Get Caught Reading

I finished last week’s blog getting ready to support the Year 5 team as they welcomed back the pupils for an evening of space-related activities. This is planned to support the science-related topic they teach with the hope that the skies will be clear enough to actually see ‘some of the stuff’ they cover. To date, I think we have had one clear night in all the years we have been running it!

Although the initial feelings were that it was going to be more of the same, half way through the first session, the wind increased, the clouds parted and the sky was perfect! (Of course, this is all relative.)

Dr James Miley delivered this first session live from the Alma Observatory in Santiago, Chile. This was a talk in which he spoke about our solar system and then the work he does in trying to find out more. We received some lovely feedback straight after in which he made reference to how engaged the pupils were and also how probing their questioning was. He also suggested that some of the questions (with a little tweak) would make good PhD thesis titles!

Dr Miley ‘zooming in’ from Chile!

Mr Jackson from Hitchin Girls’ School joined us again and he led a session on whether or not aliens exist. A challenge has been set for the Year 5s but to date it hasn’t been completed. In fact, he set a similar challenge two years ago when he was in and that was never completed. I can say no more at this stage.

It was also Mr Jackson who guided the pupils through the use of the telescope we have in school at the moment. We had great views of the moon as well as, and probably more impressive, Jupiter and its moons and Saturn and its rings. Just wow! A few of us also happened to be looking up in the right direction and right time to see a shooting star which was also very spectacular.

A photo taken through the eyepiece of the telescope

A huge thanks to the staff who gave up their Friday evening to support the pupils with this activity. It was effectively another whole teaching day in school.

The Year 5s space adventures continued on Monday as they headed up to Leicester to visit the National Space Centre. It was another successful outing for this amazing cohort.

Did Year 5 go to Leicester or the ISS?

On Tuesday morning, whilst I was locked to a screen for a 3½ hour safeguarding update, science was the focus for our Year 6 classes. Another member of the HGS Science Team, Mr Goldring, visited this time to work with the pupils on their electricity topic. Some of you may have seen the footage of the Van de Graaff generator in action.

Year 6 electricity lesson with HGS

These links we have with our local secondary schools are great on so many levels and are beneficial both ways. For example, as well as our Year 5s and Year 6s enjoying some science teaching in recent days, the visits of the sports leaders each week are there to help the HGS students pass their award. A truly collaborative approach.

Despite the light failing fast, there was still enough time for a couple of football fixtures this week. After school on Tuesday, we welcomed pupils from Samuel Lucas School to play in two girls’ matches. There was a lot of support and I did manage to pop out for a few minutes to see goals in both games. One of the matches finished 1-1 and the other 4-2 to Whitehill. There was also a match after school on Wednesday at Ickleford for one of our other football teams. Well done to everyone who represented the school this week.

An evening of football

I chatted with a group of pupils from Year 3 this week who had been doing some wonderful work in maths, using their understanding of addition and subtraction to solve a series of more complex word problems. It is lovely to hear pupils talk articulately about a topic and apply their knowledge to new situations. They certainly deserved their Headteacher’s Awards and as two of them were twins, I think I prevented a family squabble.

During the day on Wednesday, we had a competition running organised by one of our amazing clubs, Bonkers for Books. It saw the return of ‘Get Caught Reading’ in which pupils had to see how many different members of the club they could find around the school in weird and wonderful locations and find out what they were reading. I spotted quite a few myself, including Alicia who was in the stock cupboard and Addi who was under my desk!

Addi got caught reading… under my desk!


Huge thanks to Mrs Vernon who looks after this club and who, when she is not working with our Year 3 pupils, also looks after our library. On Thursday afternoon, she paid a visit to Waterstones with a group of pupils to spend a very generous gift we received at the end of last year. Reading and books is one area of the budget I find it very hard to say ‘no’ to. Helena joined our Achievers’ Assembly on Friday morning to share in this moment.

We have been joined by a student from the University of Hertfordshire this week, who will be spending some time working in Orville Class as part of her teacher training. Miss Jackson will be with us for a period of time now and then again for a longer block after Christmas. This is another example of me feeling old as Miss Jackson was a pupil of mine a good few years ago. Perhaps I will dig out a photograph of her time in Year 5 / 6 to share with her class!

After school on Thursday, I headed off to Cambridge for a regional NAHT meeting. I was away over night as the meeting continued on Friday morning and so Achievers’ Assembly this week was led by Mrs Small on my behalf.

The music was provided by Liam (Year 5) who played his guitar for us. This week, Class of the Week went to Voyager and the Wombles headed off to Orville Class. With lots more merits being presented again, the House Cup was awarded to Fire.

I was back in school on Friday afternoon to clear my desk.

You can have so much fun with a pile of leaves!

On Monday and Tuesday next week, Lamarr Class and Orville Class will be venturing out and about on their local history walks. Fingers crossed for some dry weather.

After school on these two days, parents of pupils in Kahlo Class have got their consultation evenings having been postponed in the week leading up to half term. Bookings are open and can be accessed in the usual way.

On Thursday, we have a group of pupils heading off to Knights Templar School to take part in a wheelchair basketball festival which, having taken part in this sport myself, will be great fun.

School is closed to pupils on Friday next week as we have one of our planned INSET days and then after the weekend we head into December and preparations for the ‘C’ word. I can’t bring myself to say it just yet!

Finally, can I share some wonderful news, just in from our Friends’ Association? They have asked me to pass on their appreciation for the recent raisin box competition and to share with you the total raised across both schools was £875.92. They go on to say, On behalf of the Friends of Whitehill and Highbury Schools, I would like to say a massive thank you to everyone who filled their raisin boxes (or donated online). We were all blown away by how much this has raised and how much it will help the children at both schools.’

Have a great weekend.

Best wishes,

Steve Mills

The visit to Space Centre was so much fun!

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