☰ 8.40am, Tue 9 March

8.40am, Tue 9 March

Posted on: March 9th 2010

It has been an incredibly busy couple of weeks for me which is great in some ways but not in others – I always like to have some chunks of time without any meetings or events to work on projects like our School Development Plan, and that kind of time has been sorely missing! When I do have some spare time, I think a lot about the next 12 -36 months, whether it’s staffing and resources, curriculum developments or even our ethos and how we can embed it in everything that we do. Still, I suppose that’s what holidays are for…

So, back to the last two weeks which can split fairly easily into the following categories: admissions, sport, pastoral care, social, senior schools and staffing.

Admissions have been as busy as ever. The number of families trying to join the school is at the highest level we have known. And I must thank current parents of the school as nearly all prospective families have had some sort of personal recommendation from an existing parent. I think I’ve explained before that I generally have admissions meetings on Monday and Wednesday mornings, meeting two families each day. Yesterday was no different and this coming Wednesday is fully booked too. The office has asked me if I could create another morning for admissions to help clear our lists but I’m not sure I can – there’s simply too much else to do!

Interestingly, we have recently received a fair amount of applications for pupils to join in year groups throughout the school. We rarely have places for higher entrants but many seem content to be placed on the waiting list just in case. And even if we know that we won’t have a place we do still invite families to the school to meet me as I think it’s important that they see us for themselves. I’ve been trying to come up with ways in which we can improve communication with parents on our waiting lists – it must be horrible to be in the dark and I do feel we could somehow open the door a little more than we do. That said I know our office is very helpful with requests and questions, but I’m wondering if we should organise an open day or something. See? I need some of that thinking time!

In the past two weeks we have also hosted two large events for other schools. We host a chess competition for ten schools and this year was the 36th annual event. I’ve always taken this event on personally – I like chess (although I’m hopeless at it) and I enjoy being hands-on with the competition. We did well this year, but probably not quite as well as I had hoped. The eventual winners were Lochinver House, who we had beaten two weeks earlier. Time to start practising for next year’s competition I think…

The other event was an enormous cross country event at Oakfield Park in Barnet. 180 pupils took part – a huge number! It was very successful and well organised by our Head of Games. Whilst it didn’t rain, it was absolutely freezing. It didn't help that I lent my scarf to one of our girls marshalling on the course. Proper cross country conditions. Here is a picture of me and Nita Gouws, our Head of Games, trying to stay warm.

When I wasn’t immersed in chess or cross country, I managed to spend some time developing some pastoral care ideas. I believe we operate the most outstanding pastoral care programme at the school – our children are happy, engaged and thrive at school. It’s important, though, to develop and introduce new ideas as nothing ever stands still. I never forget that my number one priority is to ensure our pupils are happy at school and enjoy being here. Everything else builds from that critical foundation.

The parents’ association held a really fun quiz night last week at a nice pub in Crouch End. I was on a teachers table and it immediately became apparent that the parents there were determined that we shouldn’t win. Little did they know that I’m hopeless at quizzes! I’d like to say we let the winning team beat us, but the truth is that we didn’t have a chance. And I might be competitive, but on this occasion I was happy to be outdone. Our parents’ body do the most wonderful job; they are always on hand to help the school with our events, as well as organising lots of things for both children and adults. The two chairs of the association meet with me on a regular basis and they always have good ideas and suggestions.

Then more admissions – only not to our school this time. The last two weeks have been very stressful for a lot of Form 6 families as the senior school results have been coming out. I dislike the whole 7+ and 11+ system and try hard to shelter our pupils from it. Nevertheless are results continue to be very good and I’m pleased with this year; it’s broadly what I expected and hoped for. The results aren’t complete yet, but it looks as if we’ve received offers from a large number of schools including UCS, Palmers Green, City, Channing, Highgate, Belmont, St Johns, North London International, Northbridge and Berkhampsted.  Finally, I’ve been spending time looking at our staffing arrangements for this September. Some teachers have approached me with some ideas and I also have a few of my own. I like to ensure we have a consistent approach with staffing, so I would never move all our teachers around each year as it would be incredibly disruptive. However, there is a lot of merit in introducing a few changes. Managed change is good and often leads to new ideas and innovations. Anyhow, I’m going to bring some ideas to our next SMT meeting.

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