Headteacher’s Newsletter 7th Nov 2019

Good Afternoon VES Parents

Every week I promise myself I will write less and be more brief, but our School is such a hive of activity all of the time it is impossible I am afraid. So here goes, after another incredible week that has been so busy I have almost forgotten about England losing the Rugby World Cup Final………almost!

On stage in Assembly today we have had chance to herald our amazing Girls Athletics Team – 6 of whom have been selected to represent Sharjah in sprint, long distance, shot putt and long jump. They will join an elite training squad, get first class coaching and support with nutrition, travel and expenses as they embark on a season that will involve international competition. In school we have also had girls only football on the playground for the last 2 weeks. I am so proud of our girls and their sporting endeavours. When we are bombarded with messages about how girls are not participating in sports on an increasing scale I am thrilled for Ms Selwan and the team, and all they achieve. These girls are real role models in our school and as I said, we are very proud of them. 

In school, it was so great to see so many of you at the Parents’ Meetings. As you know, we are working hard to ensure our parents feel supported, informed and involved in the education of their children and it is nice to get your feedback, ideas and try to understand any concerns. I would particularly like to pay credit to our VPA (Victoria Parents’ Association) members who were present with their suggestion box. We will be going through these in the coming weeks in our meetings. If you would like to contact them then please feel free to email ..

• Chairperson – Sereen Saad : sereenamasri@hotmail.com

They will be happy to hear your questions, comments and suggestions. The VPA will remain the main body of consultation between the school and the parents. Our last meeting was held this week and was attended by myself, Mr Keyes (Deputy Headteacher) and Ms Pozza (Head of Primary). If you want to have a real voice and effect constructive change then the VPA is the channel for this – please come forward and get involved. One of the concerns raised was over the toilets, particularly after the breaks when they have been used the most. We listened to this and we have placed cleaners in position full time, we have changed bins and will have replenished stocks checked more regularly – along with revamped staff duties to increase supervision. Please also ensure your children understand the need for sanitary practices in communal facilities, something we will be also following up on in school. I will be keen to hear if these measures lead to improvement in the coming weeks.

A great idea from one of our Primary parents will be getting put into action straight away. From Sunday Morning, if any students have used reading books, in good condition, that they have read at home and would like to donate to school, some boxes will be placed in reception. These books can then be placed in the library, or in class libraries, for others to enjoy. I have mentioned many times the vital role reading plays in education and I think this is a brilliant idea. I also know first hand how piles of children’s books can become mountains very quickly, and it is great that we can provide a way of bringing them back into life. On the theme of reading, please also remember it is currently Sharjah International Book Fair and details can be found at http://sibf.com/en/home. In other literary developments, our intrepid gang of in house reporters are almost ready to unleash the first edition of this years’ school newspaper onto the students and community. They are learning all about deadline pressure, but I am sure their efforts will inspire other budding journalists to join them on the team for future editions.

Some parents raised the issue of Breeze as a means of communication and the feedback is mixed. It is true, that to see what is on Breeze you must be logged in. We advise that the smartphone app be left open and logged in with notifications set. This way you will be alerted when information appears. I understand for some this may not be easy, so maybe a routine of logging in once a week on a Sunday evening to look at the week ahead may help. We will try to reflect more on certain information going via Breeze and probably send some directly via email. We are also working with the Breeze designers to get a feature where certain notifications will be automatically forwarded via email too. Please bear with us as we constantly look to improve this.

As we are on the subject of mobile technology, I am please to announce that on November 14th all of our student from grades 6-13 will be given lecture on responsible use of Social Media by First Lieutenant Majed bin Dharwish from Sharjah Police. I, like you I am sure, feel anxious at times as our children grow up in a world where social media, and all its associated opportunities and challenges, plays a growing role. At VES we always believe that education is the answer and we are delighted to welcome the First Lieutenant and his expertise.

Another issue that vexes some parents is the congestion around school on a morning. I see many of you when I am on the gate on a morning and I have to be frank, some of the driving and parking of parents not only fails to take into account the basic rules of courtesy, it also endangers the safety of others – including the students. On this I feel obliged to be very direct, and I am sure you understand why. The safety of our students is our number one priority. Parents must only park in designated areas, they should not pull up alongside places that are coned off, and they should not block the road or double park. I think setting off a few minutes earlier on a morning is preferable to some of the poor decisions taken by parents in a hurry. On the flip side, thank you to the many who park, cross and drop off responsibly – it really helps.

Although the official start time for school is still 07h50, the main gate into the play area will be closed at 07h45. Any Parents arriving after this time should drop students off at the main gate. The reason for this is that assembly will have started for 95% of our students, and rather than have later students descending on the hall from different directions they can be funnelled in one way, making it safer and more manageable. To have an assembly and registration form 07h50 to 08h00 and have student in class, learning, on time is near impossible. I will be beginning a consultation on moving our official start time to 07h45 for the next academic year.

Please let me also pass on an important date from our admissions team who have already laid the timetable ahead. At VES we believe we are very much a family school, and as a family school we have an exclusive “Priority Application Period” for families with siblings of current students who wish to join us in 2020. This will open on Breeze on the 14th November and close on the 8th December.

Looking ahead to next week, it is Sugar Free week here in the UAE, and we will be raising awareness of sugar consumption and the impact it can have on health, cumulating with World Diabetes Day on November 14th. Please engage in discussion at home on this important issue, look for opportunities to reduce sugar – especially processed sugar, and maybe experiment with some alternatives in snack boxes. Our prefect team are very active and today I called into a meeting our Head Boy Saud, and Head Girl Saron, were having with Mr Keyes. In the meeting we talked a lot about the environment and the school’s commitment to reducing single use plastic. later in the year the school will try to have a “single use plastic free week”, but as you imagine, we need to gear up for this. It surprises many people to learn that Sharjah is indeed a major and innovatiove global hotspot for recycling – I invite you to check it out on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SnxpfS_4PYg. However, you can also see the heartbreaking impacts of plastic on our environment too. I invite all families to watch the amazing Blue Planet 2 from Sir David Attenborough. It shows starkly the devastation our use of plastic is having on the planet. I would like to see more of our students bringing reusable bottles, preferably non plastic, to school. We provide water coolers on all corridors and the filtered water is provided -free of charge, to all students. As an initial first step we will be having one of the water vending machines taken out of school – the others to follow in time.

I would also like to remind everyone that the vote to work on the issue of single use plastic involved staff, students and families. Please keep learning about, and talking about, this important issue at home. I would invite families to join our facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/victoriaschoolshj/ and start to post images of what they are doing to reduce their single use plastic using #vesnotoplastic. It could be using reusable water bottles, reusable shopping bags or even simply carrying small items from shops in your hands and not in a bag. Enjoy the look on the cashier’s face when you do this! It’s great to see the students taking a lead on this. It is going to be their planet, and the damage we are doing now is something our children will be left to live with.

I would like to have the final word for Ms Weroud. As you may have heard she was taken ill in school this week and after the briefest of stays in hospital is thankfully resting and recovering at home. I have to say, the maturity and thoughtfulness of the students was a real credit. They did not question or fuss, but simply understood the seriousness of the situation and flawlessly cooperated. It made things a lot easier.

I miss Ms Weroud being around to help me navigate my way through the day, her knowledge and empathy seems endless at times and I, like you I am sure, wish her the speediest of recoveries. if she is reading this…. don’t worry Weroud, I will make sure the coffee is warm and ready for our next meeting.

Have a lovely, restful, weekend.

Keith Sykes