All Jackson Pollock!

As I reflect on the first week of our virtual summer term, it has been lovely to see that the weather has done its best to remind us of this fact. Whilst it would be far better if we were able to enjoy the sun without the current lockdown in place, I am sure the chance to get outside in the garden has not been missed. The staff in school this week with key worker pupils have clearly embraced the opportunity to use the space and facilities we have outside.

We have averaged 10 pupils in school each day this week. Each morning the staff on duty have facilitated the home study, making use of the Chromebooks and Google Classroom. At the beginning of the week, pupils created some ‘thank you NHS’ posters which Mrs Vernon tied on the school fence along Whitehill Road. They have already received lots of positive comments and requests for more. I’ll get the staff and pupils onto it. Later in the week, the staff on duty and the pupils created a giant chalk sign with a similar message.

The afternoons have mainly been spent outside watering the trees (one downside of the weather) and when Rio has been in, watering each other! Mr Mills Jnr and Miss Gooderham have been inspired by Fred and Stanley (Year 5s) and their football skills. I was instructed to get a bin as per the twins’ video and the competition was on as to who could get the ball in the bin from the halfway line. I’d like to say I showed them how it was done, but it was Miss G who put both Millses in their place by getting it in four times! I hit the bin (eventually) and Mr Mills Jnr is still out there now practising! (I might just be in trouble for writing that!) Ben (Year 3) was a brilliant ball boy.

I have been engaged in numerous meetings and phone calls throughout the week with staff and governors ensuring that everyone is kept up to date and informed. I think I have mentioned before just how much longer some decisions now take. As you know, all decisions have all our pupils at the centre and by that, I mean we need to consider the impact on all 240; no easy task.

That being said, I think our timeline since March 16th has been proactive and positive and I am grateful to all the staff for the work they have been doing in school and whilst working from home to ensure this has been the case.

The major development this week has been the increased use of Google Classroom as a conduit between pupils and teachers. There have been several letters written, outlining expectations and judging by the responses in the different class streams, it seems to be working well. In every piece of communication I post, I make reference to the fact that well-being must take priority over school work / tasks and I will reiterate this again today. Please do get in touch if you need any help, using the temporary email address consult@whitehill.herts.sch.uk. This is monitored more regularly than the teachers’ Gmail accounts, for example.

Today, we trialled our live ‘form times’ and it was wonderful to be able to join in with some of these. Before I reflect on them and pick out some of my favourite aspects or what might need to improve, let’s reflect on what’s been brought my attention via twitter this week.

Art seemed to be the theme of last weekend. Edward A (Year 4) did some wonderful drawings based on his observation of a Kingfisher. Niamh (Year 6) recreated a work of art using herself as the subject. It was very impressive! Fred and Stanley went all Jackson Pollock with their modern art which apparently they then cut in two so they could have a piece each. It could easily take pride of place in Tate Modern.

“I saw a kingfisher!”

Cooking is still an enjoyable life skill many pupils are learning. I have already booked a table at ‘Chez Freddie’ when lockdown finally ends. Freddie (Year 4) has been cooking dinner each evening and the food looks delicious. Apparently, however, he only takes reservations if you tip well. Roisin (Year 4) joined the banana bread revolution and Ailsa (Year 4) went down the gluten free route with her cake. Alicia (Year 4) and Millie (Year 6) created some lovely looking savoury dishes. The question will be, when we do finally return to school, will the pupils still be preparing dinner at home? I was interested to see Millie, as well as having to make dinner, was also tasked with tackling the decorating outside. There was a mention of child slavery at one point by her dad, but I think it’s acceptable!

Chef Freddie prepares the meal of the day at ‘Chez Freddie’

Shannon (Year 4) has produced some lovely pottery whilst working at home and has also done some science / geography work looking at volcanoes. This is something that Roisin (Year 4) also decided to take a look at this week. Science was the order of the day for Archie (Year 6) who was experimented with electrical circuits.

I have been impressed with Ethan (Year 3) who as well as carrying out his tasks at home, has been teaching his younger sister Lottie. Subjects this week have included palaeontology and geology.

It was lovely to read that Helena (Year 5) finished as a runner-up in an art competition set by author Thomas Taylor and then she impressed me further with a poem she wrote, performed and submitted to her class page. Edward B (Year 4) also received a special mention in his form time this morning for his framed artwork. On Friday morning, Mrs Cornell sent me a copy of Mackenzie’s poem (Year 5) entitled Lockdown, which I also enjoyed reading.

Well done, Helena!

There have been a couple of birthdays I noticed this week, including Freddy B (Year 5) who spent some of it in a box. He truly immersed himself in his maths work. It was also Ava’s birthday (Year 6). Happy birthday to these two and to anyone else who celebrated their birthday this week.

Freddy appeared to spend his birthday in a box!

For all of you who have been particularly creative, enthusiastic and diligent this week and who might have been singled out for praise by your teachers or by me, here is a Headteacher’s Award for you to print out. It would be thoroughly deserved.

Thoroughly deserved!

As I mentioned earlier, this morning we trialled a live ‘form time’ with each class. I was able to join all of them at some point to see how they went; to see if they are worth repeating and to celebrate some of the achievements the pupils wanted to talk about.

As I am sure you can imagine, there has been plenty of discussion between the teachers already and I am delighted that the consensus of opinion is that they are worth doing. I hope you agree. Just having the ability for the pupils to see the teacher and vice versa is a reassuring event in itself. There are, of course, things we can all learn from the first sessions.

It is imperative the pupils have the discipline to use the mute and comment facilities. The sound is amplified and if several pupils talk at once, it becomes unmanageable. We will be developing a set of ‘class rules’ which will hopefully make the experience even more pleasurable for all concerned.

Well done to everyone who was able to take part today. I know some pupils struggled to access the Meet and we will look to make it easier for those pupils who were using a mobile device which I believe didn’t allow you to simply click on the link on the class page. As I have already mentioned, we are always learning and I have no doubt the next meetings will be even smoother and in some cases a little shorter!

Based on the time I spent in each ‘form time’ today, I think I will present this week’s Class of the Week award to two classes, Mayan Class and Aztec Class. Well done both! Here is your trophy.

Well done to the Year 3s!

Having been involved in all eight meetings (I wasn’t planning to), I now think I need to go and have a lie down!

Have a great weekend and keep in touch!

Best wishes,

Steve Mills
Headteacher

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