form only service from the pavilion, but it is really important to me that sixth-formers arrive at school in the frame of mind that they are going to study, read and learn for the day, and not drive off in friends’ cars to fast-food outlets.  I want sixth-formers to enjoy their time at St Peter’s, but I want that enjoyment to be founded, please, on study and friendship.

One big headache this summer has been managing the buses after Stagecoach’s rather sudden withdrawal of routes.  Mr Blackshaw has worked very hard to replace as much of this missing coverage as possible, and John Dix of John Dix travel has worked helpfully with us (and with The Crypt and Ribston Hall) to offer new routes.  However, all these changes are unsettling and inconvenient.  Forgive me, please, for stressing that these changes are not of our making.  The situation with school buses in Gloucestershire seems complicated and unhelpful.  However, we shall continue to work with Shire Hall and with the bus companies, including Stagecoach, to get the best service possible.  Updates and information are on the ‘buses’ pages of the ‘parents and community’ section of our website.

I apologise to parents if any of the bus information failed to get to them;  I emailed, and I provided printed letters in reception for students to collect.  However, there are flaws in such a system.  It is now very expensive to post letters to all parents.  We want to move whole-heartedly to email communication and make communication easier and cheaper.  The website is extremely helpful to us.

I should be extremely obliged to you if you can help with this communication issue.  Thank you.

If you have an email address, but have not received a link to this blog by email, would you please let us know so that we can add your details to the database.  There will a form sent home to all families this week, with your youngest child if you have more than one child at the school.  The form allows us to check our details about addresses and phone numbers.  We are also required this year – by the department for education – to collect information about nationality and place of birth. 

I am expecting an inspection from OfSTED this term;  the cycle of inspections suggests that such a visit is overdue.  I shall be working with the leadership team to prepare staff and students, but your co-operation is crucial.  Please maintain your contacts with the school and please let us know of any concerns you have about progress, behaviour and so on, so that we can address things as soon as possible.  We can’t always fix things immediately, and sometimes two people have two very different perceptions of the same thing, but we value highly your help in identifying issues.

We are updating the uniform pages on the website and you will be able to find their precise guidance about what students are allowed to wear.  It is really helpful to us if students come to school correctly dressed and saves our having to nag them right at the start of the day;  once again your co-operation is requested and recognised.  Thank you.

The full ‘home school agreement’ is also on the website (as part of the behaviour policy).  We ask all parents of students to sign a reply slip to say they have seen this document.  A copy of the document is enclosed, the signature is at the foot of the enclosed communications form.

This year we are using 'Show My Homework' software so that all students, parents and guardians can see the homework which has been set, any accompanying resources and the deadline for it.  Follow the link on the home page of the website .  You and all students will receive a letter with a unique PIN so that you can access all parts of 'Show My Homework'.

The ‘open house’ Wednesdays continue, from 4 till 6, at the bottom of the site by the car-park, in the training block.  Please feel free to contact reception and tell us that you are coming and then use this time to maintain links.

Finally,  you probably don’t need reminding that I am planning to retire at the end of this term;  Mrs Layhe, currently one of our two deputies, will be taking over the reins and Mrs Gittins will be working with her as senior vice-principal.  So this term will be important as a period of transition and hand-over.  However, St Peter’s will be in excellent hands and I am sure that Mrs Layhe’s intelligent energies and commitment will lead it to excellence.


 Philip Rush

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