Not so the cheery year 7 boys I chanced upon, sitting in a row, phones in hand, chortling and shoving each other hilariously. I asked if they were spying on the road and they leapt up and gestured through the bars at me, explaining enthusiastically that they were 'playing a very intense game'. Parents fear that phones mean the loss of all social skills but not with these chaps. While it did involve phones, the intense game also seemed to require raucous laughter, throwing themselves about on the grass in the way of 11-year-olds, and much rolling around. The old and the new.
Last night was Open Night and we had upwards of 1500 visitors through the doors. Head of Year 7 and I did 6 hall-fulls (with extra chairs). We also combine the old and the new as she's a lot younger than me. Our hall is pretty nice, being newish, and with a film of year 7 at work running on the back wall, flowers on the Tallis turquoise cloths, the stage lights and Freddie on the old Joanna, it's a stylish venue. We don't do the PowerPoint thing, so we talk about what parents worry about: transition to a big school, pastoral care, curriculum choice, break and lunch, form groups. Of course we cover the other things, but we talk about the whole child before we break him into constituent parts. We'll take care of your little one and try to give her a memorable, happy education.
This neatly leads me to tell the people about our new school plan's 3 parts: curriculum, inclusion and community. Curriculum: we want to preserve the broadest offer, it's a struggle predicting the future, this is what we do at KS3. Teaching's good, staff are stable (no reflection on their mental state, I mean that we don't have a high turnover). A level and BTEC results are very good, young people come from miles around to study with us in the sixth form. GCSEs need to improve but who knows what this year's results actually mean. So many re-marks, so much alteration. Inclusion's nex, in four parts: provision for learning for everyone and the wonderful work of our Deaf Support and Speech and Language centres. Wellbeing and our concern for mental health. Safeguarding and the time we put into it, and behaviour. We're relaxed but not sloppy. We're fussy about relationships and their development and maintenance. Finally, Community: we want to serve. Join in with us, please.
I don't know if that's what parents expect to hear but it seemed to go down well. Behind the scenes, we're tussling this week with the progress accountability score. Context is everything here: we have room to improve but we took a principled stand with the year group when the new measures came in and didn't force them to change options so the school would score better. Oh for a national accountability system that's risk-assessed for its impact on children's experience of school.
(The adults' experience can be mixed, mind you. There was huge excitement - everything's relative - about the Tidy Staff Room competition. You may be interested to know that Visual and Media Arts won the silver Desk Tidy for Most Improved, but Design Technology took gold for Best in Show.
But reflecting on the week, it's the tensions that stick. We'd been waiting for the progress information so that we could get stuck into the metrics. We're committed to our support services but there's no money to fund them. We'd like to represent our community better.
When parents come to see us, what do they want to see? How much information helps them choose? We talk a good game, but we're not complacent. We don't stop picking over results in good years or bad until October. We plan for the short and the long term. Do they want to look under the bonnet?
A young inmate with an eccentric gait came to see me because his trousers had split 'picking up a pen in Geography'. Keeping him at a distance I said it wasn't obvious and he should carry on regardless. He thanked me kindly and rushed off. I think parents expect much the same: they need to trust us to make sensible judgements and carry on. The old and the new combine here too I suppose: we worry about our service to children not less than all of the time, and we deal with each new challenge as it comes along. It's an intense game, and we laugh when we can, but only the young ones roll on the grass.