Here Comes the Sun…

FOAH Fundraising

Friends of Avanti House are pleased to announce that they have managed to raise a net total of £5,715.35 from the Summer Fair. In addition to the £6,103.40 FOAH have in the bank account, from other fundraising so in total they have is raised towards the minibus appeal is just short of £12,000 – a fantastic achievement.

The Walk-A-Thon itself – led by primary pupils with a small contingent of secondary walkers – raised Untitled£3,531.12. The primary team also did well with the Tombola and Arts and Crafts stall which on its own raised a net amount of £194.69. The core team (shown to the right) have done so well and on behalf of the Governing Body, the staff, parents, students and pupils I would like to thank them for all of their efforts this year – culminating in this amazing achievement.

To Families and Friends

As we end my first year at Avanti, I would like to offer my sincere gratitude to all our friends and families for their unrelenting support, faced as we were with the difficult challenges around premises and the need to rebuild leadership from the ground up. Partly because of that support, but also through the supreme efforts of a dedicated staff and simply wonderful students, Avanti House is in a much stronger position and on much firmer footings than when it was back in September. This is as true in the primary phase as it is in secondary. All of the new appointments we have made this year, teaching and non-teaching staff, have been superb; each and every one of them has added real value to and strengthened the Avanti House family. Added to this, the excellent fundraising work of the FOAH as mentioned above, the generous support of the PSAG (Parent & Staff Advisory Group) and of course the hard work and vision of the Regional Governing Body and the Avanti Schools Trust have made for an excellent third year in the still very young life of this fine school.

As of last week, all of the planning applications for our primary site (Common Road) have now been successful and the contractors are in the house, beginning the year-long £2.5 million uplift and extension. Formal pre-planning application meetings for Whitchurch are schedules – feedback from the community has been overwhelmingly good and surveyors have been on site already. Although the Council and the EFA are still in lengthy discussions around the terms of the lease on Whitchurch, I am as confident as I can be that, subject to a successful planning application,  building will begin in the first half of the new year; just as we settle the secondary school into the far more generous surroundings in Pinner – for the next two years.

Standards of teaching and learning – already securely good – are improving further, as we put the greatest emphasis on our core business of teaching, learning and outcomes for children. Our first set of KS1 results alongside EYFS Profiles and phonics results were really excellent – well above national averages and above the targets we set for ourselves. Our year 9, who embark upon their first year of GCSEs next year are already on track to top the league table in Harrow in two years’ time – if they continue, as they will, to make the outstanding progress that they are currently making.

We say goodbye to a number of staff this year – the majority of whom are moving on to promoted positions or career changes – ranging from being headhunted to teach SEN at the Harrow Public School, through to a change in direction and a teaching role in a special school. Many of the staff we say goodbye to have been here from the very first day and they have dedicated themselves to the challenge of getting the school off the ground. They have all contributed so very much and deserve our sincere gratitude and very best wishes. From secondary we say goodbye to teachers Susi Pinkus, Fiona Dunckley, Kavita Patel and teaching assistants Ed Arghebant and Rachel Rickayzen. From primary we say goodbye to Bhavisha Vaghela, Laura Khan, Jemini Patel and Anjna Bhojani. We wish them all well on behalf of Governors and parents. I now look forward to introducing families to our new colleagues – both those who are replacing former staff and of course, expanding the school further still as we expand to well over 700 students from September.

As we embark upon our complicated ‘house’ moves over the summer break, on behalf of the Governing Body and the staff of Avanti House, I wish all families a wonderful summer and look forward to welcoming students and pupils back – primary to Common Road and secondary to Beaulieu Drive, early in September.

Start of the Year

Year 1, 2 and 3 pupils in the primary phase should arrive at Common Road, for day 1, Thursday 3rd September according to the following schedule (parents will receive more information, from Mrs Morris and Mr Halliday, about the structure of the school day at the Primary Sports Day on Monday):

Thursday 3rd September
Year 1 – arrive later – from 7:30 but by 8:00am
Year 2– arrive early – from 7:15am but all in by 7:45 am
Year 3 – arrive early – from 7:15am but all in by 7:45 am

There will, as usual, be a phased return for our new Reception year – more information to follow.

In the secondary phase, identical to all previous years, as we get ourselves used to yet another new building, will be staggered – with year 7 only arriving on day 1, followed by all students on day 2; according to the following schedule.

Thursday 3rd September – Year 7 Only on this day – Gates open 7:30am for a prompt start of the day at 8:00am
Friday 4th September – ALL students on this day – Gates open 7.30am for a prompt start of the day at 8:00am

The secondary phase will also soon be in touch to say more about the offer of a Breakfast clprincipal-MAB-blog-150x150ub. A reminder to parents that there is no vehicular drop-off, on-site at Pinner. Those who arrive by car should park safely in unrestricted areas and children should walk into school. Of course, for Year 7, parents/carers can accompany their children on foot, to the front door of the school where a member of staff will pick them up.

Have a wonderful summer and thank you for all of your support this year.

UntitledA final thought as we end the year, for the family and friends of our wonderful and so very badly missed little boy, Parv Patel, who was taken from us earlier this academic year.  There were no words to explain or to bring solace for the loss of this young man, who brought so much joy to so many in his all too short life.

As we move the primary school to its final building and when we landscape the grounds, at the end of the building project, we shall return to Parv’s family and ask how we might remember him
Hare Krishna

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Ring in the New…

Summer Fair

With immovable family commitments, unable myself to attend this year’s Friends of Avanti House Summer Fair, I have nevertheless, from many, heard really wonderful things about the IMG_6247afternoon. Much fun appears to have been had by all.

The new Chair of FOAH has been kind enough to send some photographs through (right and below).

On behalf of the Avanti House staff,  our students and our families I would like to thank FOAH for their tireless efforts in putting together this fair and hope that all enjoyed themselves hanging on in there until the IMG_6264rain finally took control!

A huge thank you to those that looked after stalls or simply just turned up to support the event.

IMG_6221I look forward to hearing how much money was raised towards the minibus campaign.

Ring in the New

As we now approach the end of the academic year, it occurs to me that schools and learning are all about endings – followed by new beginnings. Every day is a new day. For the learner who yesterday completely threw in the towel trying to learn the intricacies of solving simultaneous equations returning tomorrow to the trusted teacher and the insolvable problem. Or the dance steps that just simply will not come together. The biochemistry of respiration or the script of Sanskrit. For all of these learners,;teachers and support staff, in their respective classrooms, lie in wait, to pick up where they left off. A new day. A fresh start. Strengthened by failure and determined to move on. In schools, we also end our academic year just over half way through the chronological year and then  take 6 weeks out (a throwback to children helping out in the fields). We all then start back in September with new teachers, now classes, new books, new planners, new pencil cases, new uniform (and all too frequently, new buildings in our case).  We are energised by the holidays and ready to take on the world of new teaching and learning. We have our most important new years’ resolutions in September (homework and improved levels for students, marking and planning excellent lessons for staff).

New beginnings and forgiving ourselves, embracing our failures, having a go at solving our old problems and trying something new are really important, I always feel. And I have always thought that they are most important for young people. They are not going to get everything right first time. Young people (like the young in the rest of the animal kingdom), are hard wired to try things out, to not succeed, and to keep trying something different until they do. As adults, we should set that example. So I think it is critically important that all of us who are in the business of nurturing the young – the next generation of doctors, lawyers, politicians, retail managers, teachers, bankers and entrepreneurs (whether we are teachers, support staff or parents/family) set clear boundaries and coach, mentor and support on the one hand but forgive and encourage on the other.

We must never tell a child that they ‘can’t’ or they ‘never will’ and most importantly, we must be sure to be ready to help them to realise their own dreams and not ours.

To this point, many will know of the famous verse in Kahil Gibran’s inspirational book, The Prophet:

On Children
Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

New Staff

I look forward in next week’s blog to saying thank you and to celebrating the excellent work of those who are leaving the Avanti House family this summer – some of the original stalwarts of what must to them feel like an eternity (3 years) ago – such have been the trials and tribulations of getting this school off the ground. I also look forward to introducing new colleagues – many of whom will join us this Tuesday for an induction day – and all of whom will join us in September. We are now fully staffed for teaching staff and well on the way for support staff.

Two existing colleagues were successful late last week, following interviews, in becoming new heads of year – Aarti Devalia will be the new Head of Year 8 – filling the very large shoes of Fiona Dunkley who moves on to lead in a Special School. Vanessa Bardsley – our brilliant Head of Mathematics, will take the Head of year 10. She will retain the Head of Mathematics position – as she welcomes an Assistant Head of Mathematics in Chandrika Krishna from September. Congratulations to both colleagues for well deserved promotions and commiserations to those who were also interviewed for these positions – a very strong field.

It was also a highly competitive interview on Friday for our new Assistant Principal and Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCo) – taking over all of Susi Pinkus’s role (who heads off to Harrow on the Hill) and some of Fiona’s  responsibilities;  overseeing Heads of Year and behaviour for learning. The successful candidate was Gina Richardson – a gifted teacher and leader in English and literacy with a track record in senior leadership in both outstanding schools and in those where she played a significant role in turning around the fortunes of failing schools.  Having worked with Gina before, I know that she will be an extremely valuable addition to a brilliant team and family.

A Double Celebration

Our art and design co-ordinator (and new head of year) Aarti Devalia was able to celebrate twice towards the end of the week when she let us all know that Avanti House had been awarded two runner-up prizes in the secondary category of the Bike Week 2015 poster competition. Congratulations go to Lisa and Mienaatchi who both won £50 vouchers or equipment for cycling as well as the school receiving a BMC Bike Safety Skills Show. There were more than 200 entries from 15 schools – so this is a fantastic achievement.

Have a wonderful week.

Hare Krishna

All the Fun of the Fair…

Primary Transition Day @Pinner

20150701_095651It seems ridiculous to be writing to celebrate time spent by teachers and students  in ‘normal sized classrooms with excellent facilities’ – being able to move around to pick up children’s books, organise them into different types of group during a lesson or move desks to one side to get up and do some active learning.

All of these things teachers should be able to take for granted and certainly our primary teachers can – although there are no break-out spaces, the classrooms at primary in Kingsbury are a good specification. However, our secondary staff cannot take the above for granted at th20150701_125427e Common Road site – where maximum group sizes of 26 are ‘squeezed’ into the English, languages and humanities rooms for example.

At the Pinner site last week however, where we welcomed our largest cohort of year 6 (into 7) students, for their transition day, we could get a taste of being able to liberate our staff and students, for the next two years, in ‘normal’ facilities. And what a wonderful day we had – the students were buzzing at the end of it; puzzled only by the fact that all over the walls and on the sign, there remains ‘Heathfield School for Girls’ just now.  We shall work on that over the summer as we prepare for our two-year occupation of the bulk of the site. On Transition Day, following an assembly, students enjoyed sessions of dance, Kirtan chanting, Sanskrit, English, mathematics and PRE to name a few activities and had their photographs taken for the system. Stars of the show, as usual, were are year 9 helpers who made everyone feel welcome and helped to keep the day running smoothly. We were blessed with a visit from one of our Governors who is also the Temple President at Bhaktivedanta Manor – His Grace Sruti Dharmadas Prabhu (pictured right with Head of Year 6 into 7,  Ms. S.Patel). His Grace joined us for lunch and for a short tour of the new facilities. In a follow-up email, Sruti Prabhu commented:

“Hare Krishna to all

I went to the Heathfield site and it was tremendous. The new intakes were from many schools and the day of kirtan was very successful.20150701_124652

I wanted to Thank Mark and his team for the tremendous work they are doing, and the school will certainly go from strength to strength.”

We are grateful for these kind words and my congratulations to Ms. S. Patel and the team of staff for an excellent first day for our incoming year 7.

End of Term Discos and Monologue Slam

Also last week,  following the last of what have been very successful end of term discos, we enjoyed a talent show with a difference in front of a packed audience at the secondary site. Drama teacher Ms. Grant and Assistant Principal (Artistry) Mr. Nash, organised a fantastic Monologue Slam. I was joined by Mr. Nash and Ms. Onuphre as the judges for the Slam. The rock band and the school choir entertained us brilliantly in between monologues and the judging was so very difficult – everyone was a winner in so many ways. However, someone had to win and so here are the results:

Youth Round:
Winner: Nandni Ruda
Special Mention: Keya Shah

One Minute Smackdown
Winner: Anushka Patel
Special Mention: Chirag Shah

Three Minute Heavyweight
Winner: Shivali Vaya
Special Mention: Rohan Hassassing

Congratulations to all who took part and to the organisers for a great event.

Fun of the Fair

AHS_FOAH Summer Fair 2015 A5 FlyerI do hope the weather holds up and there will be a massive turnout to the FOAH/AHS Summer Fair this year. In advance, I would like to thank you so very much for your support at this event, at other FOAH events and in general, over the year. It is by working together, the Avanti family as we call it, that we continue to take this wonderful school from strength to strength.

I would also like to offer my deepest gratitude to the Friends of Avanti House – they have worked so well in their fund-raising activity for three years now. Whether it is fairs, meals out, Navarati celebrations or other events, FOAH really have put the ‘fun’ back into fund raising – and with this year’s fair looking to break all records, our first school minibus starts to look like it might be on the horizon. On top of all of this they have been visible at every turn, helping out during Open Evenings and other after school events when they have been most needed. Thank you so much to Nish, Yogi and the team, on behalf of the school and the Governing Body. Theirs will be very big shoes to fill as new members come on board.

Regrettably, due to a last minute change to a family wedding date, I am out of area, in the midlands, so I am really sorry to be missing the fair this year.  However, our Deputy Principal, Nadira Morris and others will be attending during the day. I really do hope that a wonderful day is had by all; lots of family fun and laughter and that the weather holds up. I look forward to seeing the photographs and the final sum raised towards that bus!

Quote

I was so moved by the energy and excitement of our soon-to-be new cohort of year 7 students teachas they spent the day with us last week – so much so I thought of this quote I had seen earlier

What an absolute privilege it is to work in schools and to have the immense responsibilities we have as teachers (and indeed as parents!).

Have a wonderful week.

Hare Krishna…