Headmaster's letter to Parents - September 2018

Dear Sir,

It is to be hoped that you have had an excellent summer. Pleasingly the weather has done its best for us but Itrust you have also found time to relax and to enjoy some valuable family time.

Development

As most of you will be aware, school has been busy in the absence of the children over the holidays. We have hosted a number of activity programmes including Kids’ Club, a fortnight of what appeared great fun for the young children - I am very thankful to Mr Russell and his team for their considerable efforts. The Maintenance Team has almost completed the refurbishment of the Pre-Prep, the Netball Courts have been ‘spruced up’ and the Learning Laboratory is taking good shape. We have also done a great deal to upgrade the IT systems in the school a new filter or firewall now being in place, the PCs in the Computer Suites being replaced, three sets of iPad units being introduced and more classroom now boasting the latest smart screen technology.Peter Brockwell and his team have worked extremely hard to ensure the school looks fresh and smart for the advent of the new academic year and I am very appreciative of their commitment.

New Families

We look forward to making welcome over 40 new children at the beginning of term. Recruitment has been strong and the total roll will be 282, in line with that of two years ago. New parents of children in Year Groups 1-7 should meet at 8.30 am in Charlton Hall where they will be met by a welcoming party that will include the children’s guides. The Reception children should come into school at 11.00 am and be immediately taken tot he classroom. Thereafter I hope parents will join us for coffee in Charlton Hall.We can be very proud of the happy and close community we enjoy at The Downs. In this regard I have no doubt that all those new to the community will be made very welcome.

Organisation

Mindful that the children are not as organised in their learning as we would like, we have also changed some of the means by which they keep their belongings. The Reception Children’s ‘cloaks’ are now to be kept along the corridor outside of their classrooms. Year One and Two will keep their cloaks in the Pre-Prep boot room.The room has been upgraded but unfortunately the new cloak stands have not yet been delivered and so they will not be installed until half term. These will allow each child more room to store their belongings however,the old structures will remain for the next six weeks.

In the Prep School changes have been made that will be explained to the children at the start of term. In essence more space has been created for their belongings and so they will experience higher expectations of their organisation. In this regard please note that rucksacks and satchels are not for transporting all their book sand files. Each child has a locker in which to keep these at school. The rucksacks and satchels should therefore largely only be used to take home those books and files they need to complete prep or homework. I would be grateful if you would actively support this directive as I am keen that the children do not carry around heavy loads when it is quite unnecessary. In this regard we are also considerably limiting the amount of lever arch files used in the school, they being particularly bulky to store.

In regard to sports kit, in order to maintain a tidy, uncluttered learning environment, sport bags will now be kept solely in the Sports Hall; they should not in any circumstances be around school. To achieve this each Monday morning 8.00 - 8.35 am Mrs Bray, a Gap Student and a Matron will be in the Sport Hall ready to assist the children to organise their sports kit. They will also be on duty tomorrow as the children return.Finally, as you should know, the children will return in summer uniform. We hope to get to half term before changing into winter uniform but this decision is in the ‘lap of the gods’.

Website

In the next two weeks we will be launching the school’s new website. I am very pleased with the design and I hope users will find it attractive and easy to navigate. The parent portal and SOCS can be found on the site.

Mrs Kathy Tannion

Sadly I have to relate that Kathy Tannion, the Head of Bertie’s will be leaving us in December. We have already begun the process of recruitment. I will keep you well informed but you can be assured that we will only employ someone capable of following in the excellent shoes of Kathy.

Kathy taught in Reception at The Downs for four years before becoming the Head of Bertie’s last September.At The Downs she proved a very caring, sensitive teacher who established warm, constructive relations withthe children in the Reception Year. She demanded high standards in the classroom whilst simultaneously nurturing excellent manners and courtesy. She proved comfort and good counsel for many parents not least as many were experiencing school for their children for the first time. Amongst her colleagues she was always highly respected, her jovial nature and infectious sense of humour contributing much towards the excellent spirit of the staff.

On becoming Head of Bertie’s Kathy began largely with a blank canvas. The building was in disrepair, there were no staff, children, policies or procedures and there was little experience to fall back on. Work began on October 17th and the nursery was inspected and registered January 2nd. We now have a wonderful environment for the young children, an excellent staff and over 60 families enrolled at Bertie’s. In essence it has been a huge success that will have a significant impact on the future success of The Downs. Kathy is by nature very humble about what she has achieved however, we are extremely grateful for her considerable efforts; she has established a wonderful nursery that many little children will enjoy for many years. Thank you Kathy.

As I have already stated we are busy searching for Kathy’s successor. You can be assured that our recruitment will be very thorough as we wish for Kathy’s work to be built upon and not merely sustained.

And finally to finish on a better note I am thrilled to inform you that Mr Westray and Miss Hall got engaged over the summer – on a rooftop in New York. They will be married over half term. We are thrilled for both Tom and Olivia and look forward to having two Westrays on the staff in 2019.

I look forward to meeting and greeting you all over the next few days. My colleagues have been in training over the last few days and we now await with pleasure the return of the children. I am sure we will have another very successful year and thank you in anticipation for your excellent support.

With kind regards

Marcus Gunn