Headteacher Blog - 28 May

Posted on: 28th May

We have reached the end of another challenging half-term, and I would like to start this blog by thanking all the teachers who have recently undertaken a dual role of teachers and examiners, to ensure that students receive fair and consistently assessed grades this summer.

We are saying goodbye to our Year 11 and 13 students, and I have had the privilege of writing in both year groups leavers books. For both year groups, they have had to endure such a strange and challenging times. The last 15 months has not been a normal experience for them, but I am so proud of how resilient and positive they have remained throughout.  They have epitomised what The Downs School stands for and really displayed our core values. More than any other 11 & 13 year groups, they have developed into independent, self-reliant learners ready to face any of the challenges that life might throw at them, and we wish them all well. Please can I remind Year 11 and 13 parents to read the letters sent home earlier this week about the process of awarding examination grades this summer.

We are now beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel with the lifting of COVID restrictions.  I am delighted that some of our extra-curricular activities are returning. Our Duke of Edinburgh students had a great expedition last weekend in the Oxfordshire countryside, showing tremendous teamwork and supporting each other. Although COVID restrictions did not allow for an overnight camp, the students enjoyed cooking their own meals on the Saturday night and then returned early the following day to complete the expedition. Our Year 10 Geography students are preparing for a trip to Bristol to look at the regeneration of the Docklands area, our 6th Form Geography students will soon undertake their residential trip to Nettlecombe Court, a Tudor and Georgian mansion on the edge of Exmoor Park. After the half term-term break, it is planned that House matches will resume with netball, football, and rounders games.

Our Head Boy, Morgan and Head Girl, Rhea have also been looking to the future, working on new initiatives to support and engage the school community. “We are working within the Student Leadership Team and School Council to improve the experience for students in several different areas, such as boosting our sustainability efforts, looking into mental health and diversity, creating a school magazine, and providing different events,” said Morgan.  “After a year of lockdowns, it’s so important for us to come together and celebrate each other’s successes, and meet new people in different year groups,” added Rhea. “I am hoping to set up some initiatives within the school to support this.” Rhea has also been working as a volunteer at the Newbury Vaccination Centre for the last few months as part of her work experience. We will keep you updated with their progress.

We had a very successful parent forum last week, focusing on continuing to improve the catering offering within school. The event was well attended and has enabled us to form a SNAG (School Nutritional Action Group), made up of parents and school staff who will continue the conversation.

We have recently welcomed Mrs Curtis to the school as a member of our reception team, and after the half-term break, we will be welcoming Mrs Clark as our new HR Manager. This means we are saying goodbye to Mrs Kenyon who has spent five years in the HR role. I would like to thank her for her significant contribution to the school and she will be sorely missed. We wish her well for the future.

Meanwhile, members of our teaching staff have been busy raising money for charity. Maths’s teacher, Ms Coombes had her head shaved this week, which was recorded on Microsoft Teams for students to watch, raising money for Cancer Research and VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas). PE teacher Mrs Holbrook completed the Move 100km event, raising money for Tommy’s, who support women and families who have suffered miscarriage and infant loss, and the Dialysis Unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kings Lynn. She completed 18 runs in 24 days to hit her target. Congratulations to them both.

Our Year 7 CoEN students have been busy completing a gardening module, which involved tidying up and designing a garden at the side of the Hubble building. Their hard work will allow us to enjoy the planting for years to come.  Year 7 student, Jess B was named the school’s individual winner of the recent ‘Around the World Challenge.’  The challenge ran in February and March during lockdown PE lessons and in students' free time and they were encouraged to walk, cycle, or run and record their distances. Jess completed an incredible 243 miles walking, cycling and horse riding over the course of the challenge. Congratulations also to fellow Year 7 Joe J, who has been selected to represent Great Britain at the 2021 sailing Optimist World Championship in Italy, which is a fantastic achievement.

I wanted to end the blog and this half-term with a quote from author CS Lewis: “You can't go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” The last 15 month’s have challenged everyone, forcing limitations on life and for many has affected emotions and outlook. The lifting of restrictions allows us to open our eyes again, to go out and seize new opportunities and start afresh. I wish you all a good half-term break.

Mr Prosser


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