Head’s Welcome – Autumn Term 2020
What a delight it was to welcome our pupils back to Stover last Thursday; to say it’s been a while would be seriously understating things!
It usually takes a couple of days to get back into the routines after a normal summer break; consequently, we suspended curriculum for the first couple of days, to allow the staff to work with our pupils in ensuring that the re-adjustment was a smooth one.
Of course, amongst the overwhelming feelings of excitement and relief about being back at school, there has also been a degree of anxiety. This was true for both the staff and pupils. The staff training days enabled the leadership team to carefully review the plan for the management of the Covid-19 scenario with all staff and to field questions and concerns about the fine detail of delivery in this “brave new” version of school.
In parallel, time was spent with the pupils doing the same on Thursday and Friday. As a result, Monday brought a confident and reassured return to curriculum delivery, learning, activities and all else that Stover usually offers, even if assembly was still delivered by video link and the bubbles meant that the usual, positive interaction that occurs between year groups was not possible.
Thursday and Friday also allowed a gentle start for the pupils we were welcoming to the school for the first time and opportunity for the beginnings of new friendships, following the new pupil visit on Wednesday afternoon. There were some new faces among the staff team too.
Erica Aslett joined the Preparatory School staff to cover for Mrs Wilson’s maternity leave, and will be working with Year 2. We wish her the best of luck and the same to Mrs Wilson for the birth of her new baby. Following Mrs Barnes’s retirement, we welcomed Mrs Coen to the Senior School to take on the leadership of the Food Technology provision; I know she will bring energy to this popular subject. Rachel Galvin joined as a full-time teacher of Mathematics, bringing a depth of subject knowledge which enables her to teach to the highest levels of the challenging A level Further Mathematics course. We welcomed Madeleine Wall and Catherine Addison to our Learning Support Team and finally, Ben Kerr took over the Head of Computer Science role, following Mrs Machin’s retirement. Mr Kerr will also join the ICT Working Group and contribute to the whole school ICT strategy at an exciting time, following the up-skilling that has been a natural and really positive consequence of our time engaged with lockdown virtual learning.
The Easter break seems such a long time ago, but I would like to reflect and give credit to our staff and the Year 11 and Upper Sixth Form groups at that time. As you know, due to the uncertainty around summer examinations and the way they might be assessed, we decided to err on the side of caution and continue to encourage our pupils to revise and prepare assessment evidence for the summer. Ultimately this paid dividends, with our staff able to absolutely justify the Centre Assessed Grades we had proposed for our pupils. As a result, only a tiny proportion of our outcomes were amended by the Department of Education’s algorithm. Where they were, adjustments actually enhanced grades a little. Testament to the professionalism of our staff. To the credit of both our examination cohorts, record breaking outcomes were achieved, with 93% of GCSE candidates achieving 5 or more passes, including English and Mathematics. At A level, 100% of papers were passed, with 39% of all grades being A* or A. Time for celebration for all involved and a great deal of pride from the school’s perspective. Our Estates Team have worked hard to recommission the site after the summer term’s lay period. Much work has gone on behind the scenes to ensure that water, power and waste systems are working and safe for our pupils and staff to use again. In addition, following a generous parental donation as part of the Parental Gifting Opportunity initiative we launched last year, the school clock, situated in the the Preparatory School Clock Tower, the bell and the original weather vane have been fully repaired and restated. The bell chimes on the hour and brings a lovely sense of community to the site; it’s wonderful to no longer be stuck perpetually at five past five! Thank you so much to the family concerned; you know who you are and I fully respect your wish for anonymity.
Much of the site has had a lick of paint, including the Jubilee Hall and though out of action for some time, the sports pitches are looking immaculate and certainly game-ready. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, we are continuing with summer sports at present and fortunately the weather is responding kindly; long may that continue.
Much work has gone into facilitating the Covid-19 mitigation plan. Drop off and pick up areas have been prepared and sign-posted, signage has been installed across the site and areas cordoned off, to assist the pupils to stay in the correct areas, finally, all rooms have been equipped to facilitate regular sanitisation of equipment, pupils and staff. Many thanks to the team for their hard work in ensuring we were ready for the term.
While on the subject of Covid mitigation, I must say the pupils have been extremely impressive in the way they have adapted to the new procedures and the maturity with which they have adopted them. Thanks also to you, the parents, for adhering to the inconvenience of some the arrangements we have put in place, particularly the drop off and pick up processes. Credit also to the staff for supporting the pupils in understanding the new arrangements, pulling together to make them work and reminding pupils, in the nicest possible way, when they might forget. The general impression of the first few days has been that, by and large, things seems to be working. We are managing to keep the bubbles separate, lots of careful sanitisation is going on, masks are being worn for movement around the Senior site; in general, we are doing our best to keep everyone safe. Social distancing is probably the hardest aspects for the pupils to attempt to adhere to; they are simply enjoying seeing their friends again. Here, staff are giving the most reminders in order to try adapt to the new distancing required in senior school and where possible in some Preparatory years. Sadly, due to Covid-19 restrictions, many of our calendared events for the autumn term will have to be delivered in an alternative fashion; much like the summer term. Please be assured, that all parental meetings will go ahead as planned, through a screen and Google Meet as the medium of communication, rather than the usual face to face meet hosted at the school. The first of these will occur on 28th September, with SPS consultations and the New Pupil and Parents’ Tea. We will inform you closer to the time about the necessary portals, codes and procedures for the evening. Bonfire Night, the Remembrance service and the Carol service will follow suit among other events.
I close this letter by honouring Mr Craig Baillie; our much-loved former Head of Sixth Form and Teacher of Science. Craig retired from his posts at Stover in December 2018, moving to Cornwall to enjoy his new-found freedom. Unfortunately, he lost a brief fight with cancer last week; we offer our very deepest sympathy to his family. He was an inspirational teacher and loyal colleague, who will be much missed by many former and existing pupils and staff alike.
Richard Notman, Headmaster