Dear Parents and Guardians,
We’re at the end of another long but enjoyable term and I’m sure the pupils are looking forward to a break. I’m pleased to say that we have continued to make great strides in delivering the culture and climate for learning that we’re trying to foster at the school.
We’ve worked hard at raising both standards and expectations and as a result we’ve witnessed not only an improvement in both the engagement of pupils in lessons but also a significant reduction in the disruption to learning. Detailed analysis of our learning scores demonstrate this most effectively; showing that of the thousands of register marks recorded since October, when we introduced the learning scores, 97.5% of all register marks show pupils have demonstrated either good or outstanding learning.
The importance of learning scores is to underline to pupils that both their focus and responsibility should be based around application to their studies. We’ve outlined our clear expectations around behaviour and these can be found in pupil planners. Crucially, learning scores focus on measuring pupil engagement and application to their studies and are not focused on behaviour as we expect pupils to behave well. Our pupils are outstanding young people and so, for most, meeting our expectations comes naturally. It’s only right that we recognise and reward pupils who consistently strive to be the best version of themselves and work hard to exceed expectations across all aspects of school life. To be successful pupils need to work hard and attend school on a regular basis and so we’ve introduced a reward programme to recognise the frequency of pupils achieving positive learning scores.
Attendance, of course, is absolutely crucial to the chances of pupil success. Quite obviously the less a pupil is in school the lower their chances of success at the end of Year 11. At Penketh last year pupils who attended less than 90% of the time achieved, on average, 2.5 GCSEs at Grade C (or equivalent) or above, compared to an average of 7.5 GCSEs at Grade C or above for those pupils who attended more than 90% of the time.
We recognise that a small minority of pupils have struggled to meet our expectations this year. Whilst this has impacted on their own progress, this occasionally has impacted on the learning experiences of other pupils, which is not acceptable. Pupils have a right to attend school and engage in learning. We have a responsibility to support pupils who fail to meet our reasonable expectations but also those pupils who are at risk of having their learning disrupted. I want to reassure parents that we have plans to support all pupils with this issue so that all pupils get the best possible outcomes from their time at school.
It is a turbulent time in education with changes to GCSE specifications, performance measures and with a move for pupils to study a suite of subjects within the English Baccalaureate. We recognise that this doesn’t provide pupils with as many choices or as much flexibility as has been the case in previous years. We’re committed to providing pupils with opportunities for developing beyond their curriculum sessions to access areas of interest that perhaps aren’t included within the curriculum specifications available to pupils. We have well established performing arts, music and sporting clubs but this year we’ve increased our extra-curricular provision for pupils interested in every strand of the STEAM agenda (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths).
This term we launched the first makerspace housed within a school in the UK, SPARK at Penketh. The launch event was an amazing success with over 100 people in attendance from leading industries, education and the local community. We were fortunate enough to have Peter Lomas, the co-founder of Raspberry-Pi computers, to deliver a key note speech. What has been more pleasing has been the number of activities available to pupils beyond the launch event. We have commenced a physical computing for all programme which will involve all pupils across Year 7 to 10, and all pupils will have a session in the space across the next term. We’ve also built strong links with a number of Higher Education institutions – including John Moores University – in the process who are great supporters of the space and have provided both equipment and expert delivery for pupils to get the best out of the space. SPARK at Penketh has also forged links with other makerspaces on an international scale resulting in planned activities such as robotics classes and coding clubs, which again afford pupils with opportunities to engage in learning opportunities outside of the classroom.
These opportunities are not only exciting for our pupils but also help to develop more rounded learners; pupils who are well equipped to be successful in life when leaving Penketh. We’re committed to ensuring that we develop pupils holistically as well as academically so that they are well prepared for the next stage of their education and are also competitive candidates to prospective employers.
The term ahead is significantly important, not least for our Year 11 pupils who I’m sure will be continuing with their preparation across the holidays for their upcoming GCSE exams. Revision sessions will be running in school across the holidays to support pupils with this preparation and pupils have been issued with a timetable for these sessions, it can also be found on the school website.
The remainder of the year is also important for pupils in all years. Whilst their final examinations might not be imminent, every day – indeed every lesson – is vitally important in preparing for the rigours of Year 11. This is why we’re so keen for pupils to understand their responsibilities in applying themselves to their studies but also striving to reach the highest standards every single day. We recognise that Year 11 and a final exam series is a difficult time, especially with the move to exams being terminal exams for the vast majority of courses. A large part of the preparation to undertake exams and perform well is being used to this process and therefore all pupils will be undertaking their final assessments of the year in their English Baccalaureate subjects under formal conditions. The rational, of course, being that pupils are used to this formalised examination process by the time that they reach year 11 and feel comfortable in an examination environment.
Finally, a word of thanks. I’d personally like to thank parents for their support for the school. I’ve said this before, we have a shared goal; for your children to be successful so that they not limited in what that can go on and achieve. It’s vital that our expectations of pupils match their capabilities and this year we’ve raised our expectations so that the two are more aligned. Our planning has already commenced ahead of next year to ensure that we continue to raise standards and expectations over the coming months and years. Our pupils are exceptional and capable of great things, your support in helping them to realise this is greatly appreciated. Parental presence at school events, performances and sporting fixtures is also greatly appreciated by both the pupils and by the school. The staff and I are determined to deliver the school that our pupils deserve. As we embark on this process of driving improvement it’s clear that your support makes this an easier task to achieve and, by working together, I know it’s something that we will achieve. I hope pupils have a restful break so that they are raring to go upon our return.
Mr J Carlin.