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Embracing creativity with the spirit of Christmas

2017-04-13T20:05:58+00:00 December 6th, 2016|
It is the penultimate week of a long and busy autumn term. Energy levels might not be peaking quite as they once did a few weeks ago, and the seasonal lurgy is again claiming students and staff in equal measure. As I write this I’m reaching for another satsuma from the fruit bowl trusting to the protective effect of a further vitamin C kick. But the Christmas lights are burning brightly on our many BGS trees, which seem to be breeding overnight and growing in number daily, and there is much to look forward to during the last couple of weeks of term.

Today is the Senior School Christmas Concert, which always raises the roof and everyone’s spirits. I’m also sure that our seasonal joy will be maintained at the Year 9 parents’ consultation evening later this week. Then it’s more Christmas cheer after school on Friday with the Year 7 to 9 production of ‘Macbeth’.

Okay – maybe I’m stretching the point now, but a healthy dose of Shakespearean witchcraft, intrigue and murder never did anyone any harm. I’m sure it will provide a great gruesome finish to the week, before festive service is resumed once again with Nine Lessons and Carols at Bradford Cathedral on Monday and the Clock House Christmas Concert two days later.

I’ll be honest. I have finally cleared the backlog after two weeks of jury duty, hence the timing of this blog, and I can finally take stock and look ahead to the end of term. Jury service was fascinating but the case was demanding both intellectually and emotionally. On the day it ended, I battled heavy traffic a little jaded, definitely on half power, to the opening night of the BGS8 Art Exhibition at Sunny Bank Mills.

What I saw was amazing. I could not have enjoyed the art or the conversations with students, parents and colleagues more. It was a terrific evening. The next day was the Netball Parents’ Christmas Fair – more cheer, more fun and all for a good cause.

I absolutely see and understand the hard work and dedication it takes to make events such as these a success, and they were both roaring successes. Therefore, at the time when I needed a bit of a lift I would like to say ‘thank you’ to all involved. Humors are now restored.

And in the broader educational scene?

Grammar Schools and a certain Green Paper continue to dominate and deflect from other pressing issues of the day, and which I’ve mentioned before, like rushed and widespread curriculum change, exam marking anomalies, shrinking education budgets, a worsening teacher recruitment crisis and an anticipated shortfall of 750,000 school places over the next ten years. Phew.

All this of course quickens the pulse just a little, as did a BBC headline which flashed up on my Twitter feed reading: ‘Parents in the north of England should be more pushy, says children’s tsar’. Well I suppose a headline proclaiming that ‘Parents in the north are respectfully encouraged to engage in grown-up dialogue with their children’s teachers to see how we can best work together, after all we are on the same team at the end of the day’ wouldn’t catch many people’s attention and probably explains why I work in education and not the media. ‘Pushy’ parents (and / or teachers too) – no. Involved, ambitious, understanding and supportive parents, the likes of which we have at BGS – yes.

Honestly, as if anyone thinks that the school improvements realised in London these past years are attributable to the effect of the ‘Tiger parent’! Balance was however reinstated just before lunch when I caught up with the TES article: ‘Teachers among most-trusted professionals, poll finds’ suggesting that “Only nurses and doctors are more trusted than teachers…and politicians fall a long way behind … an overwhelming 88 per cent of the public trusts teachers to tell the truth, the Ipsos-Mori poll reveals”. I have not read a piece like that for some time.

If there is subplot to this blog, I suppose it is on the theme of connection and dialogue. I have just come from a great 45 minutes of Headmaster Q&A with Student Voice and I’m genuinely excited about working with them looking ahead. Being honest again, I am already positively disposed to student democracy given the fact that BGS pupils have been part of the teams who appointed me to Deputy Headship and then the big job at BGS (!); so let’s see what we can now achieve together.

Last year we surveyed the outgoing Year 13s and we have built some of their feedback into our plans for the future, although I’ve not yet acted upon the robust, erring on Anglo-Saxon, feedback about what to do with my increasingly weather-beaten second hand car.

Opportunities for consultation with parents are also growing and we had a very positive and useful parents’ breakfast meeting last week with various members of the Senior Leadership Team in attendance. The incremental and informed changes we are making in part reflect this ongoing dialogue. This will continue, not least because that is what I have promised Student Voice and they are very definitely not to be trifled with!

“I could not have enjoyed the art or the conversations with students, parents and colleagues more.”

Simon Hinchliffe, Headmaster

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