Much Calmer than Last

If you are reading this blog, it means that I have managed to post it successfully from my train back home having spent that last two days in Brighton on NAHT business. As you would expect, I have kept in touch with the school to find out what has been going on and of course see who was successful in terms of Achievers’ Assembly awards. More about that later.

Before we reflect on this week, we must start with the two events which took place over the weekend. On Saturday, Mrs Davies and Miss Smith took our recycled fashion show pupils to St Chris for the main event. They had worked so hard on their costumes after school on Mondays and we were delighted to see four of the groups get into the final. Well done to all who took part and of course to the staff who gave up their Saturday.

Another shot from the catwalk

We were equally as proud on Sunday when we heard how well the Kealeys had done in the national cross country finals in Loughborough. Cheered on by their family, I am delighted to report that out of 2200 competitors, Katie (Year 4) finished 20th; Connor (Year 5) came 23rd and Kieran (Year 5) finished 39th. These are simply outstanding results and of course, they will all get to do it again next year. This exceptional achievement was recognised in Achievers’ on Friday where they all received their – new this year – sports colours awards.  

The going was ‘heavy’.

This week was much, much calmer than last, for obvious reasons. Thank you to those of you who emailed in your messages of appreciation for last week’s science and computing week and also for those who posted comments at the end of the blog. We read and share them all and they do make a difference. Calmness was intensified as there was a subheading in our calendar this week saying ‘assessment week’. In some of the lessons across the week pupils have been taking part in some reading and maths assessments and the teachers have also been assessing and moderating writing. This is a good midpoint check and sets the teachers up for our pupil progress meetings which will be taking place next week. It also provides teachers with additional evidence for our consultation evenings taking place in the last week of term.

Katie getting ready to start her race

My assembly on Monday was all about numbers. Pupils had to work out the questions when the answers I showed them were all numbers. Questions included the number of chicken pie days left this academic year, for example. How many days do we have left this year at Whitehill? Or, how may days in school do our current Year 6s have in school until they leave sixth form (Year 13)? The answer didn’t seem that large a number! To lighten the mood slightly, I gave the answer as ‘one’, and wanted to know what the question was. In my head, I wanted ‘the number of shots Manchester United had on target in Sunday’s derby?’ It is always enjoyable to share a joke with United supporters like Miss Gooderham. Logan (Year 3) was so much more mature than me and showed how much he had been listening. His profound answer relating to making the most of every single opportunity earned him a Headteacher’s Award. Thank you, Logan.

On Monday afternoon, Mrs McConnell Smith and I met with Hitchin TV to talk through the initial stages of a plan we have. This was our first meeting in-person but I think we are happy that our idea can become a reality without the millions required of the next Oscar-winning blockbuster. If only they could have seen in my head because it is one of those ideas that I can picture perfectly but can’t necessarily describe. We will get there, I am sure.

‘Maths with Munchies’ kicked off again this week

I was supposed to be at Hitchin Girls’ School on Monday night to see the students EPQ presentations followed by their evening of dance performed by the GCSE dancers. I failed on both fronts with meetings in school preventing me getting to the first event and then (planned) governor training on financial management meaning Mrs Mills was unaccompanied for the second. There were some former Whitehill students involved and I am sure they were awesome.

I also missed the netball matches on Monday which I was never going to get to but feedback from Mrs Bryan highlighted two great results and some excellent play across both teams. Having mentioned Aidan’s prolific goal scoring last week, he told me on Tuesday that he managed around nine goals this week. Does he ever miss?

A happy bunch – well played girls

The talk of Year 6 on Tuesday was the first opportunity to audition for this year’s Year 6 production. I did pop into the hall a few times during the afternoon to see the pupils show what they can do and what they have learned. As a huge fan of live theatre but as someone who can’t sing nor dance, I want to say how impressed I am with anyone who puts themselves forward in front of their peers and has a go. I have no doubt they will have made the teachers’ jobs difficult but that ‘the creatives’ will ensure everyone has some involvement on, or behind, the stage.

Despite having to man the office at the end of the day, I did get outside to watch some of the mini football festival Miss Gooderham had organised for one of our girls’ teams. The weather was pleasant and I had a lovely time chatting with Edie’s dad about pretty much everything whilst still keeping watch on the football. I missed the opening game which finished in a draw but did see the other two matches and two great wins.

Go Lizzie!

I received some lovely news recently about the determination of three of our Year 4 boys who have been walking in aid of several local charities through the Helping Herts ’12 miles for 12 charities’ challenge. Alex, Thomas and Samuel (Year 4) walked a total of 12 miles and contributed to the impressive £9000 raised for these good causes. Well done boys! I am always impressed when I hear of pupils’ ‘bigger picture thinking’ and putting others first.

Well done boys

When I can (or when I remember), I do like to pop outside at break time (other than on a Monday when I am supposed to be on duty) to see the pupils playing and engaging with each other. I like to watch from a distance and compare what I see to the reports that then come in to the teachers. I am sure it wouldn’t come as a surprise to hear that often these two versions of events are quite different. The work we do on tolerance, and our core purpose and also ‘happy playgrounds’ continues at pace.

On Wednesday afternoon, 114 lower school pupils ventured up to Hitchin Girls’ School for a sports festival. With a little bit of time on my hands before a meeting with the Herts Director of Education, I popped up to watch for a while. I managed to get Mrs Mills to buy me a coffee and also bumped into Miss Mills as I was wandering through the school – much to her surprise. I mainly watched the Year 3s who all seemed to be having a wonderful time in the sports hall and then a little later in the sun on their netball courts. 

Year 3s are under there, I promise

A Teams call meant I was unable to watch the netball after school on Wednesday but hand signals through my office window as Mrs Bryan left told me it was another set of great performances and two wins, this time against Purwell. My two days in Brighton meant I wasn’t able watch another great performance from one of our boys’ football teams and a 2 – 0 win. Even though I wasn’t there, I want to congratulate our players for the right attitude they display on the pitch every time they play. Several people have messaged me to make a similar point. It always frustrates me when you see some pupils take on a different attitude on a football pitch that perhaps they would in a maths lesson. Fortunately, ours never do. Positive and respectful throughout. 

There was also a girls’ match at the same time and although they didn’t get the win, they tried very hard, several of the players representing the school for the first time.

A great costume

Mrs Burniston took Achievers’ Assembly in my absence and there were a lot of sports reports. Madame Skinner is always a good barometer when it comes to the length of these assemblies. Knowing she has eight French lessons to deliver, we do tend to keep an eye out to see how worried she looks as the assembly progresses.

In addition to these reports and the other celebrations mentioned in this blog, the usual awards were handed out. Air won the House Cup; Mayan won the Wombles and Kahlo won Class of the Week. There were also plenty of individual awards which, as always, received our recognition and support. Voice was the instrument of choice today with Esme, Indi and Emma (Year 4) performing together as well as Lillian (Year 4) singing a solo. 

Looking ahead to next week, the most time consuming (four days) but beneficial diary entry is for our pupil progress meetings. An opportunity for class teachers to meet with senior leads to talk through each and every pupil. We reflect on the progress they have made and also any additional support they may benefit from. They do take time but are a key part of our school improvement work.

As you would expect, we have a range of sporting events again including netball against Weston on Monday and the Wix Cup football final against Our Lady at home on Tuesday. We have a lower school badminton team taking part in a festival on Wednesday and another football match against Pirton on Thursday. Add to that the whole of upper school heading up to HGS for a sports festival on Wednesday afternoon and the national trampolining finals at the end of the week, I would say it is another packed calendar.

Last minute practice before the competition

My diary looks varied. I am heading up to Kingshott on Tuesday morning for a meeting with their headteacher which we first discussed in 2020. I am determined to make it happen this time. I start to look closely at next year’s budget on Wednesday with NAHT and governors meetings on Thursday. One of our governors, Mrs Dorrell, is coming in for Achievers’ Assembly and a wander around the classes on Friday. There’s enough there to keep me busy.

The only other reminder for you is that on Friday 15th, we are having a non-uniform day in support of the Friends’ Association Easter tombola, details of which have already been shared with you.

I think that will do for this week’s blog.

Have a great weekend.

Best wishes,

Steve Mills

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