Focus on Education January 2022 No. 4

It has been lovely to be treated to some beautiful, crisp winter days this week, with some glorious sunrises – quite a contrast to the gloomy yet unseasonably mild days of December. Such brightness certainly lifts our spirits, especially when most of us leave and return home in the dark!

This time last year we were, of course, in second lockdown and mostly confined to our homes, coping with remote schooling (again) and isolated from one another. It felt for many like a pretty dark place and it certainly tested our resilience.

The bright days and the cosiness of our homes are somehow accentuated by the dark and the cold, and the same is true of our human interactions. We are all grateful for the light that others shine into our lives when we are perhaps not on top form, as well as for the warmth of friendship and the love of our families.

You may have heard of the Radio programme ‘In the Psychiatrist’s Chair’. Dr Anthony Clare interviews famous people about their lives, their wishes, their foibles, their weaknesses, their health. After many years of presenting the programme, Dr Clare identified what he believed were the seven great secrets of happiness. They were the following: cultivating a passion; being part of something bigger than ourselves; avoiding introspection; accepting change; living in the moment; auditing our happiness; acting happy – that alone can effect change. I would very much encourage us all to reflect on these seven secrets this term and to try to bring them into all our lives; as we progress through January, this time of long dark nights and short cold days, we need to keep our eyes fixed firmly on the horizon and the hope that Spring brings us. In addition, we need to reflect on those things that make us happy.

You also may have heard of the simple ‘10/5’ or ‘Zone of hospitality’ rule, widely practised in the hospitality industry. Staff are taught that they should make eye contact and smile warmly when a guest comes within ten feet, cheerfully greeting anyone who comes within five feet. Aspects of that are currently a bit more difficult with face coverings, but smiles and greetings between students and between students and staff certainly make a massive difference to the warmth of the HGS community.

At the same time, there are so many ways in which our students can shine a light into others’ lives. Daily acts of kindness and courtesy at school and at home often breed reciprocity. Prefects, Mental Health Ambassadors or just caring, timely words of encouragement shared by a friend or a teacher can do much to influence our mood. One of the greatest compliments I can read in a school report is when the tutor says of a student that they “light up the room” when they enter in the morning; we all appreciate such positive people who will often sow smiles and laughter in their paths.

Our leading lights in the school encourage others to follow them by example – whether as Prefects, on the sports field, in house events, in club activities or charity fundraising. Our students are a Force for Good in so many different ways and in so many different areas – testament to the fact that learning and development takes place inside and outside the classroom at HGS.

So, as the days gradually lengthen, I wish you ample moments of brightness and warmth over the weeks ahead.

Stay well and safe.

Be kind to yourself and others.

Best wishes,

Dr Bird

Royal Sutton Coldfield Athletics Award

Congratulations to Litem-Roy Mcintryre-Smith (8 Henry) on winning the ‘Most Promising Newcomer Award’ at the recent Royal Sutton Coldfield Athletics (RSCAC) awards evening. Litem joined RSCAC last summer after a successful trial, which was gaining from hard work and determination in his games lessons. He has achieved two gold medals in his first two races for the club, attaining a personal best time of 9.52 in the 75m Sprint Event. This ranked Litem 5th in the UK for the 2021 season! Certainly, a name to look out for in the future.

Trinity Grade 8 Piano

Congratulations to Ibrahim Barlas in Year 9 who has just started his Trinity Grade 8 Piano preparation. Ibrahim started playing piano about 5 years ago and achieved his first grade in 2017. We wish him success with his future piano exams and look forward to hearing about his progress.

 

 

An evidence based approach to supporting students by Mr Dubay Head of English

Please see the following article written by our Head of English, Mr Dubay:

https://researchschool.org.uk/stmatthews/news/supporting-our-pupil-premium-students-an-evidence-based-approach

Focus on Education January 2022 No. 3

One of the great strengths of this school is that we are a very friendly community, and we always give a warm welcome to visitors and guests to the school. People often remark on this when they visit the school for the first time; we are not pretentious or grandiose and this is something that we are rightly proud of.

We always make a real effort to welcome the young trainee teachers who come to HGS on placement as part of their teacher training. It can be quite daunting for young trainees who are beginning the first steps in their teaching careers to start a placement, and we try to make it as easy as possible for them to settle into the school community and to make progress throughout their placements. Those of us who are experienced teachers can all remember what it was like right at the start of our careers, and how important it is to get off to a good start on placement

We have excellent relationships with some of the local initial teacher training providers and regularly host trainee teachers from the University of Birmingham, Birmingham City University, Newman University, Coventry University and the King Edward VI Consortium. They all value the work which we do as a school, and the respect which our students have for any trainee teacher in the school.

Without fail, our trainees always comment on the welcome which they receive and the support which comes from their subject mentors and departments, to help them to learn to be effective teachers in the early stages of their careers.

One of the things which we stress to our trainee teachers, is that teachers are in a privileged position. We are in a position of great influence over the lives of young people whom we teach and help each day. We can all remember teachers from our own school days who made an impact on us, either a positive one or perhaps a less positive one. Even though it may be many years since we attended school, a good teacher is always remembered with fondness, affection and respect. Sometimes, our teachers can provide guidance, advice or just pure enthusiasm for their subject, which inspires the students in their charge to want to study and to do well.

As teachers we can often spend more time with our students than possibly their parents do during term time, and it is a genuine privilege to see them grow and develop into fine young people with ambition and energy, and to move to university or employment and enjoy successful careers.

One of the great joys of being a teacher is to meet ex pupils sometimes years after they have left school, and to be reminded of something which we did to help that young person. Perhaps it was to inspire them, or perhaps it was just to be a supportive figure when that young student was having a difficult time at school.

It is wonderful to occasionally receive emails or letters from the parents of our students, commenting on the support which their child has had from our staff. We always share these comments with the staff involved so that they are aware that their efforts are acknowledged by parents. Teachers don’t help students because they are looking for compliments, but it is very affirming when it does happen and makes everyone feel appreciated and valued.

We won’t forget the important influence which we can have over our students, and the trust which parents have in us to do our best for their children. It is the reason we get out of bed every morning to work as teachers and to try and do our very best for the student in this school.

We know we play a small part in the overall development of the students in our care but I am reminded of what Desmond Tutu said, “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” We hope that in some small way we are contributing to your children doing their bit in the world as a Force for Good.

Stay well and safe.

Be kind to yourself and others.

Best wishes,

Dr Bird and Mr Conway

Focus on Education January 2022 No. 2

Our successes at HGS are underpinned by values which place children at the heart of all our endeavours. You will be aware of the increasing mental health concerns amongst young people over recent years, and the pandemic has unfortunately exacerbated some of these, with the NHS and CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) facing unprecedented demand.  At school and at home, we should support our children in managing both mental and physical well-being in positive ways, so that they can build personal resilience, enjoy a sense of healthy balance in their lives and be able to adapt to the challenges which they will inevitably face. This is not always straightforward, and knowledge of the individual, a listening ear, the encouragement of open and trusting dialogue, as well as guidance and support are all important.

We are an academic school where our students often have very high expectations of what they should achieve. In reality the best grades are not necessarily top grades, but the best grades relative to a child’s abilities; no-one can ask more of someone than they do their best and grow into a caring and valued human being.

We have been committed over the last two years to the continuing development of pastoral expertise and provision. We want to:

  • Create a happy and mutually-supportive community of learners and staff, in which each individual is encouraged and enabled to do and be their best.
  • Care for the mental and emotional well-being of students, and be proactive in the promotion of a healthy lifestyle.
  • Embed a caring community with students’ well-being, support and guidance; staff professional development and well-being at the forefront.
  • Ensure best deployment of pastoral resource to address students’ needs.
  • Become increasingly recognised as a community which cares deeply for students, staff and others

We have recently reviewed our progress:

  • Regular revision of the PSHE (Life Education) programme, to extend coverage of certain topics: e.g. Relationships and Sex Education
  • Introduction of our Equality and Diversity committee at a local level.
  • Promotion of the Sharp System.
  • Being a part of the wider Foundation Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee.
  • We have appointed and trained Sixth Form Mental Health Ambassadors.
  • Introduction of an Employee Assistance Package for all Trust staff, which includes both phone and in-person counselling.
  • Mental Health First Aid training for teaching staff and pastoral staff as well as Place2Be training and wider Birmingham Education Partnership training for members of the pastoral team.
  • Mindfulness training completed by some staff.
  • We have designated members of SLT having oversight of key areas such as Wellbeing.
  • We have increased our links with the Wellbeing Crew who provide counselling for students and staff.
  • We have established our new values system of HGS CARES.

The division between ‘academic’ and ‘pastoral’ in the life of a school is in many ways arbitrary; the two go hand in hand as we support children in their growth towards young adulthood and a lifetime of adventure with the aim being they become a Force for Good.

Stay well and safe.

Be kind to yourself and others.

Best wishes,

Dr Bird

Sixth Form Reward Trip to ‘Teamworks Karting’, December 2021

The Go Karting/Laser Tag trip was arranged to recognise and reward those who have been performing consistently well in school, in terms of attendance, punctuality and overall conduct. These students are more likely to get merits, which in turn count as points towards qualification for such a Reward Trip. A total of about 60 students across Years 12 and 13 went, including a few of my friends. It was on Thursday 16th December (the day before term ended) and the venue was local, on Fazeley Street (in Digbeth), and we had to make our own way there. At the venue, as implied at the beginning, we first enjoyed Go Karting, and then later in the afternoon (after our lunch break) tried Laser Tag. In total, we spent about half an hour doing these activities, as the large group size meant we had to wait our turn. However, there was table football to play in the upper lounge/cafeteria, and watching the poor driving of fellow students was quite amusing! The trip had quite a few enjoyable moments, such as when I came first place in Go-Karting, but some students, including myself, must have had problematic equipment to achieve such appalling scores in the Laser Tag!  The trip was great fun, but it would have been even better if there were more things to do on site whilst waiting our turn.

Kavish Bhopal, Year 12

 

Please click here to view more photos in the gallery.

Focus on Education January 2022 No. 1

I hope that many of us have become more thankful over the last twenty-two months for so much that we had previously been inclined to take for granted. Christmas is a time when we traditionally give thanks, and last year it was wonderful that we could celebrate with family and friends.

As I reflect on the last term, I am really thankful for all that we have been able to achieve and enjoy. Sports fixtures have resumed in full, I am very grateful to staff for ensuring a full programme of co-curricular activities; we have seen encouraging levels of participation and lots of fun. There have been further opportunities for charity fundraising, with more students wanting to be involved in taking a lead role. And, having been amongst the first in the queue for the 12-15 vaccine, we have been blessed with very few Covid cases since half-term and therefore undisrupted learning for most students. Nothing beats teaching and learning in person rather than via a screen.

I am grateful for the strong sense of aspiration and caring and respectful community for which HGS stands. I was asked by some students recently what I enjoyed most about my job. It was an easy answer, as it has been throughout my career: “You lot!” Our children may present us with challenges from time to time (that’s education, after all), but it’s the lively daily interaction and the differences that we see in their understanding and growth as human beings which have always made me thankful to be a teacher. And that is only possible with the teamwork of colleagues who share a common goal and common values.

So, a special ‘thank-you’ to you, our parents, for your support this past term and, above all, for entrusting us with your children’s education at the most formative time of their life. It’s a responsibility we take very seriously and will do our best to fulfil.

At a beautiful Carol service at Worcester Cathedral in the holidays, we gave thanks for the birth of Jesus, with some “upside-down” Christmas trees signifying God’s gift to the topsy-turvy world in which we live currently. I hope that, whatever your beliefs, you and family enjoyed a festive and peaceful Christmas, surrounded by love, as well as a bright New Year. A year in which we will still need to be extra careful, considerate and kind to each other so we can move out of the Pandemic towards a healthier 2022.

Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.” Calvin Coolidge, 30th President of the United States of America and apparent Christmas scholar who we could learn from perhaps?

Stay well and safe.

Be kind to yourself and others.

Best wishes,

Dr Bird

Wellbeing Advice