Whitehill Junior School Blogs

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Exciting Stuff!

Despite coming to the end of another week and therefore publishing my weekly blog, for one group of pupils we still have the equivalent of one more day to go. About an hour ago, the Year 5 pupils returned to take part in this year’s Space Sleepover. This much anticipated event allows the pupils to explore aspects of their science work on Earth and Space in context so that, weather permitting, they can actually see the things we talk about in class. I must admit, in the previous two sleepovers, the weather has not been favourable; perhaps it will be third time lucky.

In addition to the activities run by Dr Christie, Mrs Davies and the Year 5 team, we also have some familiar faces returning to talk about their work in this field and to share their enthusiasm. Abigail Hutty from Airbus Defence and Space is coming in to talk about her work in designing the Mars Rover. We have ‘the other’ Mr Miley returning, having enjoyed himself so much last year and we have Mr Jackson from Hitchin Girls’ School coming with a particularly large telescope. I am sure it will be another great success and something to cap a very space-related week in Year 5.

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At Your Age!?

I have to start this week by saying a huge ‘well done’ to our Girls’ Football Team for their success at the County Finals of the ESFA National Competition. Playing against some very strong schools last Saturday morning, including a private school and a middle school, the girls went through the morning undefeated to become County Champions. The weather wasn’t great but that didn’t hamper the performance of the team nor the support from the parents and reading the reports, it sounded like a wonderful morning. Many thanks to Mr Dean for the twitter updates throughout the morning and if ever a ‘hashtag’ was more appropriate it was during this competition, #ThisGirlCan. I’m hoping my diary will allow me to go along to the Regional Finals later in the year.

There was other success this week on the sporting front when one of our basketball teams, under the expert coaching of Mr Miley, won the district competition hosted by Highfield School. It was a very close final against William Ransom and I’m pleased to say we won. The pupils were presented with medals and a trophy and will progress through to the County Finals. I wonder if having these new playground markings helped? Well done Year 6s for suggesting we get a basketball court marked out again. In addition to this success we also had a team of boys and a team of girls taking part in the district table tennis competition at Hitchin Boys’ School. All the pupils tried really hard and although the teams didn’t place, there were a number of individual successes. We celebrated all of these successes in Achievers’ Assembly this morning.

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Trapped!

It was wonderful to start the half term seeing the pupils, particularly from the Lower School, so enthused over our new playground markings. Without any instruction or demonstration, the pupils were actively engaged with all of the new markings and quickly worked out for themselves what they could be used for. Even the ‘human sundial’ was being used creatively, if not correctly, and this is something we will show the pupils over the next few days and weeks. It seemed very accurate when I used it. These markings make the outside environment for our pupils such an amazing place, set up for them to learn and to play. Some of the funding for these markings came out of the Sports Premium funding we receive from the government and is a very appropriate use of the funds.

Another source of funding for the markings was the Friends’ Association. Earlier in the week, I was presented with a cheque for £3350 by our joint Friends’ Association, as the money raised from last year’s events was shared equally between us and Highbury. We are all extremely grateful for the work the Friends’ Association do in arranging a variety of events for both pupils and parents and although raising money is not the ‘be all and end all’, with educational budgets the way they are at present, every penny helps and means we can buy additional ‘luxury’ resources for the pupils. The other use for this year’s money will be to part fund another set of Chromebooks for the pupils to use in class. Thank you again to everyone who has supported any of the events over the last year.

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Well done, Jude!

We have reached the end of the first half term of this academic year and now get a chance for the first opportunity to recharge our batteries. Upon our return I know the word ‘Christmas’ will be mentioned regularly although the Year 3s have been doing their bit already as they get going with their production. It will be upon us before we know it! I do enjoy Christmas really… honest!

I avoided the school hall as much as I possibly could on Monday as the class and team photographs were taken. Although we used a different company for the first time the photographs will follow a similar format and we received very positive feedback from the photographers who were excited and impressed with all the different clubs we run. The pupils are really quite fortunate to have so many extra-curricular opportunities at Whitehill, the majority of which are run by staff. This is certainly something I never take for granted.

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It's Started!

I started this week with a visit to Highbury School and a meeting with Mrs Avey and Mrs McConnell Smith. We work really hard on the links between the two schools and regular meetings are important in ensuring smooth transitions and a secure understanding of each other’s practice. Having the joint Friends’ Association is also another great way of ensuring the links between the two schools remains strong. The Friends’ are working hard on a number of projects at the moment including the two Whitehill discos taking place next Thursday.

A new club being run by three students from Hitchin Girls’ School started on Monday lunchtime. A group of 14 have been selected to enjoy Latin over the course of the term and they met their ‘teachers’ for the first time this week. They are going to be following the Minimus scheme, something we have used in the past and look forward to resurrecting. Having studied Latin at ‘O’ Level myself, I recognise the benefits to many other areas of learning this subject will bring.

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Any Volunteers?

Whitehill’s week began on Saturday morning with an early season football rally for our girls’ team. Mr Miley, Mr Gentle and Miss Dear took the team to take part in this friendly festival at Wilshere Dacre School. Reports of the morning from all involved said how enjoyable it was and how well the team played. It proved to be a great warm-up for the first fixture in the defence of the Wix Cup and on Monday evening the team went over to Breachwood Green School. They were once again on form and ran out 5-0 winners. We will wait to see who we draw in the next round. It is very early in the season but I would like to thank all the parents who give up their time to support the fixtures and also who help with transport. Without this help, school sports’ fixtures would not happen.

The football ’A’ Team also took part in the Wix Cup this week, playing a very strong Highover team on Thursday. From all reports it sounded like an excellent game of football with both teams taking the lead at different times. Fresh from her success with the Girls’ Team and a goal last week for the ‘B’ Team, Meely was on the score sheet again as we won 4-3. Well done to everyone who took part; I’m sorry to have missed the match.

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One tenth, already!

Can you believe we are one tenth of the way through the academic year? Quite a scary thought! It goes to show how important every day is in the school calendar and as I have wandered around the school this week I have seen all eight classes working hard and producing some excellent work. I continue to be particularly impressed with the way the Year 3s have settled into life at Whitehill.

We have finally got our playgrounds back and I would like to thank you again for your patience whilst the work was carried out. They do look really nice and we can’t wait for the new markings to go down. To that end, I held my first ‘Hot Chocolate Friday’ of the school year this morning and our topic of conversation was along the lines of which markings the pupils feel we should have. From Year 3 to Year 6, the eight pupils today gave me some excellent ideas and I am particularly keen to work with Oliver B and Hannah (Year 6) as we move forward with their ideas. We will have another Hot Chocolate Friday next week and the invites will come out on Monday. We did have cakes this morning and they all went!

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Wedding Bells!

I should start this week’s blog with a ‘thank you’ for your patience and cooperation as the playgrounds are being resurfaced. We still have a few days to go but from what’s been finished so far, it is certainly going to be worth it and the company we are using have been very understanding. Once both playgrounds are completed there will be a few weeks before we get the netball courts marked out; it’s going to be lovely for this year’s netball rallies. We are also thinking which other markings we want to put back down. The staff have been tasked with coming up with a plan.

On Monday and Tuesday this week all our pupils took part in e-safety workshops. Mr Denney has spent a long time researching the best people to bring in and support our ongoing delivery of staying safe online, both at home and in school. We were really pleased with the content covered and the way it was delivered; the feedback from all sessions was very positive. It was also lovely to see some of the parents take advantage of the parent session after school. The only disappointing aspect of this parent session was the fact it didn’t last long enough for me to watch the whole of the Lego Movie which I was watching with the pupils whilst the parents did the workshop!

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Authors for Grenfell

Everywhere you looked around Whitehill this week were posters trying to capture the attention of the pupils and staff and designed to win the most votes at this week’s Head Boy and Head Girls Elections. The Year 6s who stood for election have all done a wonderful job and worked really hard to show they were the right person for the positions. They all presented to the rest of the school on Thursday morning in a special assembly; highlighting what it was they stood for and why they deserved the post. Each candidate then had a five-minute chat with me and a governor to answer a couple more questions about the role. The vote was exceptionally close and the outcome checked several times. With these positions decided, I locked the staff in a room after school until we were able to allocate the other positions of responsibility for each of the Houses. Our new Year 6s are an amazing group of pupils and therefore this was an extremely difficult process but we got there in the end.

Well done to the following who I am sure will be brilliant in their new roles.

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An Impressive Start!

Happy New (School) Year to you all!

This is the first blog of our new academic year and for those who are new to them, it is my way of keeping you informed of everything going on in Whitehill each week and also giving you the ‘heads up’ as to what we can look forward to for the coming week. They go live on the website every Friday – I haven’t missed a week since starting in 2013 – and I will also send a link via twitter and School Comms. I hope you enjoy them.

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Truly Inspirational!

We’ve made it! The end of another year at Whitehill. Another incredible year which has seen some wonderful achievements. I hope you have kept up to date with them all by following us on Twitter and reading these weekly blogs. This happens to be blog number 169 that marks the end of four years; the four years which today’s Year 6 leavers have been at Whitehill.

Keeping going until the very end, there has been quite a lot of sport this week starting on Monday with a Rounders competition which we hosted. As a few schools had pulled out, we were able to put two teams in the tournament and were obviously delighted when we finished first and second. Well done to all our players, you played very well indeed. Not quite up to the standard of the staff team… but you’re getting there!

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Whitehill School of Performing Arts

With only one week to go until the end of another academic year, life at Whitehill continues to be full steam ahead. On the agenda this week has been Achievers’ Assemblies, Year 6 Productions, Orchestra Performances, Transition Day and a Year 6 Party.

Last Friday’s Achievers’ Assembly was postponed until Monday due to dress rehearsals. It was certainly worth waiting for as we were entertained by Thomas (Yr 6) playing the piano and Abigail (Yr 6) who danced for us. Both were really impressive and added weight to my belief that over the last few weeks we should have referred to ourselves as ‘Whitehill School for the Performing Arts.’ I also had the pleasurable task of presenting Ella R (Yr 6) and Beth (Yr 5) with Headteacher Commendations. Well done, girls.

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Here, There and Everywhere

We continue to drive forward to the end of the year with immense pace. On Monday we were able to release our Ofsted report from our recent inspection. I have already spoken about the intensity of the two-day inspection and we are taking a great deal of satisfaction from getting the inspection converted from a ‘good check’ to a full inspection – for the right reasons. We were very pleased with the way the report reads and it highlights just how outstanding the provision is at Whitehill, thanks to my amazing staff team. I must also thank all the parents who completed the Parent View questionnaires for us. We had 137 responses and the Lead Inspector couldn’t believe how many we had and how positive the responses were. We will move forward with our development areas now, neither of which were a surprise and continue to provide a quality education for all our pupils.

We have been joined by Shaun all week, a Year 10 pupil from Hitchin Boys’ School. He has completed his work experience with us and has been based in 6CB. He has been helping out with final preparations for the school show which was right up his street, as he took the lead when he was a Year 6 at Whitehill. He played the role of Charlie Bucket in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in 2013.

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"Spread the Conversation"

I was in school briefly on Monday morning before heading off site with the rest of the Leadership Team for our final strategic planning day of the school year. The focus of this meeting was twofold; we needed to look carefully at support staff deployment for September and also get the key dates in the diary for the school’s self-evaluation cycle and subject specific weeks. It might not seem like a lot to sort but I can promise you it is the hardest of the three offsite days we have each year.

We are very fortunate as a school to have so many support staff all of whom contribute so much to the pupils’ education and development. I sit in far too many meetings where other heads are talking about having to reduce additional staff numbers and it is imperative the necessary action is taken at central government level to address the critical levels of school funding. I have a meeting very soon with Bim Afolmai, our new local MP, and it will be interesting to hear what his thoughts are on this issue.

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Out With the Old...

I seem to be experiencing that strange phenomenon at present whereby time is going both very quickly, with deadlines arriving left, right and centre but also very slowly, when I needed something to arrive in my inbox. I blame the fun of last week and trust that an equilibrium will be found sooner rather than later.

We kicked off this week with the final secondary school transition meeting, this time with Hitchin Girls’ School. It was another very productive meeting and all Year 6 pupils have now been spoken about to their new schools which will hopefully ensure a smooth transition when they start in September.

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Who Needs Sleep?

When I arrived at school on Monday morning, albeit at 2.30am, my diary for the rest of the week looked very clear and I thought I would have plenty of time to prepare for presenting at a writing conference on Tuesday and also for trying to add my head’s comments to the pupils’ school reports. Well, it didn’t turn out like that and after only 14 hours sleep since last Saturday I can go home and perhaps enjoy a glass of wine and get a good night’s rest… What’s that? The Year 6 are arriving back at 1.30am? Oh well… summer holidays soon.

Anyway, the Year 6s got away bright and early and despite using up a complete supply of sick bags during the ferry crossing, were settling in at Chateau Beaumont before we knew it. I am sure you have enjoyed the photographs on Twitter from what has clearly been an amazing week. My thanks go out to all the staff who have made this experience possible and have been on duty 24/7 for the last five days. I can see by the positive responses on Twitter just how much everyone has appreciated it. I am sure I will get to hear a lot more about the week over the remainder of the year. I hope the pupils can get some well-deserved rest over the weekend as they have a play to practise from Monday.

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"A Pleasure to Read!"

We returned on Monday morning to begin the final half term of this academic year. Seven weeks to try and fit everything else in which still needs doing. Hold on to your hats and let’s go…

The weather has been very changeable this week but it stayed dry, long enough on Monday morning for us to have our whole school photograph taken. I have seen the proof and it does look really nice. The current Year 6s were Year 3s when the last one was taken and so it will be lovely to compare the two photos when they are placed side by side. Details as to how you can get hold of a copy will be sent out shortly.

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Not What I Had In Mind!

Despite the pupils not being in school today, it’s been quite a busy week and therefore I thought I would take the opportunity of a quiet, pupil-free school to get this week’s blog written on Friday as normal. It’s amazing how much work you can get done when there are no pupils (and staff for that matter) in a school!

The Circus was in town last weekend and started with a show on Friday evening. Despite the rain we had last week, we were exceptionally fortunate when we needed it to be dry for the shows. On Saturday, we had the addition of a BBQ and several bouncy castles to occupy and entertain us before the sell-out show at 2.00pm. It was a lovely couple of days and it was great to be able to meet some of the prospective Whitehill parents and possible new Friends’ Association committee members. Those who attended on Saturday were also treated to a star performer… with a bucket on his head! I did mention in The Comet recently that I wanted to perform on a West End stage; this was not what I quite had in mind. Thank you to everyone who supported the event and you hopefully saw our tweet sharing the news that we made over £1200 profit; all of which will go back towards supporting projects and events in both Highbury and Whitehill.

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Big Top Entertainment!

The weather is certainly not being kind to us this week as we get ready for the first of two Circus performances, however we did manage to get enough sun to complete the two cricket tournaments for our Year 5/6 teams. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the breaks in the clouds I can see at the moment turn into prolonged periods of dry weather.

The reports from the two cricket competitions were all very positive with both our boys and girls winning many of the matches they played. The boys’ competition was at Letchworth Cricket Club on Tuesday with Mr Miley and Miss Eaton looking after proceedings. Although the team didn’t progress beyond the group stages (finishing second in their group) they played very well. They just needed to protect their wickets a little more as in this form of the game every wicket results in a five run deduction. A little more ‘Boycott technique’ was needed, perhaps.

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A Testing Time

So after a relatively quiet weekend, for once, the two main things we focused on this week at Whitehill have been the Year 6 SATs and the Year 4 Residential trip to Overstrand. Both have gone very well indeed and I post this blog as I wait for the Year 4s to arrive back in school.

We have no choice over the Key Stage 2 assessments the Year 6s complete and there is a great deal of very mixed press as to their validity and purpose. These weekly blogs are not the vehicle for expressing my personal views on them but from a school perspective, we ensure our amazing Year 6 cohort are totally prepared and not fazed by what they might face. Indeed, the Year 6 team go out of their way to make test week as enjoyable as possible, starting each day with a musical breakfast. I must admit I was a little bemused by Mrs Bailey’s choice of music but all seemed to enjoy 1980s ‘pop’! I’m clearly too used to Classic FM now.

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