Monday, 5 December 2016

Christmas is Coming!

Christmas is Coming

There are two school events planned to mark Advent and the Christmas season.  The drama department is presenting The Snow Queen on Tuesday 6th, Thursday 8th, Friday 9th and Saturday 10th December, at 6.30 pm, with an additional Saturday matinee at 1.30pm on the 10th.  I am assured that Santa’s grotto will be open for visitors before each performance. (£6 and £4)
On Thursday 15th December, at 7 pm, the school choir will celebrate Advent with what has become a traditional evening of Carols by Candlelight.  This is held at the church of the Immaculate Conception in Stroud and will feature special guest stars from the Rosary School.  You are all welcome;  please support us.  (£3 and £1)

League Tables

As we draw to the end of the longest term of the year, it may be time to reflect on how well the year is going.  It is going badly for West Ham Utd.  They have been inattentive in lessons, have lacked intensity and commitment in training and have wasted their time at home, preferring parties and Twitter to homework and reading.  As a result they are near the bottom of the table and falling.  Possibly, if they do their work over the holidays and catch up with their learning they can pull things round.  But as far as their GCSEs go, this is pretty well the last chance to change things.  If they haven’t got things in order by February, Easter will be too late, and no amount of last-minute revision will solve the problems.  They can look forward to a year at least in a lower league and having to retake their exams.

I am asking sixth-formers and year 11 students not to fall into the same trap.  Christmas is a time to collect our thoughts about exams and to begin a regime of learning and study which will see us through to the exams in May.  It is not all boring and it is not all work.  And hearing the crowd cheering is so much more fun than trooping off to an empty stadium and a few half-hearted boos.


One of the key areas which we as a school need to address is that of attendance.  The government target for attendance is 95%, which sounds high and ambitious.  Actually, as we’ve said before, if you attend for 95% of the time, you miss a whole day’s work every four weeks.  If you miss school, you miss lessons, and you miss chances to improve and develop.  Recent figures reveal that at St Peter’s students with attendance of over 95% ‘overachieve’ and that students with less than 95% ‘underachieve’.  Even students with attendance between 90 and 95% seem to be quite significantly under-achieving.  Everyone needs to work together to improve attendance throughout the school.


Several key staff are moving on to new posts at the end of the term.  Mrs Churchill is continuing her career elsewhere, and we are very grateful for her first-rate teaching and for what she has given the school and its maths department.  We will welcome Mr Upward in her place.    Mrs Endacott is leaving to take up an RE post in a school much nearer her home, and Mr Rumsey will be taking on more RE teaching to cover her classes.  I am very grateful to Mrs Endacott for her excellent contribution to the RE department, and to Mr Rumsey for returning (briefly) to his calling as a teacher of RE.  We also welcome back Mr Edwards who will be teaching in the business studies department following Mrs Richardson’s leaving us for family reasons.

In January, Mrs Layhe will take over as headteacher, and Mrs Gittins as senior deputy.  They will lead a hard-working team, ambitious for continued success at the school.


The school continues to be grateful to Miss Baker and Fr Kevin for their work on school liturgies and Masses.  Last week’s year 10 Mass for St Francis Xavier, one of our patron saints, was a true example of how our students can focus on the spiritual in their lives and can set high standards of behaviour and commitment.  We are holding Advent penitential services, and this week the sixth-form colleges are running retreats in Stroud.

We have raised a lot of money for charity this term, with nearly a thousand pounds collected, for example, for ‘Children in Need’.


We have amended our school’s behaviour policy – it will be on the website shortly.  I hope that it will need to apply to only a very few of you!

The key change is significant and concerns fixed-term exclusions.  The new system is firmly incremental.  For a ‘first offence’ a student receives a one-day exclusion, for a second two days, and so on.  Each exclusion is followed by a formal meeting with parents and carers.   A five-day exclusion constitutes a ‘final warning’.  There is no six-day exclusion:  this is a permanent exclusion.  (For serious offences, a permanent exclusion will be triggered as now.) 

The key thing, in this system, about an exclusion is not really the length of time away but the progress through the gradient.  This ‘progress’ – I am not sure in the present climate whether the word ‘progress’ is quite the right one here – is emphasised at each formal meeting.  Secondly, there is no dilly-dallying with students who do not change their behaviour.  It will be made absolutely clear at the ‘three-day’ mark that we are heading for a permanent exclusion, unless there is a change in behaviour, and the school will put in place at that point the kind of formal intervention programme we are familiar with now.  But if there is no change in behaviour, inevitably a permanent exclusion will follow.  We will want, let me stress, to see a change in behaviour.


There is no nice way of putting this:  I have failed to create a new route to school passing through Stonehouse, Eastington and Ebley.  We tried hard to promote the route, but there was insufficient interest, in the end, from the parents who would have to pay for it.  Mr John Dix has been extremely generous of his time and of his staff’s time, but our recruitment did not find the number of paying passengers we need for a route to be viable.  I apologise to the parents and families who did sign up but who are now disappointed.

I have expressed my concern about these bus problems to the Gloucestershire Association of Secondary Headteachers and they are all extremely concerned about the effect of reduced services and higher fares on all secondary schools in Gloucestershire.  Our local MPs are fully aware of my views.


I joined St Peter’s High School in September 1983 after three years at Saintbridge and two at Churchdown.    In the thirty-three-and-a-third years following that appointment I have, I regret, made just about every mistake a teacher can make.  But as Oscar Wilde observes, ‘Experience is the name Tuppy gives to his mistakes.’  (You’ll have to read Lady Windermere’s Fan to find out exactly who Tuppy is, but right now I’m identifying with him.)

I have been lucky enough this year to be teaching RE to a lovely year 11 group.  After 60 years a Catholic, I have finally learned why it is called the ‘Apostles’ Creed’ – because it has twelve doctrines.  One of these is belief in ‘the holy catholic church and the communion of saints’.  That is what I have experienced at St Peter’s - a team of dedicated and caring professionals who work to educate the young and to build a better society.  I also remember, in thinking of ‘the communion of the saints’, of all those colleagues and students who have died.  Remarkably many.  I remember them fondly and I ask you to pray for them with me. 

Another doctrine in the Creed concerns the ‘forgiveness of sins’;  I ask you all to forgive me my shortcomings and failings.

Mrs Layhe, as I say, will take over in January, with Mrs Gittins at her side.  What I have done badly they will do well, and what I have done well they will do better.

 Philip Rush