I Love Our Achievers’ Assemblies

What a busy last week of this first half term of the school year. Seven weeks (35 days) have flown by and have largely been very successful indeed. I hope the Year 3s feel they are well and truly part of #TeamWhitehill now and are looking forward to the next half term, where I know Christmas will play a significant role.

Year 3s uncovering their treasure

Looking back on this week, it started for me with a meeting with a couple of our governors and Mrs McConnell Smith thinking about our recent local authority audit and the way we support our families. One thing I was particularly proud of in the report which came out on the back of the audit was the adviser’s recognition that we have such an inclusive ethos, in line with a recent article by Dan Nicholls which encourages schools, ‘…to hunt not fish and to apply the equity that disadvantaged learners need.’

It was lovely to see so many family members able to attend our open afternoon on Monday. Whilst I appreciate it wasn’t an ideal time for everyone, it was very well attended and I hope gave an opportunity to see your children’s books and also put a face to a name in terms of some of our teaching staff. It is easy to forget that for many, it was the first time you have had to find your child’s classroom, for example. I think everyone ended up where they were supposed to and I really must find a different way of describing Year 4 as being ‘down in the dungeon’! The pupils know I don’t mean it.

I was able to get out and watch the football match against Purwell. Having played them last week in the cup, it was a league fixture this week and once again, the team were amazing. A contender for goal of the season doubled the half time advantage and that is the way it stayed. Another clean sheet and another solid team performance.

Mr Denney and Miss Smith were out very early on Tuesday morning getting ready for the start of their big dig project. I had the perfect vantage point from my office to keep an eye on what they were getting up to, although with the weather being kind, I did also venture out to get a closer look. I used to love watching Time Team on TV and so wonder to which of the ‘team’ each of our staff members closely align themselves.

The view from my office window

Whilst some pupils were carefully opening up and examining artefacts in their trenches, others were planting the collection of spring bulbs which have been donated. Three kind volunteers came in to assist the pupils by creating the holes for the pupils to plant in. The area outside the front of the school is going to be quite a site next spring and I can’t wait!

The Big Dig in full swing

I was invited to visit Lamarr Class on Tuesday afternoon to see some of the William Morris inspired artwork the pupils had produced. They are a talented group of pupils and thoroughly deserved their class Headteacher’s Award.

Thomas and Molly R in Year 3 also received awards this week for some of their independent maths they had been doing. I always like pupils to explain why they have been sent and both of them could explain the methods they had been using to help them solve the problems they had been set.

During the consultation evenings, my role effectively becomes that of a waiter. With the help of my leadership team, we make sure the teachers are fed and watered throughout, increasing the strength of the coffee and the sugar content of the sweets throughout. At the end of the evenings, I am also able to catch up with each teacher to ensure that everything has run smoothly and there were no issues they need to discuss with me. Tuesday ran smoothly, once two teachers – who will remain nameless – realised their cameras on their new laptops had a privacy guard! I wasn’t able to be there on Wednesday but reports back suggested it was another successful evening.

I headed off to London before the end of the day to make sure I was there in time for my date at Number 10. In typical Mills fashion, I was only one and a half hours early! In the rain! There are some nice coffee shops between St Pancras and Whitehall.

A rather damp Downing Street

Once you get through airport-type security, Downing Street itself is eerily quiet. Well, it was when I went in. We were able to take a few photographs outside before handing over our phones once we through the big black door. The reception itself was lovely, although I have to say, that the choice of canapés was interesting. Lord Putnam, the founder of the Teaching Awards gave a lovely speech and I was able to chat to fellow professionals, including, from University Challenge fame, Bobby Seagull!

The formal photo outside Number 10

I mentioned the apparent silence on my way into Downing Street. On my way out, it was definitely not and police guidance was needed to get through the hundreds protesting vociferously over the current situation in Palestine. It felt quite intimidating until I was actually on Whitehall again.

A very packed Whitehall after the reception

Not wishing to waste a train ticket into London, I had enough time after the reception to get to a theatre with a last minute ticket to see The Little Big Things – an inspirational new musical about the life of artist Henry Fraser. A rather apt musical given the reasons I was in London.

Being a Junior School, we don’t get the opportunity for our Year 6 ambassadors to work with KS1 pupils. It was lovely, therefore, that the sports partnership asked us to host and lead a KS1 festival on Wednesday afternoon. The rain did hold off and I believe a great time was had by all. I received a lovely email from the headteacher of one of the schools which attended saying just how impressive our Year 6s were.

Our Year 6 Sports Leaders

“I just wanted to commend your Sports Leaders for how positively they supported and nurtured the children during each activity. They were a real credit to your school and I am sure that you and your team must feel very proud of them. I was particularly impressed by how kindly they looked after them.”

Henry and Jacob putting the little ones through their paces

It was lovely to see families of pupils in Lamarr Class join us for the first class assembly of the year. In a week where we have provided parents with the opportunity to reflect on the first six weeks of the year, this is another great way of sharing the work the pupils do.

The pupils all did very well, learning their lines and performing with confidence. I particularly liked the rendition of an Abba classic, even with the addition of a class set of recorders! Freddie G really went for it!

A packed hall for Lamarr’s assembly

A few Year 6s from Wilde Class appeared after break to show me their extended writing. It is lovely to see the progress the pupils have made in the first half of the term. Addi, Tilly and Nandi all received Headteacher’s Awards for the work based on Shackleton. This was swiftly followed up with four Year 6s from Kahlo with similarly inspirational writing. Well done to Ben, Abigail, Ava-Lily and Sophie.

I love our Achievers’ Assemblies! And it was a very full Achievers’ on Friday morning with music provided by Cecily (Year 4) who played several pieces on the piano and Georgia (Year 4) who has the most gorgeous voice who sang to us. They were both incredible.

Our two talented musicians today

We presented the School Games Values Awards for the first half term and these went to Amelie (Year 3), Lillian (Year 4), Lottie and Albie (Year 5), Ethan and Alex (Year 6). Well done to these ambassadors.

Also on the sporting front, we celebrated Leo (Year 5) who recently swam 1500m in under 30 minutes, made even more impressive as he was doing breaststroke. Harriet (Year 5) has recently completed her Level 2 NICAS climbing award, having first enjoyed the sport, she told me, on the Year 4 residential.

Pupils at running club have clocked up an impressive 278km this half term and we presented some certificates to those who have reached, 5km, 10km and 15km.

Members of our running club with their certificates

Lamarr walked away with the Wombles this week and Kahlo Class got their hands on the Class of the Week trophy. It was a tie for the House Cup with Air and Water claiming top spot.

Well done and thank you to everyone who was celebrated and contributed to another great assembly.

We break for half term now but when we return, we are straight back to it.

On the Monday we return, the photographer is back to take our class photos. Also that week, we have football matches against St Mary’s and Wilbury and there is a netball match against William Ransom. At the end of the week, we have a team taking part in a basketball competition at Fearnhill School.

By the time you have read this, I am sure many of you will also have heard the news from Highbury Infants, where Mrs Avey has announced that she will be retiring at Easter. It is going to be an interesting few months coming up now as the process begins for her replacement. I will obviously reflect more upon this announcement nearer the time.

A successful half term in Year 5 made even sweeter with some delicious doughnuts!

And now, by the time you have read this paragraph, you can only imagine the amount of moaning my dad has already done over the length of this blog. I will give him a week off next week and so that should earn me some brownie points.

I’m off to watch a football match if it hasn’t been cancelled due to the weather between me typing this and getting outside!

Have a great break and I will see you back on the playground on Monday 30th October.

Best wishes,

Steve Mills

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