REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL...
It's always tempting to focus on the negative headlines about education, and both politicians and schools probably derive much of their energy from what is wrong, or at least wrong in their opinion. One of the ways of making changes in any organisation or system is to create dissatisfaction with the status quo, but what is the state of education in the UK today? (Big question - don't expect any big answers!)
The reality, at least from the view of an optimist, is that there has probably never been a better time to be educated in the UK. Whether this is because of or despite Ofsted, Government initiatives and school funding might depend on who you are, but the overall performance of schools (and students in those schools) is arguably as good as it's ever been, which isn't to deny that there's plenty more to achieve before it's as good as we would all wish.
Add to that the opportunities that are now available to our students and the concept that no career choice or direction is out of reach of anyone, and, if you could somehow choose whether to go to school in the 1950s, 1980s or 2010s, or any other time, you would probably choose today.
There is also a slight suspicion that the Government isn't so busy planning grand (or grandiose) education schemes, perhaps because Brexit is keeping them busy but also because they are recognising that a more principled and evidence-based approach is better than linking so much to political positions. Ofsted have been making valuable observations in recent months, for example, about approaches to the school curriculum which acknowledges the value of experiences outside the rather narrow range of core subjects that has, arguably, been a focus for rather too long.
AHS has always championed a broad range of subjects (including giving genuine value to the more creative ones and languages, which are not so healthy elsewhere in the country) and encouraged the experiences that students gain outside the classroom (Aberdyfi, DofE, activity days etc), so it good that the rest of the world is finally catching up with us!
Freya Cox Thanksgiving Memorial Service
It was with great sadness that we heard at the start of term of the sudden death of one of our former students, Freya Cox, who left Aylesbury High School in 2016.
A Thanksgiving Service will be held on Saturday 10 February at 4.00 pm at Saint Nicholas Church Cuddington, Aylesbury HP18 0AP, and afterwards at the Bernard Hall and then The Crown in Cuddington.
The family warmly invite anyone who knew Freya to join them in this celebration of her life.
- Money Matters - Good News
- Premises Projects
- Creative Arts Review
- Metacognition Project
- Equality Objectives
- Public Examinations Provisional Timetables
- An Update from the Chair of Governors
- Teaching & Learning Committee
- Six Decades of Progress and Achievement
- Young Carers-Gold Award
- Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme
- Development News/Fundraising Update
Money Matters - Good News
After many years of campaigning, including visits to Parliament, letters to MPs and Secretaries of State, a meeting with the Education Funding Agency (as it was then called) to persuade them, with a degree of success, that they didn't understand their own funding formula, plus countless hours working with Bucks CC to educate them about the realities of their approach to funding education in Bucks, the National Funding Formula (NFF) is being phased in during 2018-19 and 2019-20, with an expectation that it will be fully implemented for 2020-21.
Bucks is a relative winner compared with other local authorities but that only means it is receiving funding to raise it nearer to other local authorities for the next couple of years rather than meaning the streets will be paved with gold. From 2020, the funding formula will, we expect and hope, become 'hard-wired', but the Government has, annoyingly, refused to confirm this - it's an 'intention'. Any discretion to vary the formula or divert money away will no longer be available to Bucks, as schools will effectively be funded directly by the government (as happens already with post-16 funding).
So far so good, but the Government has given no indication how the NFF will be adjusted from year to year, either to recognise inflation and additional pressures such as increased pension costs, or to vary the amount for each funding factor as the landscape changes (eg to allocate more or less to pupil premium, for example, if that is felt necessary). In effect, the NFF looks set to stagnate for a few years and be gradually eroded, until a future Government decides to change everything again. There is still a need to continue to apply pressure on the Government to ensure that they don't assume that the NFF has solved the overall under-funding of schools - it hasn't.
As far as AHS is concerned, we will, from August 2018, benefit from a new Minimum Funding Level, which will, by 2020, guarantee £4800 per 11-16 student per year (full-time post-16 students currently attract £4000 each and there's no sign of that budging). Over the next two years, Bucks is unable to implement this in full, so in 2018-19 we will receive around £4500 per 11-16 student, and more in 2019-20. This is good news as it's significantly more than our current funding level and it would be churlish to point out that while in the first year it's a very welcome 7.6% increase, inflation is almost 3%, so it's perhaps not a green light to spend, spend, spend.
Having said that, it would be completely wrong to use additional funds simply to build up our reserves; it's one of our principles that we try to spend the money we receive for our students directly on their education, and use development campaigns and any grants we can apply for to develop the premises. Consequently, now that the NFF figures are confirmed for the coming year, we are actively looking at how to use the additional funds to enhance our students' education - look out for more on this soon.
Alan Rosen, Headteacher
We are delighted to confirm that the refurbishment work will commence in S17 during the Easter holidays, with completion towards the end of May. It has been funded by the generosity of parents (including through the 'In Our Element' and 'Girls of S17' campaigns) and by kind grants from the Garfield Weston Foundation and the William Harding Trust.
Our next target is the Tower Block. The classrooms are much smaller than they would be if built today, and there's not much we can do about that apart from arrange the furniture and storage more effectively, but our plans involve a real makeover for the first, second and top floors with modern lighting, improved room layouts and better IT provision.
We are also looking at how we can improve the classrooms on the sunny side which really suffer in the heat, and are still investigating a range of options.
We don't know yet what can be achieved this summer, which is approaching fast, but are working hard to make key decisions about how we want the spaces to work and the technology that we want to employ (eg large display screens rather than data projectors are likely).
We hope to have a Plan by Easter!
We have also applied for Government grants to continue the replacement of our boilers and roofs where they have reached the end of their normal lifespan (or in several cases far exceeded it). We will know at the end of April whether we have been successful but the grants are normally over-subscribed by a factor of about 3 or 4. (We have been successful before with bids for the Main Block Boilers and Flat Roofs, the Main Hall, Canteen and Science Windows/Curtain Walling, the Science Roof, the Netball floodlighting and help with building the Sixth Form Centre).
Alan Rosen, Headteacher
Creative Arts Review
In the lead up to the Christmas break we reviewed the work being completed by the Creative Arts departments, as part of our self-evaluation process. In addition to leading PE and Dance at Aylesbury High School, Mrs Arber (Curriculum Manager for Creative Arts) also monitors and guides Art/Photography, Drama and Music. As I am sure you are aware, each of these subject areas produce outstanding work that we can easily view and appreciate, such as art work in the corridors, House Dance, Drama & Music, Christmas & Summer Concerts, AHS/AGS joint concerts and productions, and the subjects also enjoy a high level of participation and success in sport to name just a few.
Whilst most of us are able to sit back and enjoy the performances/work shared with us, clearly staff in these subject areas along with our talented and enthusiastic students, spend weeks if not months planning and preparing at lunch, after school and at times at the weekend. It is important to note as part of the review, the wider contribution that the staff in these areas, including the technicians and other helpers behind the scenes, make to extending the opportunities available to AHS students and others within our community.
As part of the review, we observed a significant number of lessons and all students were given an opportunity to respond to a questionnaire via Google forms. Mrs Tominey, our Learning Mentor, facilitated student focus groups to delve deeper so we could understand what our students value as effective lesson practices and what techniques they find less beneficial. Staff were also given the opportunity to comment on schemes of work, workload, working environments and other factors that impact on their teaching and ultimately the learning of their classes.
Overall the review was a successful one with strengths identified in not only the extra-curricular opportunities offered but in the highly able House Captains and Sports and Dance Leader roles created to support peer to peer development and participation. Students highlighted the value of collaborative work and working with peers in a non-judgmental way to offer areas for improvement in addition to sharing praise for a job well done. Students also commented on teachers encouraging them to do their best, providing clear explanations and demonstrations and being encouraged to take responsibility for their own learning.
In order to improve, it was noted that some of the areas utilised by the Creative Arts groups appear somewhat dated and in need of modernisation. Furthermore, it was noted that in the lead up to popular events such as House Dance, there can sometimes be a struggle to find large practice spaces to rehearse, mainly due to the number of students wanting to take part.
As a school we want to improve how we feedback to students and this was identified as an ongoing need as part of the review. We were not surprised to hear that students found lessons less effective when completing written work, as clearly they gain enjoyment from the practical element of these subjects; however, we do need to ensure that they are examination-ready at the appropriate time.
I am sure you will agree that we are lucky to have such a team of committed and passionate staff when it comes to the Arts and we are grateful to all of them for the time they invest in enabling your daughters to thrive in so many ways.
At the time of writing this update, we are concluding a pastoral review of Key Stage 5 and we will update you on the outcomes of this process in the February Newsletter.
Mrs Hamnett, Deputy Headteacher
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the definition of ‘school’ is “an educational institution; centre of learning”. All too often, we as teachers focus on how to improve our teaching, but this year we are turning the tables and shining the spotlight on the girls and how they can improve their learning. I am leading a school-wide project on Metacognition; the art or, in fact, the science, of learning how to learn. Aided by a cross-curricular working party, made up of teachers from several different subject areas, I have put together lots of ideas and strategies for both students and staff to try out. In a recent Year 10 assembly, I introduced the girls to the idea of spaced practice - reviewing and revising their notes as they go along. Now that almost all GCSEs have terminal exams at the end of Year 11, including all of the material covered throughout the whole two years of the course, it is more important than ever that the girls approach their studies in an efficient and effective manner… starting now! The best way to approach this large mountain of material is little and often and I have shared with the girls and their tutors some learning strategies which they might like to try out. In the Summer Term, we will be holding an Open Door Week, when all staff will be encouraged to try out something new in their lessons. It is a really exciting venture which has got everyone thinking about thinking!
Miss Kate Oatley, Subject Team Leader for Spanish
Every three years the school sets equality objectives as part of the school’s Equality and Cohesion Policy. In 2015, with information gathered by our students, we identified the following two objectives
1. Encourage students to discuss issues related to mental health
- Promote positive mental health awareness throughout the school community
- Provide a safe environment for students to raise concerns and feel listened to
- Promote anti-bullying campaigns
2. Promote awareness on the prevention of homophobic or other bullying both within and outside our community
- Create a student anti-bullying committee (HEART)
HEART, Healthy Equality and Rights Together is run by two of our Student Ambassadors and following their successful Anti-Bullying campaign earlier this year, they are now meeting with students in KS3 and KS4 to discuss a new set of targets for the school. As part of this process they have shared evidence of how we have achieved our previous actions, some of which are listed below:
- Assemblies by MIND to promote acceptable mental wellbeing terminology
- Working in partnership with MIND to train and supervise our Student Ambassadors in supporting younger students
- Developing and sharing leaflets for parents and students on themes around improving mental well-being
- School staff training in how best to support young people with wellbeing related matters
- Our school website signposts students to supportive organisations and information
- Promoting student self-responsibility to Y11 as part of the Sixth Form induction process
- Creating a space for students to use at break or lunch to talk or just have some quiet time with the support of our Student Ambassadors
- Creating an LGBTQ+ group called Spectrum to help raise awareness
- The group currently runs weekly for KS4/5 and once a fortnight for KS3 with resources and delivery being prepared by Y13 students in collaboration with two members of staff
- The work of Student Ambassadors, Buddies, FACT, Spectrum and Young Carers all help support students at AHS
- He4She success through Active Citizenship lessons – this work has been included in the Bucks CC Equality Strategy
The students attending HEART have been tasked with identifying new targets for the school in addition to a separate student working party reviewing our current Equality and Cohesion Policy. We will update you on their progress in the near future when we have confirmed our focus areas for 2018 – 2021.
Mrs Hamnett, Deputy Headteacher
In May 2018 there will be a new EU regulation covering data protection, GDPR which stands for General Data Protection Regulation. It will replace the current Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) and the Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 (PECR).
The main focus of GDPR is informed consent and the right to privacy for individuals. In practice this means making sure that everyone (parents, staff, previous students etc.) :
- knows what personal data we hold on them
- provides agreement to us holding this data
- knows what we intend to do with it
- is made aware of who we might share this data with (if anyone)
- knows how long we are likely to keep this data
- will have the right to be forgotten and the right to object to certain types of data use.
Personal Data is any data that can be linked to a single person and which identifies them in some way. For example, name and personal email address and/or any of the following: postal address, telephone numbers, bank account details, payment card details, marital status and date of birth.
We are currently auditing and reviewing our current systems to ensure that we are GDPR compliant when the new regulations come into force. We will update you on our progress including any actions that may be required by you in the near future.
If you want to read more about this new regulation please refer to GDPR public information.
Mrs Hamnett, Deputy Headteacher
Public Examination Provisional Timetables
Now that the Year 11 mock examinations are over and students await news on how they have performed and what they need to do to improve, we turn our attention to Year 13 mocks. At the time of publishing this January Newsletter, our oldest students will be half way through their examination week with the aim of identifying what is secure already and what areas they need to focus on in their final weeks at Aylesbury High.
The build up to public examinations starts quite quickly from this point with entries to examination boards being carefully checked by students and Subject Team Leaders via individual student statements of entry. If you have an interest in the 2018 public examinations, please view the provisional examination timetables on our website under Curriculum. It is also worth noting that we have set Friday 11 May and Friday 18 May respectively for Year 11 and Year 13 as the days to go on study leave in preparation for these examinations.
We only have two subjects, Photography and World Development, taking AS examinations this summer. Year 12 will experience internal examinations to ensure they are making the necessary progress towards their A Levels in the Summer Term and information about the format of these examinations will be shared with students and parents in due course.
Please contact Mrs Burchell, Examinations Officer, at email@example.com if you have any questions about the public examination season.
Mrs Hamnett, Deputy Headteacher
An Update from the Chair of Governors
Subsequent to the recent invitation for parents to join the school’s Governing Body I am delighted that four new Parent Governors have been appointed. Following their nominations and induction, Helen Bush, Neil Esslemont, Mark Francas and Antony Woods formally took up their roles before the Christmas break and began by attending December's Full Governing Body (FGB) meeting. They have already attended this month’s Teaching & Learning (T&L), Resources and Personnel Committee meetings in addition to the January FGB meeting and are starting to make important contributions to the governance of the school.
The Governing Body comes from all walks of life and are drawn from the parent body as well as representatives from the local community and our staff. Together we aim to bring a breadth of experience and expertise to the development of the school and oversight of the delivery of education to its students. As a Governing Body we act for the school as a whole – students, parents, carers, teachers and support staff. Our remit is primarily strategic in nature, whilst the operational running of the school is the responsibility of the Headteacher and the senior team.
In addition to the newsletter article from our newly appointed Chair of the T&L committee (John Clarke) below, I have also invited the Chairs of the Resources and Personnel committees (James Chandler and Kate Weir) to reflect on their Chair roles as well – look out for further articles in the forthcoming newsletters.
Mr Arfan Chaudhry, Chair of Governors
Full Governing Board, 2018.
Teaching & Learning Committee
We hope that you remember from the last newsletter that we have refreshed the committee Chairs and I have been appointed as the Chair of the Teaching & Learning Committee. As such I thought it would be useful to share why we have these committees and how we seek to support the overall governance of the school. Each of the three committees meets every two months. The Teaching & Learning Committee is responsible for ensuring that, with the appropriate resources and personnel in place, we are able to offer the best level of teaching and learning within AHS.
The respective committees all connect and come together for review in the Full Governor Body meetings. Like all the other committees, we ensure that relevant policies are reviewed and kept up to date. However, this is only a small part of our typical agenda.
In the case of T&L, we spend considerable time reviewing the effectiveness of the school’s teaching. We regularly review progress in all subjects and year groups, identifying trends, exploring any significant variations from our exceptional record of academic excellence and identifying what actions are needed. We are heavily reliant on analytical evidence to support the teaching at AHS.
We have during recent years been focused on ensuring that changes to the reformed GCSE grading system and the new A Level courses are appropriately addressed.
Like all the committees, T&L relies on the support of the governors, each of whom sits on at least two committees, plus support from teachers and staff. We also need your help. We exist to ensure that good governance is in place. We are here to listen to your concerns, queries and suggestions so please do feel free to contact me or the other governors and we will do our best to respond.
Mr John Clarke, Chair of Teaching & Learning Committee
John Clarke, Chair of Teaching & Learning
Positioned right of the centre on the front row
Six Decades of Progress and Achievement
We have made a decision to start our 60th Birthday celebrations in September 2018 with a final ‘significant’ event in the summer of 2019. It is exciting to join forces with representatives from our student, staff, alumni and governing bodies and our committed AHSA, to plan for something so positive. We are keen that parents who are not already involved in one of the above groups also consider supporting us.
Our aim is simple: to celebrate sixty years’ worth of academic excellence, talent, resilience, enjoyment and achievement and so much more, whilst recognising the changing role of women throughout these six decades.
We are adopting the theme of ‘Comparing and contrasting the role of women since 1959’ throughout the festivities. We hope that our current students will be reflective of the lives of the AHS students before them, as they continue to be prepared, challenged and inspired for their own futures and be proud of the legacy that they will leave behind in years to come.
We are keen to use a logo for all future birthday notices and we are looking to our student body to produce this – please see the competition flyer below.
In the next newsletter, we will share with you some of our current ideas but in the meantime, please consider joining us so we can all enjoy a memorable 60th birthday celebration. You can do this by emailing Mrs Hamnett, firstname.lastname@example.org with any suggestions or offers of support you may have. We very much look forward to hearing from you.
The AHS 60th Birthday Committee
Young Carers - Gold Award
The Young Carers group at AHS is a place for Young Carers to come and get some time out from a busy home life. It has a relaxed atmosphere and there are loads of opportunities to chat with other Young Carers who are in a similar situation and also to have fun doing creative games and activities.
This year students have made slime, baked and decorated biscuits, and filmed stop motion videos. Their highlight has been getting and looking after two goldfish.
The group creates a friendly environment where experiences can be shared and advice provided from people who have been or are in similar situations.
On Thursday 25 January, the AHS Young Carers went to the Buckinghamshire Young Carers in Schools Awards and received a gold award for all the work we do collectively to support Young Carers. We also received a present, which was the board game Scrabble, which some of our students hadn’t played before. Two of our students were asked to make a speech to talk about our group in school and how it helps; they did the school proud.
We all had a great time and it was a privilege to be invited.
Mrs Lisa Westcott, Student Welfare Coordinator
Duke of Edinburgh's Award
Extracts from a (very welcome!) message sent to us by Kate Aldersley, AHS's South East Region Operations Officer
You have 264 new participants enrolled – 148 Bronze, 82 Silver and 34 Gold. These are outstanding numbers. The number of young people who are given the opportunity to undertake their Duke of Edinburgh’s Award at Aylesbury High School is fantastic.
DofE has a regional target of 60% for Award Achievements this year.
· Last Year 2016/17 Awards Achieved – 77%
· Current 2017/18 Awards Achieved – 75%
This is a great achievement and a real credit to Mr Torpey and the other DofE Staff at School. Please pass on my thanks to them all for their hard work over the last couple of terms in driving DofE forward.
Just before Christmas I had the pleasure of attending a Silver Award presentation assembly at your school. It was wonderful to see so many young people receive the recognition for their hard work, commitment and determination. I have also had the opportunity to meet some of your delightful Gold Award Holders at St James’s and Buckingham Palaces last year when they received their Awards from HRH The Duke of Edinburgh.
I will of course continue to support the DofE team in delivering The DofE Award at Aylesbury High School.
Thank you for your continued support of The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award at your school.
Kate Aldersley, Operations Officer
NOTE: There are 72,384 young people in Bucks at an age where they could be doing DofE; 5% of them actually start an Award.
Hours volunteering by DofE participants in Bucks.........31,746
Hours learning a skill.............................................................21,109
Hours on fitness......................................................................35,737
AHS students make up over 1/4 of all Gold completions and over 1/5 of all Silver completions in Bucks - well done to us!
DT Technician Permanent Post
Pay Range 2 (£8,489 – £9,536 actual salary per annum)
20 hours/week, term time plus INSET days
We seek a technician as soon as possible who can provide support to the DT Department in preparing lesson materials and looking after the workshops.
We are committed to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and young people and expect all staff to share this commitment. The successful applicants will be subject to an enhanced DBS check.
Mrs Hilary Osgerby, PA to Headteacher
Our AHS Alumnae
One of our key Development objectives this year is to reach out to our Alumnae and broader school community. This is especially important as we start our preparations for next year’s 60th Birthday and we would love to welcome as many of our school community as we can to our birthday celebrations.
We are delighted with the achievements of our Alumnae and are keen to keep in contact with as many past students as possible. We consider our Alumnae to be part of our extended AHS family and would love to know how past students are getting along and to see them at reunion events. With this in mind, we contacted all our Alumnae (that we have details for) in November.
(If you are an AHS Alumnae and didn’t receive information and a Contact & Consent Form from us in November, please contact Mrs Pexton at email@example.com and we will be pleased to update your contact information and post the information out to you).
We received an excellent response to our November mailing from Alumnae across all years and responses are still coming in! We are very appreciative that our responding Alumnae have expressed their keen interest in:
· Attending Reunions and Celebration Events including our 60th Birthday Events
· Being involved in the organisation of our 60th Birthday celebrations
· Taking part in our new ‘Women Who Inspire’ initiative
· Helping with our AHS Archive research and development.
Additionally, many have been inspired by our AHS 'Building a Brighter Future' School Fund initiatives and are donating to the fund, as well as sponsoring our new AHS Alumnae Memory Wall; we are very grateful for their continuing support.
It was fascinating to discover the career pathways Alumnae have chosen and their significant achievements to date. We look forward to keeping in contact with them, sharing their news and welcoming them back to AHS in the near future for our reunions and events.
The New ‘Aylesbury High School Former Students and Staff’ LinkedIn Group
LinkedIn is an excellent business-oriented social networking service that operates via websites and mobile apps and is mainly used for professional networking. To connect with our professional Alumnae, we have just formed this new Group which we will use to circulate school and alumnae news, as well as posting our events, planned reunions and exciting new initiatives!
If you would like to join this new LinkedIn Group, please ‘connect’ with Alison Pexton on LinkedIn, who will then send out an invitation for you to join the Group.
Saturday 14th July 2018
The First Joint AHS/AGS Reunion: 1997 - 2017 Leavers
We are delighted to announce the first joint AHS/AGS Reunion for 1997- 2017 Leavers
on Saturday 14th July from 4 pm
Please save the date
Further details, invitations and ticket information to follow!
Our AHS Building a Brighter Future Fund
We are always very thankful for any donations we receive to our AHS School Fund. Every donation received really helps and every penny is put to very good use, to ultimately benefit the education of every student at AHS.
Our next projects are the refurbishment of S17 in April/May, and then the Tower Block classrooms this summer (subject to funds and planning). This will transform the ten classrooms into much nicer teaching spaces. Please support us with donations for this very worthwhile project.
Further information on our fundraising can be found in our ‘Building a Brighter Future’ leaflet HERE
Elements: S17 Refurbishment Update
Thank you to all those who sponsored an Element on our AHS Periodic Table and kindly donated to ‘Girls of S17’ to support our S17 science lab renovation project. Together with grants from the William Harding Charity, the Garfield Weston Foundation and school funds, we are now delighted to confirm that we have successfully chosen a contractor through the tendering process and work is due to commence on Tuesday 3rd April and will be completed by May half-term. (Due to examinations, we will be delaying the unveiling of the AHS Periodic Plaque until the end of June).
We greatly appreciate your help supporting us to provide our students with an enhanced science teaching and learning environment.
Please don't forget to check if your employer will match your donations to our AHS Fund!
Already parents are adding new companies to our Matched Giving List. Thank you!
Companies help charities through a matched giving scheme as a part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). In this way they match pound for pound the donation that their employee makes to a registered charity.
If you are donating to the AHS Fund (a registered charity), your donation may be matched by your employer through Matched Giving. Please enquire with your HR or Payroll Department for their support.
For an updated list of companies we know are committed to Matched Giving, please email Mrs Pexton firstname.lastname@example.org
Mrs Alison Pexton, Development Director