Whitehill Junior School Blogs

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A Real Medal?

As we reach the final break of the academic year, we continue at full throttle with all the wonderful opportunities and activities, with our diaries bursting at the seams.

This week started with an amazing spectacle in glorious sunshine, namely our Race for Life. When Mrs Small suggested we run a whole school event, who’d have thought it would turn out to be such a success with all our pupils managing at least the 5km distance. The day started with the two Year 6 classes each performing a dance choreographed by Mr Sapsed at our ‘opening ceremony’ before Upper School took their places at the four start positions. As well as the pupils, we had staff running (and walking) as well as visitors who regularly work in school.

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"SATs All Folks!"

Well done Year 6s! I have to start this week’s blog by saying how impressed I have been with the way our Year 6s have tackled their SATs and got on with the requirements of these national tests. They were so ready to take them and have worked really hard over the course of the last four years to ensure they were up to speed with the requirements of a challenging curriculum. I quite often think back to my Junior School experiences and find it very hard to remember anything – not because I am too old, before anyone thinks that – but because I wasn’t fortunate enough to experience such a rich and motivating curriculum.

Anyway, they are done now and I am sure when the results come back in July, we can all celebrate some amazing successes. For now, however, they should forget them and get on enjoying the last few weeks (38 days to be precise) as a Whitehill pupil. There is so much to do and look forward to! I must thank the Year 6 team for putting on the SATs breakfasts each morning; croissants and dancing are clearly the way to prepare for a public exam!

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More Netball Success

After last week’s ‘epic’, I am hoping this week’s blog is slightly more straight forward and somewhat shorter, although there are no guarantees.

After the warmest bank holiday weekend I can remember (which is just perfect for sitting in queues driving back from Snowdonia), we returned to school hoping the glorious weather would continue. The pupils have enjoyed the sunshine at lunchtimes and of course made excellent use of our wonderful school field and all the resources.

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Make it a Small One, Thanks!

Not quite sure whether this week’s blog is not more of a travel log. As I mentioned last week, I have been in Liverpool for two days this week in my capacity as NAHT Eastern Region committee member and so time to sit down and actual write something has been quite limited. That being said, I am currently sitting in a Costa at Milton Keynes station waiting for my train to Liverpool (via Crewe!) and writing the first few paragraphs. First observation? Who knew that a ‘large’ Americano was so big!? I’ve seen smaller fish bowls. The cup has two handles!

Anyway, back to what I should be doing. Reflecting upon another successful week at Whitehill. 

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Was that Summer?!

What a contrast in weather from last week, when we were enjoying 28 degrees and glorious sunshine, to this week when we have been dodging rain and cancelling fixtures. Anyway, fingers crossed for some dry weather tomorrow when we host the ‘A’ Team End of Season Netball Rally. We have won this over the last few years and I know the PE Team have been working very hard to get this year’s group of players up to speed. We haven’t had as many practice fixtures against other schools, through no fault of our own, but we have been working hard in training and at lunchtimes. Good luck to the team. The ‘B’ Team will take part in their End of Season Rally on Wednesday and this is being held at Highover School. Again, we wish the team well and will tweet the results.

The Year 6s have been very busy this week practising the arrangements for this year’s SATs which they will take in a couple of weeks’ time. They have impressed the staff with their enthusiasm and determination and they are certainly peaking at the right time. They will all do their very best for sure, and they all know there is far more to junior school life than a week of tests in May. Talking with Mrs Bailey and Mrs Bryan, there are so many more exciting things to fit in the last few weeks of term. Not wanting to wish the time away, but the Year 6s have only 50½ days left as Whitehill pupils! So much still to do!

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Cold Chocolate Friday!

It was always going to happen. After the miserable weather we had over the Easter break, particularly the second week, the glorious weather would arrive in time for our return to school. I am not moaning, however, as it has been lovely to see the pupils enjoying the field at lunchtimes and making use of the outside learning space, just as much as the inside environments. Our Year 4 Romans looked splendid on Thursday!

I hope you all enjoyed the break and managed to get some well-deserved rest and relaxation. I have been catching up with the pupils, listening to them to talk enthusiastically about their two weeks off.

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National Champions!

Another term comes to an end and as tomorrow is Good Friday, this week’s blog goes out on a Thursday. I think we are all ready for another break and I know the teaching staff always need a rest after parent consultation evenings.

There can only be one place to start this week’s reflections and that has to be Belfast, last Saturday. The majority of the squad took the same flight out of Luton on Friday morning and enjoyed a bit of sightseeing on Friday afternoon. We saw ‘evidence’ of Prince Harry’s visit but unfortunately were not able to see him in person. I think it is appropriate to thank Mrs Manning for all her hard work in arranging various tours and meals for the squad. As I can testify, it can be a frustrating task but we all ate, all enjoyed a tour and all arrived at the venue on the Saturday morning with very little stress… on our part!

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Stage and Screen

Well I said I would get a blog written and published this week and indeed I have. Sent via the wonders of technology from Ireland where I am currently settling in ready for tomorrow’s National Trampoline Finals. It was an exceptionally early start this morning, meeting the majority of the squad and their parents at Luton Airport shortly after 5.00am. The team are naturally very excited and the whole week has been an adventure.

As many of you will have seen, we featured on Anglia TV News on Tuesday night and then had the fun and excitement of effectively taking over an EasyJet flight to Belfast today. ‘It’s like we’re famous,’ remarked one of our bouncers earlier. When I think back to the opportunities I had when I was in junior school (which was in black and white), pupils today are incredibly fortunate. Thanks must go to the staff who give up so much time to facilitate the clubs and activities and also to the parents who so generously support them. It is a fact that without the support of the parents, this trip to Belfast would not be happening and increasingly, school budgets are becoming more and more squeezed meaning the ‘extras’ will soon vanish.

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There's Been a Murder!

My blog this week worries me! If I manage to get to the end of it with only a minimum number of mistakes, it will be a miracle. I have mentioned before how I like to work to deadlines; unfortunately there have been a few too many arrive today and so couple these with the staff murder mystery and time has been at a premium. That being said, if you are reading this, I must have managed to get something written and published, so fingers crossed it makes sense.

We had a very busy weekend with a group of Year 3 girls taking part in a sports festival at Kingshott School on Saturday morning. I wasn’t able to get there myself but from what I understand, I wouldn’t have been able to get near the pitches as we had an amazing number of parents supporting so vociferously. Our teams always benefit from the support you are able to give them and it is always greatly appreciated by the staff. The girls took part in hockey, netball and football and listening to the report in Achievers’ Assembly this morning, they clearly had a great time. So much so, Lyla didn’t want to come off, despite suffering quite a bad nosebleed. Fair play, Lyla! Special mention must also go to Alice, who was picked out by the Kingshott staff as our ‘player of the day’.

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So Much Fun...

With some of the weather we have had this week, it hardly seems possible that last Friday’s journey home, even after clearing the school by 3.45pm, took two hours due to the snow. Not only that, soon after finally putting my feet up, I saw the news that my road home was closed with 100 stranded cars. Anyway, I would like to think we have gone beyond the possibility of any more disruption due to snow which means I can stop refreshing the weather forecast on my computer.

Year 5s became engineers for the day on Monday as they took part in this year’s K’Nex challenge. Both classes worked really hard to design and construct their models given a specific brief… which for once I have remembered I mustn’t mention in this blog. The organisers of the competition ask schools not to publish details of the tasks until all schools have taken part and each year I forget and rely on Mrs Threlfall sending me a text late on a Friday night that I need to amend my blog again. Not this year! The pupils were supported by a local engineer and once again we welcomed Mr Threlfall back to Whitehill to work with the pupils.

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Defeat the Beast!

What an interesting week! And when I say interesting, what I really mean is ‘stressful and frustrating’. The majority of the angst was caused by ‘The Beast from the East’, however I am extremely grateful to Mr Estes who has been coming in early each day to make sure the site was safe so we could ‘defeat the Beast’. What you learn as a Headteacher during this sort of weather is that whichever weather forecast you look at, it is wrong and the best source of information is the window in my office. We got there however and I hope over the weekend ‘the Beast’ well and truly dies out.

Before the snow and wind took hold, I enjoyed a lovely Saturday at St Christopher’s School in Letchworth with Mrs Bailey, Mrs Davies, Mrs Bowers and the Recycled Fashion Show Team. The costumes created over the past few weeks were really impressive and represented the theme of revolution and power. I would also like to thank Mr and Mrs Weller and Mrs Ingram who have been coming along each week to help the pupils create their outfits. Out of the six outfits we entered, three made it through to the finals on the night, and three are going to be displayed in Letchworth for all to see over the coming week. Although we didn’t win this year, Lara’s outfit received a special commendation from the panel of judges. Next year’s show will be the 25th Anniversary and so I am sure there are already plans as to what the theme might be and I have no doubt we will be taking part.

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Emily's Plan...

This week’s update begins last Thursday during our half term break. I was able to accompany our PE Team, together with Martha and Brooke (Year 6), to the Comet Sports Awards. It was a lovely evening, although as Martha highlighted, ‘some of the speeches were a little long!’ Even though we didn’t win the ‘School of the Year’ award, which went to Greneway Middle School, we did very well to be shortlisted and I am extremely proud of all the staff and pupils who continue to ensure the physical education provision at Whitehill both with the curriculum and as part of the extra-curricular programme remains as strong as it does. We did celebrate one award winner from our table on the night. Isobel (Year 5) and her father were there as they featured on a photograph shortlisted in the category of ‘Photograph of the Year’ which went on to win this category. It was a lovely photo taken after a Hitchin Belles football match and thoroughly deserved the award.

My assembly on Monday was supported by Emily (Year 5) as we introduced the school to the plan to remove single use plastic bags from the school meals. Emily came to me a few weeks ago with a very well-written letter highlighting the number we use and the impact it can have. We have since met with Mrs Stokes who runs the school kitchen and are going to trial different arrangements for the next two weeks. Emily will be collecting feedback and will then present her findings to Mrs Stokes for a final decision. I will keep you posted.

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A Good Way to Live Your Life!

What a great week! I don’t really feel I have spent much time in my office, but have spent a great deal of time showing people around school (for many different reasons) and talking about our Core Purpose. During every tour and in every classroom I am always so proud of the work the pupils are doing and the way they are engaged in their learning. It is also lovely to see the pupils talk with the visitors; speaking with confidence and clarity about why they are doing what they are doing.

You will hopefully have received the Spring Update Newsletter I sent out earlier and noted in particular the section on staff changes. This is one of the reasons why I have been showing many of our visitors around. We will be interviewing for a new class teacher shortly after half term and I will make further announcements as and when I have more information.

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Sporting Firsts

Having been out of school at various meetings last week, it has been great to spend a little more time ‘back at the ranch’. In doing so, I have also tried to get into all eight classrooms as much as possible to see what the pupils are getting up to as we approach the halfway point in the academic year.

Year 6s spent Monday afternoon working with our friends from Phase again. Another workshop for both classes building upon the other work completed so far. This time they were focusing on resilience, being a role model and time management.

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Bouncing to Belfast!

We start this week’s blog with the amazing news from last weekend’s Zonal trampoline finals in Chesterfield. Although I wasn’t able to attend, Mr Miley, Miss Dear and Miss Eaton went with the 13 gymnasts and their parents to try and claim a place in the National Finals for the third year running. You might recall the problems with the Regionals due to snow and at times there were a couple of worried faces on Sunday but I am pleased to report the competition went ahead without any glitches at all. I was keeping up to date via twitter and was delighted when the results and photographs started to come in. By the end of a very long day, three teams had qualified for the National Finals and all three teams had finished first. The three teams are: Under 11 Novice Boys; Under 11 Novice Girls and Under 11 Intermediate Girls. An amazing result!

The Nationals this year are being held in Belfast and so early on Monday there were lots of internet searches for the cheapest flights and accommodation. I am extremely grateful to the parents of all our ‘bouncers’ as without their support, we would certainly not be able to attend this prestigious event. The finals take place over the weekend of 24th and 25th March. Fingers crossed for similar success. It is sure to be an amazing experience and I am delighted that I will definitely be able to attend… I wouldn’t miss this for the world!

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Tomorrow's Leaders, Today

It was an early start for our Year 6s this week as they headed off on their annual visit to London to look around the National Gallery and then visit the Houses of Parliament. Traffic was not kind to them, with the journey taking a little longer than planned and so they weren’t able to do everything they wanted in the gallery. They still enjoyed the talks from the art historian and saw for themselves some of the masterpieces. After lunch, they headed to Parliament where they had a look around and also met up with our MP, Mr Bim Afolami. It is a long day for the pupils but worthwhile and supports so many aspects of our creative curriculum.

Whitehill hosted a Global Learning Project celebration on Tuesday with three local schools coming to present the work they have developed in their own schools having attended the workshops Dr Christie has been leading on the Global Goals. It was a lovely afternoon and we also welcomed back two former pupils, Philip and Emma, to talk about the work they are doing with Agta Aid. Through the funding we have received ourselves from the Global Learning Programme, we were able to present each school with a cash prize to enable them to develop their work even more. Well done to Hertford St Andrew Primary School who impressed our judges the most and won the first prize of £600.

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A win at last!

It was ‘full steam ahead’ this week after the gentle introduction of three days to start the spring term. Visiting the classrooms on a number of occasions this week it was great to see the pupils engaged in their learning and producing some quality work. I was particularly impressed with some of the artwork I saw in 5SD and also the progress since the start of the year with pupils in Year 6 and their mental arithmetic scores. What is more impressive is the enthusiasm and pride displayed by the pupils when they come and show me what they have been up to. This is the enjoyable part of my role! Alice, Chloe and Bartosz, all Year 5, are great examples here and all earned a Head’s Award for their spelling work this week.

Clubs and peripatetic music lessons all got underway this week. So many pupils take part in some form of extra-curricular provision, it is a joy to see. In Achievers’ Assembly this morning Jay Livermore from Sports Partnership joined us to present the school with its Gold ‘Your School Games’ Mark for the quality of our sports’ provision. Well done to Mrs Bryan and her team for providing such wonderful opportunities.

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Welcome Back (and it's short!)

Happy New Year to you all and welcome back. I hope you have all had an enjoyable break and shared some quality family time together. From my perspective, the return to work came around very quickly but I was still able to enjoy Christmas (despite having ‘man flu’ for a few days).

We ended last term with another charity day organised by Mrs Small for Stand by Me, a local child bereavement charity. It was an exceptionally enjoyable day and the pupils who attended enjoyed several sessions with a seasonal theme. The sock snowmen proved to be particularly popular and judging by the amount of rice left on the floor of 6CB, great fun was had by all. With this day, the collection at the Year 3 Productions and also the Christmas baubles we are going to be able to present a cheque for in excess of £1000 to Stand by Me. How amazing is that! Thank you for all your support.

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That Wasn't What I Meant!

When I suggested we needed to put the brakes on in last week’s blog, I wasn’t expecting the weather to help me out. It didn’t just slow us down, it brought the whole town to a halt. This was the first snow day I have had to call but actually it was quite an easy decision. All local heads were in constant communication all through Sunday and although it is never ideal, I hope that the notice we were able to give when the decision was made enabled you to make the necessary arrangements. I think the new Herts closure notification finally worked. Some of you received three pieces of information, others only one but I think all who registered received something. Let’s hope that is it for this winter.

Not only did the snow scupper school this week, it also decimated the first round of the national school’s trampolining competition. I think two of our bouncers managed to get to the venue before the snow got too bad but that was it. Fortunately, we heard this week that all of our teams will automatically progress through to the zonal finals taking place in Chesterfield at the end of January. I can plan my weekend away!

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Put the Brakes On!

Although we could really do with putting the brakes on, we can’t and find ourselves hurtling towards Christmas and the end of term. We have 6½ teaching days left and so much to fit in and look forward to!

This week’s review begins with our Friends’ Association Christmas Fair which took place at Highbury Infants on Saturday. It was a very well-supported event with lots for pupils of all ages to take part in and enjoy. We were treated to two choirs, including our Christmas Choir under the expert guidance of Mrs Walton and Miss McGurk. They sang a range of Christmas favourites and ensured we got off to a festive start. Towards the end of the day, Mrs Draper was part of Mr Chance’s choir (along with a few of our parents) and they got the pupils dancing and singing along to some other popular songs. Mrs Avey and I are still disappointed we couldn’t get to have a bounce in the snow globe; I think a photograph would have made a great Christmas card. Those pupils who did get to have a go, however, clearly had a great time. A huge thanks to the committee and the additional parental support who ensured the event was another success. Thank you, too, to our team of Year 6s who helped run a couple of stalls. Although these events are great social occasions, they also help raise valuable funds for both schools. This year’s profit was over £2100 (and there may more good news to follow)!

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