Our focus on the Marple Hall Spirit reaches its conclusion this fortnight with the most unique of the five school characteristics – SPARK!

This week it’s been brilliant seeing students engaging really well in their celebration assemblies, a chance for us to recognise their success and give credit where it is due. Not every student can win a badge every assembly, but so many young people have done amazing things this term and we always enjoy celebrating with them.

Last night we had our first ever SPARK EVENING, a great showcase of the arts in different forms culminating in a wonderful summer concert. It’s been all too long since we could last do that, and I couldn’t stop smiling at seeing Bradshaw hall alive and buzzing again in the summer heat. Seeing the joy on the faces of performers, crew, staff and audience members alike reminded me of how important these opportunities are. Not only that, but the art auction was a roaring success – if I’d known people were that willing to part with their cash we’d have been doing auctions for years!

Finally today was our first SPARK DAY in three years, and our third in total. It’s a brilliant day where students take part in something creative in the morning, followed by a mini ‘festival on the field’ complete with live music, stalls, activities, sports events and a chance to relax and enjoy their time with friends and staff. I don’t know how much we’ve raised for charity yet, the totals will come later, but the atmosphere on the field was brilliant and students seemed to be having a great time. Thank you to all the staff – and there were MANY – who made spark day such a success.

Spark is not unique to our school, but our deliberate and determined focus on it as a worthy attribute probably is. It’s one of the things that I love about our ‘Marple Hall Spirit’, and this week has underlined just how much it matters. But we’re not done yet! Next week students will be showing their spark in a massive range of different ways during enrichment week and/or work experience, and I’d like to thank those members of staff who have given up so much time to give students these great opportunities. Running trips, especially residential ones, is not mandatory and I know some schools have stopped them completely. I’m therefore hugely grateful to our dedicated teams who put their hands up for the good of the students – you have my utmost respect.

Lastly for today and for the term, we say goodbye next week to the colleagues listed below. All are moving on to pastures new and I wish them all the very best.

Thank you to everyone for their support over the past year. I’ll allow you a few weeks respite from my weekly blogs now and will see you again in September!

Joe Barker

Goodbye and good luck to the following colleagues!

Millie Boucher, Learning Support Assistant

Luke Rondong, Learning Manager

Vanessa Sanchez, MFL Teacher

Barbara Santomartino, MFL teacher

Rosie O’Grady, Maths teacher

Rachel Lennie, MFL teacher

Harry Dennis, Science Technician

Amy Rivans, Science teacher

Dawn O’Doherty, Head of Year

Neil Cooke, Head of Year

And a special mention to

Rebecca Hitchen, Teacher of English, after 25 years of dedicated service.

Welcome to the class of 2027!

Last year, in the grip of the pandemic, we were one of only two schools in Stockport who managed to put on a Year 6/7 transition day. It was great at the time, although not all primary schools could attend and so we weren’t able to meet every member of the new year group. Today was the official transition day for the class of 2027 and it went brilliantly. 99.7% of the new cohort spent their day with us today, meeting their new form mates and taking part in a series of lessons to show them what a typical day looks like at our school. I was lucky enough to teach one class for history and was really impressed with the work that they have done in their primary schools, and the confident and articulate way that they spoke.

It was also really nice to be able to speak to parents and carers in person for the first time since 2019! The information evening is always a busy affair and so we have all the information you need available online if you’d like to go over anything again.

Not only did we welcome the new Year 7 intake this week, but we were also able to welcome Year 5 students for our science challenge on Tuesday and Wednesday, and a whole load of Year 1 and 2 students for a morning of sport on Tuesday as well. It’s brilliant to be able to open our doors again to local schools and see youngsters enjoying the facilities. It’s also really good to see the care and consideration shown for all these visitors by our existing students. I’m not entirely sure I had the same experience back in my day, but the conduct of our existing students made me very proud too.

Have a lovely sunny weekend,

Joe Barker

Celebrating with the Class of 2022

One of the most regrettable ‘losses’ caused by Covid was the denial, to thousands of children, of access to traditional rites of passage. The most obvious examples are all those Year 11 and Year 13 students who never got a prom, or even a leavers assembly in 2020. The university students who didn’t get a proper graduation, and the year 6s who never got to say a proper goodbye to their primary school. These things are traditions (or have more recently become traditions in the case of the latter) for a reason – they matter to people, and are part of who we are.

I remember that saying goodbye to the class of 2020 in March that year, the morning after Boris had announced a lockdown for the following Monday, was the most challenging assembly I have ever delivered. At the time we reassured them, and ourselves, that we would get them all together when covid was over and mark their time at the school. That never happened of course, and life moves on, but I regret we couldn’t do it.

Therefore it’s been genuinely lovely to be able to give the class of 2022 the full leaver’s experience. They were utterly superb on Tuesday for the leavers assembly and ‘foam on the field’, and last night (Thursday 30th) we had a wonderful time at the leaver’s Prom. The new venue of the Concorde Lounge at Manchester Airport was brilliant, with students and staff alike enjoying the surroundings and a free tour of the plane to boot! It was a lovely evening and a fitting way to say goodbye to a year group who have been through so much.

I’m aware that the majority of readers of this blog won’t have a direct connection to the class of 2022, but showing younger children what awaits them is all part of the journey and I’m hoping that they too are looking forward to their rites of passage.

Best wishes

Joe Barker

Climate Change – Stockport Council

Firstly, thank you to everyone who sent in ideas for the new school strapline – see last week’s blog here for more details. We’ve had loads of great suggestions and there’s still time to add to the list if you find yourself inspired.

Secondly this week I’d like to highlight just one example of the kind of activities that young people are involved in regarding climate change. Challenging the climate crisis is something that many people are passionate about, and it is something that unites a great many young people. Their passion for protecting the environment of the future is clear to see, and this can only be a good thing for everyone.

Despite a pause during Covid Stockport has always been keen to give a forum for young people to shape future policy on climate change, and last week two students were able to take part in a debate in the council chamber. Schools were invited to put forward proposals and the best ones will be debated by the actual council with a view to making them happen. Therefore this was a genuine chance to change policy and make a difference. Sophie Ellwood and William Roberts did a great job representing MHS having already done very well to earn the right to present their views.

Miss Sargeant has been instrumental in supporting students in this campaign and so I’ll let her explain what happened, see below!


Joe Barker

Initially 70 schools sent forward their ideas for policy change in Stockport. 20 schools were chosen to attend the debate and just 5 were chosen to present their idea… we were one of the 5, arguing for more grants to help insulate houses.

Schools across Stockport were asked to put forward ideas to fight against Climate Change and 5 were chosen to go forward to council. In the end the students of Stockport voted for sustainable sanitory products across schools, put forward by Reddish Vale. All 5 ideas will be put forward to council and the winning one will be put into policy. 

Sophie and Will laid out an outstanding argument to create grants for housing insulation. They researched the criteria for the funding and realised this had recently ceased and due to rising energy bills this was not just important but something that could affect not just adults but all young people. They argued that rented properties deserved the same opportunity as home owners and that this had to change immediately. Will and Sophie were spoken to by the mayor, councillors and other schools about their maturity when delivering, how well they carried themselves throughout the day and how passionate they were. They were absolutely amazing and I am so proud to have been a part of it with them. This was an opportunity for Stockport students to make a difference and that they did with force.

Eva-Joy Sargeant

Searching for a Strapline

Even only irregular readers of my blog over the past four months will know that I have spent a lot of time talking about the Marple Hall Spirit. We’ve done a great deal of work over that time re-awakening the Marple Hall Spirit, which we felt had gone to sleep a little in the slow and stunted journey out of covid.

We think we’re making good headway and it’s great to see students engaging with the various ways in which we are promoting our school ethos. However, I can’t get away from the fact that the current cohorts of students weren’t with us in 2016 when the Marple Hall Spirit was created. The same apples to plenty of staff, and no doubt loads of parents too.

So, whilst we are not looking to re-write the Marple Hall Spirit, there is a very important piece of work that we can do together. Alongside the Marple Hall Spirit sits our school ‘strapline’ – a short and pithy statement that is supposed to sum up what we are and what we believe in. Think Nike’s ‘Just do it’ or Tesco’s ‘Every little helps’. Our current strapline is ‘Our community, Our Future’.

It was written in 2013 and whilst it does a good job of summarising some of the things we believe in, it doesn’t really hit the mark. A good strapline is one that can be used regularly by everyone in the organisation, should be positive and uplifting, and should inspire people to action. As worthy as ‘Our community Our future’ is, I have hardly ever (never) used it in general conversation with a student, parent or colleague. It isn’t an action or something that can be used as encouragement to act in a certain way.

Therefore the Governors and I have agreed that we’re looking for a new strapline, and we have begun the process of creating a long-list of possible options. Eventually we’ll ask all students and staff to vote on their favourite, probably in September so the new Year 7s can take part, but for now we’re at the idea generation stage. So far I have over 100 ideas collected from staff, governors and a group of 80+ student volunteers. Now it’s your turn. If you can think of a great strapline that sums up what we are trying to achieve at Marple Hall School, or what it is we care about most, and especially if it is something that we can use to inspire young and old alike…then please let me know. Feel free to email me directly at and I’ll add your thoughts to the list.

Many thanks!

Joe Barker

Awesome Art!

I’ve just got back to my office after spending a lovely half an hour at this Year’s GCSE Art exhibition. It’s been three years since we were last able to display our student’s work and I was instantly reminded of just how talented some of our young people are – simply breathtaking. I’m always in awe of people who can do things that I have very little (if any) talent for and I couldn’t stop smiling all the way around. Below is a selection of the work on offer for your enjoyment!

A huge well done to all the students involved, and a massive thank you to my colleagues in the art department, and to all the parents, carers and relatives who has supported our artists along the way.

Best wishes

Joe Barker

Determination legends

Determination legends

Ever since we were able to restart assemblies in March we have been promoting the Marple Hall Spirit with all students in years 7-10. I’ve mentioned it a lot in my blogs as the Marple Hall Spirit is the ethos of our school. It’s why we do what we do and it explains what we hope to see in every member of the community.

This week, Senior Assistant Headteacher Lyn Lawton has been delivering assemblies on Determination. Often in assemblies the presenter brings out the same old examples…like how there’s no such thing as an overnight success, how successful famous people often had to overcome setbacks and how one of the world’s best Basketball players, Michael Jordan, was famously not picked for his high school basketball team. I reckon I’ve heard the Michael Jordan example over 100 times. These are common stories for a good reason, and they certainly do describe determination in action.

Mrs Lawton though took a different angle. Her assembly focused on Marple Hall Determination Legends – real life examples of students showing determination in action such as:

1) The charismatic young man who knew that his friendship group was holding him back in his studies, and so over time he achieved the almost impossible and changed friendship group in order to give him a better chance of success.

2) The female student who played a leading role in a school performance. She messed up massively in the dress rehearsal for primary students the day before the opening night, but then got back on stage and smashed it.

3) The student with autism who struggled with Mrs Lawton’s subject, English. The student recognised their difficulty, asked for extra support and ended up with a spectacular grade.

and (my favourite)

4) The young male student who at break time recently challenged his much bigger and more confident friend for using the word ‘gay’ in a negative way. He boldly announced ‘I don’t think you should use the word gay as an insult’, and was then supported by others around him. He was determined to stand up for what he believed in, and hopefully taught his friend a lesson at the same time.

I loved Mrs Lawton’s assembly. These are real life examples of real life Marple Hall students showing their determination, giving us all great examples to look up to.

Speaking of which, Year 11 continue to impress me with their determination during their exams. Keep it up and do some work over the break!!

Best wishes,

Joe Barker

MHS Update 20-5-2022

Over the previous few weeks I’m referenced our Year 11 cohort fairly regularly, as of course this group of students are coming towards the end of their time at MHS. This week the long awaited exams finally arrived and it was absolutely no surprise at all to see them settle down to the task in hand. Over the past 18 month this group of young people have gone from strength to strength, and regardless of the final outcomes in August we couldn’t be more proud of them. With several exams already under their belts, it’s heads down for the next four school weeks and then the future awaits.

This week we have been able to share news that many parents will be pleased to hear; we have secured a deal to change our PE kit supplier and will be moving to both Warrens and Monkhouses from July 1st. The new kit is smart, good quality and will hopefully be readily available! All students will need to have a full PE kit ready for September, but this can be the new design, old design or a mixture of the two until replacement items are needed.

Finally this week a comment from me on anti-social behaviour in the community. The overwhelming majority of young people are positive, proactive, generous members of the community who do the school and their families proud. It is important not to dismiss all teenagers as being an issue. However, where things do not go right, as a school we have a shared responsibility to help students grow up to be kind and considerate members of the community. I take this responsibility very seriously, which is why we spend so long in school promoting our school ethos of the Marple Hall Spirit, and our pastoral team spend a good portion of their time dealing with issues in the community. We also have good partnerships with the police and other agencies, working together to educate and guide young people into the right choices. Of course, this is a shared responsibility – not one that is the school’s alone – and it is only by working with parents and members of the public that we can really make a difference. So, if anyone has a concern then do please report it to us and we will always try to make a difference.

Have a great weekend,

Joe Barker

Smashing the exam season

The main exam season begins on Monday and continues for five school weeks.

Both last year and the year before, the part of the media that focusses on education was right now highlighting the cancellation of all exams and the alternative arrangements that were put in place. This year we are very much back to normal. There have been some alterations to the content that students will be tested on in some subjects, but the exams themselves are taking place in their usual rigorous way. My personal professional opinion is that it’s fantastic to see the exams back again. They are the best way for each student to show what they can do, and despite their flaws they are the fairest way too. I also believe that the exam season brings out the best in our Year 11s and I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do this year.

However, the exam season can be a stressful time for students and their families. Therefore my colleague Lyn Lawton has pulled together some useful advice that you may want to read. If even a small part of it is helpful then it’s worth doing. If your child isn’t doing exams at the moment, unlike the Year 11s and almost all Year 9s, then there are still some helpful things here both for now and for the future.

Finally, if parents of younger students could support us by reminding their children to follow the ‘quiet please’ signs wherever they see them, that would be great. As the signs tell them, ‘One day it will be your turn’.


Joe Barker

Helping your child maintain a positive mindset during the [extended] exam period:

  1. Studies have proven that a person’s mood can affect their performance. For example, one study showed that by simply asking participants in an experiment to think ‘happy thoughts’ it doubled their accuracy in a word association test. On the morning of exams, try reminding your child of a happy future event [a summer holiday/day out/prom] or happy times in the past. Or simply give them some positive vibes: ‘I know you can do this’ or ‘You are doing great.’
  2. Ego-depleted students are more likely to quit. ‘Ego-depletion’ is when  self-confidence plummets and students lose faith in their own ability. Protecting your child’s confidence during exam periods is tricky, but one way is to be on the look-out for it. For example, [despite our advice] students often chat to their peers after exams and compare themselves to others. If they find out they answered questions wrongly, they can feel less confident about themselves moving forward to the next exam. As well as advising them not to have these chats after exams, give them reassuring messages such as ‘Don’t worry, everyone drops a few marks here and there – you will be able to make up it in the next exam’ or ‘There will be plenty of questions you got right, so don’t focus on the wrong ones.’
  3. When students are actively involved in difficult cognitive reasoning [engaged in difficult exam tasks], their blood-glucose level can drop which can impact on their concentration. Encourage your child to eat breakfast on the day of exams and ensure they have enough snacks/money on their school accounts to replenish their energy during the day.
  4. Keeping a closer eye on your child during this period can be beneficial: ensuring there are not any major family events/too much socialising at the weekend; the half-term break is quiet; bedtimes aren’t too late; and their alarm is set for the morning of exams can all help avoid stress.
  5. Finally, try not to feel too worried yourself. It can be a stressful time for the whole family, especially if this is your first child to take GCSEs. Remember to contact your child’s form tutor if you have any particular concerns.

The final countdown

The final countdown

I’ve spent the last five blogs focussing on the Marple Hall Spirit and what it means to be a part of our school. Naturally, this has means that our attention has been on those students who will be with us in September and beyond, as we look to strengthen our school ethos for the years ahead. In some ways therefore Year 11 have not been a part of this work, as their time is steadily coming to an end.

Therefore I wanted to dedicate this blog to the class of 2022, who as of now are on the doorstep of the exam season, the first exam season we’ve run in school since way back in 2019. There were times when it looked like the exams might not happen again, but thankfully here we are and the students have a chance to prove what they can do. I think I’ve already mentioned in recent weeks that this cohort of students have broken all records for engaging with our weekly Wednesday ‘Pomodoro’ revision nights, a sign that as a whole they are determined to do well. Students have also completed controlled assessments in many subjects – or are working to deadlines now – and the languages students are in the thick of their speaking tests which so far are going really well. Yesterday we had the PE moderation day, and Mr Stretton reported exceptional levels of commitment and determination from all those involved. That department is aiming to be in the top 1% of schools nationally and it is days like yesterday than can make ambitious goals a reality.

The main block of formal exams starts in just 11 days, and around 50 days from now it will all be over. This particular year group has faced so many challenges from lockdown in Years 9 and 10, bubbles bursting all over the place and restrictions on teaching styles, and yet they are absolutely flying at the moment. We are all so proud of them and I’m looking forward to watching them tackle the formal exams together with confidence.

Have a great long weekend,

Joe Barker

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