The first week back at school always seems to fly by so quickly. (I'm sure that's not just the case for new head teachers!). Long summer days seem a distant memory within hours of starting back, and the reality of "getting back into a routine" provides a welcome shock to the system (although I assume teenagers getting up at 7am for the first time in weeks would not agree). Schools are always action packed places but the first week takes this to a whole new level. At any one time this week we have been helping new members of staff settle in (4 new teachers, a new assistant head teacher and a new member of our office), enrolling huge numbers of 6th form students, helping year 11 to complete their Welsh baccalaureate, and most importantly supporting all our new (very excited) year 7 pupils as they become part of our family.
That word family may not seem the right one to use when talking about a school, but at LSP that's exactly what it feels like. What always amazes me is that despite all the activity in the first week there always seems time to renew those bonds that hold us together as a community, the only thing you really can compare it to is the biggest family re-union you can imagine. Everyone seems to be bonding! Teachers are busy re-establishing professional links with colleagues and parents, pupils are busy re-aquainting themselves with friends (for whom 6 weeks off may as well be a lifetime) and most importantly the strong relationships that have always existed between pupils and teachers at LSP are re-established. I've lost count of the amount of times I've asked "how are you" or "did you have a good summer" this week. With the new pupils it's been "I recognise you from your leaver's assembly at primary" or "havent you got a brother / cousin" at school. For me personally I have also been a bit taken a back at the number of students asking if I was ok, congratulating me on becoming head or wishing me luck for the term. I suppose it always makes a sense to get in with the boss! What is immediately obvious is that these are not just idle conversations. A school absolutely depends on its relationships, we talk about LSP all the time as being a big family, and it really is.
Why this is important is that the strength of our family means we can challenge all our pupils to do even better. I've taken the decision to lead assembly every day. I figure its my job to set the tone for the school, also I want pupils to know who I am and see me as someone they can talk to. This week I've spoken to all pupils about how enormously proud we are about our performance in examinations last summer, added to our successes in music, drama, media or sport we really do have lots to shout about. Even pupils lower down the school benefit from hearing about how well everyone has done and therefore our high expectations for them, also despite this I wanted everyone to know that there is always more to do. With this in mind this week I spoke of the need for all pupils to work even harder, it seems to be getting ever more difficult to achieve academic success and this is not a time to sit back and bask in praise. We particularly want learners to focus on improving their maths and English. We recognise that literacy and numeracy skills are hugely important and we want to do everything we can to improve this
I also talked about the importance of attendance, last year attendance in school was 91.6%, this was better than ever but still needs to improve further. I stressed the importance of punctuality and also discussed the issues of lateness that often stem from pupils getting back to afternoon lessons after going to the bakery for lunch. Add to that the need to ensure healthy eating at LSP and the additional concerns I have about the very busy road that runs past the school site, then I'm sure it can bee seen why we have decided to allow only years 11,12 and 13 permission to leave the school premises at lunchtime. I would very much hope that parents support this decision and have promised to review the situation throughout the year
Finally I talked about the importance of our image in the community. We are very much aware that other local schools have recently made changes to their uniform including in many cases the introduction of blazers. All the boys looked amazingly smart this week and we talked of the need to keep this up, I've always believed that the way pupils present themselves is tremendously important, it's often a key indicator of whether a community perceives a school as successful. I will be issuing a letter to parents this week as a reminder of our uniform requirements (I'll also publish details on this blog), we will be consulting widely on this issue all year.
Ultimately, why all this matters is because we are constantly looking at ways to make our school the best it can possibly be. We do this because like any family we want everyone to be the the best person they can. Like any good family we praise each other when its deserved, but also we are also prepared to have those difficult conversations where we agree to do something, not because we have to, but because it s the right thing to do. I suppose that some people call that tough love. At Pengam its just a way of showing that you never give up, and isn't that the whole point of being a family?