Principal’s Round-up – 8th November 2019

With poppies up and down the country and moving and lavish displays on some buildings, we are all aware that in November the nation marks the gruesome wars that have scarred our past and present. On Sunday over 3000 bells will ring out across the United Kingdom with half muffled tolls… the sound of a slow march to help us remember those who lost their lives. In our remembrance service for Y9 at St Eustachius church, we commemorated the 80th anniversary of the start of WW2. I reminded everyone where the term ‘Dunkirk spirit’ originated from : the action of one of the greatest examples of co-operation and solidarity we have seen, when service personnel in need were rescued from Dunkirk by a flotilla of small boats.

It sometimes seems to me that war is still too easy a thing to talk about. Luckily most people do not experience war outside of what we see on the news or in films. Few people actually share a collective memory of the 20th century wars. To many they can seem nationalistic and romantic, promoting the idea of the good guys versus the bad guys. War is really much more complex than this. Whilst we remember those who bravely gave their lives in conflict, we must also remember everyone else who is affected. The words ‘lest we forget’ may ring hollow when we see how war continues and holds us in its grip in so many places. We really have yet to learn the lessons from the fallen. In modern war we hear stories of collateral damage and loss of assets – actually, these are power stations, schools, hospitals, roads and homes. People’s loss of loved ones – children and parents. 1000s of lives are still being lost as victims of modern warfare. People are making perilous journeys across land and sea to protect their families, to flee from famine and persecution. We no longer speak of terror in the trenches but continue to experience inhumane conditions everywhere. War de-humanises people. What fools we are to make war a computer game for our children and to allow it to be glorified on social media.

I explained in the service that, in remembrance, we must commit to making the world a better place. Wars do not start with someone deciding to bomb a country. They start with actions and words. Words are some of the most powerful weapons we have. Words can be used to create conflict, unrest and hate. Or they can be used for good, for creating peace and conciliation. Messages for us all.

Work load is much written about at the moment and I have included articles in Fortnightly Focus over the last month or so. I take work load seriously, and have usually been able to resolve issues for people when they have needed it. Much of what has been done is summarised in the Workload Charter that guides us at Tavistock College, and all DMAT schools. I have included it again on the following page of this edition as a reminder. This was co-constructed with staff, and will be reviewed next year. The key actions we have taken as a school to reduce workload are:
1. Reduction in the school day (10 minutes a day)
2. Reducing the number of duties undertaken and the inclusion of two half hour breaks.
3. The removal of exercises that do not add value to classroom teaching for teachers (eg there no expectation that lesson plans are routinely available; FSEF has been removed)
4. Ensuring the marking policy is less rigid and allows for alternative ways of improving work including short marking; teacher directed feedback (self-marking) ; developmental comments replacing WWW/EBI.
5. Reduction in the number of open evenings
6. Reducing out of hours emailing and extending parental call-back times to 48 hours.
7. Reduction in the number of data drops.
8. The inclusion of workload impact assessments on new initiatives and all personnel policies.
9. Increase in the amount of faculty time on training days.

More recently, and in response to concerns raised in staff voice, we have reduced the number of transition events for Y6 students so decreasing cover in ‘gain time’, and moved some events traditionally requiring cover to after school times as voluntary activities. We have also removed reward trips so that potential cover in gain time is not expected. All teachers receive a time budget and hours are below 1265.

If there are more actions that you think we could take that would not compromise the progress we have made as a school, then I am always willing to listen. Have a restful weekend. If anyone would like to hear Vox singing at the Remembrance service on Saturday evening at St Eustachius church, or would like to attend with us on Sunday morning in Bedford Square, we would love to see you!