Headteacher’s Newsletter 3rd October 2019

Good Afternoon VES Parents

The weeks seem to go by so quickly, it is only when we sit and look back we reflect on another busy week. Again, we have had student council meetings and our students are beginning to really grow into their roles. Responsibility was again a theme for assemblies. I am a firm believer that even our youngest students can be helped to start taking more responsibility for themselves, their environment and their studies.

Applications for the VPA have closed this week and I have been really humbled and pleased by the number of parents who have come forward to offer their time, energy and expertise. I will be writing to Parents early next week with confirmation of the roles and details of our first meeting. Also this week I have started to have coffee mornings with Parents and it has been a really great exercise. It was good to get clarification on how things are going and also to swap ideas and hear about how we can develop the partnership between home and school.

As a result, in the next couple of weeks we will be looking to ensure that parents have a clear homework timetable showing what subjects will be set on what days, along with programmes of study so parents can see what topics will be being covered when throughout the year. I understand that the delay in textbooks has made life a little trickier in some subject areas, but rest assured we are doing all we can to get the books in place. 

This week I have also been talking to students about their planners. The Planner is the ideal opportunity for messages and homework notes to be passed between home and school, but at the minute it is not being used to its greatest effect. This will be a key area for focus in the coming weeks. Mr Keyes and myself will be joining Heads of Section, Year and Department in the next 3 weeks to observe all of the teachers in the school. This is an important part of us identifying the areas of strength and development for staff and they will feed into the constant cycles of improvement we have put in place. 

Another area of interesting conversation was the merit and demerit scheme. Fine in principle of course and working well to reward the approach of students and to sanction those who don’t meet all our expectations. However, we will be looking at how we can make a clear link to students and parents as to why merits and demerits are given. In this way, we can ensure that we remain committed to explaining to our students, via clear criteria, the kind of approaches that lead to success.

Parents have also expressed a concern over the, sometimes, dangerous situations that can occur at the end of the day courtesy of some of the more erratic driving at parking at home time. Also, some of our school buses are being delayed by students and parents being late for pick-ups and drop offs. Please can I urge all members of the school community to keep focusing on our core value of Respect. Please try to consider the safety and convenience of others when driving and parking around school and picking up and dropping off for the bus. Thank you.

Please allow me to also remind students and parents about medication. There have been lots of coughs and colds about, and students are often prescribed a range of medication. If this is the case please pass all medication, with a note, to the Nurse. This can then be stored safely, administered with accuracy, and kept away from inquisitive younger students who may come across them. Students can then visit the Nurse to take the medication as required.

Mobile phones and other digital technology have also been a talking point this week. Please can I remind all parents, as I have the students, that mobile phones must remain switched off, and in bags, until after school. Any phones seen out of bags or being used in school will not only be a breach of school regulations but also in breach of the Child Protection Laws of the UAE, regardless of intention. Phones will be confiscated and only returned to parents after a meeting. I am sorry that this may cause some inconvenience but as a school we must ensure students remain focused, reduce opportunities for cyber bullying and comply with all regulations designed to protect all of us. These rules also extend to smart watches and other such technology. These too contain recording technology and can allow links to the internet and messaging services. 

As a parent myself I know that how we navigate the ever-changing digital landscape is very, very difficult. I know some parents favour a total ban and worry about addiction and the impact on mental health of social media. I share those concerns too. However, as a life-long educator I remain committed to the principle that information and understanding is the key to long term, sustainable management of the issues. I have seen previous schools try and enact total bans and countless hours are lost chasing and searching and confiscating. Students simply end up owning multiple devices to get around such problems of confiscation. Teachers and parents alike are left like King Canute trying to roll back the tide. I hope you can join us in doing what we can to regulate and monitor our youngsters in their “digital health” via conversation, information and education.

Now October arrives, and the weather cools a little, we start to have good news for our students as extra-curricular activities commence. These are so important in the life of the school and our learners. I was a huge fan of them as a child and they still hold some of my fondest memories of school. We will be looking closely at how we can develop opportunities around the house system too to maximise enjoyment and widen competition. In that way we can continue to make progress in ensuring that their time at VES will be some of the best memories of their lives.

Have a lovely, restful, weekend.
Kindest Regards, 

Keith Sykes