I’m not that festive!

One of Junior Leadership Team members, in her pledges at the start of the year, suggested that one of the charities our school should support this year should be Stand By Me. They are a local bereavement charity which we have supported previously and which has some close links with Whitehill.

I was asked a while back by their fundraising lead if Stand By Me could use our school hall for a quiz night and the answer was easy. Of course, they could. As a way of support, I covered the opening of the school and was more than happy to be on hand throughout the evening to get things that might be needed and to ensure everything was ‘just right’. I also got to listen to some of the quiz but as the majority of questions were themed around Christmas, I did find it a little tough!

DIY SOS’s Billy Byrne at Whitehill on Saturday

The charity’s patron is Billy Byrne who is most commonly known as the cheerful (and emotional) electrician from DIY SOS. As he lives a short drive down the A1, he came along to show his support and also take part in the quiz. He was a great sport and a genuinely ‘nice chap’ who took time to chat to other quiz goers and of course, have his photo taken. He wasn’t the only TV personality in attendance, as actor, Adam Astill, acted as quiz compare for the evening.

It was a wonderful evening and I have no doubt some money was also raised for this wonderful cause. I am pleased Whitehill could play their part in this event.

It was a pleasure to support this worthy cause

I came in on Saturday to an office full of bottles. I did get a few funny looks from those attending the quiz until I explained why they were there. I have not, as yet, been driven to drink in this job although at times I do get quite close. Seriously, however, a huge thank you to everyone who contributed to the Friends’ Association bottle collection for this evening’s Christmas Fair which is where I will be heading in a few minutes.

The other project taking place during the long weekend, was the re-carpeting of the group room. We needed some remedial work doing first which is why we used the long weekend and are delighted with the final outcome. This room has recently been redecorated and is now a fantastic meeting and teaching room. I did get slightly nervous when I saw the first activity on Monday morning included paint and so Mr Waluk was dispatched to locate some dustsheets.

A new and CLEAN carpet! Long may it continue.

As I visited classrooms on Monday afternoon, there was clearly a design and technology focus in many of the classes. Year 6 were making progress with their electronic vehicles and the precision in some was quite impressive. Having enjoyed running this project with Kahlo Class for the last two years, I couldn’t resist loitering and giving a few suggestions but they clearly knew what they were doing.

Total focus in Year 6

Vegetable soup was on the menu for pupils in Year 4, with Mrs Keeling working with groups on their different recipes. I should really run a survey as to how many parents enjoyed their school-made dinner that evening. Again, they did look tasty and if encouraging pupils to eat ‘colourfully’ is a way of getting pupils to eat healthily, then these soups would certainly have ticked a box.

“We made that one!”

Art is a strength at Whitehill and this is visible as you walk around the school. Tuesday’s staff meeting, led by the extremely creative Mrs Bailey, looked to develop the teaching of this subject yet further. We also spent some time looking at pupil attitudes (to each other) and ways we can convince a very small minority that being kind is the best way to lead their lives. We came up with a few ideas, whilst at the same time remembering that the overwhelming majority of pupils at Whitehill demonstrate this behaviour all day, every day.

Before leaving on Tuesday night, there was just enough time to have a quick telescope session with some pupils from Cookie Club as the moon was particularly impressive. I was sent for just before leaving for the day by Mr Denney who wanted to show me a new toy in the hall. Although purchased for the Year 3 production, I have a sneaky suspicion we may be able to make use of it in our weekly Achievers’ Assemblies. For now, it is a surprise!

My favourite photo of the week and a sneaky peak at the Year 3 production

I had a lovely time on Wednesday morning visiting some of the classes and joining in the lessons. I divided my time between Orville Class and Aztec Class, taking part in an English lesson on Oliver Twist and a maths lesson where the focus was subtraction. You can tell you are getting old when the opening description of Fagin to which the pupils were referring sounded more like my biography – well according to some of the pupils, anyway.

I need to make a public apology on here this week to Mr Wells. I was so engrossed in chatting to Miss Smith and Miss Payne after school that I completely forget to go to Maths with Munchies. It wasn’t until Mr Wells appeared carrying an empty bowl which can only have contained Cheesy Balls that I remembered. Note to self – must try harder!

Sorry Mr Wells!

Many pupils returned in two phases on Wednesday evening for our Friends’ Association discos – the first of the year. They were very well attended and judging by the number of pupils who stayed in the hall for the duration, very much enjoyed. I can’t dance but did enjoy seeing the pupils ‘go for it’. Amelia (Year 4) was particularly impressive.

Thursday was quite a busy day. That seems to be a theme at the moment but at least this busy Thursday was in school and not in another part of the country or even a different country. We had our local authority adviser in working with us. I spent some time looking through school progress data and our development plan first thing before Martin then went and did some work with Year 6s on historical fiction. After lunch, I was joined by three governors for my performance appraisal meeting before heading off (with a headache) to St Albans for another NAHT meeting with heads from across Hertfordshire.

Mr Roberts leading a session on historical fiction

I have a reputation amongst some as being a little bit of a ‘bah humbug’ when it comes to Christmas festivities. I couldn’t possibly comment. To try and counter this and embrace the first day of the festive month, I created an impromptu advent calendar on Friday morning for anyone ‘interested enough’ to come and say morning to me. Did they? Were they inquisitive? Were they polite? Many were and were rewarded with the ‘sweet from behind the first window’. I can’t promise it will happen every day (I am not that festive!), but do look out for future ‘days’.

With no time to warm up, I was straight into the hall for this week’s Achievers’ Assembly. Music today was provided by Charlotte (Year 6) who played the piano and Libby (Year 6) who played the clarinet. They were both very good. As a musical interlude halfway through, we also enjoyed Louisa and Lillian (Year 4) singing, having missed their chance last week with Achievers being cancelled.

I mentioned our drive on kindness earlier and this was kicked off in an assembly led by Mr Wells on Wednesday. To highlight its importance, I gave extra weighting to this when awarding this week’s class of the week. Coupled with the work they have been doing in class, the worthy recipient was Orville Class. The House Cup this week went to Water House.

Mr Wells’s assembly on simply, being kind.

As well as some individual sporting successes we also celebrated the recent success for our handball teams and our trampoline teams.

At break we were back to biscuits with the boss again, having missed the last three weeks. I had a lovely group where the topic of conversation went from architecture to swimming to music to Jammy Dodgers! Linked with the theme of kindness, I was particularly impressed when the pupil I had asked to hand the biscuits around came and offered me one too. You can’t beat great manners.

As soon as I have tidied my desk, I will be heading up to Highbury to support the Friends’ Association Christmas Fair. Our committee do a fantastic job and having already run discos this week, they are giving up their time again to put on some festive entertainment for families and of course, to raise valuable funds for both Highbury and Whitehill. I hope to see some of you there.

Looking ahead to next week, the diary is already quite full. This time of year always is but there are a few things which jump out.

On Tuesday, Year 4s are out for a history-themed day. They are visiting the British Schools Museum and then doing a local history walk. I am sure many of you know this already, but Whitehill was opened as a replacement for the school on Queen Street in 1969 and so we have a very close connection. I also remember visiting the school in the 1970s when I was in primary school. (What’s that? I don’t look old enough. You’re too kind!)

Also on Tuesday, we have visitors from HGS coming in to deliver an electricity workshop for pupils in Year 6.

Whilst all of this is going on, I have my final (planned) prospective parents’ tour of the term. Another opportunity for our class reps to impress our visitors.

Bonkers for Books are holding their book swap on Wednesday lunchtime and then after lunch, we have some lower school pupils taking part in a dance festival.

I am out on Friday morning at HGS, which means I won’t be in attendance for the Year 3 production dress rehearsal. I am sure I will hear all about it when I return at lunchtime and I can’t wait to watch it several times the week after.

So that is it for another week. Another very busy week, with several more to come.

Have a great weekend.

Best wishes,

Steve Mills



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