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1st October 2014
Dear Parents and Carers
As we move into October, I’d like to welcome you all to the new school year at Budehaven. We have now had three weeks of the 2014-15 academic year, and I hope that your sons and daughters have settled back into school life well following the summer holiday.
It has been really nice this year to meet so many of you at our Study Support Evenings that we have held during the last couple of weeks. This is the first time that we have held these evenings for parents of Years 7, 8 and 11 at this early stage of the year, and feedback from you has been very positive. We took a conscious decision not to hold an evening for parents of Year 10 since we felt that there was little new information to impart that we hadn’t covered last year in Year 9; some of you with other children in different year groups have urged us to review this decision for next year – we shall! As ever, any feedback, good or bad is always welcome. You know my email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
All of us at the school would like to extend a particular welcome to all parents and carers of students who have joined the school this term, especially to those of you who have had no previous children attending Budehaven,. A very warm welcome to you all whether you have joined us as a result of a family move to this wonderful part of the country, or have older children who have joined us for the Sixth Form.
In Year 7, we have 173 new students, and we hope that your period of education with us will be happy and fulfilling. Over the seven years we want you to enjoy your learning, work hard and be happy in school. I am writing this letter on the Monday following the Skern Lodge residentials – it has been fantastic to hear all the tales and stories from the students today!
I would like also on parents’ behalf like to welcome new staff joining us this term, and I have included a list of new teachers and support staff later in this letter.
Number of students on roll
As those of you who have previously received ‘a September letter’ are aware, I always update parents on precisely how many students we have on roll at the start of each school year. Over the last four years our numbers have been steadily falling as a result of less children being ‘in the system’. We are still not close to being full in the lower four year groups, and this will remain the case for two or three more years yet. However, as those of you moving into the area with much younger children are aware, nursery places and Key Stage 1 places are proving very much more difficult to find. We are ‘full’ when we reach 210 in each year group (Years 7-11); looking at the numbers in the lower years of our partner primary schools, that situation may certainly return, but we’re not there yet.
The current number of students on roll is 1135 with the numbers in each year group shown below.
Summer Examination Results
We were delighted in early August with our A Level and AS results, and many of you will have seen the press release that accompanied those results; an update is due to appear in the local paper in the next couple of weeks. Both articles can be seen on our website – just to whet your appetite, here is an extract:
The school is delighted that 37% of this year’s results are A* and A grades. Headteacher, David Barton was over the moon as he commented on the achievements of the students. ‘Once again we have seen three quarters of all our results being graded at C or above. However, this year we have also seen a big increase in the number of A* and A grades. So many students have done extremely well, and they are justifiably proud of their successes. I am thrilled that 60% of all the A Level grades are B or better, and many of the students following BTEC and other vocational based courses have achieved Distinctions and Distinction* grades.’ Most Budehaven students are moving on to university, and the vast majority have achieved the grades necessary to attend their university of first choice; those moving into employment and apprenticeships have all gained the grades required to secure their places.
Two students have done especially well; Joe Huxford gained 5 A*s (Mathematics, Further Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics and Geography) and will now study Physics as a student at Wadham College, University of Oxford. Stuart Grigg gained 4 A*s (Mathematics, Further Mathematics, Physics and History) and will be studying Computer Science at Emmanuel College, Cambridge.
Students received their Year 11 GCSE results in late August, and again many students received some fantastic grades. The proportion of girls gaining the government benchmark of 5A*-C including English and Maths was the best that the school has ever seen at a touch under 70%. Many congratulations to them. However, whilst some of the boys also did extremely well, overall the boys’ results were somewhat disappointing. If I’d had a pound for every young man who said to me on results day, ‘I should have worked harder, Sir,’ I’d certainly be a richer man! So, as I wrote in the GCSE press release, to that extent the results were frustrating. A number of boys who we expected to gain a grade C or better in some of their exams found themselves gaining grade Ds, so overall 54% of the whole year group gained 5A*-C including English and Maths and 58% gained higher grades in the two core subjects, English and Maths.
In my end of year letter in July, I explained to parents some of the changes in the country’s examination and assessment system. For the benefit of our new parents, this is what I wrote last term:
….. Many of you with children currently in the Sixth Form and in their twenties will have seen them complete a mix of GCSEs and other qualifications – BTECs in PE and Science, for example, or OCR Nationals in ICT. In the past, these have been given a GCSE equivalence based on the amount of content and the level of difficulty compared with a GCSE; as a result, some were worth 1 GCSE, some worth 2 GCSEs or maybe 4 GCSEs. From this summer, all non GCSE qualifications will be given an equivalence of 1 GCSE even where the workload is considerably more than a single subject GCSE. The impact on schools will be a drop in the headline 5A*-C including English and Maths figures. ….. The government have published figures showing that some schools in England may see as much as a 15% drop. In my September letter I shall report our results for you and make clear precisely how our Year 11 have performed.
In fact, some schools are reporting a 20% drop. Looking at our own results, the percentage of students that completed courses that would have registered last year in the school’s performance table as gaining 5A*-C including English and Maths but will not do so in 2014 is a much more modest 4%. However, as a result of another change, parents do need to be aware that when the official government results are published in January (the so-called ‘league tables’) our 2014 figure of 54% will be published as 47%. Why is this? In September last year the Secretary of State unexpectedly announced that in the official government performance tables for 2014, only the first attempt at an examination would count. We had already prepared nearly 50 students to take their Maths in November knowing that if needed a second exam opportunity was available in June. Some schools decided not to enter any students for November exams; we decided that we would – individual students were ready and raring to go, and we were not prepared to pull them out of the exam simply to protect our performance table statistics. Fourteen students did not gain a C or higher in November, but they did in June. Fourteen students represents 7%; hence the difference between the actual results and those to be published. The important thing to remember amidst all this turbulence is that whilst some results don’t count for the school, they do all count for the students – and that is what matters!
We are now due our next OfSTED inspection. A team of five or six inspectors will come and spend two days inspecting the school at some stage this year; it could be later this week, it could be July 2015. I have always welcomed inspections – we are a very effective school, and the quality of education that we provide your children with is good. Student and parental views are a key element of the inspection process, and I would urge you all to commit ten minutes of your time to contribute to the inspection when the time comes by completing the online questionnaire that OfSTED use. We’re not perfect, we know that, but the overwhelming majority of emails and letters I receive from parents (and, indeed, the wider community) are positive and complimentary and I look forward to that positivity being reflected through the inspection.
Governing Body vacancy
We have a vacancy for a parent governor on our Governing Body following the retirement from the Board of Jonathan McConnell just before the holidays. Any parent who has a child attending the school is eligible to be elected to the governing body. If you are interested, please contact Clare Brown, Clerk to the Governors at email@example.com and she will send you a Governor Appointment Declaration form.
Governors have an essential role as a ‘critical friend’ and advisor to the school. In the event of us receiving more than one completed form a secret ballot will be called. Candidates who are standing for election will be invited to produce a brief statement to let other parents know more about themselves, their views on the development of the school and other relevant points. These statements will be reproduced and sent to parents with a ballot paper. If you are interested, the deadline for declaration forms to be returned to Clare is midday, Monday 3rd November 2014.
Please note that all governors have to undergo a Disclosure and Barring Service check (DBS), previously known as the CRB check.
New staff have joined us this year:
Mr Tim Barnes – Teacher of History, RE and PSHE
Mrs Sarah Cann – Literacy Support and Learning Support Assistant
Miss Annie Clark – Learning Support Assistant
Miss Leanne Greensmith – Receptionist at Valley Road (maternity cover for Mrs Nicky Goodall)
Miss Megan Hastings – Pastoral Support Assistant (maternity cover for Mrs Sam Downie)
Ms Evelyn Kyne – Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo)
Miss Fiona Landman – Learning Support Assistant
Miss Mel Potier – Teacher of Art and Design
Ms Julie Thornton – Learning Support Assistant
Mrs Sarah Van Der Linden – Pastoral Support Assistant (maternity cover for Mrs Chrissie Osborne)
Mr Rob Whittaker – Teacher of Science
Ms Jill Wilson – Teacher of French and Spanish
Mrs Gabrielle Zankl – Learning Support Assistant
We are delighted to welcome them all to our staff team.
Electronic communication from school
Over 75% of our parents have now signed up to our electronic communication list where all communication from school is emailed home. We would love it to be 90%. If you wish to be added to the list, please email Mr Jon Proudfoot (Assistant Headteacher) at school on firstname.lastname@example.org. We also post any letters and information on the website.
For those of you who join the e communication list we shall not post hard copies in the future; rather, we will email you. All communications with home will also be posted on the website.
The Library is open to students before and after school for homework and independent studying purposes. Although there will not always be a full library service available, students can access and use the Library between the hours of 8.00am and 5.15pm and a staff member will be present for the after school sessions each day. This year we are again pleased to welcome parents into our Library in the after school sessions if they wish to support their children in completing homework and research tasks. Mrs Linda Jones, our Library and Study Support coordinator will be delighted to meet you.
Our new main meal menu has been published on the website. Anthony Matthew, our Chef has designed the menu in consultation with some of the students and initial feedback this term has been very positive. We take very close regard of the nutritional guidelines laid down by the government, and also aim to cater for any student with particular needs. Any parental comment is always welcome; Anthony can be emailed on email@example.com. I am delighted that we have managed to avoid any price increases this year; this is due to increased uptake of school meals – the more children eat school produced food the lower we can keep our prices! At £2 for a main meal, including dessert the Budehaven prices are still cheaper than school kitchens run by the council and the quality of the meal represents excellent value for money. We also continue to have a wide variety of food available at breakfast, break and lunchtime. Baguettes (full or half size), sandwiches, cold salad and/or pasta dishes, jacket potatoes, hot pasta dishes (with a daily choice of homemade sauces) are available each day. Whilst very occasionally some items may run out at lunchtime there are always alternatives available.
I look forward to another really good school year.
With best wishes,