EHT News – 21st September 2018

Sep 22

Dear all,

Social media is a wonderful tool. It allows us to communicate with people who we would never be able to reach, and to share our views and opinions with other like-minded individuals and groups. It is, of course, the way that I am communicating with you right now and, as a school, we embrace this technology to get us closer to our parents.

Social media can, however, be quite dangerous and the contents of posts should be treated with some caution. It is impossible to police what people post, and it is difficult to distinguish between what is true and untrue; what is a fair representation of a situation and a biased, one-sided opinion with key facts omitted.

Recently there have been several posts relating to alleged incidents at James Calvert Spence College which fall into the ‘one sided opinion with key facts omitted’ category at the very best, with many being completely untrue, damaging and harmful.

I can assure you that we are taking legal advice on the content of such posts, and will pursue this as far as possible, particularly where individuals can be identified. Can I thank the vast majority of parents and members of the community who have rallied around the staff and the students – like us, they do not recognise the school that is being portrayed by a few people.

I understand that some parents, and some prospective parents, might be concerned. I believe that the only way to sort out the fake news from the truth is to find out for yourself by visiting us. Get in touch with us and ask us any questions you feel are necessary to restore your complete trust. Better still, call us to arrange a visit during the school day. Come and see how all members of staff, teaching and non-teaching, interact with our students. Walk around the building and experience the calm atmosphere in the classrooms. Visit the dinner hall, the PE gym and even the toilets. Speak to the children and ask them how they are treated at JCSC, and if bullying is a concern.

We did just that earlier in the week with an anonymous survey, and 98% of Year 5 said that they think bullying does not happen or, if it does, the teachers deal with it well. Of all the children on our lower school site, 92% said the same. I can assure you that we provide a safe and caring environment for all our students at the standard I would expect for my own children, and that we constantly strive to educate the children to minimise any unpleasant behaviour.

Can I ask that parents take a few minutes to visit Ofsted’s ParentView website, to register and to give their opinion on James Calvert Spence College:

The results currently showing include a flurry of negative activity incited by an unpleasant Facebook post containing this link, and it is not representative of the views of the vast majority of parents. Please do contribute and, if your contribution is not a wholly positive one, we would love to hear from you and work with you to address your concerns.

Hopefully many of our parents will actually experience what it is like to be a student at JCSC as our first ‘Back to School’ days take place for year 5 and 6 parents on Monday 8thand 15thOctober. Parents and grandparents will be in their own class, line up on the yard at the start of the day and get taught in a classroom. I bet they can’t wait for playtime when they can skip or play with balls on the yard and field, before queueing up for their school dinner! It will be an experience for them, and for the staff, and I can’t wait. If they are well behaved and work well, they should avoid detention…

We’re already three weeks in to 2018-19 and it’s been busy (as ever) and I can honestly say, the best start to the year I’ve experienced at JCSC. The students have adapted to the changes in lesson time and the new structure of the day with ease and complete positivity.

All of our staff are working hard, putting their weekly CPL [Continuing Professional Learning] sessions into practice in the classrooms. We have a whole-school focus on developing the oracy skills of our students, to develop their confidence in debating and discussing in 2s, 3s, small groups and even in front of their whole year group.

Part of this can be clearly seen in our assemblies on the lower school site where, in place of the usual ‘teacher talking at the front for 15 minutes while the children sit quietly and listen’ assembly we all remember from our school days, the students arrive and fill the hall, sitting in circles of 6. The member of staff leading the assembly introduces an issue for the children to discuss in their groups in a very structured and disciplined way, and then volunteers from the groups share their ideas and opinions with the rest of the year group. I lead the year 6 assemblies each week and, although we’ve only tried it twice so far, the response from the children has been unbelievably positive. Some difficult topics have been discussed, such as bullying, and their approach and attitude to this new format has greatly impressed us all. Even better is that I have three of our fabulous sixth form boys helping me with the younger students – what fantastic role models!

One of the highlights of the year is the Open Evening, and that took place on Thursday, just as the rain started. It didn’t dampen the spirits of the students and parents who braved the weather to visit us, and we had another full house of people enjoying activities in all subject areas including art, food, DT, PE and science. Our catering staff provided refreshments in the dining hall, and there was the chance to try on and order uniform. We were, as ever, so impressed with the young people and delighted to meet them and their parents. Many comments that were left talked about the children “already looking forward to starting next September” – we feel exactly the same! See you next year!

As ever, thank you so much for your continued support. We want to be a great school for our community, and we can only do that by working together.

Best wishes,

Neil Rodgers