That’s it! We’re done! Officially, the Year 6s finished their time at Whitehill with only their second full year but I suspect when we look back, very few will have had that 100% attendance which was usually a regular occurrence for pupils at Whitehill; not just in Year 6 but across all four years they are with us.
Attendance has also been something I have been looking at carefully this week too, particularly on Monday and Tuesday when we had those high temperatures to contend with. I am extremely comfortable with my decision to remain open – I know some other local schools chose to close – and I am very proud of the pupils and staff for the way they adapted; were flexible with where they worked; and just got on. I have no doubt we could fill a whole blog with reflections on these two days but as this is the last blog of the year and one which signifies the start of six weeks off for my dad on a Friday, I will stick to the main events of the week.
We held our second TT Rockstars inter-house event on Monday morning. Teams of pupils working against the clock and each other to record as many correct answers as they could. It sounded like great fun again and I know this second competition was partly down to the pupils who enjoyed the first one so much. The pupils had to wait until our final assembly on Friday to find out who won. This time around it was Water who won the Year 3 event; Air who won the Year 4 event; Air who won the Year 5 event and Earth who won the Year 6 event.
At lunchtime, the SLT and JLT (our Senior and Junior Leadership Teams) had their final meeting of the year and, as we did just before Christmas, we decided to make it a working lunch. This time around we enjoyed the lovely food (and air conditioning) of the Orange Tree. The cooler atmosphere was welcome not just because of the temperature outside but also because Ed A (Year 6) decided to show us that he could consume all the raw chillies on his katsu curry! Mrs McConnell Smith went and got him some more drink!
This marked the end of our first year with this arrangement of pupil leaders and I am really pleased we made the switch. Mrs Burniston spoke with our current Year 5s on Tuesday outlining the process for becoming next year’s Junior Leadership Team or perhaps one of the other positions of responsibility. One thing is guaranteed and that is we will still have two meetings off site where food will be consumed!
I had a meeting with someone from the Beano on Monday afternoon, checking out our site for the second day of filming with Benny and his class. Coincidentally, as we were touring the school to see where we could film, we stumbled upon Voyager Class who were having a water fight outside. Before we knew it, both myself and the man from the Beano were involved and running for cover. I brought spare clothes in for the rest of the week in case I wanted to take part in the other scheduled water fights planned for this week.
Our orchestra performed on Monday afternoon to mark the end of their year of rehearsals. They performed twice – first to some of the pupils and then to their parents who were able to join us. Huge thanks to Mrs Reid and Ms Chapman for leading this for us.
A huge thanks to our Friends’ Association this week who have kept the pupils and staff supplied with much needed ice pops and lollies. They were very welcome each afternoon and provided some welcome ‘cooling’ for us all.
Just for a laugh, I kept the diary entry which stated that I had a meeting with the Secretary of State for Education on Tuesday afternoon. Of course it didn’t happen; I mean it is only the fourth time it has been cancelled and I think we are on the third SoS since the meeting was booked.
Although pleasant, it was much (much) cooler on Wednesday morning. Unable to sleep on Tuesday night, I was in school very early to try and catch up but also to get some of the cooler air through the building.
Our Year 6s headed out to Hitchin Swimming Centre for the day as an end of term treat. It was far less busy than the photos on social media from Monday and Tuesday showed it to be (I thought the advice was to stay out of the sun?) and by all accounts it was a great day. Pupils enjoyed a packed lunch in the grounds of St Mary’s before heading back to school for the end of the day.
Voyager Class had their second media engagement with the Beano on Wednesday. In advance, I sent home a list of clothes the pupils had to bring with them which included – and bear in mind I sent this home on Monday on the hottest day of the year – Christmas clothes! We took delivery of a sofa on Tuesday which was to be used in some of the films and actually I quite liked sitting on it at various times during the day in the cool of the dining room. It was a shame it had to be collected!
It was another fantastic day where the pupils were treated so well and will certainly have made another set of incredible memories. I think Benny will be on many a Christmas card list with his peers after the success of this competition.
The pupils got to have sessions with Ed and Ed (two Beano artists), learning the art of cartoon drawing whilst recording various vox pops. They then had various photo and film shoots throughout the day. The good news for Voyager Class is that they didn’t quite finish and so need to return for another session. This will be in September when they are Year 6. Their personalised gifts will also be handed out then, if they haven’t been delivered before. I saw some of them today and they are such an awesome present.
In between filming, I took life into my own hands – got changed (eventually) – and joined in Apollo and Aztec’s water fights. These were prizes for success in their activity afternoons across the term and were great fun. I think I gave as good as I got and am certainly glad for the afore-mentioned spare clothes!
After yet another change of clothes (I was running out) it was time for the much anticipated return of a school disco at Whitehill. These first ones were organised by our school council and were to raise money for the school’s charities. A huge thank you to Mrs Burniston and her two daughters, Isabella and Claudia who ran the show. Mrs Small also joined us for the Upper School one which provided some additional support. They were great fun and after three years, it was lovely to make them happen again. The man running the disco for us was so impressed with the behaviour and manners of the pupils, he has reduced his fee so that a bigger slice of the income goes towards the charity pot. What a lovely thing to do.
What proved to be the right decision played out on Thursday, when we were able to enjoy our rescheduled sports day. Whilst there may have been a few parents who were unable to attend due to the last minute switch, I don’t think any of them would argue that it wasn’t the right decision.
It was the first full sports day – with spectators – since 2019, when the Year 6s were in Year 3. It was wonderful to be able to offer the full experience again and to see the Houses sitting together, cheering their friends on. When the points from the morning’s field events and the afternoon’s track events were combined, Earth ran out winners. Huge thanks also to the crew from Hitchin Fire Station who got to see their boys take part and also provide a refreshing end for the Year 6 lap of honour.
Thursday was Mr Wells’s last day of the year. He is due to get married in a couple of days in Cyprus and has suffered, as have many, from the cancellation and rearrangement of flights. The only flights he was offered were on Friday and there was no way I was going to stop this wedding from taking place by insisting he had to be in on Friday. I know you will all join with me in wishing Mr Wells and his partner all the very best for their happy day and also the future.
The end of year, last day of the term, is always very busy. The Year 6s spent their first hour signing each other’s shirts before joining the rest of the school for our final celebration assembly at 10.30am. I was pleased that we were joined by around 70 parents who ‘zoomed in’ – something we started last year – and something I would like to keep moving forward.
There are plenty of awards and things to celebrate at the end of a year. We have the usual weekly awards: Class of the Week – Apollo; Wombles – Wilde; House Cup – Air. These then go towards the end of year versions and so, Class of the Year was presented to Apollo. The Womble of Year award went (obviously) to Orville Class. The House which won the cup the most across the year was Air.
We had some other awards to share including the termly School Games Values awards and our athletes of the year awards which went to Stanley and Lilly (Year 6s). Logan (Year 3) was presented with his swimming certificate.
We spent a few minutes reflecting on the work of our first Junior Leadership Team (mentioned earlier) including progress against the Eco Flag Award as well as announcing the amount raised this year across the school for our chosen charities: East of England Air Ambulance and Parkinson’s UK. I am delighted to announce that the total to be split between the two charities is and incredible £1800.
The music in this celebration was wonderful. Oliver (Year 6) sang for us again. At the start of the year I asked him to perform Anthem from Chess for me and he saved it up for this assembly. It was incredible. Also performing today were Ailsa, Jasmine and Eddie; all of whom were also wonderful. All four of these Year 6s have a bright future ahead of them on the musical front, for sure.
The main awards presented in our final assembly are our Core Purpose awards and the ultimate Core Purpose Champion award. Every member of staff is able to nominate a pupil who they feel has shown, over the course of the year, the school’s values and made ‘Profound Individual Growth. Each pupil nominated received a certificate and a medal and the pupil with the most nominations won the title of Core Purpose Champion. This year, for the first time, two pupils both received the same number of votes and as their story and nominations were so different, the award was jointly presented. Both Chantal and Chloe receive a replica of the trophy to keep at home as well as having their names engraved on the main school trophy.
The other nominees were: Eleanor (Year 6), Stanley (Year 3), Charlotte (Year 6), Bartosz (Year 3), Jacob (Year 3), Benny (Year 5), Jessica (Year 5), Ben (Year 5), Thulani (Year 6), Rio (Year 6), Archie (Year 5), Milly (Year 4), Jacob (year 3), Oscar (Year 3), Adelaide (Year 4) and Arthur (Year 4).
As I draw to a close (don’t say anything just yet, dad) there are a few ‘thoughts’, ‘thank yous’ and ‘goodbyes’.
Firstly to you all for the cards, messages and gifts brought in for me and for my team. They are all very much appreciated and mean a great deal. It has been a fantastic year and wonderful to be heading back to a full programme of activities and learning.
To Mr Wells, whose last day of the term was yesterday, I know you will join with me in wishing him and his partner all the very best for their wedding in a few days’ time. Let’s hope there are no further problems with the flights. Should I ask him to give me three rings? (One for the older readers!)
We say goodbye to Miss Swinburne who has been teaching Britain’s Funniest Class this year. With Mrs Cornell returning after maternity leave, Miss Swinburne is going to be continuing her career at St Paul’s Walden Primary School. Also leaving us is Miss Edwards who is heading off to Loughborough University to read Sports Science. She has been a great asset to the PE Team and I know she will do very well indeed at one of the best universities for sport.
Miss McConnell Smith, who has been working in Wilde Class, is leaving to complete her masters in singing. We won’t be losing Miss McConnell Smith completely, however, as she is going to be continuing to teach singing at Whitehill to a few of our pupils and I am sure we can get her to perform to the school every so often.
Freddie (Year 5) and Oscar (Year 3) are moving counties and so will also be moving schools. Again, we wish them both all the very best and hope they will keep in touch with their friends at Whitehill. They are always welcome to visit whenever they are in the area.
Finally, to all our Year 6s. Their time through Whitehill has not been the easiest and it would be fair to say ‘unprecedented’. There have been tests along the way but I think they can be proud of what they have achieved both academically and also in broader educational terms. I have no doubt they will go on to do very well at their respective secondary schools. I look forward to hearing how they get on in their new settings. And for those moving to Hitchin Girls’ School, good luck when you meet the dragon! (aka Mrs Mills senior)
The one last thing to mention is to promote this crazy thing that the Friends’ Association have somehow convinced me to do. You may have seen on social media that I am (apparently) doing a bungee jump on September 11th to raise funds for Whitehill and Highbury. If you want to sponsor me, think link they have set up is:
Thank you in advance for this – I really have no idea what I have let myself in for! At the time of writing this blog, we have already raised £255.
Obviously, there is no ‘looking ahead’ this week, other than to say, have a wonderful summer break and I will see three quarters of you on Monday September 5th. (Yes, dad, that’s the end!)
Have a great summer!