Headteacher Blog - 12 March

Posted on: 12th Mar

It is fantastic to see all our students having responded so positively to being back at school this week. I am also impressed with how smart and groomed they looked, and hope too many of you didn’t have to do last minute clothes shopping due to growth spurts!

The students have clearly demonstrated our core values of responsibility, courage and resilience during the on-going testing process. By next Tuesday, we will have tested all those students in school and will be moving onto the next phase of home testing. Details about how to carry this out have been sent home. Please take the time to read these carefully. Our school testing programme in school is a huge achievement and has been accomplished within a short period of time. We considered it essential to ensure our students felt confident in returning, but also allowing them to move forward and focus on their learning with as normal a rhythm as possible during these COVID times. We are also currently focusing our energies on ensuring that we get the balance right between addressing the lost learning time alongside managing the well-being of our students.

There is currently a decarbonisation project happening at school, focusing on improving our environmental impact now and in to the future.  In January, we secured a grant for the work which will see new LED lighting installed, the introduction of solar panels, and new double glazed windows fitted in the Sixth Form building. This is an exciting project which will be completed at the end of March, and we look forward to greener days ahead.

We are continuing to finalise our guiding principles for awarding the Year 11 and 13 grades in the summer. You will have already received information, which I encourage you to read through.  Our next Parents forum has been brought forwards to next Wednesday, 17 March at 6pm, where you will have the opportunity to ask questions.  

We are also delighted that five of our Year 13 students have been awarded provisional places at either Oxford or Cambridge University. Huge congratulations to Alice, Antoni, Jack, Niamh and Asher. One hundred and twenty Year 13 students have applied for university places this year, with around 75% having already received offers.  All offers should be received by the end of May.  It has been a tough environment for UCAS applications this year, with open days cancelled and interviews conducted online rather than in person. In addition, the number of students applying for places year-on-year is increasing. Well done to all those who have received their offers, and for those students who are seeking apprenticeships, looking at taking a gap year or securing employment when they leave us, we continue to work with them to finalise those next steps. Our school vision is ‘Learning together, learning for life’ and we work hard to ensure that by the time the students leave us they will not only be confident and well-rounded individuals, but will have a lifelong passion for learning.

On Monday this week, we were visited by the ITV Meridian News team and you may well have seen the article on the evening news programme which covered students returning to school and the requirement for secondary schools to carry out testing and the need for students to wear face coverings in school. Thank you to all those who participated, particularly the students who were interviewed and spoke so eloquently.

The Downs School Geography department is delighted to announce, that it has been awarded the ‘MetMark’, which recognises excellent practise in teaching weather and climate in schools. The teachers completed the ‘Come Rain or shine’ RMetS CPD course as well as other Weather and Climate CPD. During lockdown, students also created simple weather instruments and used them to record data, with their data and learning combined in a project titled ‘will it be a white Christmas?’

Congratulations to our Head Boy Arjun and Head Girl Niamh in year 13, who are part of the Greenham Trust Youth Distribution Committee, a group of young people from local schools who have been working together in the decision process of awarding grants to projects across West Berkshire and North Hampshire. The group met remotely recently and as a result agreed on £15,000 that we will awarded to 22 different projects they felt deserve support, being particularly mindful of the pandemic, restrictions and the impact felt by vulnerable groups. The group hopes to meet again soon, hopefully in person when restrictions allow. This is a fantastic project for our students to be part of, and we were delighted to receive positive feedback on their participation from Louise Grant, Head of Grants at Greenham Trust.

I would also like to congratulate the students who took part in the recent Virtual County Cross Country Championships, particularly Ethan R who won the U13 boys category and Livvy B who came 3rd in the U17 girls’ category. Other strong performances include Gregor A finishing in 6th place and Tom B 12th in the Y7 boys’ category, with our Year 7 boys’ team classified the 4th placed team.  Oli C finished 19th in the U15s category and Emilie F was 17th in the U17 girls event. Congratulations to all who participated, they will all receive certificates. There is a Virtual National Championships coming up for those who wish to try out for that too.

Finally, this term we have a renewed focus on our school values. These underpin everything we do at The Downs School, and we will be taking time to focus on each one in turn and talk about how the students can demonstrate them in school, at home and within the wider community. Here is a reminder of the values in full:

Courage    Be bold, having the self-belief to overcome your challenges and face your fears head on.

Responsibility  Be independent and self-reliant, taking the lead to make the world a better place.

Equality  Be respectful to others and earn respect in turn.

Ambition  Believe that you can succeed and then strive to make the success a reality.

Resilience  Tough times don't last; strong people do.

Creativity Expand our horizons by asking questions, inventing, experimenting and being brave enough to make mistakes.

Integrity If it's not right don't say it.  If it's not true don't say it.  Do the right thing and earn the trust of the people around you.

Thank you again for your on-going support.

Mr Prosser




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