As another busy but happy term draws to a close here at Salesian, we are delighted to be sharing some reflections on the experiences and achievements we have all enjoyed.
On 1st September 2016, Salesian School became an academy as part of the newly formed Xavier Catholic Education Trust. Whilst most staff, students and parents won't yet have noticed any difference on a day-to-day basis, behind the scenes we have been working hard on collaborative plans with our new partners. The Trust team, Headteachers and Business Managers from the nine academies have really enjoyed working together and are increasingly confident that the formation of the Trust has meant we are now far better placed to deal with the current challenges in education which so many schools are struggling with. We are really grateful to all those parents who came out in support of our plans during the consultation process as this gave us a clear mandate to do something really positive for Catholic Education in this part of the Diocese. It is encouraging to see that most other areas in the Diocese are now following our lead with two further multi academy trusts due to be formed next year.
One of the challenges we have had to rise to this term is the implementation of the new GCSE and A' level curriculum. Hats off to the teaching staff who have taken all this in their stride and worked tirelessly to ensure that they are fully prepared to make the best possible provision for our students. The new qualifications are definitely more challenging, requiring students to cover more content and demonstrate good memory skills to recall all that knowledge for a terminal exam. The students have risen to the challenge well and the vast majority are adapting well to a return to a curriculum and methods of assessment that will be for many parents reminiscent of their time at school! Thankfully, here at Salesian we remain committed to more than just exam practice and you can read more in the Autumn News Digest about all those things that the students may have gained a bit more enjoyment from!
You may have seen or heard in recent local media reports that Surrey County Council had decided to put a hold on agreeing funding for our proposed new teaching block at the main school site. I am pleased to report that following a cabinet meeting today it looks like the project will still be funded and whilst there may be a slight delay in completing the work (the facilities were due to open in September 2017), the building should still be in use before the end of next year. Again, the support that we gained from parents and the local Catholic community in lobbying county councillors and MPs proved crucial in securing this funding in the first place. We mustn't forget what a powerful voice we have as a collective. It will continue to be important to put this to use going forward if we are to ensure that Catholic education receives equitable support and funding from government in the future, particularly given the ever more vocal promotion of the secular agenda.
As well as expanding our facilities, we are looking to make other changes in order to ensure the children here get the best possible outcomes. These include reviewing our catering arrangements with a view to improving both our facilities and provision and changing the structure of our day from 5 x 60 minute periods to 6 x 50 minute periods – there are a number of intricate reasons why we feel this may improve outcomes for children and we are currently in the process of consulting with staff about the proposed changes.
Thank you to all those who have been supporting our quest to open Chertsey High School. Following open evenings like the one pictured (right: with Headteacher Zelia Munnik), we have now received over 200 applications for places in September and are in the process of gaining planning permission for the new school building. We have appointed our first teachers and are looking forward to the commencement of refurbishment work on the existing Runnymede Centre which will be our temporary home during our first year of opening. Exciting times ahead!
Back at base we are saying farewell to two members of staff at the end of this term: Emma Burford joined us last year in the Cullum Centre and is relocating to the south coast; we are most grateful to her for her support of the children, contribution to music and involvement in the Diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes. Tony Clark joined the school in 2005 as a Drama teacher and has since been Head of Year, Head of Drama and more recently a Specialist Leader of Education supporting our outreach work at The Matthew Arnold School where he has been appointed Assistant Headteacher from January. Tony is a very popular teacher and colleague and will be sorely missed by many here; we congratulate him on his promotion and wish him well for the future. We look forward to welcoming back next term, Sarah Garbett who will be returning from maternity leave and taking over as Acting Head of Drama and Mari Langenneger our former Head of Psychology who will be joining the team in the Cullum Centre.
On the subject of staffing, recruitment is one of the other challenges alluded to earlier facing all schools, particularly in the South East. We work hard incredibly hard to ensure that we are always fully staffed with excellent teachers and most of the staff we employ are people we meet through our wider schools and community networks. With that in mind, if you or any of your family or friends are interested in a career in teaching or are an existing teacher who would like to explore opportunities for working in one of the schools (primary or secondary) in our Trust then please feel free to contact us via Pippa Carr on firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a visit.
We were delighted to welcome so many of you to another splendid Carol Concert earlier this week. As I said on the evening, the last of our weekly Advent themes this term has been "Expectation", where we have been reflecting on our calling to be a hopeful people who fully expect all things to come good in the future. It is important for us to remember that despite the many challenges education currently faces, that all of us connected with Salesian School are truly blessed and those of us who work here give thanks for this often. The blessing really comes in the form of the wonderful children we get to work with every day and the unstinting support we get from you their parents and families; we remain eternally grateful to you for all you continue to do on this front.
On behalf of everyone here at the school, please accept our best wishes for a happy, holy and peaceful Christmas and we look forward to working with you again in 2017 to ensure that the children continue to get the very best education.