Welcome Back or Welcome!

The first blog of a new term; the end of the first week of the Autumn Term and a week which has felt more like the middle of summer than the start of September. Still, we shouldn’t moan, as I’d rather have this weather than the dilemma and stress caused by the first signs of snow.

Creative ways to keep cool in Wilde Class

Anyway, if you are new to Whitehill and perhaps reading a blog for the first time, welcome. Or, as you will get to know from references to my dad, good luck! (All will become clear over the course of the year, I’m sure! He makes Victor Meldrew look like a pussycat!)

These blogs are an opportunity to think about events in school over the course of the week and for me to reflect on what I have seen or heard about and also share the lovely work I may I have been sent for Headteacher’s Awards. I will also try to give a brief overview of what might be coming up in the following week.

Anyway, back to more important matters. It has been lovely and very impressive to see how well all pupils have settled back into their new classrooms and, in the case of the Year 3s, their new school. I have spent a great deal of this week visiting the classes as much as possible to see what they have been getting up to as part of the ‘soft start’ we plan at the beginning of each year. The first week and a bit is all about settling back into routines, getting to know new teachers and reminding ourselves of the expectations.

For me, there are another 60 names to learn – bear with me Year 3s it takes me a couple of weeks – and another set of parents to recognise. Being on the playground each morning certainly helps me with this and I would urge any new parents to come over and introduce yourself if you see me looking lonely with my cup of coffee.

Year 3s settling in well

Pupils had their photographs taken on Tuesday and we have gone with a different company this year. A change is as good as a rest. The photographers we are using now are local and have been in school before as they are the ones who take our whole school photograph. We will be having another one of those taken in June. The school office will be in touch in due course with the results of this week’s shoot.

Our Year 6s were out on Wednesday at the Henry Moore Foundation. This trip, linked with some artwork the pupils complete, is deliberately planned in the first two weeks as another way of settling the pupils back. Of course, unlike when I went the other year and got soaked, the weather was perfect for the pupils to appreciate the sculptures and do a spot of sketching. The pupils will follow this up in class in the coming weeks.

Collaborative sketching in the shade

As a headteacher, you always love receiving feedback from people not directly linked with the school. Wednesday was one of those occasions, with Mr Wells and Mrs Bryan both reporting back that they had received so many comments from Foundation staff and members of the public about how well behaved our pupils were and how engaged they all were. Well done, Year 6s. Keep it up!

Passing through Lamarr Class on Wednesday, I couldn’t help notice some amazing artwork left out to dry. Based on an image in a book the class were looking at which includes a ‘tea stain’, the creativity was amazing. Six in particular stood out and these pupils all received Headteacher’s Awards. Mrs Davies told me later that there are certainly others I should have a look at and also how impressed generally she has been with her class at the start of the year.

There were Headteacher’s Awards for some Year 6s from Kahlo Class, too, as Mr Wells reflected upon the positive start to the year made by his pupils. Jude and Arthur, for example, had impressed with some mathematical problem solving which even got me scratching my head.

Henry Moore inspired modelling in Year 6

The first whole-class award went to Voyager Class, as Mr Lord asked me to go and see the creativity on display with their ‘explosion books’ featuring the pupils’ interpretations of our zones of regulation. The pupils had certainly captured the essence of each of the four zones with their character designs. This was followed on Thursday with a similar award for Apollo Class with some equally as impressive outcomes.

A spot of orienteering in Year 5

With all these Headteacher Awards and other House Points awarded, we were certainly ready to celebrate the end of the first week in Achievers’ Assembly on Friday morning. Our weekly celebration assemblies every Friday are a chance to share and acknowledge certificates and other successes, not just from within school, but also from clubs and activities completed out of school. As has become the norm, if it is on top of the piano by 9.00am, I will present it!

This week, we celebrated further amazing success of George (Year 6) and his dog, Jasmine, with various Kennel Club awards. Albie (Year 5) also showed his football medals won with Hitchin Town in recent competitions. We also celebrated the many pupils who completed the summer reading challenge through Hitchin Library.

As well as the individual awards, we also present three regular awards each week. The House Cup (and we have a new shiny cup this year) is awarded to the House which has accumulated the most points across the week. The first one of the year went to Water House.

Every teacher has the chance to nominate their class for Class of the Week. On a Thursday evening / Friday morning, the teachers write a few sentences stating why their class deserves the award based on effort and attitudes that week. The class who win it the most across the whole year are presented with Class of the Year in our final assembly. The first winners this year were Lamarr Class.

Year 4 complete some work inspired by their class name

The other – more unusual – award is the Wombles. This award (and the prize is a cuddly Womble for any of you old enough to remember them) is given to the class who have helped our site team out the most across the week by ensuring their room is tidy at the end of each day. If a room is ‘tidy’, it is far easier for Mr Waluk (Site Manager and Head Womble) to clean. Mr Denney and his classes are pretty good on this front but does have competition from others. This week, the winners were Aztec Class.

Looking ahead to next week, I will be out of school for quite a bit of Monday as I attend safeguarding meetings in Stevenage but will be on the playground first thing.

We have our Year 3 pupils heading out for the first time this year on Tuesday as they go on a little trip to Wymondley Woods. I still have some photos of last year’s visit on display in my office.

Concentrating hard in Year 3

A new role for me this year, linked to my work with my professional body, the NAHT (National Association of Headteachers) is that I have joined the National Executive. I am already on county and regional committees but to have been elected onto the national committee is quite exciting and slightly daunting! I have my first meeting on Wednesday next week, albeit virtual.

A key event next week is the hustings and subsequent elections for our new pupil Junior Leadership Team. On Thursday, they will get the opportunity to present their pledges to the whole school before having a short interview with me and my Chair of Governors, Dr Wendie Ray. Every member of the school community gets a vote and we will announce the successful ‘candidates’ in Friday’s Assembly. In addition to these positions of responsibility, we will also announce the House and Sports Captains. Year 6 pupils have been working with Mrs Burniston and writing to me outlining why they want the ‘badge’ they are going for. I am always impressed with the quality of our Year 6 ambassadors; it makes the decisions all the more difficult. Good luck, Year 6s!

The Year 6s might need to dry out before next Thursday’s hustings

The other thing I would like to get up and running again from next Friday is ‘Biscuits with the Boss’. This is an informal break time meeting I have with a group of six pupils on a weekly basis (when I am in) where I can chat informally about the work they are doing in class. A pupil voice activity. The title comes from the fact that the pupils attending (as it’s in their free time) also get a biscuit (or ten) and a mug of Mrs Lanni’s amazing hot chocolate. They are such fun sessions and I get to find out so much form the pupils and not just about school!

The final piece of information to share with you all today is related to our Friends’ Association AGM scheduled for 29th September at 9.00am at Highbury Infants. It would be lovely to see some of you there to hear about last year’s incredibly successful year; what we have spent money on and what I plan for this coming year. Our Association work so hard and I know they would appreciate your support.

A successful first week

So that is it for week one. Five days done, 185 to go! Have a great weekend.

Best wishes,

Steve Mills



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