Dear Parent/Carer

As we start another school year, I wanted to take a moment to write to you to review the year that has just finished and to look forward to the year ahead.

Walkden has enjoyed a good reputation in the local community for many years which it has well deserved. The school has benefitted from an excellent intake of well mannered students and a team of excellent, long serving teachers, who have made a real difference to the lives of the youngsters in their care. There is much to be proud of and much that we should take care to preserve in Walkden High School.

However, one of the areas in which we have not been doing well enough is in making sure that all children make enough progress. This was the main thing reflected in the Ofsted inspections of December 2011 and October 2013. However, the October 2013 report says on the front page that due to action we had already taken that “students are making better progress than previously as is seen in the improved 2013 examinations results”.

Once again this summer, our students performed incredibly well, with 66% of our students gaining a C or better in their English and 72% achieving a C or better in their maths. These figures are strong given the volatility in grade boundaries and standards over the last two to three years but we are still working to make them even better.

Our many other subject areas performed very strongly too. Some highlights for C+ figures are; Art 83%, Graphics 85%, Textiles 100%, Business Studies 68%, ICT 100%, Biology 79%, Physics 79%, Astronomy 91%, Dance 90%, Drama 78%, Media Studies 75%, Music 92%, Geography 67%, History 73%, French 62%, Spanish 100% (with all children having to do a language!). These results are good and we are working relentlessly to make them even better for your children.

Since I took up post in January 2012 I have taken a measured course of action, so that all that is good about Walkden is protected, whilst challenging ourselves to improve our performance where needed. As a school we will continue to review every part of our practice and, where we think things can be improved, we will make changes accordingly: nothing is off the table. Below is a selection of some of the changes that we have made in the last two years:

 

  • We have provided clear expectations on the standards of teaching and have provided support for staff whose performance has not been good enough so that they can improve and help your children learn more quickly and effectively. The 2013 inspection matched our judgement that 77% of teaching was ‘Good’ or better, compared with slightly more than 50% in 2011. By the end of July 2014 we judged 85% of teaching to be ‘Good’ or better.

 

  • We have commissioned staff to write Independent Assessment books for each Key Stage 3 subject so that, at the start of each term, you can see what homework is set for the term and plan and monitor its completion with your child. The first Independent Assessment books have been launched this September.

 

  • Where students’ behaviour has been damaging the education of others, we have taken action: at times this has meant that I have had to permanently exclude students and while this is a dreadful outcome for the individual student, it is the right outcome for the wider student body. We have also recently strengthened our Behaviour Provision to improve our excellent behaviour even further.

 

  • Part of our work on improving the quality of teaching has meant some staff turnover. I appreciate that this has caused short term instability for some classes, as we have had to rely on agency staff to fill the gaps that this course of action has created. However, please rest assured that this leaves us in a stronger position for the long term. We have recruited a number of very talented and enthusiastic teachers, new to the school, who have now started with us this September.

 

  • ·We have moved from vertical to year group tutoring, so that there is greater clarity for students, parents and staff. We believe this will bring benefits on the pastoral front.

 

  • We have built walls to reduce the number of open plan classrooms. With the building work that was carried out over the summer, there is only one open plan classroom in each zone (apart from the Creative Zone Art Studio), so that these areas are as undisturbed as any enclosed classroom.

 

  • To improve home-school communications we launched our weekly newsletter, The Walkden Weekly, with news of what has been happening in school and key dates for your diary – it will start again next Friday. We have introduced the Parent Portal to give you access to information on your child at all times. We have provided direct email addresses for all staff on the school website so you can contact your child’s teachers, form tutors or Heads of Year directly. We have introduced ParentPay to allow you to make sure that your money is spent only on food. We also use a Text-to-Parents system to get key information to your mobile phone.

 

Please be reassured, our school is travelling in the right direction. As Ofsted said on the front page of their October 2013 report, “This is a school that is improving”.

From this September, to further improve home-school communication, should you feel you need to contact us, my colleagues on the Senior Leadership Team and I will hold a

Parents’ Drop-in Surgery

every Monday 2:30pm to 6:00pm

or you can ring directly on 0161 975 8036 between these hours on a Monday,

so that you have a clear route to us when you have anything that you feel that you need to talk to us about - no need to make an appointment. Please note, if you ring the direct dial number and we are speaking to another parent it may be that you are asked to leave a message. We will pick this message up and get back to you that evening.

I hope that you and your child have had a smooth start to the school year. We have really enjoyed having our students back. It has been an excellent first week, with many more to come, I’m sure.

Yours sincerely,

Simon Lennox

Headteacher


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