Happy Holidays

A very quick blog to wish all members of our school community a happy holiday, whether celebrating a religious festival such as Easter or Eid, spending time with friends and family or just looking forward to eating more chocolate than is sensible! Year 11 students in particular, please make sure you do some work but also have a rest too, balance is important.

Thanks to everyone for all your support since the new term started back on January 8th. Here’s looking forward to doing it all again from Monday 15th April onwards.

Best wishes

Joe Barker

Proposal to change term dates 2024-2025

I am using this week’s blog to highlight a consultation that has opened today regarding the school term dates for next academic year. Information about the proposal has been sent home to parents and carers today electronically, as well as being posted on the school website here.

The proposal is for a limited but (we think!) beneficial change to the published terms dates, specifically around the Christmas break of Dec 2024 to Jan 2025. As a maintained school we are obliged to follow the Stockport holiday pattern, available here: School term dates – Stockport Council

However, we believe that the following changes would benefit our students and staff:

  1. Extend the Autumn term by one day, meaning school is open up to and including Friday 20th December (rather than Thursday 19th as currently planned)
  2. Delay the official start of the Spring 2025 term to Friday 3rd January (rather than the 2nd as currently planned).

We would then use an INSET day to mean that the actual start date of the Spring term would be Monday 6th January.

These relatively minor changes, which will mean the weeks either side of the holiday will be full weeks, will help is to maximise student attendance as we know that ‘split’ or ‘part’ weeks often lead to lower attendance overall. The changes will also provide the whole school community a prolonged break after New Year, which in recent years has proven popular and beneficial.

As a maintained school we are not able to make this change. However, as an academy we are able to do so, and as we will be an academy by the Autumn term we plan to make the changes outlined above. The reason for a consultation now is to give all members of the community as much notice as possible. Local Authority colleagues are aware of our plans and the rationale for consulting well in advance of the dates. The proposal is relevant to Marple Hall School only.

All comments are welcome via this email address: MHStermdates2425@marplehall.stockport.sch.uk

The consultation period is open now and closes on Friday 26th April 2024. The MHS Governing body will then review all responses and make a final decision.

Best wishes

Joe Barker

An important fortnight for the class of 2025

My phone does that thing where each morning it shows me a picture from ‘this day x years ago’. Recently it’s been showing me images from four years ago that are very much reminding me of the covid pandemic. Aside from being amazed that it’s been four years (really???), the images remind me of those weeks leading up to what then became the first lockdown. A friend showing off that he’s bought 9 toilet rolls…that kind of thing.

This fortnight our Year 10s, the class of 2025, are sitting their first full set of trial exams. This cohort, along with the class of 2020 who were in year 11 when the lockdowns started, will always remind me of covid. Our year tens were the cohort who didn’t get to complete Year 6 properly, didn’t get all the usual transition activities to get ready for high school, and then had the most challenging start to life at MHS that you could possibly imagine. Therefore I’ll confess that I have been more than a little proud to note how well the students have coped with the demands of Key Stage 4. Attendance is up and rising, teachers report that Year 10 are working really hard in the vast majority of classes, and the exams team have been full of praise for their attitude during this first week of formal trial examinations. Young people are a lot more resilient and adaptable than some elements of the media would have you know.

So, well done Year 10. Keep up the good work and together we’ll help you realise your goals.

Have a great weekend,

Joe Barker

World Book Day

I can’t let yesterday’s World Book Day go by without using it as a way to once again promote the benefits of reading. Research shows that reading – and in particular reading fiction – has a positive effect on a person’s educational outcomes. Not only do literacy skills improve, but so does a person’s knowledge of the wider world, helping them to make connections and better understand the whole curriculum delivered in school. Students don’t just benefit in English either…the research shows that students who read often also achieve more highly in science and maths. Given that reading is fun, relaxing and beneficial…what’s not to love?

At MHS we do World Book Day a little differently. Not a fan of getting staff to dress up as fictional characters, instead we want to dedicate the time to exposing students to actual stories. That’s why for the past couple of years we have instead chosen to read a short story to every class throughout the day, each teacher pitching in with a different part until the story comes to an end in the afternoons. Alongside quizzes and competitions, we hope that this makes WBD at MHS a more intereactive and reading focussed experience. The stories chosen for this year were gripping and surprisingly brutal…you should ask your sons/daughters/wards what story they heard and what they thought of it.

We know that reading makes a difference, and we hope that by working together with families we can encourage all our students to develop a love of reading that will stay with them for life.

Have a great weekend

Joe Barker

Dance Show!

This week saw the 2024 instalment of the now well-established MHS Dance Show. Deputy Headteacher Claire Gregory has kindly sent me the following to share on the blog:

The third Marple Hall annual Dance show 2024 was a roaring success! From the aptly named opening number ‘Superstar’, to the poignant “Social Media Storm’  and  the energetic finale ‘I Believe’, there was a wealth of talent on show; the culmination of much hard work and dedication from all concerned.

It was wonderful to see so many new dancers in the Year 7 and 8  ‘Collision Dance Club’ being so encouraged and supported by their peers and families.  Likewise, it was fantastic to see the Year 9 students who had graduated this year to join the talented Year 10 and 11 students in the ‘Motion Dance Club.’

A number of students also danced solo or in pairs, exuding confidence, creativity and commitment that belied their years, as well as that Marple Hall spark that we talk about so often in school.

Participation in extracurricular activities helps students to feel a strong sense of belonging and pride in their school. We encourage all students to attend at least one activity in school where possible and have recently established our ‘Digital Discoveries’ activities for students who are unable to stay after school but want to be part of something extracurricular. We would love it if you could encourage your child to join in with any activity. Dancing may not be for everyone but I am confident there is an activity to suit every student in school!

I’ll end by saying a big well done to all the students who made last night such a successful and enjoyable evening; a big thank you to all parents and carers who supported the event and of course to all the staff team, especially Miss Griffies who made the event possible.

Have a great weekend!

Joe Barker

Academisation update

As you will already know, we have been given the green light by the Department for Education to form a multi academy Trust with Romiley Primary School. It was a long process to get to this point, but now that things are starting to happen we thought it a good time to give you an update. Our new multi academy trust will be called ‘Helix Academies Trust’. A helix has connotations to DNA, and we want to form a trust where our vision for our schools and community runs through our DNA. We will be “Nurturing learners to influence, challenge and lead the communities in which they live.”

We believe there is a difference between equipping learners to fit in to society and nurturing learners who understand that whoever they are and whatever they end up doing, they influence the world around them. Every learner, both adult and child, has a unique and powerful voice.

The name is also a nod to Stockport’s industrial past of hat making (HAT). We believe it is also significant because the more strands there are to a helix, the stronger it becomes. Through a closer working relationship, we will become stronger.

After our proposal was granted, we have had monthly meetings with the DfE and the local authority. Contrary to the belief that some still hold, we are working closely with the local authority and will continue to do so after converting to academy status. The local authority is supportive of our plans. We have now registered Helix Academies Trust with Companies House and have set our target conversion date as 1st September. September is a good time to start a new academy trust, as an academy’s financial year runs from September to August, in line with the academic year.

There is still lots to do before then, but if there are any more updates, we’ll keep you informed.

Best wishes,

Joe Barker

Short but effective

No, not a quote from one of my school reports, but instead a summary of this half term. A short ‘five-weeker’, but in that time we’ve squeezed in a full set of Year 11 trial exams, helped 300+ Year nine students choose their options for next year and raised attendance to the highest sustained level since September. We’ve done a lot more besides of course, and in particular we’ve been really encouraged to see the number of books loaned from the Hub (our Library) continue to rise too. I may have said it before, but if students ‘turn up and read’ then they are half way there!

Today though I’d like to focus on our Year 11 cohort who have, like I say, just completed their full set of trial exams. Students have collectively sat over 3000 exam papers, giving them a good impression of what the ‘real thing’ looks like. The vast majority of the year group have taken the tests really seriously indeed. This has been shown by the increased attendance, the comments from the invigilation team and the early feedback from Year 11 teachers who report that levels of effort in answering the questions have been high. This is so important as it means we can give proper, meaningful feedback to students to help them in the coming months. Years ago, I’d say that too many of our Year 11s didn’t take the old ‘mock’ exams seriously enough. ‘I’ll try for the real thing‘, they would wishfully say to themselves to make themselves feel better. I’m increasingly confident that we have tackled that dangerous attitude head on, and that the current Year 11s are leading by example.

Before I finish on the theme of the trial exams, a final thank you to my colleagues for all the hours of marking and feedback preparation. I know all too well how long it takes to do this job properly, and so thank you.

Thank you to everyone for your ongoing support,

Have a great week,

Joe Barker

Up and Up!

Last week I mentioned how our Year 11 cohort have really risen to the challenge of the Trial Exams, both in terms of their efforts in the exams themselves and in their attendance too. More broadly, there’s really positive news about attendance overall. Whilst attendance tends to go up and down over a school year, often starting high at the start of a term and then dropping off, at MHS we’ve been bucking that trend recently. Not only were the last couple of weeks before Christmas really strong, but the first three weeks of the new year have been very positive too and improving week by week. To be a percentage point above the national rate doesn’t sound like much, but in attendance terms it is and we’ve been at that level for most of the year since September. However this term MHS attendance is rising, with the school almost a full three percentage points above national rates last week – and over five points above in one year group. That’s massive! Also, the percentage of students classed as persistently absent (with an attendance of under 90% across the year to date) is over 6% points below other secondary schools. We’re not complacent though, and there are definitely areas that we need to work on, but we should also recognise positives where they exist.

Well done to everyone who is contributing to this excellent and very encouraging picture. And it’s not just those with 100% or nearly 100% attendance who deserve the credit – well done to all those who have struggled with attendance and who have managed to improve recently. That’s just as important and just as significant. If we can keep this up then EVERYONE WINS, so fingers crossed. If the key to success in school is to ‘Turn up and read’ (and it really is) then more and more MHS students are at least half way there.

One week to go until half term, let’s make it a good one. Turn up and read!

Have a great weekend,

Joe Barker

Excelling through Extra Curricular

Firstly, thank you to everyone who came to the Year 9 Options and Parents evening last night. Great to see so many students, parents and carers hearing feedback from core subject teachers, and of course speaking to the teachers of every other subject to help with options choices for next year. Thanks also to all my colleagues for making the event a success.

Turn up and read. That’s the phrase/message that I have been sharing a lot this year – in assemblies, in lessons, on this blog. Good rates of attendance and good habits with reading (especially fiction) are the two surest signs that a child will do well in school. Turn up and read, turn up and read, turn up and read.

However I’d like to add to this core message, thanks to an assembly delivered by Mr Osgood and Miss Ditchfield this week. Mr Osgood, along with Miss Ditchfield and Miss Griffies, are currently leading on the development and promotion of our whole school extra curricular offer. As Mr Osgood eloquently said in assembly, turning up and reading are absolutely key to a student doing well in school. But, taking part in some form of extra curricular activity as well really helps a child to excel. Taking part in extra curricular activities helps to build resilience, teamwork, determination and communication skills. It can help a person develop new skills and confidence, boost their sense of wellbeing and make them feel more connected to school and the school community. Basically, extra curricular is great!

At MHS we have over 40 opportunities every fortnight for students to take part in some form of extra curricular club. More than that, we’re developing an exciting online provision called Digital Discoveries. This a new extra-curricular themed challenge that students can undertake at home with minimal equipment, available via the student hub on the school website. There’s something on there already so check it out. Finally, and perhaps most excitingly, Mr Osgood outlined plans for a new set of societies – student led extra curricular groups – that have the potential to expand our offer significantly, as well as give students valuable leadership opportunities. I’m looking forward to seeing who steps up and what societies are formed.

Speaking of turning up…a big ‘well done’ to our Year 11 cohort who are currently engaged in their trial exams. Over 95% of the cohort are in and taking part which in the context of the current national attendance crisis is pretty remarkable. Alarmingly Year 11 cohorts on average this year nationwide are barely reaching 90% attendance, and so the way that our young people have responded to the challenge of the trial exams is a very positive sign indeed.

Best wishes,

Joe Barker


It’s been a chilly week in school this week, -7 was the coldest my car showed on Thursday morning. Tuesday saw some fairly significant snowfall and led to the inevitable calls from some students for me to close the school. I’ll be honest, unlike some wintry days in previous years, I never came close to closing the school on Tuesday. There is always a concern over the safety of our site, which being as large as it is requires students and staff to spend a lot of time outside. Icy paths can be dangerous and this is something that we have to take into account. Not all ‘snow days’ are the same, and sometimes clearing the site can be impossible, but I knew early on that Mr Hutchinson and his site team were well on top of the job even before I arrived just after 6.30am. The second, and often most crucial factor, is the state of the roads and the transport networks. We haven’t lost a day of school to snow since 2019, but when we did – and all the other times before it – the main issue was that the road network had ground to a halt. Students stranded on buses, staff miles from school and no hope of there being enough adults in the building to supervise those students who could walk to school. This simply wasn’t a factor this week, and so in terms of a decision it was the easiest non-snow day that I can remember. Either that, or after Covid the challenge of a snow day no longer seems that big!

Therefore we were open on Tuesday and I was very glad of it. We don’t tend to get snowfall like we used to in the 80s… (I know, showing my age!)… and so in some respects it was nice seeing students actually playing in the snow at break and lunch. We didn’t go down the now common route of banning snowballs, and I’d say 98% of students enjoyed themselves sensibly and within limits. As always in life some couldn’t handle it and took it a bit far, but there was a really good staff presence all across the site to keep things in check. One student did ask me if we could have a staff vs student snow ball fight. I told him that when I was a schoolboy that was exactly what happened in my school. He looked excited as hope seemed to rise in him that I might actually say ‘yes’. Sadly for him the answer was a firm ‘no’. ‘Why, if your teachers were ok with it?’, asked the boy. My answer? ‘Back then I was a student and I thought the staff vs student snowball fight was a great idea. Now I’m in charge, and I can see that it was utter madness’.

Anyway, enough on that and enough snow for 2024 thank you!

To finish, a quick update from some of the charity work done before the end of term last year. There was a lot going on, partly in aid of charities and also partly to support the costs of the Year 11 Prom. Our year seven charity leaders did a fantastic job organising a whole school Christmas jumper day on the last day of term, and along with money raised in PE the total was around £500! The majority of this is going to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation which is great to hear. Well done all!!

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
Email: info@marplehall.stockport.sch.uk
Safeguarding: safeguarding@marplehall.stockport.sch.uk