Coach Incident – Isle of Wight
One of the coaches on our year 8 trip to the Isle of Wight had an incident on Friday afternoon. It did not turn out to be a serious incident and all parents/carers were contacted by the party to reassure them. Deputy Principal Mrs. Morris was heading up this coach. There were other staff on board and 58 pupils heading to a castle visit. The coach then had a low speed collision with an object on a narrow road. No other vehicles or pedestrians were involved.
Nobody was hurt in the incident. The outside layer of some of the coach windows at the side were damaged but there was no damage or glass inside the coach. The children were quickly and safely evacuated, obviously a little shocked but with no sign of major distress. The party then walked, on a footpath the short distance to their castle destination. Parents/carers were all being contacted by the party and reassured soon after the incident.
A new coach (and driver) were to pick them up from the castle and return them to where they were staying. All have now arrived home safely.
As both a father and a teacher I frequently think about the confusing and mixed messages that the adult world seems to offer our children. At Avanti House for example, we espouse the six values of ‘respect’, ‘integrity’, ‘courage’, ’empathy’, ‘gratitude’ and ‘self-discipline’. We talk about them with students in tutor time, in collective worship, in PRE and citizenship lessons and we remind students about them on the corridors and in the playgrounds. Our students understand these values and much of the time seem really pleased to have such a framework to set the standard of conduct at school. They really do, in large measure, live and breathe these values at Avanti House. However, the very same children, fast becoming young adults in our midst, must oftentimes think as though they are surrounded by quite the opposite. Whether it is in the media of entertainment – soap operas, blockbuster movies, computer games, magazines and the like, or whether it is real-world news; they witness cheating, lying, backbiting, aggression right up to graphic violence and terrorist threats or actions.
The mixed messages we send the next generation abound – and in an information age, these messages are relentless. This is why, I think, that schools will only succeed in nurturing globally aware, socially confident and enterprising young adults if we work closely with parents and families. There has to be a consistent, purposeful, optimistic and positive (yet realistic) message that we send to those who are inheriting the successes and failures of our generation and the one before it. Indeed, in my 33 years teaching and leading in a wide variety of schools and particularly where youngsters have been troubled, challenged or disadvantaged in some way the success in moving things to a better place rests entirely in the relationship between the school, the family and the child – it is a three-way relationship and it must, I believe, lie at the very heart of everything that we do. Schools cannot work in isolation – children’s characters are substantively formed in the first 9 years of their lives – half of which they spent entirely at home.
Nor can families work in isolation – children from age 4/5 – 16/19 spend two thirds of their waking life at school. In the very best schools, this time is a partnership – where values are shared, support is mutual and there is an understanding, as in any relationship, that things do not always go according to plan – but that children get one chance at an excellent education so we should be compelled to keep trying for them.
Some things in the news are almost impossible to explain – and our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Jo Cox; who was so senselessly taken away from them last week in an unimaginable act – a public servant who only gave to others.
At Avanti House parents, students and the school sign a Home School Agreement. This sets out exactly what the parent and the child can expect of the school and exactly what the school expects of the child and his/her family. Most schools have such an agreement. Our current Home School Agreement is found at this link: Home School Agreement May 2016 v2 1. I think you will agree, it is quite an elaborate agreement for the parent and the school alike; whereas for the student, it is quite simple:
- Behave impeccably and follow the six school values of Respect, Integrity, Courage, Empathy, Gratitude and Self-Discipline;
- Work hard in my studies – in school and at home and in partnership with school staff;
- Look after my school environment and its equipment.
One of the non-negotiables in the Home School Agreement is that of parents agreeing to pay the daily school lunch fee (currently £2.35) for the healthy, nutritious and tasty lacto-vegetarian meal that is served in our restaurant each day.
These meals are cooked freshly on site by a subsidiary company of the Avanti Schools Trust – Govinda’s and the meals are blessed as prasadam. We talk often with students about receiving this food with gratitude and respect, with a sense of offering and of eating together and not wasting food. Govinda’s continues to work hard to listen to the views of youngsters as to which foods they prefer to eat (within the faith-scope of an onion/mushroom-free facto-vegetarian context) and what are the less popular choices. Our school lunch provision has come a long way this year and we are still looking to work with students and Govinda’s to ensure that it continues to improve.
A number of parents have asked recently about ‘paying for trips, visits’ and the like. UK Education law is very simple in this area – schools cannot charge for any activity that takes place mostly during school time (in our case 8am – 4.30pm; Monday to Friday. If most (51%+) of a trip, visit or residential takes place outside of this time, then schools are able to charge. The charges have to be reasonable and competitive.
If a trip, visit or residential is wholly or mainly taking place during the school day then it cannot be charged for – but the school can still ask for a voluntary contribution. There must be no pressure to comply and no reason need be given for choosing to not contribute. If the contributions gathered do not cover the cost of a trip and the school has not budgeted to subsidise it, then the school might have to go ahead and cancel/refund. We are changing our paperwork for when we ask for voluntary contributions, so that there can be no doubt about this.
Parent View and Student Surveys
One of the ways that a school can gather some intelligence on how parents/carers and students view the education on offer is through a survey. We plan to run a full student end of year survey within the next few weeks and results will be published on our website and in this blog. Conveniently, Ofsted put a Parental Survey up on their website, called Parent View. My thanks to over 70 parents who have recently completed this survey – we had hoped for a lot more (there are 700 of you, even if only one parent completes the survey) but we are grateful to those who have. During parents’ evenings, starting with year 7 coming up, we are going to have older students showing parents how to get onto this site so that they can see it only takes a few minutes to complete. The majority of questions scored well over 90% strongly agreeing or at least agreeing. However, it appears as though ‘homework’ and ‘reports to parents’ are the main two areas where less than 80% (around 76%) agreed or strongly agreed that these were in a good place. But one parent is more than 1% with less than 100 respondents so far. Once we hit the 200 parent respondent mark, we shall consider carefully how to then respond to this survey as a school. If you have yet to get online and complete the 5 minute survey (anonymous) you can register here
To end. An inspirational quote from the Quran during this festival of Ramadan – a reminder to us to tread gently, offer peace, to never stop learning about ourselves and to put the needs of others before our own – even when we are faced with unreasonable problems (or unreasonable people).
Have a lovely week