Virtual Biscuits?

Monday started with the first visit of the school photographer. It was a shame we weren’t able to open the session up to siblings and other family members from outside of Whitehill but nevertheless, in-school siblings were still captured as were the individual shots we need. You will have received a ‘ticket’ which you will be able to scan to view the photos taken. I believe, if not already there, the photos will be able to be viewed at the beginning of next week.

I have managed to chat with quite a few pupils this week about the work they have been doing this term, as well as loiter in the classrooms to see the learning taking place. It really is an enjoyable part of the job. I had several pupils from Apollo Class bring me their English work early in the week having impressed Miss McGurk (virtually), Miss Vernon and Miss Gooderham in the classroom. This week was the second week of Miss McGurk teaching via video link and although it has worked brilliantly, I know for a fact she can’t wait to get back into class ‘for real’. We can’t wait to have her back, either!

What has really impressed me since we returned is the work being completed across the whole curriculum. On Tuesday, I saw the results of a science experiment set up in Orville Class, which also explained the series of tweets form Mr Denney and several parents about eggs! I am slightly disappointed some of the cakes which were made, to gather the much needed shells, didn’t find their way to my office! (Hint, hint)

Year 4s in action

Year 4 have been particularly busy this week as I also saw the finished dino-footprints which I believe were started during the pupils’ transition visits during lockdown. This is always and much enjoyed topic in Year 4 and although we can’t get to the Natural History Museum at the moment, Mr Denney has found the next best thing and is bringing a T-Rex and various other themed activities to Whitehill.

There is a lot of information coming out at the moment for Year 4s (sorry) with some relating to the residential to Overstrand in May 2021. A separate page on the website has been set up to keep all information on one place.

I was talking to the governors on Wednesday evening about enrichment opportunities and also the collaborative process of learning which many pupils and parents commented on was the thing they missed most during lockdown. It is imperative we make sure both happen as part of any ‘catch up’ provision across the school and across a broad range of subjects. Of course, this is underpinned by our core purpose of ‘profound individual growth’ which holds true now just as much as in non-pandemic times. Some might even say, more so.

I tweeted on Thursday, images from a display in Wilde Class of some poetry written (collaboratively), inspired by William Grill’s book, Shackleton’s Journey. Every year, pupils are gripped by the subject matter and the way it is presented in this book. Bea (Year 6) added to her class’s understanding of the ‘journey’ when she brought in an amazing book from home packed full of photographs from Shackleton’s exhibition to Antarctica. Success wasn’t just limited to Wilde Class, either, as Helena, Lyla and Daniel from Kahlo Class brought their individual compositions to me – all worthy of a Headteacher’s Award.

Wilde Class poetry display

Mr Brunton wasn’t able to come on Wednesday for Year 5 music but as luck would have it, Maddie McConnell Smith was in school and she is a professional singer! She did four workshops with the four groups from Apollo and Voyager class based on a piece of music by Pentatonix – an acapella singing group. The results with each of the groups were excellent and to hear pupils singing in three parts whilst using their bodies for percussion certainly lifted my spirits. It is Maddie who is offering singing lessons in school and if the results of a 25 minute session are anything to go by, I would certainly consider signing up.

Maddie leading Year 5 singing – so impressive!

In setting up for Maddie to lead the sessions, we hit a snag with the sound system in our hall. In its day, it was probably state of the art but times have changed. This leads me to a request or a plea for help. Are any of you sound engineers who would be able to pop in and advise me on a better system for the school? I know the type of thing and what we want it to be able to do but when you search the internet for advice or recommendations, it is difficult to know where to start. If that happens to be your line of work, I would love to hear from you. I can be contacted by email at consult@ or feel free to come and chat when you see me on the playground before or after school.

After school on Thursday, we held the first of three consultation evenings making use of video appointments rather than the traditional face to face meetings. Given the times we find ourselves in, virtual appointments were always going to be the only way we could still make this evening work and from this end, all seemed to be working well. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts as to how you thought the system worked and whether or not you felt the platform was easy to use. Would there have been anything else we could have done to make the appointment even more successful? Virtual coffee, virtual biscuits, perhaps?!

I was back on duty on Friday morning for Achievers’ Assembly. Music this week was provided by Ailsa (Year 5) who played the violin; well done, Ailsa! We celebrated lots of individual merit awards and of course all of these points ensured Earth won the House Cup. Our Class of the Week was awarded to Lamarr Class. Other awards handed out this week included Dillon and Arthur (Year 6s) who proudly shared in their ‘man of the match’ successes for their respective teams and also our school half-termly sports awards. These are part of our school games links and are presented to pupils across all four year groups under six different categories. It was particularly pleasing to see Jemma and Summer in Year 3 earn their first sports awards. Well done to everyone who has been successful this week, whether in school or in an activity outside of school.

On Friday afternoon, I joined the virtual Friends’ Association AGM. It was lovely to see the parents who joined in support of the current committee, Sarah and Katie. Thank you to everyone who supports the work of this dedicated team and a special thank you for the (virtual) cheques both schools received to the tune of £2500. Considering we were ‘closed’ for half the year, this is a wonderful amount. Given my plea for a new sound system in the hall, I think this will be a great use of the money.

Thank you SO much!

Next week is the last week of the half term and looking around the classes, there are certainly some tired pupils (and staff) who are looking forward to a break. Assuming there are no sudden changes of direction from the DfE, it is probably the first break we will have had since February half term, where we will not have to be planning something different in terms of operational procedures. Let’s hope I haven’t spoken too soon.

Before we get there however, we have a few more things in the diary.

On Monday, our two Year 3 classes are venturing out again to visit Hitchin Museum and Hitchin Library. Mr Wells and Mr Lord visited the venues on Thursday afternoon to check all the necessary precautions are in place.

Good news for parents of pupils who are in Year 6 and have expressed an interest in the Year 6 residential. We have reached the magical number (we had in mind) and so on Monday we will confirm our booking with the centre and then spend the next seven months keeping our fingers crossed.

On Tuesday and Wednesday we have two more consultation evenings and then it’s the home leg. I have one meeting on Thursday and then one more Achievers’ Assembly to host. All that I ask to make next week even smoother is for no more rain!

One more reminder for our Year 6 families. Secondary school choices have to be submitted by 31st October. Please don’t forget.

Anyway, as a treat for my dad, I’ll end it there this week (by saying this, he might not realise it is just as long as normal!)

Have a great weekend!

Best wishes,

Steve Mills

A closer look at one of the Year 6 poems


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