The first of this year’s meetings of the Parent Council will be held on Monday 24th September in the Meeting Room at 5.30pm. For parents new to the school the purpose of the Council is for parents to act as a ‘sounding board’ on a range of issues identified by the school, which will help us to reflect on what we currently, do and how it may be improved. Additionally these meetings give us a range of parental opinions before new ideas or developments are implemented. News from the meetings is published on the Parent Council page of the website. All parents are welcome to attend. Should you wish to come to the first meeting please could you advise the Headteacher’s P.A. Mrs Andrea Herman on firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to seeing you then.
Meetings are due to be held in the Memorial Meeting Room 5.30 - 6.30pm
19th November 2018, 21st January 2019, 4th March 2019, 13th May 2019 & 24th June 2019
Parent Council News - Monday 24th September 2018
New members were welcomed and Alessandra Desbottes explained that the purpose of the council is for parents to act as a ‘sounding board’ on a range of issues identified by the school, which will help the school to reflect on what it currently does and how it may be improved. Additionally meetings give a range of parental opinions before new ideas or developments are implemented.
The first issue discussed was School transport for 6th form – a large number of bus passes were not available for start of term, despite county knowing about sixth form student numbers, low income and those out of catchment. The school finance office is being left to sort out a mess that has all the strings held by the County. There is still no clear information for sixth form students on the county website about what school transport is available.
The School Parliament and its election process were discussed. It was suggested that students’ term of office should not be for every year but rather that it would be fairer to hold elections every year. This would allow a greater number of students the opportunity of participating. This has been taken back to the School Parliament and the SLT for discussion.
Mental health issues in children and also their friends’ ability to support others working through mental health issues was raised. Suggestions were made about how the school could support children and these have been passed on to the relevant colleagues. Alessandra Desbottes pointed out that the fact remains, however, that schools are vastly underfunded. Whilst the wellbeing of our students is of paramount importance we lack the funding which would support greater invention. Some years ago the school employed a full time counsellor. Now, due to financial constraints, she works only one and a half days a week.
One parent raised the issue of 6th form pathways and asked if the school is now encouraging students to go down the apprenticeship route rather than the university route. Alessandra Desbottes explained that the school is unwavering in its approach that every student is treated individually and any advice given is tailored to their abilities, aspirations and hopes for the future. We remain an academic sixth form but understand that university is not the path that all students wish to follow. The sixth form team invite universities, employers and career experts to speak to students. They also organise visits to universities and companies which offer apprenticeships. Students are offered every available option and supported through the decision making process which ultimately must conclude with them making the right decision for them.
One parent asked if the assembly rota could be published on the school website. This has now been actioned.
A discussion was held on how best parents can support their children through GCSE exams. A GCSE revision preparation evening/study skills is held later in the year. It will be suggested that this be brought forward. Alessandra Desbottes informed parents that study skills and independent learning skills are understood to be of vital importance. The school plans to integrate these into learning from years 7 onwards so that students are more confident and less stressed when approaching GCSEs. Year 12 students who have skilfully navigated the exam process by starting early and not cramming revision into a short space of time will also be asked to share their good practice with year 11 students.
One parent said he would have expected his child to have more homework in Year 11. It was pointed out that we were only early on in the term and that there will be plenty of homework to follow. (Homework formed a large part of Parent Council discussions last year and it, along with teaching and learning, is the focus of the school’s development plan). He also expressed his concerns about the length of school skirts. This and other uniform issues such as makeup were debated though one parent commented on her child’s observation that the school was being very strict on uniform. The school’s uniform policy is very clear. As in any school there will be some children who push the boundaries but the school works very hard to ensure that rules are followed. Regarding mobile phones the school has a no tolerance policy regarding the use of mobile phones during the school day. Where the rules are broken, sanctions are applied in line with the school behaviour policy.
Regarding lunchtime arrangements some parents felt that the price of items in the school canteen were not advertised clearly enough. This has been brought to the attention of the kitchen and will be improved.
The new report system was discussed. Some parents felt that the new format lacked the personal touch in earlier reports. Another said she would prefer teachers to put their energies into their teaching. Alessandra Desbottes explained that the purpose behind this change was to reduce teacher workload in line with DFE guidance. Teachers of subjects where students have only one lesson per week were previously writing in excess of 200 reports for each year group. Suggestion such as reintroducing individual targets will be discussed with the SLT.
The yellow sticker system was discussed whereby students who have a target grade of 9 can never achieve a 12 on yellow stickers because they can never be above target. SLT are aware of this and are working to redress this imperfection in the system. Regarding behaviour points for minor issues such as forgetting equipment and whether these should be communicated to parents the SLT feel that it would be an overkill of information. Students are expected to learn from these minor infringements and to improve their organisational skills etc. Should a repeated pattern of behaviour be identified then, of course, this will be communicated to parents as are other more serious issues.
Parent Council News - Monday 11th June 2018
This was the last meeting of the year of the Parent Council at which there was an open agenda.
The purpose of the Council was discussed with parents suggesting that they find it a useful place to bring issues so that the school can signpost them towards solutions and also where they can ask for advice. It was said that they find school helpful with issues raised.
They believe that part of the school’s role is to equip children to face the future.
Regarding alcohol, drugs, and health and sex education parents suggested that an overview of the year would be helpful in order for them to prepare for/discuss with their children and that links to any films etc. would be useful.
Regarding confidential matters that children may wish to discuss that they would not want to raise at home they were reassured that there are people in school available for them to speak to and in particular Mrs. Hewson.
The next discussion was based around revision. Parents were pleased with the wide range of support available in school including lunchtime and evening revision sessions, in class preparation and the variety of approaches taken. They felt that the revision offered was well structured. However it was agreed that some students find it difficult to revise on their own and that when children are asked to ‘revise’ for homework they seem to find this too open ended and some need clearer, more structured instructions or guidance on revision techniques. Alessandra Desbottes was able to advise parents that the main focus of the school development plan next year will be on Teaching and Learning and work will be done with teachers so that they are able to train their students in different techniques so that individuals are able to find the methods which best suit them.
Healthy eating was debated and it was brought to parents’ attention that the week of the meeting was Healthy Eating Week where students were given five challenges including eat breakfast, move more, drink plenty, make a change and eat five a day. Activities were held during the week with the highlight being the whole school congregating on the school field eating different kinds of fruit generously supplied by local shops. Parents expressed the view that they would like to see more vegetarian options in the school canteen but Alessandra Desbottes explained that when they are offered take up is extremely low and therefore uneconomical. It was suggested that parents be surveyed about their views so this will be raised by at a Senior Leadership Team meeting.
Questions were asked about the School Parliament and how it operated and minutes from the last meeting were shared so that parents could get a flavour of issues which are important to pupils. One parent suggested it may be fairer for forms to elect new representatives each year so that more pupils have the chance to participate rather than the current system where members continue year on year. This will be taken to the School Parliament for discussion. A member of the SLT attends each meeting so that students can ask relevant questions and more recently school governors have been invited. It was suggested that a local councillor could be invited and explain the workings of the council and also possibly to invite a journalist from the Evening Mail. The parliament also has a Charity sub group which runs in school charity events.
The next meeting will be held in the Autumn term and Alessandra Desbottes will speak at the Year 6 into 7 Parents Evening about the Parent Council so that more parents are given the opportunity to attend. Meetings will be held half-termly and dates will be announced before the end of the school year.
Parent Council News - Monday 30th April 2018
Sue Hewson (Deputy Headteacher) attended the meeting to brief parents on the school’s approach to sex and relationships education and drugs and alcohol education which the school delivers via several different channels as it does not have dedicated PSHE lessons. The school employs a school nurse (two days a week), an education welfare officer (shared with feeder primary schools) and a counsellor (one day a week). The school nurse delivers sex and relationships education and drugs and alcohol programmes which are taught in form groups. The nurse is qualified in the delivery of these aspects of the curriculum and the programmed delivered is planned with Sue Hewson. Additionally the school arranges for external agency involvement such as drama performances, plays etc. and safeguarding assemblies are held regularly as are internet safety presentations.
In Year 7, students are taught about different types of drugs (mainly nicotine and alcohol) and their effects on the body from a scientific point of view. At GCSE students look at different types of drugs from a biological point of view.
Regarding sex and relationships education this is delivered in form groups and can be summarised as follows:
Year 7 the basics with a focus on keeping safe from harm and abuse in line with the NSPCC PANTS campaign
Year 8 focuses more on sexual exploitation and changes in/pressures on teenagers
Year 9 focuses on contraception
Year 10 on good sexual health, STIs and available support
Year 11 on the effects of negative relationships, how to avoid them and how to escape them
One parent felt that the school does not devote enough time to this, particularly the relationship side of sexual relationships. It was agreed that it would be desirable to have a longer period devoted to this but the school has only limited time to spare from the curriculum and ever dwindling financial resources. Its capacity to deliver on these subjects is constrained by these limits.
The mix of parents attending the meeting was diverse; firm views were held on the subject with different starting points and expectations of what the school’s role should be which highlighted the complexity of the issues facing the school. All, however, were in agreement that parents have a vital role in educating their children and ensuring that they are well-informed about possible dangers and how they can keep themselves safe.
A discussion ensued about external agencies who visit the school such as theatre companies and one parent suggested the school give a broader range of information to parents before any productions and also make it clear early on which subjects are covered by each year group so that parents can discuss with/prepare their children. Sue Hewson is going to look into this. Sue informed parents that a letter always goes out to parents with the option for their children to opt out of any sessions but to date no one has ever done so.
One parent commented that the school has “a well thought out and progressive programme which it runs on a shoe string.” Another was not satisfied that the emotional element of sexual relationships was covered in enough depth but it was pointed out that there is only so much a school can do and we also have to be aware of the sensibilities of the differing viewpoints held by families. As a school teachers model behaviour to their students on a daily basis and teach them the values of respect, friendship, tolerance, kindness and honesty all of which are vital foundations for the formation of any kind of relationship. All students are told that there are people in school that they can talk to if they have any worries or concerns. Additionally the school works with a large number of external agencies who help those children in need of extra support such as SAFER, Bluebell, MyTime (Barnardos), CAMHS, the Birchall Trust, Targetted Youth Support, CADAS, the police, GPs, FGH to name but some.
This was an interesting and fruitful discussion but being such a complex issue it would be difficult for all to share a common viewpoint or position on these matters. It was agreed, however, that such discussions are a useful platform for parents to air their views and for the school to consider how future provision could be improved.
Parent Council News - Monday 19th March 2018
Feedback from the previous meeting (5th February) was taken. Parents were pleased to see the Parent Council news is now available on the UVHS website and that all parents are encouraged to drop in as and when they are able/interested in particular agenda items. It was also agreed that a draft agenda should be circulated well in advance so that parents could add items. One opinion was that there was possibly too much information given, but it was agreed that detail was useful for parents to see the nature of the discussions.
Marking and feedback for students was discussed particularly with extended pieces of work. It was felt that prompt feedback is important or at least that students should be advised when feedback will be given. Additionally some students felt that at parents’ evenings teacher comments to parents did not match feedback to the students during the course of school, because of a lack of meaningful feedback in class. Other parents were pleased with feedback and declared themselves very satisfied, particularly when teacher comments challenged student’s understanding and encouraged a response which helped children to proceed to the next level. The issue was also raised that if a child is predicted the highest grades they cannot exceed this on yellow stickers.
Parents felt there was room for further explanation to parents how the yellow sticker system works, with a learning conversation created between teachers and students (and parents if necessary). Children need to be trained to respond to teacher comments otherwise their comments can be just ‘Yes miss/sir’ rather than any meaningful dialogue. It was suggested that younger children need quicker feedback and that deadlines could be set both ways for work submission and teacher feedback. Additionally it was agreed that verbal feedback in the classroom is very effective. However parents had no desire to undermine teachers’ professional judgement and acknowledged that there are times in the school calendar, such as GCSE and A level mock weeks, when feedback to other students may be less prompt than usual due to marking loads. Part of the transition to secondary school is children acquiring the skills to take responsibility for their own learning and being more independent, so this also needs factoring into the equation.
Regarding achievement/behaviour points the issue was raised that children are not always aware if, when and why they have been given points and that parents do not fully understand the system. Other children fail to advise their parents about any points given. One parent suggested that achievement/behaviour points could be recorded in planners. Failure to compete homework is a major cause for detentions issued. Alessandra Desbottes advised parents that a new lunchtime homework detention system was being introduced where repeat offenders would complete homework with her. She will raise the issue of how achievement/behaviour points can be better communicated to students and parents alike and this will be raised with subject leaders.
All of issues raised at the meeting will be taken to the senior leadership team for further discussion, and any actions will be fed back to the Parent Council.
It was decided that drugs education and sex and relationship education would be on the agenda for the next meeting. Sue Hewson (Deputy Headteacher – Student Welfare) will be invited to the next meeting to explain the schools policies and delivery.
The next meeting will be held on Monday 30th April at 5.30pm in the memorial Meeting room. All UVHS parents are welcome.
Agenda Meeting 30th April
Memorial Meeting Room at 5.30
All parents welcome
Drugs education and sex and relationship education – presentation by Sue Hewson (Deputy Headteacher – Student Welfare)
Matters arising from previous meeting
Parent Council News - Monday 5th February 2018
The first meeting of the parent council was held on Monday 5th February. The meeting began with a welcome and introductions. Matthew Hardwick outlined the purpose of the group as a ‘sounding board’ for the school on a range of issues affecting pupils at the school.
A draft constitution was circulated and feedback was taken from members of the Council. It was agreed that Alessandra Desbottes would amend this (to allow for parents to discuss non confidential issues with wider members of the community) and this was circulated this to members of the Council and suggested amendments made. See below for the constitution.
It was decided that the Council would meet half-termly and agreed that every effort should be made to encourage a wide representation of parents to attend the meetings: sharing notes from the meetings widely; informing all parents of the agenda topics in advance; and allowing parents to attend meetings on a one off basis.
A discussion took place about who would chair the meetings and it was agreed that a school representative would be chair but that a parent from the group could be vice-chair. This will be followed up at the next meeting.
Formal minutes from the meeting will not be taken but will rather be presented as ‘News from the Parent Council’. This will be emailed to parents and put on the school website on the new Parent Council page.
The subsequent discussion of the meeting was homework where parents shared their views on homework set by school. The main points raised were:
- Inconsistency about regularity, quantity and quality of homework set
- Some parent being worried about children being set too much homework and thereby limiting their availability for other activities
- Some parents feeling that pupils should be set more/better quality homework
- One parent mentioned the Show My Homework website which would allow teachers to set homework online and give parents the opportunity to monitor work set and see whether the work had been completed. This is an expensive option so school is now exploring a similar system offered by Microsoft.
- It was suggested that there needs to be a clear definition of what homework should be
- A suggestion was made that every piece of homework should be individualised but this was agreed to be impracticable but certainly homework should be differentiated to meet the varying needs and abilities of students
- All parents felt that the recording of homework could lead to difficulties regarding its completion. It should be clearly explained to children and recorded in planners. It should be unambiguous and reflect work recently completed in class. ‘Finish off work started in class’ is not appropriate as a homework task.
- In some instances parents reported that homework was not marked promptly and in some cases not at all. Matthew Hardwick explained that there are some stress points during the year when teachers are very busy marking exam papers etc., but this does not excuse the lack of feedback to pupils.
- One suggestion was that at these times longer pieces of work could be set allowing teachers a period of time to mark exam papers before assessing the homework.
- Some parents felt that their children were not sure what to do when revision was set as homework and that there should be more input from school on revision techniques
- It was suggested that parents should play a greater role in ensuring that children complete their homework and also that there should be better communication with school if a child is unable to complete it for whatever reason – notes in planners are the easiest way of doing this.
- Some pupils feel a lot of pressure from homework and in these times of mental health issues increasing care must be taken to ensure that pupils have a good understanding of work set in the first place, and understand that teachers will help if they are struggling to complete it.
The meeting closed at 19.00 and the next meeting will take place on Monday 19th March at 5.30pm in the Meeting Room.