Durham, Cardiff and Hatfield!

One aspect of our school site that I really do appreciate is the amount of outside space we have. This has proved to be invaluable throughout lockdown, and since returning in September, as it has allowed the pupils the space to play whilst remaining in their ‘bubbles’. We have three playgrounds; ample play equipment and a very large field. Couple all of this with the lovely weather we have been having and it’s been almost ideal for the smooth operation in line with the government’s guidelines. This week, we seem to have paid the price for all that lovely weather as it appears to have done nothing but rain. Although it’s kept us in at times, we have again made use of the space we have had and still been able to have all four year groups outside at the same time, whilst still maintaining appropriate distancing. I always talk about how we make things work at Whitehill, but please… we have proved we can work in the rain; let’s have some sun back again!

Our blended learning plan has kicked in again this week and although we have had no pupils having to isolate, we have had a member of staff working from home. Apollo Class have done really well and have had Miss McGurk teaching from home and beamed into the classroom via Google Meet; they have had Mrs Vernon and Miss Gooderham facilitating and teaching from within the classroom. Both staff and pupils alike should be praised for the way they have adapted to the situation and continued to produce quality work. I would particularly like to thank the three members of staff for their part in making this situation work. It reassures me that going forward, should we be in a similar position again, we can do more than make it work.

‘Express Yourself’ – one of the displays in Voyager Class

With only two weeks to go until half term, the curriculum is well and truly in full swing. We have adopted a two-weekly timetable this year to afford more time to the teaching of the foundation curriculum. This has been, and still is, a particularly focus of ours and we are keen to see how we develop young historians, artists, geographers etc. at Whitehill. Over the coming weeks, four new pages will appear on our website which will share with you the new subject overviews for our curriculum. I will let you know when they are live. We are currently spending time as a teaching team looking at how these subject plans have turned into lessons and learning and had a very productive staff meeting on Tuesday looking at some of the work the pupils have been doing to date. I was really impressed! As well as looking in books to see the work the pupils are producing, it is also displayed proudly around the school. Many of the photos in this week’s blog were taken from a walk I did around the school on Thursday.

A ‘Hamilton’ themed display in Wilde Class thanks to (the word perfect) Mr Mills (Jnr)

I took delivery of a new box of Headteacher awards this week (thank you Mrs Cook) and have already issued quite a few. Jemma and Evie (Aztec Class) were two such recipients and it makes my day to be able to write ‘Being Brilliant’ as the reason, as I did for these two Year 3s. Oliver and Chantal (Year 5s) both received theirs for some excellent self-portrait work which tied together some art with the English text they have been looking at, We Are Here by Oliver Jeffers. I also presented one to Drake (Year 3) who demonstrated some great maths understanding as he showed me his aptitude for the maths game, Prodigy which his class have been working with. Well done to these pupils and all who have received Headteacher’s Awards this week.

Our Wilde pupils as take on the iconic image of Alexander Hamilton

I am certainly enjoying the online meeting routine this term. It is saving a lot of money in petrol as well as time travelling to and from venues. I would have been in Durham, Hatfield and Cardiff this week if not for the need to meet via video link. Whilst I would certainly have enjoyed visits to two of those venues (you can decide which two), it was much more practical to ‘zoom’ in, instead.

I picked up the final print of our 50th Anniversary commissioned artwork on Thursday. I am delighted with the final version which was produced by former pupil, Velvet Cooper. It will be displayed in our breakout suite for all to see and I have also printed a smaller version for my office.

Mr Waluk has hung Velvet’s wonderful image in our Breakout Suite

We trialled the software we are going to be using for this term’s consultation evenings this week. It is very easy to use and keeps you posted as to the amount of time you have left. Remember, each appointment will be ten minutes and can’t be extended. You can sign in early and as soon as your appointment time comes up, you click one more time to connect and you are live with your child’s teacher. It’s the same website for booking as it is for joining your appointments and if you are still to book, here is the link for you.

Autumn Term Consultation Evenings

Remember, any problems please do get in touch. There are many ways we can support; all you need to do is ask.

On Monday I sent out a letter to parents and carers of pupils in Year 6 giving the initial details of the Year 6 team’s plans for this year’s residential in May. Thank you to those who have already responded. We will be in touch again very soon confirming whether or not you have given us the authority to confirm the booking. There was one question I was asked several times on the back of the letter in relation to further installments and whether or not these would be non-refundable. To confirm, at this stage, the only payment which is non-refundable is this initial deposit. If we then go ahead with the booking, I will negotiate with the provider to ensure we make no further payments until much nearer the time when we should have a much better idea as to whether it is going to go ahead. Fingers crossed!

Some great artwork in Kahlo Class

I wasn’t able to lead Achievers’ Assembly on Friday due to being in Cardiff! Well, virtually. Mrs Beresford covered for me although I did join to watch from my office. Hitchin and Cardiff at the same time! Robyn entertained at the start and the end with music on her flute. We had Year 5 in the hall with us, with the other classes and Miss McGurk watching via video link. We celebrated lots more bronze certificates across the school and these resulted in Air winning the House Cup. The Class of the Week was presented to Wilde Class. We also celebrated Leo (Year 4) who proudly and rightly showed off his medal from a triathlon he competed in recently.

Looking ahead to next week, we kick off with a visit from the school photographer. Traditionally we would have been able to accommodate family groups before school starts but for obvious reasons this won’t be possible this year. We will still be able to do sibling groups from within Whitehill. Mrs Cook has written to parents outlining the details.

The first of the previously mentioned consultation evenings is on Thursday from 3.20pm and then on Friday afternoon, the Friends’ Association is holding their AGM. Details will be sent out shortly as to how you will be able to join the meeting.

The other piece of news to share with you which has literally just come in, is that Hitchin swimming centre has confirmed school swimming can start again from after half term. I will chat with the teachers over the coming days and send out a letter to the first class shortly. It is likely to be one of our Year 4 classes.

I enjoyed chatting to pupils in Lamarr Class about their computing work

Finally this week, can I share with you some information from Mrs McConnell Smith in relation to the work we have been doing on wellbeing and Zones of Regulation.

Let’s regulate!

This term at Whitehill the children have been introduced to the Zones of Regulation to help them recognise and respond appropriately and sensitively to their own feelings.  This is helped by using the strategies from the work we started last year on the “5 Ways to Wellbeing” (or the “Feelgood Fingers” for those of you recently from Highbury)

The ability to recognise how we are feeling and what, if anything, we could or should do to respond to this is an important step for all of us in staying mentally healthy.

Do ask your children to tell you about the Zones of Regulation and how they are using this in their class. Remember, there are no bad or wrong feelings, but there can be choices to make about how we respond to them.

On our website, I will put a resource that allows you to see the basics of the Zones and 5 Ways to Wellbeing, so that you can try this approach at home if you wish. I will add a tab to the Parent Info section for our wellbeing resources. In addition, Mrs McConnell Smith came across some nice resources on the website iGrowco and I will upload a couple, in case they are something that your family would like to use. The “Family Flow” is a nice example of how the Feel-good strategies might look (well, in an ideal world!).

Adults out there might be interested in listening to podcasts from “The Happiness Lab” Laurie Santos is a professor of psychology at Yale and Mrs McConnell Smith finds her so interesting, clear and easy to listen to; maybe give them a try.

So that’s it for another week. My blogs certainly have a taken on a different form since we have returned but one thing is for certain, they haven’t got any shorter!

Have a great weekend.

Best wishes,

Steve Mills
Headteacher

Two ‘Hamiltons’ in this part of the Year 6 display

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