Marple Hall Spirit – Respect

It’s a double blog day today. The first was the fairly simple update on changes to covid isolation rules, where as this one is the fourth of my five-part look at the Marple Hall Spirit. Today it’s the turn of Respect, a key word for us that underpins how we expect every member of our community to get along with each other.

There are two common phrases when it comes to this element of the Marple Hall Spirit.

Firstly…‘Respect has to be earned’

I’m not sure I completely buy into this one. In my view every individual is worthy of respect right from the start. Far be it from me to hold back on the respect I show someone whilst I weigh up if they deserve it or not. In a big school like ours, respect should be an automatic right that is only questioned when a person goes out of their way to show disrespect to others, the school or the community. I certainly don’t want young people disrespecting new members of staff while they work out of they like them or not, and so equally I feel like every young person who joins our school deserves respect on arrival.

However, I do believe that there are different levels of respect and these can be built up over time. As Mr Sharp explained to Years 7-10 in his assemblies this week and last – when a certain level of respect has been established between himself and his classes, he and the class can relax and more learning can take place. Mr Sharp can step away from being in ‘strict teacher mode’ and instead engage the class as young adults who want to learn and who are in charge of their own learning. When this happens then magic follows, as I’ve seen it happen when visiting in lessons. When relationships between staff and students reach these levels, built on a huge amount of mutual respect, then fantastic things can happen.

Secondly… ‘Respect works both ways’

This one I’m totally in tune with. In fact, respect should work all ways. People don’t need to agree with each other to respect each other. They don’t even need to like each other. I for one don’t understand why some of our younger students like to charge about the tennis courts all lunchtime, but I respect that it’s important to them so we give them a space to do so. I don’t understand why some of our Year 10s want to look as surly as possible at breaktime and give monosyllabic answers to the question ‘Are you ok boys’? But, so long as they are otherwise polite and follow our school rules, then who am I criticise. I am absolutely sure that some of our students don’t understand some of the many school rules – like why they can’t bring a Playstation in at lunch (genuine question from this week) – but I’m confident they respect us enough to go along with our crazy ideas.

Ultimately, respect is about treating people how you would want to be treated. It’s absolutely crucial in any walk of life, and especially so in a large school where there are literally millions of person to person interactions every week. Along with Readiness, Respect is therefore one of our ‘foundation’ spirits that together are the only two parts of the spirit that are linked to our sanction system. Being disrespectful, like being ‘not ready’, is something that we will challenge when needed…but for the vast majority of the time we don’t need to at all.

Thanks for all your support this term,

Wishing you a great Easter,

Joe Barker

MHS Covid Update

Ahhh, it’s been a while since I wrote the words above…but sadly I’ve had to do so again.

A brief update this time covering two strands; the current situation in school and the changes to isolation guidance.

The current situation in school

Until recently, for the past 8 weeks or more, we’ve been managing with relatively low levels of covid in the school community. Cases have remained low and the numbers of students on the ‘x’ list – by which I mean those eligible for hybrid lessons – is also small. However, in the past fortnight the number of cases has risen sharply and in particular amongst the staff. We have gone from between 0-2 staff off each day with covid to around 8 per day in the last week, with 10 off on Tuesday. Clearly this puts a strain on how school operates and adversely affects the experience of learners. I’d like to thank you and your children for their patience whilst we cover classes and to my colleagues for stepping into the breach over and over again.

Changes to Isolation guidance

We received news yesterday that as of now, the guidance for self isolation has changed once again. From now on any student who tests positive with an LFT or PCR need only isolate for THREE DAYS. Any adult who tests positive need only isolate for FIVE DAYS, and no negative LFT tests are required at the end of these periods.

Hopefully this will mean that we can carry on the journey back to ‘normal’ that has temporarily gone a bit wrong in the last 3 weeks!

Best wishes

Joe Barker

Marple Hall Spirit – Readiness

Marple Hall Spirit – Readiness

80% of success is showing up….

Fail to prepare and prepare to fail…

The world is not short of quotes that back up the third of our five values of the Marple Hall Spirit: ‘Readiness’. Last week I explained how ‘Honesty’ is perhaps the one that I think is most important, but Readiness is without doubt the one that everyone needs to show first in order to stand a chance of success. In assemblies this week for Years 7-9, Mr Sharp has been delivering an excellent message about what we expect of students in the classroom. One of the points he makes is that no-where in the Marple Hall Spirit are words like ‘genius’ or ‘intelligent’ or ‘clever’. The Marple Hall Spirit is about what literally all of us can show all day, every day, no matter our natural ability in maths or music or marathon running. Of all the day to day habits to get in, showing readiness is an absolute must.

What does being ready mean? Well…to me a student is ready if they attend every day, if they arrive to lessons on time, if they bring all their equipment, if they make sure their homework is done on time, if they make sure their lunch money is topped up, if they pay attention and answer questions in class, if they know about the clubs and activities that they can join, if they know their timetable off by heart and if they know who to ask if they are stuck. Ready students don’t dawdle to class 3 minutes late….or only have one pen….or forget their blazer!

Whenever I speak to students about the Marple Hall Spirit I always make sure they know that the spirit applies to adults as well as students, and this is certainly true about readiness. I’ve worked at MHS for almost 13 years now and have never once been late and never once had a day off. Being ready matters and it matters to me that I lead by example.

Speaking of showing readiness, there is no more important time than the run up to the final exams in Year 11. Students who are serious about being successful have to be ready to put the hard yards in all the way through Year 11, and never more so than right now. We’re keen to express on year 11 students that the Easter break is a great time to get some proper work done, and we hope that our great class of 2022 make the most of their opportunities. We’ll be sending home some support materials for this very purpose.

Best wishes

Joe Barker

Honesty at MHS

This week I continue my theme of focusing on the different aspects of the Marple Hall Spirit. As I have explained in the previous few blogs we’re making a concerted effort to reinvigorate the Marple Hall Spirit, making it relevant again to both adults and students alike. Last week I wrote about Determination, and so this week I move on to my personal favourite quality – Honesty.

Honesty matters to me a great deal in all my dealings with people, no matter their age or role. I’m sure there are limits, but I’d like to think that if people are honest then there is nothing that cannot be fixed.

People make mistakes, and teenagers make more mistakes than most people. I’m pretty sure that’s a fact, and that it’s supported by emerging science about what happens inside the teenage brain. Risk taking behaviours are more likely to prevail as what we adults might call ‘common sense’ takes a breather for a few years, before (hopefully) reasserting control at some point when a person reaches their early to mid-twenties. Growing up and education in general is all part of the process of enabling young people to learn from their mistakes without judging them too harshly, but at the same time instilling a proper sense of right and wrong and compassion for others.

What matters therefore isn’t always what a young person ‘did wrong’, but how they respond afterwards. Can they own up to their mistakes or do they make excuses? Can they acknowledge the harm they may have done and put it right, or hide away from this and avoid the awkward truth? These are the key questions that matter to me, and if I’m honest it’s how I gauge the extent to which a young person has matured. A student who ‘owns’ their errors, takes responsibility, puts right what has gone wrong and tries to do better in the future will always have my respect, almost irrespective of what the original problem was.

But Honesty is not just about telling the truth or owning up to ones mistakes. In our Marple Hall Spirit, I’d argue that Honesty is more about being truthful with yourself. It’s about knowing your strengths and weaknesses and doing what you need to do to improve. It’s about being brave enough to face up to what needs to be done to be better, and then having the drive to ask for help. It’s about trusting that people around you will help and not being too proud or scared to ask for that help.

I’ll illustrate this point with the current Year 11 cohort. In pre-covid times part of our run up to the main summer exams was always a series of ‘Pomodoro’ revision sessions, a weekly opportunity for students to stay behind after school for 2.5 hours and get some decent revision done. I won’t go into the details here but it’s a great idea and helps students learn good revision habits to continue at home. In most years we’ve had 60, 70 or even 80 students signing up. This year, with the first session taking place on Wednesday, a staggering 142 of the current year 11s signed up. Every single one of them was honest with themselves, thought about what they needed to do, chose ‘what’s right over what’s easy’ and got the job done. Picture below of a full hall and work getting done – good for them!

Best wishes

Joe Barker

Determination at MHS

In the previous two blogs I have mentioned our current focus on the ‘Marple Hall Spirit’. What it is, why we have it and what it means.

As I said in assembly to students in years 7-10 last week, the Marple Hall Spirit is our school ethos. It is what we value most in people – young and old – and helps everyone to see what we care about at MHS.

We’re proud of the Marple Hall Spirit and we know that it works…or at least, we know that it did work. The Spirit was developed by the whole school community in 2016. Over 1300 people contributed to its formation and for the next few years after that it was everywhere in school, underpinning everything we did and helping to shape our school for the better. The Marple Hall Spirit was in action during the first lockdowns of 2020, with countless tales of students and staff doing good deeds and making the most of a terrible situation. It was there too when so many students logged on to live lessons, and evident as teaching staff (some of whom ar a bit old fashioned like me!) learned how to teach online.

But…perhaps…the long disruption of covid has led to a lessening of the impact of the Marple Hall Spirit. This, combined with the fact that not a single member of the student body was actually at the school when we devised it (Year 11 were in Year 5!), means that perhaps the Spirit means more to those staff who helped to write it than the students who did not. That is why we are bringing it back, especially as we embrace the world post-covid.

In form tutor periods this week and for the next four, students in Year 7-10 will look at each aspect of the Marple Hall Spirit in turn. This week the focus was on Determination:

Unsurprisingly I value every aspect of the Spirit, but I do think that there is particular power in Determination. Not giving up, being resilient, trying again, not settling for second best – these are traits that as a school we seek to nurture and reward. Determination can be seen in so many ways, and it can be a very personal thing. I have taught classes before where some of the least able students have repeatedly chosen the most challenging work, seeking out a hard path on purpose so that they learn more quickly. I’ve seen young people overcoming the most difficult of personal circumstances and still turning up every day, doing the right thing and ‘getting it right’. I’ve seen members of staff never give up with youngsters when the easy option would be to do exactly that, or adults pushing themselves well beyond their comfort zone by accepting new roles and responsibilities.

Determination can take people a very long way indeed, and if we ever needed an example of it then we need only look at the resilience and steadfastness of the public of Ukraine. As you know I’m not one for politics but I am a history teacher, and I don’t mind saying that the determination on show across that country is nothing short of amazing.

Be determined,

Joe Barker

Reawakening the Marple Hall Spirit

Reawakening the Marple Hall Spirit

This week I’ve enjoyed the chance to hold assemblies for students in Year 7-10, not only a sign that covid is finally leaving us but the start of an important piece of work on bringing the Marple Hall Spirit back to the centre of school life.

The Marple Hall Spirit is our school ethos, five qualities that we value in everyone, young and old. The concept was created by the whole school community in 2016 and served us well right up to the pandemic and during the first lockdowns. Covid affected many parts of school life, not least the restriction in getting people together, hampering our ability to create a sense of belief in and belonging to our school. It’s only as we have emerged ‘back to normal’ that we have noticed that the Marple Hall Spirit needs to be promoted once more. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that one of our strongest and most ‘together’ year groups is Year 11, the cohort who had the strongest and longest exposure to our ethos before the pandemic started.

So…we have set ourselves a challenge to re-awaken the Marple Hall Spirit between now and the end of the summer term in July. We have lots of ways planned to do this, starting with my assemblies this week and this very blog. One way is to constantly talk about the five qualities that we most admire in members of the Marple Hall Community:

These qualities matter to us. As I said to the students in assembly this week, they are what I look for in candidates applying and interviewing for jobs, in colleagues and in every student every day. Succeed at these five things and you won’t go far wrong in life!

I’m always really keen to hear from parents and carers, and so if anyone out there has ideas about how we can really reinforce our Marple Hall Spirit – perhaps in the community for example – then please get in touch.

Best wishes

Joe Barker

Ps if you’re a new parent/carer whose child was offered a place with us this week for next September, welcome!!

Marple Hall School
Hill Top Drive
Stockport SK6 6LB Headteacher: Mr Joe Barker
Tel: 0161 427 7966
Fax: 0161 426 0931