It is some time since my last posting – it has been a very busy couple of weeks in the lead up to this half term break (we shouldn’t really call it half term any more because it is the holiday between term 5 and term 6, but old habits die hard). The school now seems very quiet with only years 7 to 10 in full time attendance, everyone else now coming into school for exams – and numerous revision sessions – only. I have to confess to a certain relief at this point in the school year, not only because it gives us a change of pace which enables preparation in earnest for the coming school year, but also because it signals the end of the annual May round of ‘final days’ for years 11 and 13 in particular. I am afraid I cannot bring myself to write or use the name students have for these annual days of high jinks (or is that jinx?). We will, I am afraid, continue to have to devise ever more elaborate ways to make these days normal, as the pressure they put on staff is intolerable, as it is, to be honest, for many students who don’t want to enter into frenzied ‘school-leaving’ ‘celebrations’.
One girl in year 11 remarked to me on her ‘last day’ that she would be ‘incredibly sad’ not to see any of her friends again. “Oh”, I said, “so what are you doing next year then?” “I’m coming back into the sixth form”, she replied. “So are some of your good friends not then?” Her reply: “Oh no, I hardly know anyone who isn’t coming back.” Well, really. What on earth is all the fuss about then?
The year 13 last day, which is in many ways much more of a real last day (barring exams and so on, of course), passed off in a generally very mature and civilised way with a lunch and nibbles for everyone who was in.
Anyway, we turn now to preparing for next year in earnest. There is a mammoth timetable to be written to work out the day by day deployment of around 100 staff and 1450 or so students, which Mr Sparke is working at now, and numerous other decisions to be made: rooming requirements, new roles, homework timetables, refining the rewards and sanctions system, and this year the big task of setting up the new Virtual Learning Environment. Incidentally, we are trying to think of a snappy name for the VLE – BenNet has been suggested – we’d be glad to have any more ideas! BadgerWeb? BrockNet?
Flurries of excitement have been created recently over some policy announcements made by the new government affecting education – academy status, reduction in the impact of Ofsted. I will diplomatically refrain from commenting publicly on Bennett’s relationship with Kent Local Authority (or with Ofsted). Suffice it to say that Bennett will seek to take advantage of whatever is of benefit to the school, retains and enhances the school’s ethos and distinctiveness, and helps us to serve those parents and students who want a Church-inspired and community focussed education in a well resourced, well ordered and aspirational environment which is mature and confident enough to think for itself and shape its own future.
One of the best things which happened last term was the confirmation service. The official write-up and pictures are elsewhere on the website, but I would say that on a personal level it was incredibly moving to see so many young people prepared and keen to take the public step of baptism and confirmation in a school setting. In many ways this is a counter-cultural thing to do in today’s secular society, and it is particularly hard for teenagers to be counter-cultural. We will be sending individual photos taken with the Bishop of Tonbridge to each of the families involved. They are lovely. It is a huge tribute to Rachael Knapp, our chaplain, and the trust she has inspired in these young people. I really hope we can make this a regular event in the school’s religious life.
Someone commented that I sometimes refer to forthcoming interviews on this blog, but then never say what the outcome is! Well here you go: Mr Woollett, currently an RE teacher and in charge of environmental education, is taking over as new year manager for year 7 from September. Miss Figes, also a current RE teacher, will be taking over responsibility for PSHE and Citizenship education, an area of long standing interest and experience for her. I wish both of them well in their new and exciting roles.
I hope everyone has a productive half term – it can’t exactly be restful for those preparing for exams – and we look forward to seeing you all next week.