A good start

Like in pretty much everything in life, it’s always nice to get off to a good start. In school it’s particularly important that individuals, classes, year groups and the whole school get off to a good start. It sets the tone for the year and a promising September can often bode well for the months ahead.

I feel quite well qualified now to judge these things, and I’d say that MHS has got off to a fantastic start this year. Students have come back to school motivated, determined and enthusiastic. They are turning up, working hard and being respectful. Our staff team are setting the weather for the school and doing their very best to maximise the chances of every young person here, and together adults and children alike are showing the Marple Hall Spirit in all that they do. As you know from last week’s blog it’s been a busy month, but in many ways an excellent one that will have a lasting impact.

September is ‘done’ – bring on the rest of the year!

Best wishes

Joe Barker

What a week!

One of the best things about working in a school is how busy the days are, especially in a community like MHS with over 1800 people here each day. There’s never a dull moment, that’s for sure.

This week though was perhaps verging on ‘too busy’, what with an Ofsted inspection on Tuesday and Wednesday followed by the annual Open Evening on Thursday night. We haven’t had an inspection since September 2018 and so we knew we were in line for a visit at some point this year, but knowing that didn’t lessen the sense of anticipation and excitement when the phone rang on Monday morning to tell me of the visit. What did help though is our general approach to the whole principle of Ofsted inspection, which is that we never do anything purely for the benefit of inspectors. Instead, everything we seek to do here is in the best interests of our school, and this week I was proud to see staff and students doing what they normally do, confident that we didn’t need to change anything.

I’m not able to share the outcome of the inspection until the report is finalised, which should in around five to six weeks. However, I will say that we are happy that the inspection team gained a clear and accurate view of our school, and that the feedback will be both positive and beneficial in helping us to get even better. I’d like to thank all the students and staff for their participation in the inspection, and also to every parent who filled in the Parent View survey. Your views are always so important and the inspectors were very grateful that many families responded.

Of course, that should be the end of my blog…but then we had Open Evening last night. It was BRILLIANT. Easily the busiest we’ve ever had, with the school buzzing with visitors, staff and student helpers alike. There was a great atmosphere around the whole school and I really enjoyed chatting to so many people. A huge, huge thank you to the staff for raising the energy levels once again after a very busy few days…it’s almost the weekend!

Best wishes,

Joe Barker

The journey of communication

The first two weeks of the year are now complete, and it’s been great to see students settling into the rhythm of school life again. Even more so given the change to the school day, which I have to say is probably affecting some of the staff more than the students.

One of our school priorities is to promote levels of literacy across the school community, focussing mainly on reading and vocabulary at the moment. Students will see this in action in most lessons, whether from ‘Frayer Models’ that explain key words or from different approaches to reading in class. However, we’re also keen on promoting oracy and students’ confidence when it comes to verbal communication. It’s such an important life skill and one that is often overlooked.

On Wednesday this week, all students in Years 7-10 took part in a specially planned session called ‘The Journey of Communication’. Created by the wonderful Miss Swift and delivered by almost every member of staff through form groups, these sessions challenged students to push themselves in terms of verbal communication and public speaking. I managed to visit over twenty classes that morning to see the sessions in action, and I could really get a sense of why it’s important to focus on this aspect of communication. Students took to the tasks really well, and we’re keen to build on their experiences this time next year.

My thanks to Miss Swift and the whole team for their work on this exciting new project.

Wishing you a great weekend,

Joe Barker

Welcome Back!

A very warm (!) welcome back to the new school year at Marple Hall School. It’s been a real joy and privilege to be able to welcome all our students back to us after the summer break, and particularly so for the new cohort of Year Seven students. Seeing them diving into their new school experience is wonderful, and I have been very impressed so far with their confidence, enthusiasm and determination. I also really enjoyed talking to our Year 11 cohort on Tuesday as they embark on the final chapter. They are an impressive bunch and I’m keen to see what they will achieve this year.

This is the second year in a row where we’ve started the year in blistering temperatures, and so I applaud everyone for their resilience in just getting on with the job at hand. I met my own new Year 10 GCSE history class yesterday for a double lesson, and it’s fair to say that by the end of the two hours we were all flagging slightly (due to the weather of course, not my teaching). Here’s hoping that things settled down slightly next week and we can build further on what has been a brilliant start to the year here at MHS.

But, before then, I hope everyone makes the most of what may well be the last, and hottest, weekend of the whole summer.

Best wishes

Joe Barker

Exam results day 2023

Today is the day that our class of 2023, those Year 11 students who started with us way back in 2018, receive their exam results. It’s always an emotional day and a real privilege to be able to be a part of it, watching young people open their results and celebrate their achievements. We should remember that this cohort had to deal with Covid affecting their time significantly in Year 8 and Year 9, but the year group put that behind them and worked incredibly hard for their results. Over 30% of all the grades achieved at MHS were at grade 7 or above, a fantastic achievement in a year where grade boundaries have returned to pre-covid levels. As well as this, students of all abilities have done incredibly well and should be rightly proud of their efforts.

Congratulations too to the Class of 2025 who pick up results of their own today in either a Modern Foreign Language or Health and Fitness. The results for the vast majority of students are brilliant and hopefully with give great confidence as they head into KS4 proper.

I’m always very aware that not every student will have done as well as they wanted to, and some will be wondering what to do next. To those members of the class of 2023 who feel like this I want to reassure you that we’re here to help. If you didn’t get what you wanted then don’t worry – GCSEs don’t define you as a person and you can achieve whatever you want to in life. Every single student will forever be a part of our class of 2023 and we are proud of you all.

Best wishes

Joe Barker and all the staff at MHS.

That’s (almost) all folks!

I’m writing this on Friday morning at the end of the last ‘full’ week in school before the summer break. And what a week! I’m sure I’ll have forgotten something, but this week:

On Monday students and staff took place in the whole school elections for student leaders. Expertly managed by Mrs Wilson, over 1200 votes were cast and counted. Congratulations to all the candidates who did a wonderful job, and to the winners. Amelia D (Y9), Will M (Y9), Jemima W (Y8) all join the leadership team, Lilly B and Charlie B (Y11) became the two Head Students and Issy B-M and Harriet R (Y11) became the two deputy head students.

On Tuesday the whole of year nine and around 30 members of staff had the privilege of meeting and listening to Anne Super, a Holocaust Survivor, who told us about her experiences as a young girl before answering questions from the students. Anne was amazing, and so were the 300 members of the class of 2025 who were impeccable in their manners and so mature with their questions. It was a very special moment for me as a headteacher and history teacher.

On Wednesday we welcomed the nine members of staff who are joining the team in September. It was great to meet them and support them in getting ready for next academic year. We also had our first official ‘Celebration Evening’ since 2019, which is so long ago! It was a pleasure to be able to hand awards to around 80 students who have gone above and beyond this year. As I said at the time, there are hundreds of brilliant students and MHS and I would have liked to have had them all there…but sadly that isn’t possible.

Between Monday and Thursday new years 8 to 10 had their ‘celebration assembly’, where prizes are awarded and students perform a variety of pieces to entertain their peers. It’s always nice to see the year groups get together and celebrate their peers.

On Thursday the Geography team took the second half of the new Year 11 cohort out on a very successful ‘Rivers’ fieldtrip, while the PE Department took a team of U13 girls cricketers out for the next stage of their competition. Thursday night also saw our annual Spark night, a festival of the arts with an exhibition, debating, busking, art auction and of course a full performance with group numbers, soloists, dancers and more. The staff even took to the stage but the less said about that the better! If was wonderful to see Bradshaw Hall full again, for what is rapidly becoming my favourite night of the year. Oh, and tickets for October’s ‘Bugsy’ performances go on sale next week on the website – don’t miss out, it’s already looking great!

The only cloud this week has been the literal ones that are sitting over school right now as I type this blog. We ought to be a few hours away from the main event of the week – the Spark Day festival on the field. Sadly, after a lot of preparation from so many people, the weather forecast is against us and we’ve had to scale it right back to the bare bones. Students are taking part in creative lessons during period three, we have some additional events on at break and lunch, but the organised afternoon events are not taking place. It’s a shame, but the event is so big it simply won’t fit indoors. Hopefully we’ll have better luck next year!

So, all in all a busy week – especially as on top of all of the above we’ve also taught lessons every day and carried on learning right to the end. Our new Year 11s head off to work experience next week, 400+ students are on trips away from school and the rest will be taking part in 3.5 days of activities designed to help them experience different things and work with different people. I’m looking forward to it!

There won’t be a blog next week, so I’ll sign off by saying THANK YOU to everyone who has supported us this year. We couldn’t do it without you.

Wishing everyone a safe and peaceful summer,

Best wishes,

Joe Barker

Ends and Beginnings

The end of June and start of July is always a busy time of year in a secondary school, marked out by a very clear ‘end’ and an equally clear ‘beginning’.

Last Thursday night, myself and over 50 colleagues had the pleasure of helping the wonderful ‘Class of 2023’ mark the end of their five years in school. The Concorde Conference Centre has been home to two Year 11 Proms now and we love it. It’s a fitting venue to hold what is a really important event, and it was fantastic to see students enjoying themselves and celebrating alongside the staff who have helped along the way. We’ll see most of the students again of course, not least for the nerve shredding exam results day in August, but it was lovely to be able to share their final event with them in style.

Move forwards exactly a week and yesterday we welcomed 340 new starters to school on their official transition day. We had great support from primary schools to enable every member of the new Year Sevens for September to attend, and it was a brilliant to see them all jump in with such enthusiasm and confidence. I had the pleasure of teaching one class for a spot of History, and having seen the whole year group at break and lunch they have a bright future here at MHS. Not long to go now before they join us for real. It was also great to meet so many parents and carers in school yesterday evening, for some the start of a new journey as well as their eldest child starts secondary school. Exciting times all round!

Today of course is an odd day with only the new Year 11 in school due to strike action. I’m looking forward to the whole school being back in for one final week before enrichment week, and in particular looking forward to celebration evening, spark evening and spark day – it’s going to be busy!

Many thanks

Joe Barker

MHS ‘Industrial Action’ update 29-6-2023

Dear Parents/Carers,

A reminder that tomorrow, Friday 30th June, is a pre-planned INSET day where no students are in school.

I am writing to you to share information about the next planned teacher strikes on Wednesday 5th and Friday 7th July. As I have explained in previous blogs, these strikes are not action against the school but are instead about concerns over teachers’ pay and the overall funding for schools, which is damaging to every child’s education and leading to challenges recruiting and retaining school staff. These issues affect MHS as much as they do all schools.

For anyone with younger children/relatives coming to the Year 6 taster day on Thursday 6th July, this is unaffected and will go ahead as planned.

Arrangements for both Wednesday 5th and Friday 7th July are as follows:

Mrs Chadwick’s Year 10 (now known as ‘year 11’ in school)

  1. Students in Year 10 will be expected in school for a normal school day.
  2. Due to number of teachers on strike who teach Year 10, only around 40% of lessons will take place as normal. Students should be prepared with the right books and equipment in case their lessons do go ahead.
  3. Where teachers are not available students will take part in supervised independent study. School can provide work for this, but students are advised to bring relevant work with them.
  4. If students have a PE lesson that day, then they will need to choose whether to take part in some physical activity OR study independently, and bring the right equipment for their choice.

Years 7-9 (now known as years 8-10 in school)

  1. School will be closed for students in Years 7-9, unless a place is requested under the provision for vulnerable learners. See below for more details.
  2. Students not in school will be provided with work to undertake at home. This will consist of either:

Links to online platforms (as per the previous strike day), OR specific work for their class set on Satchel One, OR Teams lessons lasting between 30 and 50 minutes. Where the class teacher is not on strike, every lesson will begin with at least a short online Teams session where the tasks for the class will be explained by the teacher.

The offer will differ per lesson per student depending on whether their teacher is striking or not striking and available. A letter explaining the offer and how to access it can be seen HERE.

Vulnerable Learners

We may be able to provide accommodation for the most vulnerable learners on the day of the strike. If you believe that your child meets this criteria and wish to book a place, then please follow the link HERE.

The deadline for letting school know is midday on Monday 3rd July

Free school meals

The parents or carers of any child who normally receives a benefits-related Free School Meal, who will not be in school on 5th July and/or 7th July should also follow the link below and complete the final question of the form if a meal is required. These meals will be available for collection from Bradshaw Canteen before the end of the day before each strike day. Only pre-booked meals, via the form, will be available. The deadline for letting school know is midday on Monday 3rd July

The form for requesting a meal is HERE, please see final question.

I hope that this information above is helpful and of course, if anything changes, we will let you know.

Best wishes

Joe Barker

Pride and Post 16!

We’re unashamedly inclusive here at MHS. We believe that young people should be able to be themselves, unfettered by worries over gender, race, religion, disability, sexuality or any other important characteristics. That’s why we try hard as a school to promote inclusivity, and we’re proud to support all students and staff whoever they may be. Pride Month is one part of this permanent drive to be as inclusive as possible, and is a time to celebrate people’s differences and come together as a community to make sure no-one feels isolated or afraid because of their sexuality. In a world where all too often young people are exposed to hate and anger on social media – often perpetrated by adults who should know better as well as young people themselves – we see it as our duty to stand up for fairness, equality and hope. This month we’ve been celebrating our LGBT+ community with staff and students showing their support and allyship. Whether sharing stories of their LGBT+ heroes, wearing rainbow lanyards or shoelaces, baking (and eating) rainbow cakes, mapping out where LGBT+ people, themes and issues are covered across the curriculum or contributing to a new video for the website on why Pride matters*, it’s heart warming to know that here at MHS everyone is welcome and supported.

You can find out more about our support for LGBT+ students and staff here.

Also this week we held one of our ‘Post 16’ events, aiming to support students as they plan their futures for when they leave MHS at the end of Year 11. We had an excellent array of post 16 educational providers, employers and trainers – see below – and a brilliant turnout of mostly Year 10 students, perhaps as many as 200 people in all. Having a plan for the future is known to be a real factor in success at school, and the enthusiasm with which so many students and their parents took to the event was great to see. I’d like to thank everyone who came, all the exhibitors and of course our staff in school for making it happen – Miss Marney, Mrs Whalley and Miss Residu.

Finally, advance warning in case you missed it that there is further industrial action planned by one teaching union in July. Teachers of the NEU may be on strike for both days, and it is likely that this will lead to disruption for all or most year groups in school. I do not have the details yet but wanted to make sure everyone is aware of the dates, which are Wed 5th and Fri 7th July. The ‘year 6’ transition day scheduled for Thursday 6th July will go ahead as planned.

Best wishes,

Joe Barker

*coming soon!

MHS update 16-6-2023

A short blog this week, but still time to do more than just skirt around a few issues to do with the heat.

  1. It’s been really hot in school this week…but students and staff have shown real determination to carry on as normal. It’s not been easy at all and I’ve been impressed by the resilience on show.
  2. Like always when it’s really hot, we haven’t expected students to wear blazers all week*
  3. Students who choose to wear skirts do not have to wear tights for the rest of the academic year
  4. We have free water dispensers in four locations around the site and have encouraged all students to bring a bottle and fill up each break and lunch – hundreds have been doing so
  5. The wearing of full school uniform is an integral part of the school ethos, promoting positive attitudes, high standards and a sense of personal pride. Plenty of students this week have politely, sensibly and maturely asked if they can wear shorts instead of trousers.  We are always keen to listen to our students and have discussed with them the reasons for our choices which they have indicated they have understood.

Have a great weekend!

Joe Barker

*As it stands, due to cooler weather, we expect blazers to be brought into school on Monday 19th June.

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