Keep attending until 23rd December!

There’s a lot that I don’t know about education, but amongst some of the things I do know is this. The more a student attends school, the better they do. Fact.

This fact has been known for a long time. As the data around schools and performance gets more and more sophisticated, the evidence for the impact of attendance vs absence grows clearer and clearer. As I explained to Year 11 in September, the single most important thing that they can do to maximise their progress is to turn up every day. When a student is not here but the rest of the class is present, then the absent student cannot help but fall behind. Many can catch up to a degree, especially as teachers now often share work with those who are off, but the impact of regularly missing lessons soon builds up.

Nationally school attendance has never recovered after Covid back to where it was in 2019. At MHS we’re tracking comfortably ahead of the national data, but even so we’re keen to ensure that all students attend as much as they can. A day here or there DOES matter, it does add up and it definitely has an impact.

Our Christmas holiday starts much later than most schools and so we still have a week to go. Last week, we were 4 full percentage points above the national average (which in attendance terms is a huge amount) and I want that trend to continue right to the end of term. Just to make it clear, next week your children can expect proper lessons, real work and no ‘fluff’ activities such as watching Christmas films. We don’t do that here. There may be a collective Christmas activity or two laid on by the school but these will be enriching and purposeful, within a week that will be largely focused on proper learning. So, if your son or daughter says ‘but they’ll just be watching videos…’ then you can confidently tell them that we won’t!

There won’t be a blog next week so I’ll end by saying thank you for all your support this term, I wish you a restful holiday and a Happy New Year.

Best wishes

Joe Barker

Get involved!

This week and next, Deputy Headteacher Mr Sharp is leading assemblies on the importance of extra curricular activities. In an assembly-friendly version of a game loosely based on ‘family fortunes’, Mr Sharp challenges the students to name the seven biggest benefits of taking part in extra curricular activities. In the two assemblies that I have seen students have been enthusiastic in their engagement with the game, giving ideas and showing a real understanding of how learning beyond the curriculum can help students academically, socially and in terms of their wellbeing.

It is no secret that the first thing to ‘go’, and the last thing to ‘come back’, from schools during Covid was the extra curricular offer. When the focus was on staying safe and everything we did was in order to keep the core function of school operating, the extra stuff had to either stop or change so much as to be virtually unrecognisable. Rebuilding our extra curricular provision has taken some time, but we do now have a really strong offer for students to take part in. Sports, art, drama, music, debating, climate change…there’s a lot to choose from for those who want to take part.

However, we are never complacent and in an ideal world 100% of students would do at least one extra curricular activity across a year. We’re a long way from achieving this, and so if you’re a parent or carer whose child does not currently take part in something extra then by all means ask them why and what they may want to do, if it were available. If you can let me or any member of staff know then we’ll do our best to be accommodating.

Have a lovely weekend, hope everyone manages to stay warm.

Joe Barker

Lifelong Literacy

My blog is a day earlier than usual this week given the fact that students are not in school tomorrow, and return to school on Tuesday 6th December.

Staff are taking part in training tomorrow in support of our ambitious ‘Lifelong Literacy’ plan, a concerted three year project that will transform our school offer and make sure that every young person completes their time at MHS being fully literate. We aim to create fluent and passionate readers who benefit from a broad and deep vocabulary, confident speakers and talented writers. These skills are right up there as the most important skills anyone can possess, and we are determined to give this important work our full attention until we get it right.

The first year of the plan has been dedicated to reading and vocabulary, and we have already made some great strides in improving the one to one support for young people who have not yet learnt to read fluently. This is of course so important for study at secondary school, and a basic entitlement for all people. Secondly we have been making a concerted effort to really focus on core vocabulary in every subject, from English through to Maths. Teachers have embraced this idea and now barely a day goes by without me seeing a class unpicking the origin and make up of words, helping students to understand their meaning and spot patterns between words in completely different subjects. This exciting work is already having an impact, with students growing more and more confident in decoding and understanding ‘difficult’ words themselves, building independence and a great understanding of how all learning is connected together through language.

We’re not even a term into a minimum nine-term project, but so far the Lifelong Literacy plan is proving invaluable.

Have a great weekend,

Joe Barker

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