Open evening September 2021 - speech transcript
"Good evening everyone and welcome to The Judd School. Thank you for joining us tonight, using valuable fuel reserves, and more importantly for considering this school to be entrusted with your son's education.
My name is Jonathan Wood and I am proud to be the Headteacher of this outstanding school. It is an honour to have been given this opportunity as my first Headship, as one of only eight Headteachers in its 136 year history.
During my time at the school, we have undergone great change. We have increased in size by almost 50%, adding a fifth and then sixth form of entry into Year 7; added new buildings and renovated many others and acquired and developed amazing sports facilities just down the road at Vizards. More important though, I think we have developed other features of our school, hugely, that were perhaps in the past not considered our strength. Most notably, in this respect, we have developed an excellent pastoral care team, grown a student support team the envy of any school and extended our support for students with SEND to include a specialist resource provision for students with Autism.
Of course, those things we were always known for, remain! High quality education, fantastic results and university destinations and a huge range of extra-curricular activities – more of that later.
While an excellent education is clearly about so much more than results, I am not about to tell you that they do not matter. We work tremendously hard to try and support every student to achieve their best and find ways to overcome any difficulties they may have. We are very proud that over a quarter of all A-levels, even before recent grade inflation nationally, are graded A* and more than half of GCSEs receive the top grades, 8 and 9. Around half of all students finish with 3 A grades or better at A-Level and the majority go on to Russell Group Universities, with more than 20 each year to Oxbridge and a similar number to medicine courses.
To ensure this continuing success we employ highly qualified subject specialists with a passion for their subject and for learning, who inspire young, inquisitive minds and motivate them to push themselves further than curricula require. A mixture of young and experienced staff, all of whom share a commitment to also improving themselves and the school through a structured training program. Indeed, we value this so highly that we place it front and centre of the week, at 8:30am on a Monday morning, giving your sons, and hopefully you too, a more stress-free start to the week.
As parents, you know, like us, that schooling is more than just great results, you are interested in so much more, the education of the whole child, YOUR CHILD.
Your and our first concern is of course whether your son is safe and happy at school. As I said earlier, we pride ourselves on the quality of our pastoral care, ensuring students feel supported and able to talk to someone when things do go wrong. We would ask you all to do the same, as it is vital that communication streams are open between home and school.
The school’s maxim is Learn, Grow, Belong, as you will have seen from our prospectus and our website. But what does this mean?
Learn, perhaps the most obvious you might think, but for us this is much more than about subject knowledge. It is about ensuring that students leave us with the skills to learn throughout their lives, be it university, work or simply about the world around us. We address this by ensuring our curriculum, in all that we do, seeks to develop those characteristics we describe as our Student Vision, you can read more about that in our prospectus. Allied with this is a commitment to integrate broad learning themes across our subject lessons, on topics from Government and Law, to Equality and Diversity, Careers and Environmental Awareness.
Grow: taking students at 11 and them leaving at 18, they certainly do grow! Our focus here, however, is how they grow as a person. We rethought our approach to behaviour, disposing of pages of old school rules in favour of a set of positive expectations that we expect students to adhere to and reflect on when things don’t go to plan! We call it RESPECT: being Responsible, Engaged, Polite, Safe, Embracing, Caring and Truthful. In combination with our broad curriculum, we aim to ensure that children leave us ready for the challenges of a 21st Century world. I am very proud of the small part I play in ensuring that the generation that follows has considerably more inclusive, supportive and empathetic approaches to society, than the one in which I grew up!
Belong: That range of activities outside the classroom, for which we are known, is fundamental to giving students a wider sense of being part of something. The last 18 months have been incredibly challenging in so many ways, but the absence of such activities from our daily lives has been hugely missed by all: teachers, students and parents alike.
A vast array of musical ensembles and student-led opportunities in a range of genres and instruments: senior and junior orchestras; big band; wind band; samba; jazz and rock groups; junior singers; choirs and a barber shop group, and I’m sure I’ll have missed some out.
On top of the many concerts each year, the school also performs a play or musical. Recent performances include Sweeney Todd and ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’, with junior performances of ‘An Incident at Vichy’ and Unman, Wittering and Zigo’ which explores the precarious relationship between students and staff at an all-boys’ secondary school, as they battle for control. Terrifying stuff, not sure why they selected that one!
A busy sporting schedule of rugby, football and cross-country in the autumn and spring, and cricket and athletics in the summer. We regularly field six rugby teams in the U12s on Fridays and at weekends. A wide range of other sports become available as students progress through the school! …… We are often characterised as a sporty school, as we do have a great deal of success, but make no mistake – as an academic school, students are better characterised as likely to be holding interesting and thought-provoking conversations in the playgrounds, as well as in the classrooms!
CCF, our Combined Cadet Force, and Duke of Edinburgh offer students the chance for a variety of outdoor experiences and help develop their service and skills. Many a night under canvas helps to build character.
There is a huge range of clubs and societies to join and later lead as they pass through the school. Can’t find something you like, we encourage students to start groups themselves and offer them support in how to do it.
The school IS the students, not the buildings, nor the staff. They are additionally our best advert to others considering our school, so today on your tours you will meet some of our existing students, young and old and hopefully they will give you a sense of the sort of student that your son would be among. They are confident, polite, interesting, competitive and funny young people, ambitious for their futures and willing to put in the hard work to succeed.
I am sure you’ll agree the school IS the students, not the buildings,… but I hope you’ll agree that we have cared for our site well, expanding sensitively, with high quality additions. We’re not finished yet, by the time you join us, we hope to have finished work on a new Sixth Form Centre, some additional classrooms and a beautiful social garden space to the front of the school.
I started by suggesting to you that we are one of the best schools in the country. Ofsted say we are outstanding, but we know we are not perfect. As we strive to be the very best that we can be, I am sure that your son would enjoy a fantastic future at this school, becoming the best version of himself that he can be!
I hope that from what you have heard tonight you will find that it is a great time for your son to be joining our school community.
I would now like to remind you of the next steps in your process:
Firstly, enjoy the rest of this evening, ask lots of questions; of the students – we have told them to be honest, and I trust they will be! And of the staff in the departments too, or around the school in general. The evening does end at 8, so I ask you to remember that your young tour guides have school tomorrow and have undoubtedly had a busy day and indeed month back at school.
Obviously, visit other schools. Hopefully, we will have got in first and set a very high bar. I am often asked “Why should my son come to Judd and not Skinners?”. The truth is that both schools are excellent and more similar than many think. I would ask you to get a feel for each school you visit and decide which school would suit your son best.
As a parent going through this very process for the second time, you have my every sympathy. For those in Year 6, you can do nothing more than await the 11+ result on the 21st October. If, however, you are currently in Year 5, hopefully you have registered for the test already. There is not a party line on the most appropriate way to prepare; however, my personal advice, to those who chose not to tutor through Year 5 in preparation, is to ensure that your son is at least familiar with the nature of the questions and the timings and pace of a full set of papers.
Year 6 parents, you must complete your preference form by the 1st of November. Obviously, I hope you decide to place us as your first preference, but do trust in the preference system and place your schools in the order you most want the places to be allocated. As a guide, but only that, this year our lowest ranked score was 385 for the inner area and 406 in the outer. I also would like to remind you that we have an oversubscription criterion of 5 places for students in receipt of free school meals or pupil premium. This is very important to us; we pride ourselves on being an inclusive selective school.
Following an offer and your acceptance, the induction process begins; our effort to make the transition as smooth as possible, so your son settles into school life.
For those who join us in September 2022, I am pleased to say that I will have the pleasure of teaching each and every one of you in our Learning Development lesson, where I will give guidance in helping students develop those skills of learning described earlier and in our prospectus, in our effort to ensure all learners show those skills of our very best students of recent years.
I feel it important, as Headteacher, to have the opportunity to get to know all the students in the school, but more importantly, that they get to know me – not just from assemblies and around the site, on a trip or in an audience, but in a more natural learning environment.
I hope that you will have heard from this talk that I am very proud of this school and feel privileged to be leading it. I hope that from what you see tonight, you will feel able to entrust your son's education to us. Thank you for listening."