HT Weekly Blog
Week Ending 29th March 2019
Blog Entry #19
As we approach the end of another busy but productive term, I just wanted to say thank you to you all for your support of your son or daughter and of the school in general. GCSE and A level examinations are fast approaching, and Easter will provide a useful period both for our students to get some rest and to prepare for the exams which they will soon be sitting. Thank you too, therefore, in advance for all that you will be doing over the Easter break to help prepare your son/daughter for what lies ahead. Whilst I may have mentioned this before in this blog, one of the most powerful tools we can use is to ask students to imagine opening their results envelope in August, and think what they want it to say and how they want to feel. This then provides the motivation for ensuring that all the necessary preparation has been done in order to ensure positive results. With still no end in sight to the Brexit process, I will of course update you via our website if there is a need to do so, and will make sure that DGSB is doing all that it can to ensure education continues as normal in our school. Last night saw our annual spring concert, which, although I was unable to attend due to illness, was a fantastic success. My thanks go to Mrs Simes and all of the students who took part. They all performed fantastically. Do please make sure you have a wonderful Easter, and I look forward to seeing all of our students back in school for the start of term 5 on Tuesday 23rd April.
Week Ending 22nd March 2019
Blog Entry #18
One of the most important things I have been working on this year is the development of our "Fiat Lux Programme". This is a programme which will be introduced in September 2019 and which is designed to help our students go as far as they can in all that they do, both academically and in terms of their social and personal development (more to follow on this in due course!). "Fiat Lux" - "Let there be light" - is possibly the best motto any school could have, and I want all of our students to be looking up. not down, and to reach as high as they can. Part of the programme will involve broadening horizons and to this end, I will be travelling to South Florida in the Easter holidays (at my own expense, not the school's!) to visit a high school with which I want to set up a link. This link will, I hope, lead to potential visits and exchanges with our students experiencing learning in an American high school and US students coming to DGSB for a set period of time. This opportunity has come about through a former student of mine from over 10 years ago who now teaches at the school. I am very hopeful about the positive impact this part of the "Fiat Lux Programme" could have and will report back to you all after the holiday!
Week Ending 15th March 2019
Blog Entry #17
We welcomed a new member of the DGSB family last week when our new school mnibus was delivered. This will give the PE department in particular a great amout of extra capacity and flexibility when it comes to away fixtures. Do have a look at my HT Twitter account for some pictures of our new arrival! Our new buildings project continues to gather pace, and I spent time last week working with colleagues on the school specific brief - an important document that will help us ensure that everything we need to access in the new accommodation is included in the design and build. At the end of this coming week we shall be saying a sad goodbye to Mrs Powell, our Data and Examinations Officer who is taking up a new role within EIS, one of our data support providers. Mrs Powell has given fantastic service to DGSB over many years and she will be very much missed by both staff and students. Finally for this week, I would like to highlight the achievement of Mrs Dalton, one of our excellent science technicians, who has been working with our Young Carers and who recently achieved the Bronze Young Carers Award for DGSB. She was invited up to the House of Commons last week to talk to MPs about her work. You can read more at https://bit.ly/2Fb8NKc. We are incredibly proud of Mrs Dalton and all she does to support our Young Carers.
Week Ending 1st March 2019
Blog Entry #16
Thank you to everybody who was able to visit the public exhibition for our proposed new school buildings which took place on Tuesday 26th February. It was great to see so many parents and carers take the time to look at our proposals and to give us their feedback. The overwhelming sentiment that came through from the event, both in conversations and from reading the feedback sheets, was that improved facilities for the students at DGSB, both present and future, are long overdue and that the proposals on display are our best chance of securing our school's long-term future. In other news, we now have our new projector mounting and projector screen in the hall, which I was able to use to deliver my assembly on Tony Fouldes - the Sheffield man who has tended a memorial for US airmen for over 70 years - this week. I am extremely grateful to Dr David Belford, a former student of the school from over 60 years ago, who generously gave us a donation which has enabled us to purchase the new screen. Finally, we have Y11 spring mocks taking place next week and I would like to wish our students the very best for these important tests whilst at the same time urging them to make maximum use of this important period. With only a few months to go until the GCSE examinations, it is good to hear from my colleagues that our Year 11 students are putting in the effort to secure success this summer.
Week Ending 15th February 2019
Blog Entry #15
As we reach the end of another busy term, I hope you have all received my invitation to take part in the public consultation on our new school build, a project which is now moving into a crucial phase. If you are able to attend the consultation on Tuesday 26th February at any point between 3.30 p.m. and 8.00 p.m. it would be greatly appreciated. It will be an opportunity for you to tell us what you feel needs to be incorporated into our new buildings and what aspects of our school and its ethos need to be present in the new build to ensure our history is appropriately represented. I very much look forward to seeing you there (we will be in the gym) and to discussing our new school buildings with you. Of course, our Year 11 and Year 13 students are already in an incredibly important phase of their school lives with the approaching GCSE and A level examinations and I know they will want to take advantage of every opportunity both this half term and in the weeks ahead to revise and consolidate their knowledge and understanding. As American author Robert Collier once wrote, "Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out."
Week Ending 8th February 2019
Blog Entry #14
After a week's hiatus, my blog is back and I am happy to report that our new security gates are now fully operational and working effectively, which is really pleasing. On Friday 1st February we welcomed KCC's safeguarding auditors to DGSB who had selected our school as one of 20 schools selected at random for an audit of safeguarding mechanisms. Whilst we won't receive their final report for a few weeks, I can tell you that our visitors were very impressed with the work we do to ensure students, staff, parents and visitors are kept safe. Our new drama project will begin immediately after half term (Wednesday 27th February) as we have now received the necessary clearances to allow Miss Briley to start. Finally for this week, I have some important news to tell you on Monday when I shall be writing home to parents and carers. Without wishing to sound cryptic, I can't say any more until then; suffice to say, your help and involvement will be very much welcomed. More news to follow in due course!
Week Ending 25th January 2019
Blog Entry #14
The snow certainly caught me unawares last week, having left home with bone dry roads, only to get to Lydden and see cars coming the other way with an inch of snow on their bonnets! I am told that this is not unusual, given Dover's micro-climate, but it was nonetheless a shock to the system! Luckily, our excellent site staff were quickly on the case making the site safe for all to use and ensuring that lessons were able to continue as normal. A few months ago, I received an email from a former pupil of the school, who was going to be in the area and who wanted to visit his old stomping ground. I was more than happy to oblige, and when he arrived at DGSB in late November, he informed me that he had last set foot in reception some 65 years ago! He had extremely happy and positive memories of his time at our school and it was lovely to listen to his recollections of school life in the 1950s. What I wasn't expecting was to receive, a few days later, a cheque for £1000 as a gift to be spent on the fabric of the school or to support student learning. This was such a generous and thoughtful thing for our visitor to have done, and I am pleased to say that we have been able to put the money to good use. In a few weeks, we will have a newly installed electronic projector screen in the main hall and a ceiling mounted projector, so that the quality of presentations to students, staff and parents can be improved. The new equipment will bear its benefactor's name, and I am genuinely grateful to him for what he has done. He certainly personifies all the qualities we hope to nurture in our students.
Week Ending 18th January 2019
Blog Entry #13
Our Y13 students have been busy doing their mock examinations this week, as they, like Y11, start to look forward to the final examinations this summer. It's a useful point in the school year to think about what is needed to ensure success at either GCSE or A level in 2019. My experience of many students in many different schools is that those who do best are those who start their revision early. This is absolutely critical, and there are many studies that show starting revision early and revisiting notes little and often is vital for exam success. Likewise, practising exam questions and exam-style questions under timed conditions gives students the best preparation for what is to come. Remember that all teachers at DGSB - and I absolutely include myself in this - are ready and willing to provide students with whatever additional guidance and support that they need. Do please reiterate this with your son or daughter over the next few months and make sure they undersand that if they need anything, they just need to let us know. Thereafter, they simply need to make sure they are putting their talent to good use and working as hard as they can to make sure that when they open that envelope in August it says everything that they want it to.
Week Ending 11th January 2019
Blog Entry #12
Welcome back to a new calendar year! I hope you all had an enjoyable and peaceful Christmas and that you were able to spend time with friends and family. Over the holiday, we have been able to give a facelift to main reception at DGSB, which is now decked out in a 'coprorate' DGSB blue, just like the Old Tower, which has also had a fresh coat of paint and now looks a lot more loved! Our new security gates are almost complete, although installation of the electric motors was delayed slightly after the company's electrician unfortunately broke his leg whilst skiing over the holiday (I am sure there is a lesson in there somewhere!). However, he is now recovering and his temporary replacement has been working hard to get everything finished. This year is an incredibly important one for our Y11s and our Y13s in particular as they begin their preparation for their final examinations this summer. I have used the motif of success being the sum of small efforts repeated day in, day out in my assemblies at the start of this term, and this is very much the case for our students. Little and often has to be the mantra when it comes to revision, and all of our fantastic staff remain available to support students whenever they can. I will also be doing a lot of work with the DfE, KCC and DDC on our 'Priority Schools Building' project, which we hope will gather momentum in the first half of this calendar year. I will certainly need all of your help over the next 12-18 months in particular, and will let you know how you can support us in ensuring that we achieve the buildings and facilities that our students and staff so badly need and deserve. Exciting times ahead!
Week Ending 14th December 2018
Blog Entry #11
We certainly got into the Christmas spirit last week, with a wonderful Christmas concert organised brilliantly by Mrs Simes. I have been teaching for over 20 years, and rarely have I been as impressed as I was by what was on show last Tuesday - absolutely fabulous, with contributions from so many students. This week we are looking forward to welcoming back our Year 13 students from 2017-18 for Senior Prizegiving on Tuesday evening, together with our Year 11 leavers from the same year group. At every school I have worked at, this has always been a lovely occasion, and I have no doubt whatsoever that my first experience of the DGSB version will be just as impressive and enjoyable. I will be giving an assembly to each year group in the school on Wednesday this week, where I will be talking to our students about the importance of charity, thinking about others and selflessness - all of which I feel we recognise fully, but which are so important at this time of year. I mentioned last week that I would give you more information on some proposed freshening up of our main building. Over the Christmas holiday, main reception and the Old Tower will be completely redecorated and given a 'make-over' to make them more attractive and welcoming spaces, something which I know we will all welcome. Finally, thank you all for the way you have made me, as new headteacher of our wonderful school, feel so welcome since September. I have very quickly taken DGSB to my heart, and as we look forward to all the things we will be doing to further improve our school in the new year, please allow me to wish you all a restful, peaceful and enjoyable Christmas holiday.
Week Ending 7th December 2018
Blog Entry #10
It's hard to believe that I am coming to the end of my first 'big' term as headteacher at DGSB, but Christmas is now clear on the horizon. This week we have our annual Carol Concert, which Mrs Simes has been working hard to prepare over recent weeks, and I am really looking forward to experiencing this event for the first time. Our new security gates will be completed by the end of the last week of term, and I am very grateful to Four Seasons Fencing Ltd who have been working like the clappers over the last week to make sure the project remains on schedule. Over the Christmas holiday, our main building will also be seeing a few changes - more of that next week.....I hope you have by now had the opportunity to read the letter I sent out last week about the new DGSB drama project, to be run by Freya Briley of Jest UK, and which will start in January. Do please encourage your son or daughter to take part. Finally this week, a note of gratitude to old boy Dr David Belford, who visited DGSB a few weeks ago for the first time in 65 years. David now lives in Pontefract, Yorkshire, but has fond memories of his time at our school. He enjoyed a guided tour with some of our Sixth Formers and took great pleasure in talking to staff and students. As a thank you, David has donated £1000 to the school to be spent on improving the fabric or facilities, and I am incredibly grateful to him for his generosity and kindness. Such is the nature of our Old Pharosians and the students we develop at DGSB, and at this time of year, in particular, Dr Belford's gift really warms the heart.
Week Ending 30th November 2018
Blog Entry #9
Lots of exciting things going on at the moment, not least the imminent arrival of our KS3 and KS4 drama project. Freya Briley, who owns and runs the Dover-based "Jest" theatre company will be coming into DGSB one day a week from January to run drama and comedy clubs and to undertake subject-specific work within departments. Really looking forward to her presence in school and the work she will be doing, as I believe very strongly in the transformative power of theatre and drama. Of course, before then our new security gates will start to be installed next week with completion due by the end of December. I will also soon be sending out a summary of the information you kindly contributed to our recent Kirkland Rowell parent survey, so do keep an eye out for this. Our Year 11 students are fully immersed in their mock examinations at the moment, and I would like to give them all my best wishes for this important period. Finally this week, I would like to say a huge well done to Mrs Dalton, one of our science technicians, who this week saw her hard work rewarded with DGSB being awarded the "Young Carers Bronze Award". Brilliant work Mrs Dalton, which will help raise the profile of all our young carers.
Week Ending 23rd November 2018
Blog Entry #8
As you may have seen on my HT Twitter account (HT@DGSB), it was really enjoyable and useful to have been able to talk to so many parents at the Year 8 parents' evening on Thursday. This is how I learn - by talking and listening to staff, students and parents about what is going well and what we can do to improve. Likewise, I am learning a lot from your responses to our recent Kirkland Rowell survey, the results for which came in at the end of last week. I am busy looking at the information that has come through and will share a summary with you in due course, most likely early in the new year. Thank you for contributing to this survey if you were able to do so; it is very much appreciated. With Year 11 mock examinations just around the corner, I will be speaking to our students early next week about the critical importance of treating these mocks like the real thing and preparing as effectively as possible, whilst at the same time recognising that they are the perfect opportunity to identify areas for improvement and to then address these areas post-Christmas. We learn the most from the things that don't quite go right, but the important thing is what we do afterwards to make things better next time. Christmas is only a few weeks away now (where does the year go?!), and we are all looking forward to the events that will be taking place in the run up to this important time of year.
Week Ending 16th November 2018
Blog Entry #7
This week was my first DGSB Sixth Form Open Evening, and it was absolutely fantastic to see so many students and parents in attendance. My particular thanks for what was a very positive and energetic event go to Mr Polden and the Sixth Form team, and our fantastic staff who, as ever, went over and above the call of duty to ensure parents, carers and students received all the information they needed to make informed decisions about their future academic options. I have also been getting around the school dropping in on lessons which has given me a really good flavour of our students' learning. It has been pleasing to see students engaged and active in their studies, as invariably it is hard work that gets us where we want to go. One student in Year 8 even told me that he has been reading this blog, so hello to you if you have 'tuned in' this week! You may remember that I told you a few weeks ago that I had arranged for the site security to be improved, and I am pleased to report that work will start on 3rd December with a projected finish date of 21st December. The work will see new electronic gates, with video intercom, installed at the top of the main drive and on the top drive, as well as new gates at the bottom of the main drive. This will make a huge difference to our site and I will be writing home to parents and carers this week with further information. Keep an eye out for updates over the weeks ahead....
Week Ending 9th November 2018
Blog Entry #6
Well, it has been a very moving day here at school with our annual Remembrance Day Services. I cannot tell you how impressed I have been with our staff and students today - they have done the memory of those from DGSB and the wider country proud with the manner in which they have respectfully observed today's events. I would like to express particular gratitude to Mr Rosier, Mrs Simes and our CCF students, all of whom have worked incredibly hard to make today's event so meaningful. Thank you, too, to a number of former colleagues and current Governors who also attended today. I have mentioned in a previous entry how much of an impact CCF can have on the lives of young people in our town and that was certainly in evidence today. I feel immensely privileged to lead a school with such a strong sense of respect and empathy, and am proud to have been able to attend my first Remembrance Day service at DGSB.
Week Ending 2nd November 2018
Blog Entry #5
I hope you were all able to enjoy a break over half term and that our students, too, were able to get a good rest. We are now on the run in towards Christmas, but there is so much to do and look forward to this term. Next week we will be holding our annual Remembrance Day services, with this year adding particular poignancy as it is 100 years since the end of WW1. I am very much looking forward to seeing the very special way in which our school remembers all those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defending our country, and have been told that DGSB Remembrance Services are something to behold. On a related note, this weekend I will be visiting our CCF cadets at St Martin's Plain in Folkestone to see how their recruit weekend is going, which will be a great experience for me as new Headteacher at DGSB; I have been really impressed by our cadets this year, and seeing them 'in action' at camp will be a valuable opportunity for me. We will shortly be installing new security gates at the top and bottom of our site, and I will write home to parents and carers shortly to let you all know when this work will be taking place. We expect all the work to be complete by Christmas, with relatively little disruption to our normal working environment. If you haven't already had the opportunity, please do complete the Kirkland Rowell survey which was sent home earlier this week. Your views really matter and will help me understand how to make the most positive difference to our school in the future.
Week Ending 19th October 2018
Blog Entry #4
Well, where did the time go?! Here we are, already well into our half term break - a time to rest and recuperate, and to take stock of what we have already achieved this academic year. In the last few weeks, after meeting all of our fantastic staff for 'one-to-one' meetings so that I can get to know each and every one of them, I have been able to start walking around the school to see the students 'in action' in their subject lessons. I have been very impressed by the attention and focus that I have seen, as well as the desire to learn and improve, and all of these attributes will be critical in the weeks and months ahead, whichever year group your son is in. The last week of term saw our Year 6 open morning, a hugely positive occasion, which allowed me to talk to many future parents and students about my intentions for our wonderful school and all who work and study here. We have also recently welcomed a party of Dutch students to DGSB, and have been working with our chosen media partner, SEA, to introduce a new digital prospectus for the sixth form. And of course, our CCF students and staff continue to show just how positive an influence this organisation can be for our community. I am immensely grateful to Major John Wiggell and Miss Orr in particular for their dedication and commitment.
After half term, I will be sending out the link to the Kirkland Rowell survey that I mentioned in last week's blog and I would be very grateful if you could spare 10 minutes to complete the questionnaire. Your responses will help us to plan our development more effectively. Next term you will also see some changes to security arrangements on our site, as we introduce new gates at the top and bottom of the main drive. More news on this to follow in due course.....
Week Ending 12th October 2018
Blog Entry #3
I thought I would mention in my blog this week that after half term, we will be running a series of surveys for parents, pupils and staff under the auspices of Kirkland Rowell. KR have a huge amount of experience in gauging the attitudes of all stakeholders in schools where their surveys are used, and also analyse responses to see how a school's stakeholder views compare with other schools nationally. After the October break, therefore, you will receive from me a letter with a link to a short survey on your views about DGSB - where we are now, what we do well, where you think we could develop - and I would be very grateful if you could spare 10 minutes to complete the survey for me. It will really help me, as your new Headteacher, to understand what pupils, parents and staff think about our school in order to help plan our development more effectively. I look forward to receiving your views in due course!
Week Ending 5th October 2018
Blog Entry #2
Another busy but successful week at DGSB! This week we were able to receive a party of Dutch students of Year 7 age who visited the school to see how an English school functions and what students here learn. They were also able to visit local landmarks including Dover Castle, which they enjoyed immensely. In school, I have been delighted to be able to present so many "Headteacher Awards" to students across the year groups, for a variety of different reasons including kindness to others, helping those in need, sporting success and academic excellence. As well as recognising students' successes in all areas of life, presenting these awards has given me the opportunity to get to know more of our students, and to see all the excellent things that they do, both inside school and in the wider community. Long may that continue! I have also been getting to know the work of the CCF under Major Wiggell and I have to say how impressed I have been with our cadets. A recent survey by a British university highlighted just how much being a cadet brings to the lives of our young people and it is something at DGSB which I will continue to support.
Week Ending 28th September 2018
Blog Entry #1
It gives me great pleasure to be able to greet you all on this my first weekly Headteacher's blog entry. This is something new for DGSB - and for me! - and I hope it will allow you to keep in touch with me and with what is taking place in our school each week and each term. It has certainly been a busy, but very productive start to term. I have been able to welcome all of our students either back to DGSB or for the first time in the case of Year 7 and some Year 12 students. I have also been meeting with each member of our wonderful teaching staff and our amazing support staff, so that I get to know more about each person within "Team DGSB". My focus this year is on ensuring that everybody within our community is able to achieve his or her very best, whether student or staff, and I am immensely grateful to everybody at school for the tremendously positive welcome which I have received, and the clear desire shown by all to push our wonderful school on to even greater heights.
Last Wednesday, it was fantastic to meet and talk to many of you when you attended my "Headteacher's Welcome Evening". I found this a hugely beneficial event and the emails I have received from parents and carers following the talk seem to indicate that you did as well. If there is ever anything you feel I need to be aware of or that you think would be useful to know or utilise as we seek to develop further everything we do at DGSB, do please contact the school. It is always good to hear from parents and carers, and I am hoping that we will be able to work constructively together in the months and y ears ahead.
On Friday 28th September, I was able to attend my first "Sports Presentation Evening" at DGSB. It was a great evening, with special guest and former DGSB student James Brown giving out awards. James spoke confidently and passionately about his career as a young professional footballer at Millwall, and all those who were present on Friday night were incredibly impressed by his poised contribution to proceedings. Our students could do a lot worse than look to James as a role model, both professionally and academically. I would like to place on record my immense thanks to Mr White, Mr King and Mr Beaumont who put on such an enjoyable and informative event. I look forward to many more in the years ahead!
My new Headteacher Awards are really taking off now, with almost 30 students having already received their first (Bronze) Award for all manner of successes, from sporting and academic to acts of kindness towards others and service to the school and local communities. I have even had some recommendations from parents for things students have done outside school, which is fantastic; long may that continue!
Finally for this week, I would like to congratulate Mr Graham Dangerfield, who works for our CCF Unit, who was this week presented with the Lord Lieutenant of Kent's Meritorious Service Award at a special ceremony which took place on the Salomans Estate in Tunbridge Wells. Well deserved Graham - hearty congratulations from us all!