I have suddenly realised it has been a while since my last blog posting, so in between walks around the year 8 consultation evening tonight I thought I would offer a few current thoughts. We seem to have gone from deep winter in February to what appears to be spring, with longer days and sunny afternoons, in no time at all! Curiously though the school field is still very wet and downright muddy in parts. I can only surmise it is the morning dew which is causing this. Students are itching to get out onto the field at lunchtime to have more space, but we are trying to hold them in for a bit longer. I hope those responsible for laundering school clothes approve!
Earlier today I was at one of our school Eucharists. We hold a full Eucharist, or Communion service, for all year groups every term, and today it was the turn of year 10. The theme of the service, alongside Lent, of course, was our partnerships with two schools in Ghana, and Miss Nicholson, who coordinates these partnerships, gave a really good talk about the partnerships and some of the challenges which face students in Ghana. Year 10 students, as usual, we very positive and responsive. It never ceases to be a source of awe to me that 230 fifteen year olds can behave practically impeccably during a fairly formal church service lasting an hour. It does not happen by chance of course – building up this ethos happens through students’ whole career at Bennett, and it becomes normal for them to expect this respect and self-respect of themselves.
There was some news coverage earlier this week about the importance of school nurses, and a study suggested that it would be helpful for there to be systems in schools to enable young people to see a school nurse on their own initiative about health matters. We decided this in fact some years ago. Wonderful though the local NHS is, the school nurse coverage we were being offered by it had dwindled to an almost invisible number of hours per week. At that point, we felt we actually wanted nursing presence and input in the school on a full time daily basis, not only to be a drop in service for students with questions or concerns about their health, but also to assist in health and sex and relationships education, to lead on supporting students taken ill or suffering accidents during the day, and to be a point of contact for those with chronic conditions, such as diabetes and so on. Several years on, it is quite impossible for me to imagine how we would manage without Nurse Linda in school. It seems extraordinary that most maintained schools still do not have a full time nurse. I would recommend it as a priority.
Yesterday evening we held a training session for all subject leaders in the school, and year managers and other senior staff, on the Christian dimension of Church schools. We had an external speaker in to talk to us, who was identified by Mr Tyson, who is himself training as a Church schools inspector, alongside his day job at Bennett. It was an interesting session, framed by a strong theological input. One of the core messages was that the distinctiveness of Church schools is deeply embedded and often very subtle, and is certainly not just about ticking boxes or ‘doing’ a limited number of specific things. Much of it is about the quality of relationships, and somehow this ‘relationality’ mirrors what Christians understand about God, who as Trinity is in essence relational. Interesting stuff. Echoed in a small way by a comment a parent has just made to me during the year 8 consultation evening: “one of the things I love here is that the teachers are so nice – I was a bit apprehensive about secondary school teachers, because I had in my mind an image of them as being a bit jaded compared with primary teachers, but yours really, really aren’t, they are just nice”.
We are excited about the ‘royal visit’ next week, when we are welcoming HRH The Countess of Wessex to the school. As readers might imagine, getting all the arrangements just right, and satisfying the police and royal protection people who have made several pre-visits to the school, is something of a military endeavour, but we hope it will be a really good day. We are focussing on allowing the Countess, in her relatively short time here, to meet as many students as possible. Sadly, it won’t be able to be everyone, but it will involve key older students, especially those who have achieved Gold Duke of Edinburgh Awards (Prince Edward, her husband, is taking over the patronage of the Award from his father), and, in this Olympic year, some key sporting high achievers. She will visit three lessons, meet our Chaplain, and hear the full year 7 choir singing, before unveiling a plaque to commemorate the visit, and Bennett’s diamond jubilee, which we are celebrating this school year. Rules about the use of royal photographs are quite strict, but we hope to be able to put some up on this site after the event to give a flavour of it to others.
I had better go and check now how many parents and teachers are still in consultation – the evening is supposed to have finished, but sometimes things take a little longer. I take it as a sign of commitment that teachers want to put additional time in to meeting parents where it is called for and helpful. And, I am proud to say, our teachers do so generously.