This week was taster days for the New Year 12s and Headstart Day for the new year 7s. Taster day is the only time year 12 spend break and lunch on the yard. Once they get into the swing of things in September they stay indoors, basking in a very small privilege and an even smaller canteen. Year 7 get an even less realistic experience. They’re met late at the gate, guided to where they need to be, ushered round by current year 7 sheepdogs, given a snack at break and lunch without others looking on. They don’t need to carry or remember anything other than their manners.
Just as well we keep them a bit apart so they can get the feel of the huge building, protected from fearsome sights. Mr Pape raising money for his tutor group’s trip using the wet sponge method: as a Mackem he’s used to cold. Or the small youth I encountered last week with his jacket over his head, ruler in teeth, pencil case under one arm, water bottle between his knees, bag on back, and football under the other arm, looking for all the world like Jagger’s Great Western Memorial soldier at Paddington. ‘I’m a bit overloaded’ he remarked as we tried to rationalise his accoutrements.
And in a fit of forward planning we’ve actually been thinking about the Great War, and how to mark the 100th anniversary of its end. We’re inspired by work with the Imperial War Museum and we’d like to broaden our remembrance to fit our community, so if you know people who’ve served in any war and would like to help us, do get in touch.
Our curriculum consultation is spreading too. We had a meeting this week about the issue of the EBacc and whether the Tallis curriculum should change so that all our children take French or Spanish and history or geography to GCSE as well as English, maths and science. The government have an ‘ambition’ for 90% of children to do this by 2025. We are some distance from this figure and even further from liking it. We’re not convinced it’ll help children be anything that they wanted to be. Anyway, there’s a targeted survey out to 300 parents so if you’ve had one please fill it in.
Back to the year 7s. I passed a bunch of them on the stairs outside block one beside themselves with excitement, Sir bringing up the rear. A veteran of many campaigns he’s pleased to get some little ones to lick into shape. Other tutors will themselves be new so have the double bewilderment of guiding new children round a strange land. If you’re newly-qualified there’s a third confusion of quite reasonably not knowing what you’re doing at all, with children, who you’ve just met, in a building you don’t know, where the room numbering is like Esperanto (looks clear but is actually really foreign). Hence the 12-year-old sheepdogs.
However, there’s nothing like a year 6 for finding out information. We had a minor glitch before lunch was ready so the assembly-training needed to stretch a bit. Head of Year sought my public wittering skills but once I’d covered sleep, breakfast, bag-packing, buses, homework and queueing even I ran out of steam so threw it open to the floor. Unsurprisingly, this knocks all other methods of information-sharing into a cocked hat. We’ll build in henceforth. ‘What do you do if you fall over?’ ‘When is the library open’ ‘What clubs are available?’ ‘How do I start my own’ ‘What if I forget something?’Go to reception. Morning, noon and night. Wait for announcements. Talk to your tutor. Learn to remember. The same answer really: time to stand on your own feet, but we’ll help you to do it. Like our chap with the kit crisis.
So after an afternoon’s whole-staff training on speech, language, communication and memory there’s a gap between school and Prom. Wednesday was the year 13 party, Friday the formal leaving ceremonies for the 16- and 18-year-olds who represent our finished product, our gift to the nation. Thursday a gaggle of staff in various levels of party gear await the antepenultimate viewing of year 11. Mr H has secured bling for the occasion. New year 7’s new Sir is year 11’s Mr Chips.
This year: more navy or red dresses, a minor outbreak of burgundy suits, three pairs of velvety trainers covered with little spikes, gents’ jackets worn short and tight, one pair gold-tipped loafers, one newly-purple hair (previously blue), one surprisingly impressive beard, Head of Year regretting changing out of her trainers. At the door, the usual security, Ms Gallagher’s speech ‘You look great, we’ll check you over, have a great night’ and me gawping. No horse and carriage, I’m sad to report, only a Tesla that wouldn’t oblige with a dance. Some of the suits don’t fit and the heels are more trouble than they’re worth, but that can happen at any age.
They could be anything that they wanted to be. Next week is Bugsy Malone, then the final week, then we stop, reset, and start again.