Welcome back to school to all for this important summer term. That is despite it not feeling very summery just at the moment! I very much hope that all students enjoyed a relaxing break with their families. Students in years 11, 12 and 13, and to a lesser extent in year 10, have critically important examinations ahead of them in the months to come, starting in some cases as early as next week, and I hope they have been able to undertake some serious and structured revision over the Easter break, with the support of their families. As I said to staff yesterday, it is never too late to put in some extra work which will make a difference to outcomes and results. We all know that feeling of being overwhelmed by an apparently enormous task we have not yet started, but once we take the plunge and so something, however small, it seems much better and more manageable. In other words, if you have not started to revise, just start now!
Yesterday we had a group of Finnish students in school from our partner school in Finland, which a group of Bennett students visited as part of the Comenius project we were involved in last year and this year. They had specifically requested to come back to Bennett to spend a day doing a music workshop, having experienced a day of music when they came with the multi-national group form 6 countries earlier this year. We put together some of our choir students and the Finns for a day preparing a performance of a song from Les Misérables, and when I went down to listen in for a while in the afternoon the results were sounding impressive. The Finnish teacher is now asking whether we will let Mr Showell go over to their school in Finland to lead some music work there – we will have to see about that!
This term is the one in which our Ofsted inspection will take place. The School Inspection Act requires that schools are inspected by the end of the fifth year after the last inspection, and next week is in fact the fifth anniversary of the 2007 Ofsted visit. We don’t know for certain that the inspection will take place next week – in theory, Ofsted have till the end of this term to undertake the inspection. We will get between 24 and 48 hours’ notice, and it will cover two school days. Once the inspection is announced, there will be a questionnaire for parents to complete, with the same questions as the ParentView survey which can be completed online via the Bennett website at any time, and which inspectors will take into account. We strongly encourage those parents who have not done so to go online and add their views to this survey.
Having marked Holy Week with special assemblies before Easter, we are of course this week reflecting on the Resurrection of Jesus in our assemblies and worship. In the Christian faith, suffering, death and resurrection, taken together, are the central actual and mystical heart of belief. Over Easter, I read a small book which had been recommended to me some time ago (Etty Hillesum: A Life Transformed by Patrick Woodhouse). It is a digest of the diaries and letters of Etty Hillesum. She was a Dutch Jew who was deported, ultimately to the concentration camp at Auschwitz, by the Nazis in 1943. During the period leading up to her deportation and killing, she wrote some quite extraordinary diaries chronicling her spiritual growth. Though not ‘technically’ a Christian, she nevertheless read and prayed on the Gospels, as well as many other Christian writings, and it seems to me that in the hope and peace she experienced, through prayer, in the face of degradation, suffering and ultimately death, is strongly resonant with the deepest meaning of the Resurrection. Her biographer quotes the theologian Paul Tillich to sum this up: “Death is given no power over love. Love is stronger. … It is at work where the power of death is strongest, in war and persecution and homelessness and hunger and physical death itself … here and there, in the smallest and most hidden ways … it rescues life from death”. She was murdered at Auschwitz on 30th November 1943, and the last words of her surviving diary were: “We should be willing to act as a balm for all wounds.”