Attitude and Aptitude

I always seem to start blogs in the first week after a holiday by stating that the break is now a ‘dim and distant memory’. For various reasons, this time it seems more pertinent than ever. We have all been exceptionally busy and I, for one, have had several manic (and long) days. That being said, I have probably had one of my most enjoyable days since becoming a headteacher ever this week but more about that later.

A science experiment in Year 4

Monday was the first day of November and the temperature responded appropriately. I finally gave in and switched the heating onto the winter setting and with the need to keep windows and doors open, where possible, to ensure maximum ventilation, it was working exceptionally hard. As I mentioned in correspondence to parents this week, an extra layer might be appropriate for the pupils in class.

My online assembly launched this year’s poppy appeal collection and each day members of our Junior Leadership Team have been selling poppies in the classes. They will continue to do so next week up to Wednesday (or until we sell out). On Thursday next week, we will be holing a moment of silence as a mark of respect and once again, Agnes (Year 6) has agreed to play Last Post to mark the end.

Monday lunchtime saw the first ‘Meat Free Monday’ service in our dining room. Ellie who is a member of our Junior Leadership Team and Olivia, another Year 6, have written a few words about the first one:

The JLT at Whitehill are proud that this week we had our first Meat Free Monday. This coincided with COP26 starting in Scotland where world leaders are gathering to hopefully make a positive difference to climate change.

 We are so glad that Whitehill can contribute to a better, brighter future for the planet and thank you all for supporting this. Small change can make a big difference.

 On Monday, Mrs Stokes and her team offered veggie burgers or potato frittata and feedback from the pupils was great. Mr Mills tried the frittata and described it as being ‘very pleasant’.

 Please continue to encourage your children to try the hot options. The weather is getting colder. You should try the meat free options as they’re really delicious.

On Monday afternoon, we welcomed some Sports Leaders from Hitchin Girls’ School to work with our Year 4s. Miss Gooderham has been working closely with the HGS PE department over recent weeks to help accommodate the students so they can complete the practical element of their course. We are supporting several groups over the coming months who will be working with our pupils across three of our year groups. It was lovely to see some former Whitehill pupils return, including Isabel and Imogen this week.

I currently have the telescope back in school which has been kindly leant to us by my Chair of Governors. It was an exceptionally clear night which meant we were able to get the first views of the year of Jupiter, Saturn and Venus. We will look out for every possible opportunity between now and Christmas to get it outside again and look for chances to invite pupils and parents to share in this awe and wonder.

We had great fun seeing something that is 1.491 BILLION km away!

Mr Denney hosted the first of two parent information evenings on Monday. This one was an e-safety session and rather appropriately was delivered remotely. I was able to join during my journey home and thought there was some very useful information. Particularly pleasing for me was the fact that so much of the good practice suggested can be found in our curriculum offer. We plan to make the slides and links available to all parents in the coming days and I will let you know when they are on the website.

I was in school early on Tuesday morning as I had set up a flying visit from a friend and consultant Headteacher from Nottingham. He was in the area and called on Monday to see if I was free. He joined me on the playground first thing as well has having a brief ‘walk and talk’ school tour. The class reps we spoke to were very good again and received particularly good feedback from our visitor. He was particularly interested in the poetry work in Year 3 and it was lovely to see Lizzie’s work feature on twitter later in the week. Well done, Lizzie!

Great work, Lizzie!

I went straight into another meeting after catching up with David. In fact, the two meetings overlapped as I knew my second visitor would enjoy meeting the first. It was quite interesting to sit back and listen to them converse and ultimately exchange contact details.

I had two, back to back HGS governors’ meetings on Tuesday after school which meant I wasn’t able to attend the second of our information evenings. Mrs McConnell Smith welcomed the return of Leah Brennan to deliver a session on resilience in children. I hope those who attended found it of benefit and once again, we will be making a recording of the session available for Whitehill parents. As with Mr Denney’s session, I will send out details in the coming days. I was interested to chat with Mrs McConnell Smith afterwards about some of the feedback we received and we have already taken on board some of the comments from Year 3 parents (in particular) and met as a leadership team on Thursday to plan the next steps.

And now we come to that day I referenced at the start of the blog. On Wednesday, I gave up my office as Isla (Year 5) became Headteacher for the Day. The concept of allowing a pupil to shadow me is something I have been contemplating for some time. I have spoken to governors about it in the past and then the pandemic got in the way. When Isla had the confidence to ask me what I actually did each day, one lunchtime, I made the decision to run with it. We found a date and put the plans in place.

Miss Neighbour taking control at lunchtime, much to delight of Voyager Class!

The whole day was wonderful! The whole day was exhausting! And of course, I have asked Isla to contribute to this week’s blog. Here is what she said about the day:

I couldn’t believe it when Mr. Mills asked me to be headteacher for the day! I have been really excited for weeks and weeks and it was even better than I thought.

 First, we did welcome duty for 10 minutes and then we went inside to sign some headteacher’s awards for great work.

 I really enjoyed showing two parents around the school.  One has a daughter in reception and the other has a child in Year 2.  It was amazing to think I might be encouraging future children to come to Whitehill.

 It was then definitely time to make some coffees and Mr. Mills gave me a piece of chocolate cake!

 I learnt lots from walking round the classrooms, listening to the teachers and children and then writing a note for the teachers’ pigeonholes to say ‘well done’.

 I had an incredible time and I definitely want to be a headteacher when I’m older if it means I get to eat chocolate cake every day!

An afternoon meeting with the Vice-Chair of Governors

I was blown away by Isla’s attitude and aptitude and have no doubt Isla has what it takes to be a Headteacher, although I do need to warn her that there isn’t cake every day! The highlight for me was the confidence she displayed when making decisions, especially when insisting on the order pupils were to come into lunch. I think her peers in Voyager Class were grateful for her persistence. There was also a wonderful interaction between Isla and Year 6, Mia, during a learning walk. I wish I could have recorded the conversation which showed a complete understanding of our curriculum and the work Mia had done.

Miss Neighbour finding out about Mia’s topic work during her learning walk

It is something I am keen to repeat, now that I have seen how successful it was. A great opportunity for a child to experience leadership opportunities and develop communication skills. How it will work in the future, I am yet to decide but from the conversations I had throughout Thursday, there are plenty of others who are keen to give it a go.

I caught up with Isla first thing on Thursday to congratulate her again but also to let her into the secret that she only did half a day, despite working flat out from 8.30pm to 3.30pm. I carried on and didn’t leave school until 10.40pm. Well past her bedtime!

There was less in my diary for Thursday. In fact, I was supposed to be off site for a strategic planning meeting with my leadership team. Because of the current circumstances I wanted to be in school and so we found a quiet corner of the school – yes they exist – and chatted all afternoon about future plans.

There was time for a few games of Connect 4 after school with Cookie Club pupils including Chloe (Year 3) and Samira, Liam and Amelia (Year 5). Samira took great delight in beating me two times in a row!

Making our timeline in Year 3

We had our weekly Achievers’ Assembly on Friday morning. Music was provided by Libby (Year 4) on her clarinet, with Year 5 enjoying the experience live in the hall. Our other six classes watched via the live link. All of the house points collected across the week meant we could celebrate lots of individual success as well as a House Cup win for Air House. The Class of the Week went to Kahlo and the Wombles will spend next week in Kahlo Class too. Sarah (Year 5) proudly showed off her trampoline medals and she will be part of our teams competing in this year’s national competition which starts in a couple of weeks. Eleanor (Year 4) also proudly displayed her 400m swimming certificate.

There are a couple of key events coming up next week. For the Year 5s, we have Space Week which includes space night on Friday evening. We are keeping our fingers crossed for a clear evening but history suggests we shouldn’t expect it. Regardless, it will be a great night with lots of space themed activities planned.

We have the class and team photographs on Tuesday and whilst these are taking place I will be locked in conversation with governors and our school adviser discussing my performance appraisal! You will be able to see how it goes after school, if I come out smiling or not.

I am heading into London on Wednesday with Mrs Bailey and some Year 6 pupils who are performing at a national poetry event. This is an exceptional opportunity which, if things go according to the briefing, will see the pupils have the opportunity to chat (and have cake) with a senior member of the Royal Family who is guest of honour. It promises to be a really exciting day. Look out for updates on twitter.

We have Year 3 history workshops on Thursday morning and in next Friday’s Achievers’ Assembly we will be presenting the first ‘Wall of Fame’ Awards of the year.

Well that is it for the week. Regular readers will be expecting me to make reference to the grief I will get from my dad for the length of this blog. I don’t need to, however, as he has already sent me a message say that he hopes I hand over complete control this week to Isla. You can’t win them all!

Have a great weekend.

Best wishes,

Steve Mills

Great fun in a Year 6 maths lesson

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