Principal's Letter to Parents - July 2017

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21st July 2017

Dear Parents

Introduction

So here we are at the end of another academic year – how it has flown by!

As we prepare for the summer holidays, I wanted to update you on some of the achievements of the year and also look ahead to the start of the next academic year.

Firstly, I would like to thank you for your ongoing support of the school. We rely on the partnership we have with parents to ensure that the school runs smoothly, that our students have the right support for their learning as teachers and parents work together and that any issues which arise can be smoothly sorted out in a positive way for all. We constantly try to improve our communication with you on an individual basis and as a cohort of parents as a whole, but we know there is always more to do. One of the areas we would like to focus on next year is developing more opportunities for parents to come into school to see the work the students are doing. We have had two really successful Year 7 Festival of Learning days over the last two weeks, when over 200 parents came in to school to sit with their son or daughter and look through all the work they have done this year. We would like to build on this success next year. We really value your support of these opportunities and I know it means so much to the students when you are able to come in.  Look out for more information about this in the year ahead.

Examination groups

I have been so impressed by our examination groups this year. With more challenging exams at GCSE, BTEC and A-level and changes to grading systems in English and Maths GCSE, our students have had a lot to cope with. They have shown resilience and perseverance and we have seen a commitment from our Year 11 students to study and revision which is probably amongst the best of any year group in the recent past. We have great hopes for the examination outcomes in the summer. Our students really deserve the success they achieve and we will all look forward to celebrating with them in August. Thank you for the support you have given them as they prepare for these challenging exams.

Ofsted

It has been a really exciting and important year for Homewood. Two very significant events have taken place which have really helped to clear the way forward for the school as we seek to build on all the successes to date and move towards our goal of providing a world class education for our students.

The first of these events was our long awaited Ofsted inspection which took place on 23 May. Three inspectors spent the day in school, talking to staff and students, visiting lots of lessons and watching what went on around school during break and lunchtime. They were impressed by what they saw and within one day they concluded that Homewood is still a Good school. Under the new inspection structures, if they had been in any doubt about how Good our school was they would have come back for a second day.  But they did not feel that was necessary. They could see that our students were making good progress, that the teachers and staff knew their students well and gave them good feedback to help them move forward in their learning. They could see that our students were well cared for and that they felt safe in school and that all students had an appropriate next step in place when they left Homewood, whether that be University, College or employment. The inspectors commented that “All staff make pupils’ and students’ welfare their top priority.” They praised Homewood’s “Inclusive approach and support of students to learn, whatever their needs” and quoted from parents who commented “There is something for everyone at Homewood” and “I have never seen my son so happy.” 

The inspection team were very thorough, they left no stone unturned and it is a great reflection on the quality of education at Homewood that they were so impressed by what they saw. The bar is high and it is not easy to achieve a Good Ofsted outcome, so we should take time to reflect and celebrate whilst continuing to set our sights on even greater achievements in the future.

Tenterden Schools Trust

The other significant development for the school  took place earlier in the year, on 1 December, when Homewood joined together with the local primary schools in Tenterden to form the Tenterden Schools Trust, a Multi-Academy Trust, working together to improve the education for all the children in the Trust schools. Already this is bringing benefits to all our schools as we work across the Trust to develop best practice in learning and student welfare and to raise achievement for all our young people. We are looking forward to welcoming more of our local schools into the Trust in the future.

Achievements

To list all the achievements of our students over this last year would take more than one letter, but I would like to highlight one or two exceptional achievements:

  • This year’s whole school production was Sweeney Todd and it built on the great tradition of fantastic school shows over the last few years – Les Miserables, Sound of Music and now the most challenging show to date, Sweeney Todd.  The individual performances were stunning and the contributions of the whole company, on stage and behind the scenes, including the home grown live orchestra, came together to make a truly memorable high quality production. We are looking forward to the next one already. Watch this space!
  • Our senior cheerleading team went to Bournemouth last week for the National Cheerleading Championships and took first place so they are National Champions for the second year running with a magnificent trophy to prove it.
  • It was my pleasure to visit the Kent Show earlier this month and to share in the fun and joy of the Homewood Young Farmers as they reaped the rewards of all their hard work this year. Homewood came 1st out 15 Schools and Young Farmers Clubs. We took Supreme Champion and Reserve Supreme Champion for Turnout – the first Young Farmers Club in 50 years to achieve the double. It was the best ever performance of Homewood Young Farmers at the Kent Show.  The Young Farmers have seen success in other competitions and shows throughout the year and deserve every congratulation for their hard work and dedication.
  • School Sports Days are always a highlight of the year, but this year they were particularly impressive with a very large number of records being broken across both days.  Discovery College Sports Day saw new school records in Year 7 Boys 800m, Year 8 Boys 1500m, Year 8 Girls 200m and 4x100m relay; KS4 College Sports Day saw records set in Year 10 Boys Javelin, Year 9 Girls 100m, 200m, 300m and 800m, Year 9 Boys in 300m and 1500m, Year 10 Girls 100m, 300m and 800m, Year 9 Girls 200m and Daniel James taking the Year 10 double, running record times in 100m and 200m. We are really proud of all our sportsmen and women.
  • We now have nine students competing at County and national level in sports including Windsurfing, Sailing, Athletics, Gymnastics, Basketball, Karate and Cricket.

Looking ahead

Vice Principals

Mr Ridgway has been a Vice Principal at Homewood for many years and he has made a huge contribution to the development of the school and its reputation as one of the most innovative schools in Kent, both in its curriculum and in its approaches to teaching and learning. Mr Ridgway has decided to stand down as Vice Principal from September but I am very pleased to say that he is staying on at Homewood as a teacher of English, so our students will continue to have the benefit of his outstanding teaching and his passion for English. I would like to publicly express my gratitude to Mr Ridgway for all he has given to the school during his many years in leadership and to say how much I have enjoyed working closely with him over the last seven years.

I am delighted to be able to announce that Mr Pusey has been appointed as Vice Principal from September. Many of you will know Mr Pusey through his roles as Director of Music, Head of Arts College and most recently as Senior Assistant Vice Principal (Raising Standards Leader) responsible for tracking achievement and reporting student progress for all students across the school. Mr Pusey will be Vice Principal (Curriculum and Standards) and will work alongside our other Vice Principal, Ms King, who is responsible for all aspects of Student Welfare. Mr Pusey knows the school very well and has already made an enormous contribution to making Homewood the school it is today. His appointment will ensure Homewood’s continuing development into the future, securing the creativity and diversity of curriculum which is at the heart of its ethos.

Reminders

Just a few reminders for the forthcoming academic year:

Uniform – I have written a separate letter which you will find on the school web-site setting out our expectations for the new academic year regarding uniform. We want to make a very clean start to the year and ask that you support us by ensuring that your son/daughter possesses all the necessary uniform and equipment when they start back on 30 August.

Attendance – We still have too many students whose attendance has dropped below the expected 95%. We cannot emphasise how important it is that students attend school unless they really are too ill to do so. Every day of learning lost has an impact on the final grades that student will achieve and once we get towards 90% we are talking about one day every fortnight being lost, which is really significant. Please could we ask you to renew your efforts to get your son/daughter into school every day next year. Your College Office will be happy to liaise with you if you have any difficulty in this area. We would like to work closely with you to ensure that our students are here in school as close to 100% of the time as possible.  It is definitely possible – every term the Sinden Theatre is packed with students who have achieved 100% attendance and are rewarded with a film afternoon. We would just like to see many more of our students achieve the same, or at least close to it.

Punctuality – Students who arrive late in school are also affecting their learning and that of others in their groups who are distracted by their arrival. Late arrivals are very rarely due to bus delays. It is much more frequently students who live close enough to walk or who are dropped off by parents, or indeed those whose bus arrives on time but then they delay actually coming into school. A prompt, efficient start to the day, thumbprinting as soon as they arrive to register their presence on site and then moving quickly to tutor period (or first lesson on Wednesdays when we do not have tutor time) ensures that the day starts well and learning gets underway as promptly as possible. Any support you can give us to reinforce the importance of this morning routine with your son or daughter would be much appreciated.

Communication - As well as our web-site, we now have Twitter and Facebook accounts – please follow us to make sure you are up to date with all the student activity and achievements and information which goes out on a regular basis.  Also, please let us know if your son or daughter achieves success outside school in any of the activities they participate in. We will always celebrate this with them and we would love to publicise their success on our web-site and social media. We have fantastic students and we want everyone to know about their amazing achievements.

Conclusion

Homewood is a school we can all be proud of. Our reputation remains strong as one of the most successful High Schools in Kent and we have ambitious plans for the future. But as we seek to move from Good to Outstanding, it will require everyone in the Homewood community to play their part to ensure they are doing the very best they can. For our staff and leaders, this means understanding and consistently implementing the very best practice in teaching and learning and doing our best to support each and every individual student whatever their needs. For our students, it is attention to detail – good attendance and punctuality, the correct equipment, being in a positive attitude for learning, taking advantage of the wide ranging opportunities available to them beyond the classroom, completing work to the best possible standard and responding to the feedback given by their teachers. But all of this is underpinned by the partnership working with our parents. We look for your support and we hope you share our pride in Homewood, a school which provides truly amazing opportunities for its students and genuinely cares about their development and preparation for the world beyond Homewood We don’t always get everything right and we look to you to let us know if there is anything which is not working well and which we need to address. But, I believe that if we work together in mutual respect and partnership, the future can be bright for all of the young people in our care.

Thanks again for your support and I hope you really enjoy your summer holiday.

Best wishes

Sally Lees

Principal