July 2018

Newsletter 6

After receiving nearly 800 votes for our 60th Anniversary Competition, we are pleased to announce that Chloe Roberts, Year 7 has created the winning logo. Well done to her and thank you to everyone else who submitted an entry.

Contents

  • Reasons to be cheerful
  • Staffing News
  • A Level & GCSE Results Days
  • Chromebook Learning Walks
  • 1:1 Devices and Planners
  • Termly Progress Checks
  • Parent Workshop on Mental Health
  • 60th Birthday Schedule
  • Premises work over the holidays
  • Development and Alumni News
  • A note from a new parent governor
  • Governor Day at AHS
  • Recommended summer reading
  • Second Hand Uniform
  • Parking in and around school
  • Awards
  • Term Dates for 2018/19

Reasons to be cheerful, part 59!

With only one more sleep until the holidays really begin, here are seven reasons to be cheerful:

  • It's the end of our fifty-ninth year and we are planning on enjoying our sixtieth year in style
  • The end of year assembly showcased the fantastic range of activities and trips which have taken place this year
  • We start September with our whole-school 1:1 scheme after Years 7 & 8 have led the way this year
  • Our sports teams have had great success this year and, just as importantly, have played fairly and with great teamwork
  • By the end of September we will have a good idea whether or not we can proceed with the Tower Block refurbishment next summer; please keep those Development Donations coming in over the summer
  • Through hard work and dedication, staff have seen their classes through the introduction of new GCSEs and A Levels in every subject over the past three years
  • Staff and students have coped remarkably well with the unseasonal temperatures over the past months, and have also learnt to find routes round the scaffolding as the work progressed

I hope everyone has a great break and returns refreshed and ready for another exciting year in the life of AHS.

Alan Rosen


Staffing News

It is the time of year when we need to say farewell and thank you to our colleagues who are leaving us before the start of the autumn term.

We wish the following staff success and happiness in their new positions and thank them for all they have done during their time at AHS:

Ms Watson (STL Geography), Mrs Ray (KS3 PSA), Miss Flynn (Mathematics and KS3 Coordinator), Mrs McReynolds (History), Mrs Mallett (Biology and Head of Year 12), Miss Hodge (Reprographics and Food/Textiles Technician), Mrs Powton (KS5 PSA and Maternity Data Manager), Dr Phillips (Mathematics), Mrs Harwood (English), Mr Jones (English) and Ms Thomas (MFL).

Good luck also in their new teaching posts to our colleagues who have trained with us during this academic year.

A Level and GCSE Results Days

  • All public examination results will be sent to the students’ school email addresses:
  • A Level results will be sent by 8 am on Thursday 16 August
  • GCSE results will be sent by 8.30 am on Thursday 23 August
  • The results sent home will not contain unit marks but will be overall grades only
  • Should there be any email problems, we will post an update message via Twitter [@AylesburyHigh] in which case, students will need to come into school to collect results
  • At 3pm on both results days, any stamped addressed envelopes will be posted. Those unstamped can be collected from Reception at the start of the Autumn Term

Should students require more detailed information about their exam results (or in case of non-receipt of electronic results), they will need to come in at the following times:

On Thursday 16 August, school opens at 9 am. The Sixth Form team will be on-site to congratulate students or support anyone with remark or HE admission questions. Year 13 will be sent a Google Form to confirm their destinations.

On Thursday 23 August, school will be open at 9 am

  • Year 11 students will also be sent an online form to confirm their intentions for 2018/19, including subject choices. This must be completed promptly.
  • Any internal students wishing to discuss their examination results/A Level choices are welcome at the following times.
    • Thursday 23 August between 9 am and 12.30 pm
    • Friday 24 August between 9 am and 12 pm

Please note that external students have already been sent alternative arrangements for visiting school and confirming places.

Please note also that a student’s results will not be released to any other person, including parents or relations, without a signed letter of authorisation from the student. A text message or email is not acceptable. Results cannot be given over the telephone.

Kerensa Burchell, Examinations Officer

Chromebook Learning Walks

In late June I conducted Learning Walks with Lorraine Tominey, Learning Mentor, as an initial exercise to audit the use of Chromebooks and their impact on learning. We attended many Year 7 and 8 lessons and took the time to observe how the Chromebooks were being used. In addition, we spoke with the students to get their feedback and later teaching staff to find out whether they felt the lesson they had taught was more effective with or without the use of the Chromebooks. We also attended lessons where the Chromebooks were not in use and again examined the reasons why the teacher felt the devices were not appropriate for the lesson being taught.

We received an overwhelmingly positive response from our students and it was great to witness the learning that is taking place between them, as they appear to be regularly sharing techniques and tips to get the most effective use out of their devices. Some of the students noted that they are looking to improve their keyboard skills over the summer and others may need to work on reorganising how they manage their files; we are going to provide further guidance to them on how best to do this.

We observed many examples of collaborative work and it was pleasing to note how quickly Chromebook lids were closed when the teacher wanted the attention of the class to move the learning forward.

Lessons remain varied, as we observed periods of no Chromebook use to lessons where the Chromebooks were used intermittently or throughout the lesson.

Nette Hamnett, Deputy Headteacher

1:1 Devices and Planners

As part of our roll out of 1:1 devices, we are looking at how students can make more use of them in their day to day organisation. From September, students will have a Google Classroom for every subject and all their homework will be set on here. As well as being able to refer to Google Classroom for their homework tasks, we will be encouraging students to use Google Calendar and Google Keep to keep track of homework and targets.

We are also developing a student homepage which students will see when they log onto our website. It will include useful links to key information such as daily notices and subject specific websites.

This means that the traditional planner that we have provided for students has become redundant and we are no longer going to give these out in September. As students get used to the transition to electronic organisation, some students may want to purchase a simple paper diary, which is a decision we will leave up to them.

1:1 at AHS

As you will be aware, we have been rolling out a scheme of 1:1 devices across the school. Our Year 7 and Year 8 students are already using Chromebooks and the portal has now closed for Year 9 and our new Year 7 intake with a 95% uptake. Our Year 10, 11 and 12 students will bring in a device of their choice from September and some of them are already using these more in lessons as they prepare for next year.

In the meantime, teaching staff have been looking ahead to lessons for the new school year and have been adapting schemes of work to include the use of technology where it enhances the lesson. We are looking to redefine the way we can teach rather than just replacing a written exercise with a typed exercise. Every student having her own device gives us the option to make lessons more collaborative and interactive. We are excited about the opportunities that 1:1 gives us moving forward.

Caroline Wilkes, Assistant Headteacher

Termly progress checks

Effort codes

Three years after we introduced the 1 - 5 effort code system, we have conducted a review. We have spoken to lots of students and have decided that we will modify it for the academic year 2018-19. There are 3 main reasons for this decision:

          • Effort grades 4 - 5 had been very rarely used and therefore are essentially redundant
          • The number of codes had multiplied so much that it was difficult to track them
          • A number of effort codes were less about effort than about outcomes and we felt this was unfair.

The new system will, we hope, be simpler for students, staff and parents. There will be three principal effort grades and the third grade will, as before, contain some more specific information, but there will be far fewer of these codes.

1 Working very hard

2 Working hard

3 Concern with effort

    • Lack of effort with homework
    • Lack of effort with class work
    • Several pieces of homework missed
    • Attitude towards learning needs improving
    • Can be off task in lessons
    • Organisation of work needs improving
    • Homework and class work both require more effort

There will be a 4th option Abs (absence) where teachers feel that the volume of absence has been such that it is impossible to judge the level of effort.

Likely to Achieve Grades (LAGs)

The LAG grades will essentially remain the same. However, in keeping with the change for the effort codes, there will be an Abs (absence) option here too. All predictive grades are of course based upon an estimate of future attainment dependent upon how students are performing at any given time. For all students, teachers use their professional judgement to give these grades. Where there is no evidence for them to base their decisions upon, in the case of a high level of absence, they will now not do so.

The grading system at AHS

Whichever exam system is in place, be it at GCSE or A Level, over a number of years teachers become accustomed to the system and are therefore able to make an informed decision about what grades they should give for individual pieces of work, assessments, exams or predicted grades for the future.

Whenever new systems come into place, this understanding has to be built back up again. Exam boards and the government provide guidance, and teachers work extremely hard to make sure they can be as informed as they ever were.

The government’s decision to do away with National Curriculum Levels three years ago meant that each school had to decide for itself how it would measure progress, especially at Key Stage 3 (Years 7 - 9). Schools took the approach they felt best suited their school.

A range of the options taken by schools are:

  • To stick with National Curriculum Levels, as they feel they understand them.
  • To bring GCSE grades 9 - 1 down to Key Stage 3, starting at the lowest and moving up. (AHS version).
  • To bring GCSE grades 9 - 1 down to Key Stage 3, but give students a 5 year prediction. In this instance students receive grade 8s or 9s in Year 7 but they are a Year 7 version of grade 9.
  • To give no grades at all at Key Stage 3 and only report on effort and attitude to learning in the different subjects.

At AHS, we favoured the 2nd option for several reasons:

  • Giving them five year targets, especially for subjects they had never done, seems unfair.
  • We didn’t want to put too much pressure on students early on.
  • We favour giving them targets for Key Stage 3 and the individual year groups within it, so that students have a clear focus for the year and then we reset those targets when they actually begin their GCSEs in Year 10. This is of course a point at which other new subjects are available.
  • We want students to understand that it is what they achieve at the end of Year 11 that is important; everything else along the way is a practice, helping them to learn for their GCSEs.

Using GCSE grades at Key Stage 3 (Years 7 - 9)

It has always been the case that students in Year 9 could, in individual circumstances, produce a piece of work/do an assessment that would score an A* at GCSE level. This is still the case for Grade 9 in the new GCSE system. However, if that student were to take the exam in the subject, it is highly unlikely that they would do so well. This is for several reasons:

For a piece of work/assessment in Key Stage 3, it is likely that a student would be focused on one individual topic area for a period of 3 - 6 weeks. The focus of every lesson would be building up to that piece of work/assessment. Students would receive clear guidance on how to approach the work and would know precisely the nature of the task they were to undertake at the end of it. For real GCSEs this is never the case as students would have to revise for every topic area they had covered and would not know the precise nature of the questions they would be facing.

All the skills they learn in subjects at Key Stage 3 can be employed later on at GCSE level, in addition to the new ones they acquire once they start their actual GCSE courses. The volume of topics they cover at GCSE also increases greatly.

Students can, and do, produce wonderful work in the lower year groups but the grades they receive can’t automatically be transferred to a ‘real’ GCSE scale.

This is not to belittle the achievements of those students producing excellent work at GCSE but it explains why they can achieve high grades in individual pieces of work, yet not be ready to take a GCSE.

When it comes to work students do when they have started their GCSE courses, in Year 10 and 11, the grades they receive for work and the LAGs given to them by their teachers, should be very indicative of what they will get at the end of the course. At Key Stage 3 (Years 7-9), they are on a pathway which will eventually lead to those grades.

For most subjects, it is typical that a target for Year 7 might be grade 1 - 2, for Year 8 3 - 4 and for Year 9 4 - 6. It is important to remember that students progress at different rates in different subjects, the way each subject is taught is different but by Year 9 the grades start to become similar for the majority of subjects, as they look to progress to their GCSE courses.

Ewen Baird, Curriculum Manager for MFL and Data Coordinator

Mental Health Awareness Workshop

LEAP in partnership with MIND are offering a parent workshop at AHS on Tuesday 09 October, from 7:00pm - 8:30pm. The workshop has been developed specifically for parents to help them understand the mental health issues many young people face. The mental health charity Mind, will cover topics including:

  • Basic introduction of mental health issues and the importance of maintaining good mental health for your child
  • Spotting potential warning signs and hot spots (e.g. exams and other stress points)
  • Helping to prevent potential problems developing
  • How to approach conversations with young people and understanding why young people don’t seek help
  • The benefits of physical activity for maintaining mental health

Places can be booked at a cost of £15, using this link to the LEAP portal

https://www.leapwithus.org.uk/events/mental-health-awareness-workshop-private-workshop-ahs-parents/

Places are limited so please book early to avoid disappointment.

If you are looking for alternative support, please take a look at the latest Parent Support Newsletter attached here. If for any reason you cannot access this document, please go to the website and click on the 'What's On' tab/Head's Newsletters and you will find a link to the document there.

The Parent Support Newsletter contains details of all parenting groups, organised by Bucks. Family Resilience to be delivered next term. The booking form can be found here. If for any reason you cannot access this document, please go to the website and click on the 'What's On' tab/Head's Newsletters and you will find a link to the document there.

Nette Hamnett, Deputy Headteacher

60th Birthday Schedule

In addition to our main 60th Birthday Festival taking place at AHS on Saturday 6 July 2019, we will be taking the opportunity to celebrate 'the changing role of women since 1959' in all of our House Events during the next academic year. In addition we will host some new competitions such as an AHS bake off and invite our Alumni into school to share their memories of AHS.

The Festival itself will see performances from Dance, Drama and Music, a fashion show based on recycled clothing and a Battle of the Bands. A number of exhibitions will offer you the chance to view both our archived material and the work of our current students. We will be encouraging students to run House stalls and food and drink will be available.

Students will be able to purchase 60th House t-shirts early next year to show their support for events. Other items such as water bottles, mugs, will also be available to buy to help us capture this special time in the history of our School.

It would be lovely to have more parents involved in our preparation for this special celebration of our School. Please contact me at nhamnett@ahs.bucks.sch.uk if you can support us in any capacity, such as offering the name of someone local who provides outside stage equipment, offering a prize or knowing a 'qualified' bake-off judge!

A snapshot of some our events can be seen below.

Nette Hamnett, Deputy Headteacher

Premises work over the holidays

The last few weeks have seen the scaffolding going up on the Harding Hall and New Block so that their roofs can be replaced over the holidays. Thank you to staff and students for coping so well with the disruption.

It is possible that the work will need to continue into September but we will have a better idea in mid-August of how the project is progressing - at least the weather hasn't held anything up so far.

The Harding Hall boiler is also scheduled for replacement immediately after the roof work is completed, so we are looking forward to a better insulated and better heated space by next winter.

Development and Alumni News

AHS/AGS Reunion for 1997-2017 Leavers

We would love to see as many leavers as we can from the years 1997 - 2017 at our joint AHS/AGS event on Saturday 1 December. To add to the fun, leavers can now purchase tickets for their partner to attend the event as well. This is an excellent opportunity to see your school again, reconnect with past students and staff, meet our current staff and governors, as well as having guided tours of both schools. There will be live music from our students, a hot buffet and other refreshments available, including an informal cash bar. To purchase your ticket, please contact me; email address below.

AHS Alumni Success

We are delighted to be reconnecting with so many of our former students and staff and finding out more about their lives after AHS. One of our key Development objectives this year has been to reach out to our Alumni and broader school community in preparation for our 60th Birthday celebrations. We would love to welcome as many of our school community as we can, to join us in our birthday celebrations, and if you are an ex-student and have not yet contacted us, please email me at or visit www.ahs.bucks.sch.uk/about-the-school/alumni for more information.

The response to our new Alumni initiatives has been very positive and we are especially thankful to those who have kindly offered their support for 'Women Who Inspire' and our Archive Project. We also thank those who have volunteered to be involved in the forthcoming organisation of our 60th Birthday celebrations, those who have donated prizes for student competitions, as well as Alumni making generous donations to our Building A Brighter Future Fund.

We look forward to keeping in contact with them and welcoming them back to AHS in the near future for our 60th Birthday reunion and events.

Building A Brighter Future Fund

Every donation we receive for our Building A Brighter Future Fund is very gratefully received and helps to benefit the education of every student at AHS.

We now have an alternative method of making donations to our Fund via MyDonate on our Supporting Us website page www.ahs.bucks.sch.uk/supporting-us/ . Our Building A Brighter Future Fund is vital to support our projects, improving and developing both the school’s equipment and its facilities so please do take the time to consider how you can help; further information is also available there.

Laboratory Refurbishment

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; we greatly appreciate your help to provide our students with an enhanced science teaching and learning environment. Together with grants from the William Harding Charity, the Garfield Weston Foundation and school funds, we are delighted to confirm that our S17 refurbishment project is now complete.

We will soon be unveiling the 'Elements' Periodic Table plaque outside the laboratory which displays the name of each 'Element' sponsor who contributed to make the refurbishment possible.

Alison Pexton, Development and Alumni Relations Director - apexton@ahs.bucks.sch.uk

Early observations of a new Governor

As a relatively new Parent Governor, having joined the Governing Board in Dec 2017, and one with no prior experience in the Education sector, I’ve found the past 6 months to be a steep learning curve! Fortunately the more experienced members of the Board and the Leadership Team have been very welcoming and generous with their time in helping get me up to speed. I’ve also benefited from the opportunity to attend several training / induction programs offered by the Buckinghamshire Learning Trust which have been very helpful.

As a parent, I’ve had a very favourable impression of AHS since my daughter joined the school in Year 7 (she’s currently in Year 10). I’ve always thought that one of the main strengths of AHS is the school’s success in achieving the right balance between high scholastic achievement and a caring pastoral environment for students. These impressions have been reinforced since becoming a Governor and seeing at close range the way the Leadership Team works to achieve that critical balance. I’ve been particularly impressed with some of the presentations by Subject Leaders and members of the Leadership Team at our Governor meetings.

One of the things I’ve enjoyed most in my early experiences as an AHS Governor has been the opportunity to participate in strategic planning sessions looking at the school’s vision for the future. One of these was a joint session with AGS Governors on ‘Being Strategic’, and more recently, Governors joined the Leadership Team in a half day workshop to help develop next year’s School Improvement Plan. I do believe that a Governing Board can make its most useful contribution by taking a ‘bigger picture’ or longer term view - which can sometimes be difficult for the Leadership Team who need to deal with the day to day running of the school.

Looking forward, there have been preliminary discussions around refreshing and perhaps expanding the way in which the school obtains feedback from its three key stakeholder groups – students, staff and parents. Feedback which should help shape the future vision for the school. Having had a long career in marketing and social research, this is an area of personal interest to me. The current bi-annual surveys of parents, staff and students provide extremely useful information and these surveys will continue in 2019. Adding a layer of qualitative input via focus groups and less formal feedback mechanisms could further strengthen the programme. This would enrich the survey data, and help get ‘beyond the numbers’ in understanding the issues of most concern to each of the key groups. Towards that end, we would welcome your views and thoughts on how we might improve the feedback programme and particularly the mechanisms for input by parents. If you would like to express your views, please email the Governors at achaudhry@ahs.bucks.sch.uk.

Mark Francas, Parent Governor

Governor Day at AHS

On Monday 2 July 2018, 10 governors spent the day in school, observing lessons and taking the opportunity to see the normal life of the school for the day. This was a great opportunity for us to get to know the school better, allowing us to interact with staff and students in a way that we cannot do in the regular evening governing board meetings. This was the seventh year that governors had spent the day in school. For the more long-standing members it was clear how the school has progressed over that time; for those of us who joined the governing board during the past year, it was a useful opportunity to gain some insight into the life of the school.

In addition to observing lessons, we joined the staff briefing at the start of the day and came together with the students for lunch in the canteen. At the end of the school day we gathered for an informal discussion about the day’s events before our regular full governing body meeting in the evening.

A number of us took the opportunity to attend the Year 9 Presentation Morning at the beginning of the day. It was good to join parents to see the school celebrating the efforts of the Year 9 students through the academic year and the strong relationship that the form tutors have built with their students, and I would encourage all parents to attend these mornings when they are able to.

For most of the governors, this was the first opportunity to see the Chromebooks in use, having discussed the preparations for their introduction over many months. It was interesting to see the variety of uses they were put to and we look forward to seeing how this develops in the coming years to enhance the girls’ learning.

During the course of the day, we saw some engaging and inspiring teaching across a number of subjects, and saw students who were happy to learn in a good learning environment. The range of extra-curricular activities offered to the students is striking: our visit came the week after many of the governors saw the Music, Dance and Drama departments on display at Midsummer Music, Muses and Movement, and following the girls’ successes dancing for Darcey Bussell at the WhizzFizzFest festival in the town centre - none of these things, nor the wide range of sporting activities, would happen without the commitment of the staff who give up their time at lunchtimes, after school and at weekends.

The day also provided us an opportunity to see some of the challenges faced by staff, including recent curriculum changes. It was clear that the school is very busy, but also very well-organised, and there is a lot of effort going on to improve the learning environment for the girls, ranging from improvements to the IT infrastructure to work underway to replace the roofs of two parts of the school.

Overall we found the day both enjoyable and informative, and would like to thank the staff for their hospitality, particularly those staff who allowed us to sit in their lessons, and both staff and students who took the time to explain to us what they were doing.

Neil Esselmont, Parent Governor

Recommended Summer Reading

Please look at our list of recommended summer reads to encourage your daughter to pick up a book or two to enjoy over the summer break. If for any reason you cannot access this document, please go to the website and click on the 'What's On' tab/Head's Newsletters and you will find a link to the document there.

Matt Elgin, Curriculum Manager for English

Secondhand Uniform

One of our parents has recently set up a Facebook page promoting the sale of secondhand AHS uniform, with the aim of recycling unwanted uniform that is in good condition.

The groups are closed to avoid intruders and are called;

Aylesbury High School AHS Secondhand Uniform (not sports) and Aylesbury High School AHS Secondhand Sports Wear

We do hope you can support this new initiative and we are grateful to Mrs Paver for providing this opportunity.

Parking in and around school

Please be mindful of lessons taking place at AHS and neighbouring schools when parking, dropping off or collecting your daughter(s). Early this week it was reported that some disturbance to lessons was caused at The Grange due to parents parking their cars on the pavement outside their MFL classrooms, when dropping off for a trip. Engines were kept running and conversations between parents displayed a disregard for the teaching that was taking place.

Please remember that you do not have right of access to the bus park or the school sites in the interests of health and safety of our many young people.

Thank you.

Awards

Congratulations to...

...Madeleine Watts, who has been awarded the Harvard Book Prize, given annually for “an outstanding student in the penultimate year, with exceptional personal qualities who makes a significant contribution to school or community"

...Amani Hoque, who is this year's recipient of the Felicity Hewitt Award, given to the Year 12 student who, "is kind, considerate, thoughtful, understated and modest"