I am writing this Blog on Thursday, having just had our gathering on the yard at 11am to join the national act of remembrance. This is the first time we have all gathered as a whole school this way but I think it may be the start of a new tradition.
As I approached the yard, I was struck by the quiet and respectful atmosphere, with 1500 students and nearly 150 members of staff gathering in silence. As we gathered, Mrs Shields and a group of students played abide with me. Then, as we approached 11am, our musicians played the last post to lead into our 2 minutes of silence. Following the silence, the musicians played the reveille and the students were dismissed. Again, I was struck by how they left in silence, really preserving the respectful atmosphere. I was very moved by this simple act, observed together and I thank the students for the way they engaged and for the staff who made it happen.
It was also good today to bring back a tradition by having an opportunity for students who wished to gather for our remembrance mass. As November is a month where, in the Catholic tradition, we particularly remember those loved ones who have died, we have for a number of years held a mass on remembrance day, to remember those who have died in war, to pray for peace and also to remember all those close to us who have died. We were unable to celebrate mass last year, so it was lovely to see that happening this year.
These sorts of activities are an important part of our life together as a community and also an important part of the education for students and adults. I felt blessed to be part of it. On the theme of remembrance, I include a poem by Jessica in Y8 at the end of this Blog.
On a very different note, but just as much a wonderful part of our school, I was lucky to be able to catch some of the rehearsal’s for “Everyone’s Talking About Jamie” after school last night. The quality already on display was really impressive when there is still quite some time to go before opening. I was also really struck by the commitment and dedication from the students and the real sense of support for one another in the room. Of course, there is excitement too at being the very first school anywhere to stage a production of “Jamie”. One of the team from the licensing company joined us last night and he is both so excited and impressed by what our young people are putting together. If you haven’t already got your tickets, please order them quickly as they are going very fast.
6th form open morning
This Saturday (13th November 10am-12noon) we will have our 6th form open morning, which will be live again this year. The school site will be open and there will be staff and students representing all the different subjects, ready to answer questions about what it is like to study that subject in 6th form. Mt Birch will be giving three presentations again giving the overview and there will be many other colleagues and students there to help answer questions about options, pastoral support and what 6th form life at Notre Dame is like.
If you have a child in Y11, we look forward to seeing you there and hope that you find the morning useful with the decisions that you are taking about next year.
School is closed to students on Friday (12th Nov). Staff will be in school, where we will be receiving some training from the Sheffield Healthy Minds team. This is part of a City wide project linking schools to mental health services in the City. Part of the work is training and equipping staff in schools to help promote good mental health. The training has been informed by work to understand what things are like in our school. The survey that you and your children contributed to before the summer break was part of that preparation and it is informing the particular areas that we are working on with the Healthy Minds team. Staff will also be engaging with some updates about online safety and how we can guide and educate young people in this fast-moving area.
On the subject of online safety, I have included at the end of this Blog some information on a new resource launched by CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection). The online resource is called “AskTheAwkward” and it is designed to support parents in having regular, informed conversations with their children about safe practice online. Please look at the link and the information at the end of this Blog.
St Clare’s Multi Academy Trust and my new role
As I wrote in my letter to you last week, I will be starting a temporary secondment as interim CEO of St Clare’s Catholic Multi Academy Trust (MAT) in January. In the coming weeks I will be writing to you again with more information about the MAT, which will bring together 24 schools in our Diocese, primary and secondary, in collaboration to help one another provide the best possible Catholic education for all our students. The Diocese and St Clare’s board of directors are committed to preserving the individual identity of each school community, maintaining all that is best about each school while supporting schools to work together on the things each community wants to improve.
I really appreciate the messages of support from so many parents. It is one of the things I will definitely miss while I am away.
It will be business as usual at Notre Dame in January as we are blessed to have in Deirdre Cleary such an experienced and able person to take on the headship. We are well on with planning for the way in which we will draw on extra capacity and support so that the transition will be smooth. Again, I will share plans through the Blog as they come together.
I finish by highlighting the above from Greg Fell, the director of Public Health for Sheffield. Greg reminds us that, while we are enjoying the chance to bring back many of the things we have missed from school life, Covid is still with us and there are things that we can still do to help minimize the risk of harm to friends and family.
Thank you for your continued support in things like students testing regularly and staying away from school if unwell, or if they test positive. This combined with the effect of vaccinations is helping to keep case numbers lower in school, but we cannot be complacent in this as outbreaks can spread very quickly. If your child has got out of the habit of regular testing, please do encourage them to pick it up again.
Training Day – School closed to students Friday 12th November
6th Form Open Morning – Saturday 13th November
We are planning that this will be a ‘live’ event in school, where students in current Y11 who are considering joining our 6th form in September will have an opportunity to find out about the courses on offer and our overall 6th form programme. More details coming soon.
Y12 Parents’ Evening – Thursday 25th November
Y7 Parents’ Evenings – Tuesday 30th November Parents evenings will again be happening via our remote system as last year. You will receive information about how to access the system nearer to the parents’ evening(s) that involve your child(ren).
GCSE Assessment Week – Monday 6th – Monday 13th December
Everyone’s Talking About Jamie – Production – Deli Theatre Tue 7th – Fri 10th December
Advent Carol Service (Venue TBC) – Monday 13th December
Post 16 Prize Night (for members of last year’s Y13) – Thursday 16th December
Last Day of Term Wednesday 22nd December
Message from CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection) – Ask The Awkward resource
#AskTheAwkward aims to help parents and carers have regular conversations with their children about online relationships and more. The resource includes three short films created in a social experiment style, with real parents and their children to capture their reactions to a range of questions.
What else is included in #AskTheAwkward?
A parent and carers introduction to #AskingTheAwkward: Young people want their parents and carers to have everyday conversations with them about relationships. We’ve produced this introduction for parents and carers on how to start having those awkward conversations with confidence.
A set of nine help sheets: Our help sheets give essential information on nine key topics, to help parents and carers understand more about the themes raised in the films. They also provide links to further information and conversation starters on each topic.
Remembrance Poem – Jessica in Y8
Oh ‘what a bore’
Yes of course
Over some land
That was unnecessary
You were just greedy
Millions of soldiers
Everyone of those was somebodies son
And oh yes ‘what a bore’
Those soldier’s were more than soldiers
They were sons
They were dads
They were friends
They were brothers
So learn some respect
Lest we forget