☰ Christmas is almost here

Christmas is almost here

Posted on: December 6th 2010

Let me first apologise for the delay in writing my blog. At last Friday’s parent Christmas party a few parents mentioned I was lagging somewhat, so I thought I would get on and tell you about some of the things we’ve been up to over the past few weeks.

  I’ve spent a lot of time looking at our IT needs in the short and medium term. The days of buying and storing your own servers – for email or documents – are over in my mind. As a school we have various servers which we have to maintain and update. So, I’m looking to move everything we do to a “cloud”, which means everything is accessible but doesn’t have to be stored on our server because someone better suited to that sort of thing can host it for us. Amazon web services offer some really interesting packages which I think will really benefit us. We’re also moving all our email functionality to google apps (for all you computer geeks out there, it’s absolutely fantastic!), which means all our older pupils can have their own email accounts. Before you worry too much, we’ll control the emails and will set them up so they can only send and receive emails to people within the school community. They can also use google’s own word or excel documents, which can be accessed at home and school. You can see that I’m very excited by this – the technology nerd in me is alive and well! There are many more advantages I could bore you with, but I think it probably best to stop there. We’ve also just signed up for BTs fibre connectivity – 40MB broadband line coming into the school as of next week! Our pupils now do so much interesting IT work that we absolutely require healthy upload and download speeds.

  Actually I’m not going to leave IT quite yet... as of January I want to start distributing all school literature via email. So that’s letters, reports, acceptance forms and hopefully newsletters. This will save us continually printing things out which is expensive and time consuming. Oh, and there’s the environmental impact too. I expect some early teething problems, but I know we can make this work. It has the added advantage of us being able to send information out to various contacts, which means the risk of not seeing an important letter should be minimised.

  Okay. Enough IT and onto something more arts-related: creative writing. The school’s SMT has spent a lot of time lately reviewing and evaluating creative writing at the school. We made a huge push on this last year and introduced lots of ideas and innovations to make our approach ambitious and consistent. To see how this is working, we recently spent two nights doing something called ‘work scrutiny,’ which is basically evaluating all our pupils work. We looked at the content of lessons and how pupils are stretched and supported; we then looked at how pupils work is assessed and how that information then informs the content of future lessons. And the great news is that the quality of work was absolutely spectacular. Across the school it is the highest quality I’ve ever seen here. It’s clear pupils are thoroughly enjoying their English lessons and they feel motivated to do well. There are some small improvements we want to make around how we mark our children’s books - I want to ensure we always highlight something positive and then offer a signpost as to what a pupil could do to improve their work - but other than that we were really blown away by the progress in the past year.

  Continuing in the vein of scrutiny, all teachers have been involved in observing lessons this term, observing and being observed. This is a really good way of keeping tabs on what’s going on and also spreading good practice. All observers complete a lesson observation form and this is then shared with the school’s SMT, who then look at patterns – both positive and negative, which can help when we plan future training sessions. Or sometimes we arrange for a teacher to shadow another teacher when they teach something like IT. We learn a lot from it and it’s a really valuable exercise.

  The pupils have also had a lot of  interesting initiatives to get involved in this term. Those of you with pupils at the school will know we spend a lot of time working on our pupils’ social development. Our children know that they are very privileged to attend a school like Norfolk House, and it’s my strong view that with that privilege comes a sense of responsibility. So far this term our pupils have prepared Christmas gifts which are sent to young children in poor parts of the world, our school choir performed at the local OAP home, all pupils thoroughly enjoyed our Children In Need day and as of next term pupils in Forms 5 & 6 are getting involved with the local soup kitchen.

  Not that it’s all about social responsibility – we also like to stretch our pupils minds and ask them questions that don’t come up in the normal curriculum. I was really rather envious of our Form 6 pupils recently. In general studies they were taking about political ideologies and ending up watching Animal Farm. I do often think I’d like to be the one sitting behind the desk as opposed to talking at the front.

  As for me, things are really busy at the moment. As well as my usual ‘to do’ list, I’ve been preparing our senior school evening for tonight. All our Form 5 parents are coming in later to hear about the senior school process. Belmont, Highgate and City of London are also coming in to talk to our parents.

  I thought I’d leave you with two stories. I took a group of our children to play chess at Lochinver recently (which we won, I’m pleased to say) and on the way back one boy said “Mr Malley I really like your car. Not as good as my dad’s though, he’s got a Porsche”. Am I in the wrong job? The other story involves my current affairs assembly which I take every Monday. We were talking about various European countries and their debt problems. William Turner wanted to know why countries don’t just print more money to pay off their debts. I tried to explain that for countries in the Euro this is difficult and that there were also inflation problems to consider. But the more I thought about it, I realised that printing more money is what most senior economists are recommending. Perhaps a job at the Bank of England beckons...

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