We had our final Student Consultation Evening for Year 11 and 13 this week – the last one before their public examinations start in just over seven weeks’ time. As Headteacher, I think the question I get asked the most is ‘What is the one thing that will make a difference to their outcomes?’ And without doubt, it is this: good literacy skills. Students need, on average, a reading age of at least 15 to be able to access GCSE papers, but all the research and evidence point to one thing – the more that students read, the better their literacy skills will become. Yesterday was World Book Day. Whilst dressing up as your favourite literary character is fun, and a good way to engage with the idea of reading books, the important message behind this is that reading is the key to success. Our English department have worked really hard to engage students with this (and those who did dress up looked absolutely fantastic – a brilliant effort!) We have a range of programmes in place in school designed to support literacy, and the younger students start reading, the better. Our Accelerated Reader programme, which students start in Year 7, is a great example of this; we already have a number of students in Year 7 who have read well over a million words since September, but I also know there are some who have not yet reached a thousand. At Prospect school, we will do all we can to develop and nurture a love of reading, but it works best when done at home as well. I was very fortunate to visit a school this week which has taken reading to the next level – Henley Bank School in Gloucestershire – where they have developed a fantastic reading programme which they were very happy to show off and share with other schools. We will be investigating this further in the coming weeks, and we plan that, very soon, daily reading together as a tutor group will be an integral part of our school day.
You will also be aware that we were very happy to support a joint initiative with Thames Valley Police this morning, in which students were required to be searched and go through a metal detector before coming into school. We are fortunate to be in an area where knife crime is not the horrific challenge that it can be to schools in some towns and cities, but it is really important that we raise students’ awareness of just how devastating knife crime can be. We are not planning for this to be a daily occurrence, but we will be working with the police to repeat this in the future. It did also highlight just how many students think that high-sugar energy drinks are an appropriate source of nutrition; I would like to reiterate that such drinks have absolutely no place in a school environment and we will continue to confiscate these from students if they bring them to school.
This also gave us the opportunity to try out the idea of Honey End Lane becoming the only student entrance; this is something that we have been considering for a while. Cockney Hill is becoming increasingly hazardous; the combination of Prospect staff, staff at Maestros and parents dropping both Prospect students and children off at the nursery, whilst hundreds of students arrive on foot is not a safe combination. We have contracted the council to undertake some work to create a safe drop-off zone at the Honey End Lane entrance and once this is complete, this will be the only entrance and exit that students will be allowed to use. I realise for some students this will create a slightly longer walk to school, but I want students to arrive in school safely, and an extra two minutes’ walk is entirely worth it!
I appreciate that for some it may feel that there are a lot of changes going on in a relatively short space of time, but it is my absolute determination that we provide the very best education that we can for our young people. I can assure you that any changes that we do introduce have been properly thought out and scrutinised, but as always, I am very happy to discuss any aspect of your child’s education, or the school in general, if you have any questions or indeed suggestions.