This has been an incredibly positive and productive academic year; please read the recently published newsletter to catch up on all our news. Before we head off into the summer holidays I wanted to update you with some key developments and changes that will impact in a positive way in September.
I wrote to you recently to explain why we want to increase the amount of emphasis placed on rewarding good behaviour and students taking ownership for their learning. We also want to guarantee a completely low-level disruption-free learning environment, regardless of which class a student is in. Mr Ross, who is leading on this initiative, has reported that the trial of the new "Disruption Free Learning" system has been very positively received by staff, students and parents alike and because of the successful introduction we decided to continue the system for the remainder of the term. As a staff, we were delighted with how students have responded to the raising of expectations and it is fantastic that students are noticing a marked change in lesson atmosphere as instances of disruptive behaviour are fewer, and are dealt with consistently by staff. Behaviour at Devizes School has always been good, but this will make things even better. It is also very pleasing to know that, with improved behaviour, we will be able to reward more students next year for getting things right in the classroom. This system will be fully implemented in September; thank you for your support. Alongside taking responsibility for their learning, we also expect students to have the right equipment for lessons, to keep taking a pride in their uniform and to continue the massive improvement in punctuality.
To support a more productive learning environment we are making a minor adjustment to the school day. There will be no changes to start and finish times but tutor time and break time will each be extended by 5 minutes. The 10 minutes will come from a reduced 40 minute lunchtime. This year we have found that many students need more time at break to eat food and socialise so we hope that an extended break time will benefit student well-being.
This year we have seen significant student progress in all year groups. Our expectations are higher and we have raised the bar because we know how well students have responded. In September, there will be an additional high priority placed on standards of literacy (reading and writing). To maximise reading improvements, all students in Years 7, 8 and 9 will be expected to read their 'Accelerated Reader' books for at least 30mins per day; 15 mins in school during extended tutor time, and 15 mins at home. They will be expected to complete daily Reading Logs (signed by parents, teachers and other adults) to show that they have committed to this. At KS4 and KS5, this additional tutor time will be used to maximise revision activities, including revisiting texts in English and using online revision software in Science and Maths.
For the most effective improvements in writing skills, all students will be given A4+ exercise books and there will be a focus on presentation, spellings, use of sentences and general accuracy of grammar in every lesson. Students will be expected to take care of all their books, reflect on errors made, and complete corrections and improvements in green pen. There will also be more emphasis placed on writing extended pieces of work for prolonged periods in all subjects.
I firmly believe that in September there is an opportunity for a real step change at Devizes School. On the 1st February this year we officially joined the White Horse Federation Multi Academy Trust. This has been significant for us as we are now part of a highly successful MAT that has a strong regional and national reputation and we have a launch pad to accelerate the best practice in our school. We are financially viable for September and our future has been secured. We have 216 new Y7 students joining us in September - almost oversubscribed! Feedback from existing parents has been overwhelmingly positive and we are listening to what you say.
We have undergone some changes and a re-structure this year. This has resulted in some improvements which will be apparent in September. The reception area is being given a face-lift; Student services will no longer exist, reception will deal with all students, parents and visitors. This does mean that we will need students to be better organised in bringing all their books and equipment to school as there will not be the capacity to have ‘things’ dropped off by parents. The medical room is being updated. We have employed a Specialist Teaching Assistant, Mrs Aspinall, who has a Nursing background, to oversee the medical room. To help us support students with existing medical needs and health care plans we will prioritise the use of the medical room for them. The pastoral team and Mrs Aspinall will be in-touch with parents of students with medical needs to ensure that we provide the best possible support. We will be implementing a new first aid rota system to support other first aid needs. We will also be looking at how efficiently we can reduce the number of student visits to the medical room by working more closely with the pastoral teams ensuring that students do not lose learning time and the specialist medical support is made more readily available for those who need it.
We are becoming a Thrive hub, which means that we will have more access to the School Nurse and other health professionals. We are looking at becoming a lead school in dealing with positive action regarding young people’s mental health and building resilience in our students - more details to follow. Looking after our students’ well-being continues to be a high priority for us.
We are fully staffed with specialist teachers in all subjects and key staff in all support roles. Because of our growing reputation and the support of the WHF, recruitment of staff has been very strong. I am very excited by the new teachers that are joining us and the new ideas and energy that they will bring. We guarantee that we will continue to provide the full range of opportunities in school that make Devizes such a vibrant school with a rich extra-curricular offer. We are currently having a school wide focus on leadership for students and all staff and I am heartened by the determination and commitment of the staff who are taking up key leadership roles in September.
· Mrs Squire will be Head of Faculty in English, supported by Mrs Robinson and Miss Luscombe as Deputy Heads of Faculty.
· In Maths Mr Gaynor adds his wealth of experience as Deputy Head of Faculty.
· In the Sixth Form, Miss Dale will lead as Head of Sixth Form supported by Mr Maxwell as her Deputy. A brand-new team brimming with ideas and passion about the new direction of our outstanding Post 16 provision.
· Mrs Stevens has been appointed overall Head of House with Miss Rousell as Head of Mandela House.
· Mrs Cummings has already taken over her new role as Subject Leader for Philosophy and Ethics.
· Job titles are changing to fit in with our WHF colleagues. I will be called Principal rather than Headteacher, meaning that the Deputy Heads become Vice Principals.
· To extend and enhance leadership deeper into the school the following teachers have been made Associate Assistant Principals: Mr Ross, Mr Strickland and Mrs Mackay.
· Finally, the Pastoral Assistants have become Pastoral Leaders, a title that more clearly reflects the excellent work they do at school.
To remind us that we are entering into a new and exciting era we have a new logo. The lion represents our values of courage, resilience and pride. The castle shape and background colours reflect our strong links with the town and community. All the house colours, including the WHF green, are present. The reason for including the words Sixth Form College is because our Post 16 provision is under-recognised. We are consistently one of the top four Sixth Forms in Wiltshire for progress and attainment so we wanted to shout about it a bit more! We are very proud to be a well-established 11-18 school.
All new uniform purchased will have the lion logo. This is only compulsory for new Y7 students and the future time scales for rolling out the new uniform for other year groups will be reviewed later in the year. There is, however, much existing PE kit in stock so until this is cleared we will not be re-designing the PE kit at this time. We have no desire to cause parents unnecessary expense.
As you can see we have very high expectations for September and beyond. We have been so impressed by the progress and growing resilience of students this year and wish to build on this success. The future for Devizes School is very bright indeed - thank you for being such a key part of that and for supporting the school so we can give your son or daughter the best possible chances. I also want to thank the students for making Devizes School the great place that it is. Their energy and vitality bring this school to life and they too have earnt themselves a great summer.
I wish you all an exciting or restful summer holiday, whatever your preference! I very much look forward to seeing the students back for the new academic year. A reminder that the start of term for Years 7 and 12 is Wednesday 6th September, for students in Years 8-11 and Year 13 the start is Thursday 7th September.
Mr P Bevan