They are an Awesome Bunch!

Well that was a week and then some! I really do continue to be impressed how the teaching team adapt and make things work. Couple this with 241 responsive and motivated pupils and of course, once again, the week has worked.

The smile says it all!

After my assembly where we were looking at how we interpret ‘labels’ we use when describing others, the Upper School pupils enjoyed a morning of Interhouse rounders. Camera duties were given to Grace (Year 6) and many of her snaps were shared on Twitter. Air House were very excited to have come second but the honours went to Earth House who are clearly gearing up for their defence of the Sports Day trophy.

Unfortunately, the Lower School event had to be postponed due to inclement weather but I am sure Miss Gooderham will make arrangements to get the tournament played before the end of term.

Throughout the morning, we had visitors from Highbury Yellow Class having an advanced tour of the school before returning with a parent later in the day. I had the headteacher of Samuel Lucas School visiting and it was lovely to see our future Year 3s have the confidence to chat to my visitor and me. This augers well!

Our rose, from Phase, has been potted!

So as mentioned, after school, Yellow Class came along to Whitehill for their transition tours with members of the leadership team. Having had so much dry weather recently, you just knew it would tipple down just as we went out to meet them on the playground. Undeterred, we got in as quickly as possible and adapted the tours the best we could. At least they all got to introduce a parent to Mr Denney and Mrs Williams who will be teaching them from September.

We repeated the process on Tuesday with members of Green Class and although not perfect, the weather was slightly better. Again, they got to meet Miss Smith and Mrs Bradshaw; the teaching team in Aztec Class from September. It was lovely to meet a few ‘old faces’ during the visits; families who were associated with Whitehill a few years ago and return with a younger child. Welcome back!

It was lovely to hear Maya play her bassoon again at the music festival

The cricket match against Pirton was cancelled and so Miss Gooderham arranged a friendly game – Whitehill v Whitehill. At least I believe it was friendly, although intra-school games are usually more competitive than the current Ashes series. Weather-wise, it also followed the typical cricket weather vibe but play went on regardless.

As I went to Highbury on Tuesday morning for a ‘new to reception’ talk and to introduce myself to any new families, the Year 6 pupils went to Hitchin Girls’ School to take part in a science lesson in their labs. They looked the part in their lab coats and safety goggles as they carried out flame tests using the Bunsen burners. Our pupils always receive such lovely feedback when they are out and about and this visit was no exception.

Pocket-size music in the form of Indi’s harmonica!

Mr Derret, the teacher who took the lesson sent me a lovely email later in the day.

“The two classes I delivered science workshops to today were a credit to your school. The students were kind, respectful and polite throughout, and demonstrated a wonderful work ethic. 
 “They completed the practical safely and calmly, and I was particularly impressed with their listening skills, attention to detail, and love of learning. I do not often end up explaining how the colour of the light seen in the experiment links to the details of quantum physics, but your classes today demonstrated such high level science aptitude that I was able to do this for the first time ever with primary school students. 
 “Please pass on my thanks to your wonderful students.”

I also received a phone call from a member of the public who came into contact with one of the classes and was so impressed they felt they had to call to pass on their thoughts. These are the sorts of calls I love to receive.

As if this week wasn’t busy enough, our school ‘improvement partner’ visited for one last time this academic year on Tuesday afternoon. I kept him in my office as long as I could but he does like to wander around the school and chat to pupils. I think we disturbed four classes this time; sorry teachers. This was his first visit since our Ofsted and he wanted to come and say well done to everyone in person.

Wednesday morning was inspirational. Mrs Vernon had arranged for illustrator Chris Mould to visit the school. Chris illustrates the Iron Man (amongst many others), one of the books the Year 4s study in school. He gave a wonderful talk to the whole school first thing, showing us how to draw and sharing anecdotes of his journey to becoming a successful illustrator.

A great morning with Chris Mould

Afterwards, he did a workshop with both Year 4 classes and having popped into both, he clearly did inspire this talented cohort. I have already mentioned feedback earlier in the blog but he tweeted later in the day, “If you get a chance to go to Whitehill Junior School, they are an awesome bunch”. I’ll take that!

We’ve kept all his artwork!

Year 3s headed up to Hitchin Girls’ School on Wednesday afternoon to watch the matinee performance of their Gym and Dance display. Our county dance group were performing in it as guests and did two further performances on Wednesday and Thursday evening. Despite not having performed since the county dance festival itself, they all did so well and rightly received vociferous applause.

Celebrations after another great dance performance

After school on Wednesday, we held our Music Festival. This was the brainchild of Eoin and the other members of the Junior Leadership Team when they stood for election back in September and it was wonderful to see the project come to fruition. Huge thanks to Mrs Burniston who, with the aid of some rather splendid spreadsheets brought the idea to life. Not just the pupils’ idea but the additional ideas from Mrs McConnell Smith and me.

An amazing duet from Mrs McConnell Smith’s daughters, one of whom teaches singing at Whitehill

It really was an amazing event with around a third of our pupils taking part and performing in some way. Whether it was the performers on the main stage, including some of our peripatetic teachers, or those just starting their musical journey on our introducing stages, there was talent everywhere and a very (very) appreciative audience. I have had some lovely feedback via twitter and email which I have shared it with the team. The cherry on the top was also the money raised to add to the pot for the JLT’s chosen charities – around £300.

Feedback like this made it even more worthwhile:

“…the end result was an inspiring, supportive and feel good event. It was incredible to see the children put themselves forward to perform and see all of the teachers cheering them on (literally!) from the sidelines.
 “Thank you all for supporting them, valuing live music and performance and for allowing them to shine.”

Georgia (Year 3) on one of our ‘Introducing Stages’

There were some great photos taken by Miss Gooderham and I will collate these in an album on the school website in the coming days.

Talking of successful projects (and great photos), you must get yourself down to British Schools Museum this month as we have an exhibition of work from our lower school photography club. Every pupil who attended the club has a photograph on display. Huge thanks to Mrs Chown and Mrs Dent who have made this happen; I can’t wait to see the work for myself.

Make sure you visit British Schools to see our pupils’ work

I often mention Mrs Vernon in my blogs and her incredible work with our library. She also champions the love of reading across the school. Once again, she has reached out to an author whose book has inspired pupils in Year 5. It was lovely, then to receive the following from Nicola Davies whose book, Choose Love, has been used in class:

“I’m honoured that Choose Love has offered your young poets inspiration. The two poems you shared are outstanding. It’s just what I want my work to do- to help young people to find their own voices… I’d like to send you a book or two to share with your young poets. Thanks again for getting in touch and for inspiring a love of words in your pupils.”

We had no Achievers’ Assembly on Friday this week because after break, the Year 6s performed their version of Shrek to the rest of the school. I tend not to watch the dress rehearsal, instead watching the three main performances. I am so glad I did, however, as that means I get to see it four times. It was brilliant. The whole cohort did amazingly well and I know the parents and family members who come along to watch are in for a real treat. 

As this blog goes live, I am heading out to support the amazing Friends’ Association committee and a band of willing volunteers host our Summer Social. As one of our major fundraisers, it is such a relaxed, informal but enjoyable evening where the children can go and have a bounce and the adults can chill and chat. I mentioned in an email yesterday some of the recent projects we have been able to commit to as a direct result of the money raised by our Friends. I hope I will see many of you there. Do come and say ‘hi’.

Another different opportunity for Whitehill pupils

Looking ahead to next week, the calendar does seem to be a little thinner. The Year 6s will perform their show three times with a Monday matinee and two evening performances on Tuesday and Wednesday.

We have three rugby taster sessions with Hitchin Rugby Club for pupils in Years 3, 4 and 6. Year 5s will get their turn the week after. Also on the sporting front, we have the rearranged Interhouse rounders for pupils in Lower School on Tuesday. See, I knew Miss G would sort it.

Sarah and Isla were amazing compares!

Two other key events next week are the transition day on Thursday where Year 6s will head off to their new secondary schools for the day. In addition, the pupils remaining will spend the day with their new teachers. We are also joined by Yellow and Green Classes (plus Sam and Violet from other schools) who will spend the day as Mayan and Aztec Class respectively.

We also have the Year 6 leavers’ party on Friday evening. Fingers crossed for similar weather to this week so that the pupils can enjoy the inflatable entertainment.

It feels busy at the moment as I have mentioned and therefore I will end with a huge thank you to #TeamWhitehill and also to all of our families and friends for ‘making it happen’. Do look out for the ‘selfie frame’ at the Summer Social. Get a photo and tag the school!

Have a great weekend.

Best wishes,

Steve Mills

Learning from the best!


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