This is that rather strange time of year in school, when we already have only one foot in this school year and the other in next year. There is a lot of pressure, mostly of course from the final preparations for exams, and plenty of stress on students, and their teachers, arising from the finishing of courses and revision and practice. Staff in schools tend to turn their thoughts to the year ahead as their exam courses end, and it is often a period of quite intensive activity with teachers wanting to talk about plans for the future.
At leadership level the focus turns to ensuring that the school is fully staffed for next year with the teachers needed to cover the courses we have committed to offer, in particular in the light of students’ options decisions. The final resignation date for teachers is 31st May, so we are never sure exactly who we will have until we are into June. The next stage in preparation for next year is the writing of the school timetable for the year ahead, which takes at least three weeks of intensive work to do, sometimes longer, and mostly happens straight after the May/June holiday. So while students are all ‘heads down’ with exams work, and teachers pushing them on with last minute revision, the school’s leadership is totally occupied with planning for next year.
This year we have been very fortunate with teacher recruitment. We have only a very small number leaving this year, perhaps only three, and we have been able to find some excellent teachers to replace them. The hardest teachers to find are maths teachers, and for the second time we have made a trip over to Northern Ireland to meet aspiring maths teachers from there. It is very difficult for teachers on both sides of the border in Ireland to get teaching posts close to home, and the level of qualifications teachers there have is very high in comparison with other parts of the UK. Northern Ireland in particular has been a good recruiting ground for us in the past. We identify promising candidates and then invite them over to Bennett for a formal interview, which we are hoping to do next week.
Election fever is growing at school, and we had the Tunbridge Wells Labour candidate in on Monday to address sixth form students. Interesting challenge, being Labour candidate in TW! He communicated effectively, in a rather ‘old Labour’ tone, and fielded students’ questions well. Libs Dems and Greens next week. Arrangements are now in place for the full scale poll on election day itself, and we have even been able to mock up some polling booths to make the experience as authentic as possible for students. An excellent exercise in practical citizenship.
Apart from that, the week has gone very smoothly. The admissions appeals went well, with a number upheld. Demand for places here continues to be high, and it is really encouraging for me to hear potential parents, justifying why they want their children to come here, citing exactly the features of the school we prioritise. The message seems to be getting across about what kind of school we are trying to be.
We looked this week at the results of a survey of students’ views which we carried out with a large sample of students across the school. The most popular 8 responses, all getting well over 80% and into the 90s) were a great endorsement of what we aim to do. They were:
I hope everyone has a good May weekend – including our 180 year 10 students out on their Duke of Edinburgh expedition – I hope it doesn’t rain too much tomorrow!