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Sunday 28 November 2010

I have just returned to Tunbridge Wells after a weekend away to see, somewhat to my horror, the occasional snowflake falling.  The BBC detailed weather forecast for Tunbridge Wells is saying that there will not be any snow overnight, but that there might be “light snow” at 9 am on Monday morning, stopping before noon.  On this basis there are, of course, no plans to have anything other than normal school for all on Monday morning.  Any change to this will be on this website at the earliest possible opportunity.  We do, as always, ask parents not to telephone the school in case of bad weather as we are not able to handle large numbers of simultaneous phone calls.  Please always check the website first.

I have been in South Wales, near Camarthen, over the weekend, and last night, Saturday to Sunday, it fell to minus 15 degrees Celsius near Llandeilo where I was staying.  The hills were covered in light snow, and looked stunningly beautiful, with clear blue skies across the whole weekend.  I visited the seasonally named village of Bethlehem nearby, and posted a batch of Christmas cards there which will arrive postmarked “Bethlehem” – an added point of interest hopefully – I doubt if any of my recipients will think that I have been to the ‘real’ Bethlehem to post cards!  Camarthen and the surrounding villages seemed to be a largely Welsh-speaking area, and the locals switch freely between English and Welsh as needed.  It does prove that it is possible to live your life in two languages – Mr Gove would certainly approve.

Last week’s White Paper on education, published by the coalition government as a statement of their intentions, was wide ranging and in places radical and ambitious.  Apart from putting school autonomy at the centre of the vision for reinvigorating England’s schools, I find it fascinating to see what a central role international comparisons are playing in the government’s thinking.  Throughout the document, there are examples from other education systems which have overcome challenges or advanced in effectiveness in ways of which the government approves.  How easy it is to import solutions from other countries to the very particular issues we face here remains an issue for debate.  As far as the curriculum is concerned, the government seems to be set on the notion of an ‘English Baccalaureate’ which will not be a new qualification as such but a new way of reporting results for schools at the age of 16 – the percentage of students achieving GCSE passes in English, maths, science, either history or geography, and a modern or ancient language will be published.  This will have the effect of strongly encouraging schools to insist that as many as possible of their students take this range of subjects – a refocusing on traditional subjects, in other words.  We will be looking at how best to reflect this new prioritization at Bennett.  Actually, whatever one’s political opinions might be more widely, there is much for a school like Bennett to be pleased about in the full range of government proposals.  More about them and their implications on this site in due course.

Meanwhile, it would really be very helpful indeed, given trial examinations and other commitments this week, not to have any snow disruption.  There is nothing which makes any headteacher’s heart sink more than a forecast of snow in term time – the hassle and inconvenience is unbelievable! I know it’s now Advent, the start of the lead-in to Christmas – but it’s not even December yet!  We can only hope!