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An Exciting Half Term Ahead

Posted on 14th June 2013

A wonderful Sixth Form Ball

The last half term ended in spectacular and hugely enjoyable style with our annual Sixth Form Ball. This year more students and staff attended than ever – 180. But it remained, as it always seems to be, a very happy, warm and entertaining occasion. The students present made clear their enormous gratitude and affection for Mr Terry McTernan, Head of Sixth Form and Mrs Julie Wolseley, Deputy Head of Sixth Form, as well as for their Form Tutors and teachers. As tradition dictates, Mr McTernan and I gave a speech in which we took on the parts of characters from many nationalities and during this speech the name of every tutor present and every student in the Upper Sixth was celebrated. The cheers of delight and roars of approval which punctuated the mentioning of each of these names meant that the speech went on for nearly one hour, but they made it an event to savour and all the more remarkable. I am very grateful to all my colleagues who took the trouble to attend – we could not run the event without their support – and I am very grateful to all those parents who helped prepare their sons and daughters to look so elegant and refined.

A lively and exciting half term to come

Whilst students in Year 11 and Year 13 continue to toil at their GCSEs and A2 levels this Monday we welcomed the Lower Sixth back after their AS levels and all other year groups have now completed their internal exams. This half term is one of the longer half terms in the year at 7 weeks and 2 days long. There is therefore a lot of learning to be done and I am very keen that students get as much from this experience as possible. As a School, we organise more trips and activities than any other one I have come across and this half term is no exception. Already Year 7 have visited Conisbrough Castle and Roche Abbey with the History Department (I was on this trip and it was a true delight) and thanks go to Mr Marcus Croft, Head of History for organising this. Year 10 students have visited Jodrell Bank with the Physics Department, which they seemed to enjoy very much. Thanks go to Mr Richard Aliwell, Head of Physics for organising this trip. Today, our intrepid Gold Duke of Edinburgh students in Year 12, (all 19 of them) are on the first day of their practice expedition in the Peak District. They will return to School on Tuesday and thanks go to Mrs Jo Hoare, i/c Gold Duke of Edinburgh, for organising this. There will be a Higher Education Evening on Wednesday for parents of the Lower Sixth and on the previous day, there will be Higher Education Convention for the Lower Sixth. Thanks go to Mr Terry McTernan, Head of Sixth Form for organising these events.

Year 7 have already received their Reports and they were really magnificent, further confirmation of what a splendid year group they are. Year 7 will also be visiting Whisby Nature Reserve with the Biology Department during June and 61 of them will be going on an exciting four day residential trip to the Lake District, which I will be leading at the end of June. Meanwhile, Year 8 will be enjoying an International Day which is now to be held on Friday 28th June and will be going on an Orienteering afternoon with the Maths Department on Tuesday 16th July. We will be having our Summer Concert on Tuesday 9 July and this will be, as always, a superb occasion, not to be missed. The Lower Sixth will be having their two day Challenge of Industry Conference on 11th and 12th July. Our annual School Walk when we will be fundraising for charity as well as enjoying a healthy lifestyle, will now take place on Thursday 11 July. There are a number of geography trips also planned during the half term. Year 8 will be taken to Flamborough on Monday 22nd July. Year 10 will go on a Data Research Day to Lincoln on 28th June and the Lower Sixth geographers will be going on a data collection trip on 10th July. Lower Sixth biologists will be going on a field trip to Gibraltar Point on 15th July. Our Term ends at the normal time on Tuesday 23rd July. Many parents will be interested to know that AS and A2 exam results are announced on Thursday 15th August and that GCSE results are announced on Thursday 22nd August.

Students in Year 10 will receive their Reports on Wednesday 26th June. Students in Year 8 will receive their Report on Wednesday 3rd July. Students in Year 9 will receive their Assessment on Wednesday 10th July and students in Year 12 will receive an Assessment on Wednesday 17th July. Will parents in these year groups please look out for these communications on those days so they are not missed (and you should remember that you will get a communication, either a Report or an Assessment, every school term that your child is at Caistor Grammar School.)

A community that welcomes all

Last week, we were delighted to receive a visit from the acclaimed West End actor, Layton Williams who was representing the gay rights organisation, Stonewall. His visit, you may recall, was our prize for winning a Lincolnshire film making competition entered by some of our Year 9 students. He talked to many students about being an actor, performing on the stage and on television (he currently appears in the television series “A Bad Education”). I can report that he was very impressed by Caistor Grammar School students and thought that we provide a very good education! He also talked about being gay and how his school days were blighted by being a victim of homophobic bullying and language. He particularly emphasised how demeaning and unpleasant it is to hear people misusing the word “gay” making it mean something akin to weak, pathetic or stupid. Every time he hears that misuse of the word, he is upset.

We discussed this issue at the School Council this week and we think we have made huge strides as a community to avoid doing this in recent years. We are also determined to make further strides from now on. We want to be a community which welcomes all students regardless of their race, religion, colour, gender, social background or sexual orientation. We want to help people so that they can be themselves at Caistor Grammar School. This is not the work of any one person. This is the labour of us all. I hope you as parents commit to this vision too since you are probably more influential than the staff of the School in influencing your child’s outlook.

The Lincolnshire Show

This School has a strong tradition of supporting the Lincolnshire Show and over the years has often taken parties of students to visit it, so please don’t misinterpret what you are about to read since I think the Lincolnshire Show is a wonderful institution. However, I was very disappointed last year that a very large number of students took advantage of the opportunity to have a sanctioned day off school at the last minute to visit the Show, not with their parents it seemed and with very little interest apparently in what the Show had to offer. I concluded that my own newsletter on the Show had struck up artificial interest in it and let to an inflated number of absentees. So, this year, I have embarked on a new strategy and, so far, not mentioned it at all. Up until today, hardly anyone had applied to go so I think this approach was quite successful. But now I realise that many students believe that my previous policy on attending the Show is still in existence and I feel I need to state clearly to you where I stand.

Firstly, I do not want any student who is following an external exam course, that is students in Year 10 or Year 12, to attend the Show. Year 12 will be attending a Higher Education Convention next Tuesday. Year 10 had a Physics trip to Jodrell Bank only last week. Year 12 also are planning university visits (please accept that we do not want students to miss more than three days off school for this purpose) so I think there are enough other distractions from normal School routine. Further, I think that if students do wish to go to the Show – Year 7, 8 or 9 – it should be because they are going with their parents – not their friends – and they have a genuine interest in the Show, perhaps because they are from a farming family. If an application is still made, please can this be explained in the section on “Reason for Absence” (there is no reason to put that the absence is to be on a School day because that is when the Show is because I have already worked this out for myself!) Further, we have a list (a long list!) of the students who attended the Show last year. I do not think, except for in the most exceptional circumstances – because a student is competing or exhibiting – that there is a need to attend two years running. I hope all of the above will be accepted by parents and students in the spirit in which it is intended: that each day at Caistor Grammar School is a special learning opportunity to be prized and that if a large number of students miss school, it undermines the educational experience for those who remain. (This does not happen when we run a school trip for a year group as we are taking out the entire year group.)

School Uniform

I would like to take this opportunity to remind you of our school uniform requirements and allow you to prepare for the start of the 2013/14 school year.

We have been stricter, this last year, about ensuring that school uniform is worn smartly – thank you for your continued support with this. Please can I ask that parents pay particular attention to the uniform item of girls’ skirts- which in some cases do not adhere to the school guidelines. The only jewellery which should be worn is a wrist watch, single plain ring and single ear studs; it would be helpful if students were encouraged not to come to school wearing wrist bands. Make up and nail varnish are also not permitted.

Attached is a copy of the school uniform guidelines for 2013/14 – this can also be found on the parent’s page of the school web site.

New Effort grade definitions

We are revising our definitions for one of the Assessment/Report effort grades in the School with immediate effect. This is the effort grade for a 3 which currently rates “barely adequate”. We have decided to re-define this to be “not good enough”. This reflects the reality at CGS whereby very few 3s or 2/3s are given and when they are given, I am heartily disapproving of them. Further, I do not think we are a “barely adequate” sort of a School. So if your child receives a 2/3 or a 3 or a 3/4 or a 4 (4 retains its definition of poor and inadequate) please understand that we mean this to be a rebuke and a criticism of your child’s effort in that subject. We have provided a number of specific letters to clarify exactly how a student is disappointing us with his/her approach. The definitions of these are provided on the back of the Assessment and included in the Report envelope.

Some recent achievements

I am delighted with the achievement of Eloise Thuey in 12DW who has won a very prestigious place (there are only 12 places in Europe to attend the summer course at the Universities of Oxford and Boston, USA. I am also very pleased once again by the achievements of our School newspaper “Caistor Focus” which has made it to the short list of the Shine Media Awards for school newpapers in the Best School Newspaper category. You will recall that we won this competition last year and are current champions so it is an extraordinary achievement to make the final four once again. Very well done to Mrs Jacky Robson, Mr Tony Pearson and their team of budding reporters.

Follow me on Twitter, why don’t you?

I have recently re-launched myself on Twitter and am aiming to try to do one tweet at least every school day. You can see what I say by going on to It is quite an effort to keep the tweets down to 140 characters, I can tell you. As this letter demonstrates, I tend to write rather more. Anyway, see how I get on.

With very best wishes.

Yours sincerely