As I write my final blog of the year it is hard to believe how quickly the year has flown by and all that we have achieved together. This week has seen our Year 7-9 students taking part in a range of Enrichment Week activities both on and off-site, and at the end of every day I’ve listened to students telling me about their fantastic learning experiences. It is also a unique opportunity for students and staff to further build positive relationships, which continues to be a key priority for us moving forwards next year.
When looking ahead to next year it reinforces to me the fact that it is also a very special year for our new Year 7 students joining us in September. Throughout last week I was able to meet both students and parents as part of our Transition Week. South Dartmoor is quite unique in the fact that we dedicate an entire week for our Year 6 students to meet their teachers, tutors and Heads of House allowing them to familiarise themselves with the school and their timetables. We firmly believe that by doing so provides the best possible start in Year 7 but also eases any anxiety leading into the summer holidays. Welcome to our family! This is also an opportune moment to say that I very much wish to reinstate our Friends of South Dartmoor (FOSD), which is our PTFA equivalent. Over the years the number of parents and friends in this group has slowly dwindled, however in schools that I have worked in over the years these individuals are formidable supporters of any school and help to raise funds, support events and promote our school. If you are interested in becoming a member of FOSD please could you email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will then invite everyone to a meeting upon our return in the summer.
A fortnight ago we saw the return of our Year 11 students celebrating the end of their year and the completion of their exams at the Prom held at the lovely venue of Seale-Hayne. The evening was a total success and a fitting tribute to the Class of 2018. All students looked spectacular and showed real class. The different and varying modes of transport on arrival demonstrated the thought and effort that had gone into making it such a special evening. We also used the photos taken from the Prom to show our Year 6 students and parents last week since it shows how quickly our children grow up and that 5 years in secondary school flies by. It reinforces how precious this time is and the trust you place in us in supporting your son/daughter(s) to be the best they can be.
A close working relationship with parents is pivotal in a successfully school but I also believe this must include our community as a whole. One such example includes the relationship we are developing with our Ashburton Postmaster and British Empire Medal recipient, Stuart Rogers. I have now met with Stuart on a number of occasions as he wishes to understand students’ attitudes towards the Post Office and gain a high level understanding of their lifestyles and behaviours including financial management, marketplace selling and digital behaviours. The aim is to help to create a Post Office that is relevant to young people who are the customers of the future. There is already great momentum with workshops planned, plus a visit to the London Head Office to discuss the strategy with Mark Siviter (Managing Director of Mails and Retail). As you are aware I actively encourage all members of our community to contact us to both celebrate our successes but also suggest ways we can improve further. However I now have Stuart on board who has described to me the Post Office counter as a ‘confessional counter’ as he shares with me the thoughts and feelings of our community towards our school. Thank you Stuart for your support.
Following our last governors’ meeting our Chair of Governors (Graeme Cock) has stepped down from his position as Chair after countless years of supporting our school. However I pleased to say that Graeme will continue to devote his time and expertise as Chair of Directors across the whole Multi-Academy Trust. I want to personally thank Graeme for being such a wonderful supporter of the school and although he leaves some big shoes to fill I am delighted that our new Chair of Governors (Justin Morton) has been voted as Graeme’s successor. I will continue to work closely with Justin and his team to ensure we deliver the best possible outcomes and provision for our students.
This week we appointed 4 cover supervisors whose role will be to deliver the planned lessons as a result of staff absence. These appointments will allow cover lessons to take place within the timetabled classroom rather than using our Judith Morgan Building. We always strive to minimise staff absence but there is always a balancing act of providing additional opportunities for students during curriculum time through sports fixtures, educational visits, etc.
I wish to thank the staff and governing body for all their hard work and effort this year but there is no shying away from the fact that there are areas we must improve on following our Ofsted inspection in March. Following our judgement, a huge amount of work has been taking place to address the issues raised in the report and this fundamentally drills down into two main areas which are:
1. Improving Behaviour for Learning
2. Planning for Progress
Our strategic improvement plan has been approved by governors and good progress is already being made (for a simple pictorial overview please click on the link at the bottom of the page).
Finally, may I wish you and your family a fantastic and safe summer and I look forward to seeing you all again in September.
Paul Collins (Principal)