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 email@example.com. We look forward to seeing you then.
Meetings are usually held in the Memorial Meeting Room 5.30 - 6.30pm
Parent Council News - Monday 20th January 2020
Welcome and Introductions were made by Alessandra Desbottes (ADe)
New members were welcomed.
As new members were present ADe ran through the purpose and achievements of the Parent Council meetings to date:
- The Parent Council is a place to discuss and consider views of parents
- We have discussed and updated the homework policy
- We have briefed parents and discussed teaching for understanding
- There has been discussion about the every day reviewing and memory techniques strategies
Parents stated reasons they attend the meetings:
- Personal interest and finding out more about school than children will relay at home
- Interest in education and approaches to learning
- Improve support for their children
- Help with the transition from primary school and keep in the loop with secondary school
- Improve understanding of the running of the school
ADe discussed the changes to the curriculum we are working on in school:
- Changes to the curriculum are in line with Ofsted requirements
- Children need to be aware of why they are learning and where they are going and be able to understand an overview of the curriculum in each subject
- Others schools have issues when they start KS4 content early and miss out some of the KS3 curriculum and we need to ensure we have no gaps here
- We will be combing each subject area and ensuring they show the breadth required at KS3 and map them to the current National Curriculum requirements
- We need to update subject pathways to ensure students know about the journey they will take in each subject
- We will also be ensuring each subject complies with the Ofsted requirements around ‘intent, implementation and impact’ for the curriculum
- Connections will also be made between subjects
- Parents asked if it was an increase to teacher workload and it was discussed but they were informed that school has made use of twilight training sessions to provide time for departments to complete the work
- Parents asked about the use of the planner and it was revealed that the planner will not be used in its current form in future years and that there would be a replacement ‘learning guide’ now that teams is being used to set homework
- Parents gave ideas for inclusion in the new ‘learning guide’ including extra-curricular activities, outside school extra-curricular activities e.g. volunteering, reading recommendations, ideas to reduce anxiety in the classroom – ADe assured parents this will be done in consultation with students and parents
- Discussion over anxiety in the classroom e.g. speaking in class and how teachers aim to support students and appreciate parental help too
- ADe invited all Parent Council members to book a school tour if they are interested in looking around the school during lessons
- Idea was raised about a ‘freshers fair’ idea for extra-curricular activities for Y7 and Y12 starters
- ADe invited parents to email her any ideas for agenda items
Parent Council News - Monday 18th November 2019
Welcome and Introductions were made by Alessandra Desbotttes (ADe)
There was a discussion of the issues raised at the last meeting:
- Form activities – we have ensured all form teachers have provided the timetable for form activities for the week and this is in all student planners. A parent confirmed that their child’s form teacher has done this.
- Use of teams for homework setting – is progressing well. There was a discussion about why we are still using planners and these will continue to be used whilst teams ‘beds in’ but it will be discussed before next year. Students don’t need to write their homework in full in the planner if full details are in teams.
- School trips – the process has been tightened up. Now students will be selected on criteria including, attendance on prior trips, attendance in school, punctuality, behaviour points and a ballot will take place if the trip is still oversubscribed. Payments were discussed and it was noted that school has a policy regarding educational trips and visits and subsidising costs of these. The policy is available on the school website. (Educational Visits Policy).
- The ski trip with current Y9 & 10 was then raised by a parent – some are unsure of why school offers this and questions were raised on cost. It was noted that this will take place in the school holidays and has been agreed by SLT.
- Safety at bus stops - was mentioned and no progress has been made at Penny Bridge. The idea to survey the safety at bus stops in the whole catchment was raised.
- Bus turning bay at UVHS – the county council has visited the school to survey the site. There is potential to build a new turning bay in the area where Woodgarth is situated and a car park in the cage by S Block.
- Train service – discussed the appalling nature of the train service and parents praised school for encouraging safety, sensible behaviour and ticket purchasing at the station after school. Questions were raised about being able to contact the station when trains are delayed.
Presentation about Independent Learning from Alison Smith and Alessandra Desbottes:
- Discussed the new teacher planners to show there is a focus on learning not just doing tasks.
- New homework policy is intending to get students to think more about what they are doing with their own learning.
- Teams – can be used to add resources, message a group, chase homework, and can be used to monitor teachers setting homework.
- Parents raised the question about some points in the year students are overloaded or not getting enough and asked about the planning of this.
- ADe said there will be ‘homework holidays’ near to exam time to ensure staff are able to focus on GCSE and A Level marking when homework set will be set over a longer period.
- Literacy (A Smith)
-Literacy is an indicator for success.
-Tier 2 vocabulary needs to be taught explicitly.
-Command words are in planners and teachers will be explicitly teaching these in class.
-Writing is a focus – planning an answer and writing together helps our students.
-Y7 are spending lots of time in the library and using dictionaries to help literacy. -All of these actions are part of a three year plan and it is still early days.
- Revision – we have the everyday reviewing techniques on the school website that students and parents can use. ASm, ADe and PAn are delivering lessons to GCSE students on how to revise and memory techniques.
- Parents raised the idea of asking students what methods work for them and using this to evaluate success of these methods.
- The issues of overcrowding in the dining room came up – a letter has gone out to say there are no longer early lunch passes available for school clubs. (grab a bag or packed lunches are being used instead). Additionally another till has been put in the small dining room. These changes have made a big difference already. The rota for lunch times is on the website. Karen Wren is leaving the staff after over 30 years’ service and we will see some changes after Christmas.
- Communication for this meeting could be improved; we will send a text reminder before and try to encourage more attendees.
Parent Council News - Monday 23rd September 2019
Welcome and Introductions
There was a summary of issues raised and actions completed from last year’s Parent Council meetings:
- The School Parliament election process has been modified so that there are yearly elections giving more students the opportunity to get involved.
- We have tried to include parents in revision activities and these are available on the school website.
- There has been a change to the use of yellow stickers and all staff are aware that a ‘12’ can be awarded for students with a target of a ‘9’ if they are consistently achieving their target grade.
- Literacy and communications leader has been appointed.
- To address the issues with mental health, two appointments have been made – one colleague focusing on wellbeing and mental health and another as a senior learning mentor in the Sixth Form.
- Our foci for this year will be on teaching for understanding and encouraging independent learners and as such the teacher planners have been changed to include Blooms Taxonomy planning tools.
- Communication with parents has been discussed with the School’s Senior Leadership Team.
- We have written to parents about the new homework policy.
We then discussed the Homework Policy in more detail:
- There are different approaches in departments e.g. some setting more small, regular homework and some more project based longer term homework
- Teams is the method of setting homework online, although planners will still be used in conjunction for now.
- Issues around connectivity in the villages were discussed.
- Students reaction to teams has been positive.
- It was confirmed that the tick box for ‘turned in’ is not required if the student physically hands in the work and no punishments will be given if this box is not ticked.
- Questions were asked about phasing out the planner – we are going to wait and see on this and decide how it is going after this year.
- Questions were asked about any conflict with the mobile phone policy – this policy will not change and teacher feedback has been that it has not caused any issues.
Then the parents were given time to raise any issues or queries:
- Planner signing in form is not consistent.
- Form teachers should be making students aware of the date of signing of planners and perhaps they could publish this on teams for their form group.
- Parents should use normal channels to contact school – not teams.
- School trips were raised and a discussion over how students are selected to attend, this will be discussed with the Senior Leadership Team.
- There was a comment raised about sending paper letters out and whether we could introduce a system asking parents their preferred method of contact when their children join the school to ensure paper is not wasted and email used when preferred.
- Safety of bus stops was discussed, particularly around Penny Bridge (ADe stated that she will attend the meeting on this and school supports the parents).
- The school crossings were also mentioned and safety on the main road particularly now that there are three schools in close proximity.
- Discussion that the safety of crossings around school and surveying the bus stops could be a project for the School Parliament to look into.
- There were lots of issues with the bus service last year and these are continuing – school does not have the ability to improve this service as it is not connected to us.
- Finance issues were raised – ideas around staggering requests on parent pay to ensure large amounts of money were not requested for different things at one time.
ADe closed the meeting and informed the group that at the next meeting there would be a discussion on our focus on independent learning and the training staff that staff are receiving.
Parent Council News - Monday 24th June 2019
From last meeting:
- ADe apologised for the delay in sending out the minutes.
- ADe asked for a parent from the group to present with her at the Year 6 into 7 parents meeting.
School Parliament Update:
- RSi discussed the move to a yearly election process. It is a democratic secret ballot in each form and will take place every year. This has been very successful this year with a new group of representatives from the forms. We have had the first meeting with the new reps on 13th June and it was a very pleasant atmosphere, they look like a good group of reliable and interested reps.
- Parents agreed that this is a better, more democratic system.
- RSi discussed the two sub-committees that are part of School Parliament – the Charity Committee and the Eco-Committee. They are run by the students and are open to any interested student in the school.
- RSi outlined some plans for School Parliament over the coming year, to improve links between the Parliament group and the Senior Leadership Team by having ADe attend every meeting. Also to improve the links between the head boy and girl team and the parliament by ensuring a parliament member attends their meetings with the head teacher as well as a rep from the head boy and girl teams attending parliament meetings.
- A parent asked about the skills being developed as part of the School Parliament meetings and it was agreed that some preparation for chairing meetings, taking and writing up minutes is should be provided prior to the meetings.
- Finally ADe offered an invitation to parent council members to attend a School Parliament meeting to see the work being done.
- ADe gave an overview of the enrichment week activities.
- Discussed getting the eco-committee involved in litter picking for the sponsored walk. We could also consider not providing water bottles but refills for their own bottles.
Project for next academic year:
- ADe reminded parents about the online homework programme and the move to more extended project work.
- Discussed that it will be possible to complete some of the tasks online and for teachers to mark online but not the only method of completing the work.
- Computer access for all students was discussed and parents were assured that all students will be able to access computers in school if they don’t have access at home.
- ADe then advised that assessment will also be a big focus during the next school year. The school will be looking at internal assessment and making improvements to the current system.
- Reporting was raised by a parent who felt that Year 11 reports showed real knowledge of the students and felt more personal.
- The new school planners and improved literacy provision was also discussed.
- The online revision activities were also mentioned and parents said that these were very helpful this year.
- Discussed the step up from Y11 to Y12 and difficulties involved. ADe mentioned that a new learning mentor has been employed along with a mental health specialist and a member of staff focussing on stretch and challenge including preparation for Oxbridge. Parents commented that this was good to hear the despite financially stretched times it is clear that school is prioritising student wellbeing.
- Communications were raised by one parent. The protest day letter was praised as it provided a good balance of safeguarding and also allowing students to get involved if they wished.
- The letter about Y11 collapsed timetable however was raised as an issue for parents trying to make arrangements between the Friday receiving the letter and the Monday when it came into action. For example students who live in remote villages with no other option than the school bus didn’t seem to be considered.
- ADe mentioned that a supervised room at school for them to study in could be made available next year.
- Discussion of bus services and promotion of the X12 service for under 18s.
- Discussion of sports and a parent raised that there is not enough communication when a sports event is arranged and the PE blog is not up to date. It would help to have events advertised there to help parents plan.
Parent Council News - Monday 13th May 2019
From last meeting:
- ADe apologised for the email data breach when she forgot to BCC members of the Parent Council.
- Communication with parents has been discussed at SLT and will be reviewed to ensure lines of communication are clearer.
- Orienteering has been raised with SLT; just a thank you needs to be done in September.
- Recording of food pricing in the canteen has been improved.
A guest at the meeting was ASm who spoke to the Council about literacy and communications planned for the school
To date she has undertaken a whole school student survey to understand perceptions of reading and writing in school, worked on making the library the heart of the school and organised world book day and events. The school is trialling a current events newspaper to engage less able/engaged readers. This is going very well so far.
She is looking at how to support students in communication – writing is a key focus.
Additionally the school has a new student planner for September which will be used as a reference point for literacy. For example common use of discourse markers across all subjects. These pages will also be common to the teacher planners.
There has been a discussion about what students bring from Year 6 in terms of vocabulary in order to narrow the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students.
One parent asked if there could there be a visual version on the website – this may be more appealing to students.
It was also suggested that policies need not be in the planner. These could be signposted to the school website.
Command words have been discussed at subject leaders’ meetings and may need some subject specific refinement.
Information on how to be an independent learner will also be in the planners.
ASm will also be going into Primary Schools to find what gaps we have and make plans to fill these.
There was discussion about the “Frayer model” (a graphical organiser used for word analysis and vocabulary building) – this would need planning into subject schemes of work.
There was a discussion about getting the research to staff via CPD and using what Y6 know and do, then building on this.
Parents talked about reading ambassadors and reading buddies – an evaluation of this process is currently in progress. They also talked about ideas on how to encourage reading – book swapping, regular trips in form to the library, parent helpers to listen to readers, asking in the planner what students are reading that week.
During exam time the library is used – can boxes of books be in each room when this is closed? Each form room should have a set of books. The librarian will be contacted to ensure that this is true of all forms.
ADe - Assessments
The question of end of year assessments was raised. Some parents felt that a formal end of year assessment would help students prepare for GCSE exams. This might help with remembering so much content for GCSE preparation. ADe explained that for those students who need readers and/or scribes there is a requirement that a reader and a scribe must be used for all internal assessments and this must be recorded and presented to exam boards as a student’s normal way of working. If this is not done they will be denied extra help in external exams. This puts immense pressure on SEN support staff and means they are not available to support children in the classroom at those times. Additionally if there were formal end of year exams for all subjects this would increase teacher workload at a time when teachers are focused on GCSE and A level preparation.
Parents were pleased with the school’s new timetable for revision during lesson times and felt that revision just before the exam was a good idea.
ADe and ASm thanked Megan Attwood for coming into school and working with them on plans for independent learning and teaching for understanding.
There was a discussion about attracting more parents to attend Parent Council and concerns expressed that it is not fully representative of the Parent body. ADe will speak about the parent Council at the Year 6 into 7 Parent’s Evening in July and reminders will be sent out by text to improve participation.
It was suggested that there should be an opportunity to comment in advance/make comments on the minutes perhaps anonymously/on the Parent Council section on the school website.
Parent Council News - Monday 4th March 2019
Our school nurse is currently absent so unfortunately we have been unable to update advice on the nut allergy situation.
We have recently appointed a new website manager so we will resume publishing news on the website.
Teaching and Learning 3 Year Plan Presentation.
Parents were given a presentation on the school’s three year plan for teaching and learning, the main focus of which will be teaching and learning for understanding and creating independent learners.
Consultation on homework is now complete and a new policy for September will be introduced. Some subjects will move to extended project homeworks, eg Humanities. The work will be scaffolded and will be displayed online for parents to see.
Memory and learning will also be a focus with memory techniques being taught to students. They will also be encouraged to do ‘everyday reviewing’, details of which are on the website so parents can see this too.
Teachers will also focus on metacognition – there will be greater reflection in the classroom with students thinking about what has been done and how they have learned during lessons.
Over the next year the school will run training for teachers and support staff to create a thinking classroom.
Another focus on lesson planning and delivery will be based on Bloom’s Taxonomy.
Improvements will be made in KS3 transition from KS2. This will not just be pastoral but will build on children’s skills from primary school. In the summer term the school will send English and Maths teachers to primary schools.
A new Literacy and Communication Coordinator has been appointed to build on this and develop literacy and oracy further. This role will also include an element of research to moderate the changes being made.
The parents present at the meeting commented favourably on these initiatives.
One parent commented that it is important to develop higher level training and skills for higher levels, e.g. college.
One parent asked about middle ability children and what the school is doing for them. It was explained that the school believes these changes this will benefit everyone.
In response to a question about subjects and staffing it was confirmed that there have been no staffing cuts nor has there been a reduction in subjects on offer at GCSE and A level. Indeed in MFL we have actually increased our offer and added Spanish.
The school runs a system of reading buddies and the question was asked if parents could be involved in this – could we have parent volunteers? They would need enhanced DBS for this and this adds a layer of complexity and costs money. If they have enhanced DBS, they could do this or parents might not mind paying. This will be raised in school.
A discussion was had as to how we describe children as pupils and students and which was most appropriate. Similarly do we refer to self-directed learning/study or homework? We will consult with teachers and children.
Parent questions asked:
How do you feel 1 – 9 target and feedback is going?
Both teachers and students are still getting used to them. The yellow sticker system has changed to allow for the fact that a student who has a target of 9 can never be above target. If a student consistently achieves work of a grade 9 standard then they can be given a 12 on the yellow sticker.
Question about the idea of a federation with feeder primary schools – is this UVHS’s way of protecting schools from academisation?
The options of a hard federation, soft federation, or stay as we are were discussed.
There was a discussion about communication and how the school could improve information giving etc. to parents. Texts can be too short – parents generally prefer letters in those instances where more background is required.
Regarding the examples such as Momo – could Mrs Hewson go back to the County Council to check messages are accurate before sending out directives?
Regarding orienteering a request was made to check a letter will be going out to volunteers.
Regarding labelling and pricing of food in canteen – it was commented that some students struggle to read these when rushing in as it is too small – the school will change this.
Parents praised the performing arts department for the brilliance of the concert with the Royal Marines.
Parent Council News - Monday 21st January 2019
Update on mental health.
Meeting organised Friday 25th January morning training for all primary staff in the area (12 school consortium). This is free training with MIND, is school focussed and provides a way of signposting pupils – it will be run over 3 years. This will also include UVHS staff.
Do we have any mental health first aiders?
We have 4 in school. This training is more for awareness.
Would it pay to have fewer staff but trained well?
Government guidelines say all teachers to have this level of training, so we want to get it done. We discussed implications for teacher training. One parent suggested that signposting information on the website would help people know where to go if they need help. RBu will look into this June – Sept.
Discussed wellbeing document and the new changes for Cumbria pathway for dealing with mental health.
RBu is in discussion with the Football Association over putting in a 3G (pitch long grass with rubber base) on the UVHS site. The FA have given backing to match funding of £350,000, so we would need to raise £350,000 ourselves.
RBu is also meeting Better Leisure over funding. The hope would be to get an indoor tennis court on school site. A parent said it would be helpful to approach the LTA (tennis).
Question asked: How much of the grounds would be used?
What is currently the outdoor tennis courts and the grassy area below for the 3G pitch. Would have to have a new layer of security fencing. It would become a community project.
Interesting discussion about last summer’s Year 10 trip to Trafford Centre – the school wants to change this.
This year, the trip will be 2 days at the YMCA at Newby Bridge with Year 10. This has been well supported amongst staff.
Year 7s are doing the John Muir Award.
Most language trips will go the week before Enrichment Week and the Wind Band Trip is always the last week of term to avoid disruption.
Year 11 Revision.
Training has been delivered to teachers and support staff on revision and memory techniques. This was discussed, as were methods of revision.
We will make Year 11 Parents’ Exam Preparation Evening earlier this year and will also look at the timing of year 13 Parents’ Evening.
The revision techniques information will be put on the school website for parents to use. The aim is for Year 7 upwards to use the reviewing process after each lesson and that they learn revision techniques early on so that it becomes it part of the everyday school experience.
Seneca online – RBu is looking at whole school use.
Allergy issue from last time – advice will be reissued. The school is standing by the no-nuts policy but will be clarifying the policy around peanuts. We can’t control everything but we have put up signage.
Vegan ingredients are stored securely in food technology rooms.
With regard to thanking orienteering staff – RBu says a letter to volunteer staff will come out. We did give a well done to the students. Prize giving – it is impossible to mention everyone, but this will be reconsidered next year as won British Schools.
Discussion of grades allocated in tests.
Questions asked: Are they allocated using grade boundaries?
Yes – an achievement rather than a comparison – using grade boundaries.
Parent Council News - Monday 19th November 2018
School’s response to issues raised at last meeting:
School Parliament elections. Next year new students will be selected on a yearly vote to allow a greater number of children to participate.
Assembly rota – this is now on the school website. Parents requested more details and it was suggested that it could be on the calendar, not a separate page. This will be explored.
Revision Preparation Evening – SLT looked at different dates but it could not be moved. Whole school inset in January will involve working with teachers on revision skills and SLT will consider moving it to an earlier time next year.
Homework – see below.
A request for the price of canteen items to be more clearly displayed has been passed on.
Some parents felt that the new report system is not as personal – point taken on board by SLT and this is being reviewed
The yellow sticker system will be changed for target 9s to ensure they can still get 12s and 3 merits. We discussed the option to not set anyone a target of a 9, but this is set by FFT and students are judged against this. Also there was a discussion of prior years and what a grade 9 looks like. Year 7 CATS are used internally. FFT comes from KS2 so Year 6 is high pressure to achieve grades.
Mental health – see section below.
UVHS Ofsted Report:
The Ofsted report was circulated to parents.
ADe reported that the Ofsted visit was challenging but SLT are pleased with the result.
UVHS results are good and this is the starting point for any inspection. Our broad and balanced curriculum was praised and will also be viewed positively in future Ofsted inspections as this is now a focus. Extra-curricular activities were also praised.
The question was asked if we fast track students? No. Sitting GCSEs early risks the student not achieving the grade they are capable of with an extra year’s study. We also do not skip years as this also has social implications. When do Ofsted return? Probably not within 5 years and not on the appointment of a new Headteacher. The question was asked if the school was disappointed not to get outstanding? No – it gives us the space to continue our improvement journey.
Over the past few meetings we have had a lot of input from parents about homework. We have also surveyed every student in the school and delivered training to staff where the student survey was widely discussed. As a result of these discussions the SLT has drafted a plan to set extended pieces of work for some subjects. This will be written into Schemes of Work and will facilitate preparation for exam style questions. These extended pieces of work will be scaffolded so students are clear on how to progress with these. There will be extensive feedback at the end of the piece of work. KS3 and KS4 maths and Languages will continue with regular homework in the form it is set now. This should help student develop independent learning skills and hopefully help teachers with their marking load.
Annual subject homework plans will be published in the calendar so they extended pieces of work are not set in the same period.
In the weeks before GCSE and A Level exams KS3 students would get different kinds of homework such as researching topics and reading background information for their work.
Scaffolding is key and this will be shared with parents.
One parent asked if we will use online homework. This is on the cards. There was a discussion about ‘One Note’ (Microsoft OneNote is a computer program for free-form information gathering and multi-user collaboration) – by the end of the year, details of students’ homework will be published on this platform. Scheme of Works will also be visible to parents as will Assessment Objectives.
There is scaffolding in lessons and as part of lessons and this will be shared with parents.
During the work on extended pieces of work teacher will check the progress of students working on extended pieces of work
Parents were happy with this idea.
Ofsted was happy with the setting of homework at UVHS on homework, but we want to change and improve.
There was also discussion about the proposed appointment of a literacy across school coordinator as literacy becomes ever more important in education and the world beyond.
It was agreed that this is a big issue in all schools. UVHS is leading the way in the local area. Year 11, Year 6 and Year 2 had training on resilience last academic year. All staff now need to be trained in mental health first aid. Unfortunately there is no government funding whatsoever. The school is working with MIND and RBu is working with primary schools linked to UVHS. There will be additional emotional resilience training for Years 10 and 11 and Year 6.
At school we have the Engagement Centre which works on social/emotional aspects of learning with vulnerable students. This is extremely effective. One parent suggested that this work could be better communicated to parents. A concern was also raised that the work on mental health will benefit future students but that some will not have had access to this.
Any Other Business:
Banning of nuts from school - we have 8/9 students in school with severe nut allergies. All staff are trained in the use of epi-pens. One student is affected by an airborne nut allergy. This is very serious and the school has taken taken medical advice. One parent felt that the decision had been rushed and that information was too vague and possibly inaccurate. This will be taken back to SLT.
There are still ongoing problems with the transport, bus pass situation. This is run by county and the school has no say in how this runs. It is very clearly unsatisfactory but we have no influence over the issue. This also impacts negatively on 6th form transport.
It was suggested that year 13 Parents’ evening be moved to a date earlier in the year next year. . Currently Year 13 Parents’ Evening is in March, after the university application date deadline. It was felt this is too. This will be discussed by SLT.
Trafford Centre trip – some concerns about the trip and how economic status could become an issue. ADe acknowledged that this cannot be seen as an educational trip but the students love it. On a positive note one parent noted that the trip may help with students considering money and budgeting.
One parent asked if music timetables are on our website and we advised that this is not the case at the moment. Currently all music timetables are published in the music corridor. All times are posted seven days in advance.Orienteering success – this is mainly run by volunteers. There is still some discussion to be had by the school and the orienteers. The school is extremely grateful for the participation of these people.
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.