News and Events
Head Teacher's Half Term Newsletter - Autumn 2022
Dear Parents, Staff & Governors,
I was sitting out in the garden this week, on an Indian summer's day, having my lunch and watching all our children at play. There was a group of children, of all ages and sexes, playing football together with a couple of their teachers. I had been substituted so that I could have my lunch. Another group was happily playing on the climbing frame and slide. Some boys were continuing their archaeological dig at the bottom of the garden and coming to tell me what they had found - an old pipe, a bone... Right beside me, a group of girls, from Lower Primary to GCSE class, were laughing joyously together as they sat in a circle and played tag with one of the teachers. In the Kindy yard, some Kindy children were imitating them with their own game. And from the forest I could hear the laughter of some secondary children, deep and happy in one another's company. Not a scream to be heard, or a cry, except a cry of joy when someone scored or a new object was unearthed or a child was tagged. And I thought, what an amazing school we have, utterly unique, because this was not a unique moment of playground harmony, as special as it seemed in that moment. This was just a typical playtime at our school.
Fast forward 20 minutes and the garden is empty. Walking through the school, you would think that the classrooms were empty too, such was the peace and quiet. But no, 70 children were back in class, absorbed in their lessons, ready to learn again after their satisfied fill of play.
So, I'm back and despite having to make the sudden transition and all the changes this brought about, both at school and in my home life, and I have enjoyed every moment of being back at our remarkable school.
There are so many reasons to enjoy being back again - a brilliant and dedicated staff, gradually meeting you all, some for the first time, some after a couple of years, and of course the children. I'm also enjoying just being able to focus on my role as Headteacher. Although I do miss the teaching side and happily cover for absent staff, my attention is now fully on the whole school and I can oversee the next phase in our school's history and development.
Before I come on to this, I really must thank Maz for all the hard work she put into the school, helping to steer the school through exceptionally difficult times. The way Maz rolled out virtual learning in the first lockdown proved that although we are a small school with limited resources and facilities, we can be second to none. I'm sure I speak for you all in being so grateful for everything she achieved and wishing her all the best in the future.
Whole School Events
Happily, lockdowns are now just the subjects of contemporary novels and history books. We're free again, a little wiser, with a little more perspective, and with a powerful sense of needing to create something a whole lot better. And at the heart of this is the need to create a stronger community so that we can work together to create the necessary changes. We can now re-introduce whole school events at the school. Annual Autumn and Spring Walks, the Xmas Concert, Class Open Days, the Easter Egg Roll and Hunt, the Parent's Meeting and Parents Evening, and back by popular demand, the School Play. You will now find all the school's key events on the School Calendar page of the school website so that you can plan ahead and mark them in your diaries - https://www.newforestsmallschool.com/schoolcalendar
I have now established a Senior Staff Team at the school, to develop and oversee the overall direction of the school, focussing on the bigger picture. The Senior Staff Team consists of Alex, who is now Deputy Head and the school's Designated Safeguarding Lead, Lorraine (Head of Secondary & Pastoral), Karolina (Head of Kindy & SENCo), Caroline (School Administrator & Exams Officer) and myself. With over 75 years (!) of working at NFSS between us, it has been great to draw on so much experience and knowledge. I have no doubt that between us, and with the support of the rest of the staff, the governors and you, the parents, the school will truly flourish. You can see the updated profiles of all our staff, as well as their position in the school on our website - https://www.newforestsmallschool.com/the-staff
Parents Meeting & Committee
On Thursday 17th November we will be holding our first Parents Meeting for over 2 years. This is for all parents and senior staff members to discuss where the school is at and to develop a shared vision for the school moving forward. We will also be establishing a Parents Committee made up of one parent from each of our 7 classes. I will be sending out an email inviting you all to the Parents Meeting shortly.
Meetings with Parents
I have really enjoyed meeting some of you in the last few weeks and realise how lucky we are to have such supportive parents. It is really important to me that everyone connected to the school has a voice and feels heard and valued. If you have not seen me yet please arrange an appointment with me after half term. Also if you wish to see your child's class tutor or any other teachers, please let us know and we'll arrange a convenient time.
The pastoral sessions have been a great success. It has been an honour for both Lorraine and I to spend some quality time with each child to ensure that they have a voice in the school. I have been humbled by how articulate and self aware our children are. You have every right to be immensely proud of them. This is such a great opportunity for each child to feel truly heard and supported, as well as helping to instill a powerful sense of belonging and self-worth.
We have decided to slightly tweak the pastoral timetable, as seeing each child every other week has proved logistically difficult at times. Therefore, to ensure we don't have to postpone sessions, we are going to see each child at least once each half term. I will shortly send out an email to the parents of all children in the upper school with the new dates of your child's sessions. We will of course continue to be available for every child throughout the day as and when needed.
The School Premises
I hope you have all noticed that we have had a fairly extensive clear up of the school grounds in the past couple of weeks - 2 whole skips filled. This is just the beginning, as we are planning to gradually transform the school both inside and out. We have managed to sell the leaning tower of the yurt and are planning to eventually replace it with either a log cabin or an extension from the outbuildings. As we are still paying off the loan we had to take out for the building works last year, we will probably have to wait a year or so until this is possible. The new space will give us an extra classroom space that will be used for science and DT.
We still have a lot to clear out in the school and to this end we will be having a garage / studio sale in the next month, which will also hopefully help us raise some money for the Science/DT lab. As soon as we have finished the clear out, we will work on redesigning and beautifying all the rooms that need a little more loving attention.
And finally... My favourite moment from this first half of the term
There are so many incidents to choose from. Everyday there are numerous special moments. But one particularly stands out this half term. And that was when a 10 year old girl came up to me and with great confidence and said, 'Nick, I've just noticed that the sign we have on the unisex toilet shows a half man and half woman, but the woman is very thin, much thinner than the man half, and I don't think that is a fair to women who don't look like that. I'd be happy to draw a new picture if you like.' There were two things that particularly struck me here. First of all, I was so impressed with the girl's highly advanced cultural awareness. But even more than that was the calm way she told me and her pragmatic solution. There was no indignation or bitterness in her voice - she was just pointing it out to me. So after looking at the sign myself and confirming that she was right, the female half of the unisex picture was super model, cartoon thin, I told her that yes, it would be great if she could make us a new sign. And soon after I put up her picture in place of the old sign, I saw her proudly telling all her friends about what had happened and showing them the new sign.
For me, this incident encapsulates everything the New Forest Small School is about. Thinking for yourself, identifying a tired or damaging narrative, graciously finding a solution and making it new, and being heard and enabled by a member of staff to make that change.
Sometimes, when we're reading the news it can come with a sense that humanity is moving backwards. The above is a reminder to me that the march of progress is unstoppable and this new generation is better equipped than ever to lead us into a world where sexism, racism, homophobia and all the other infantile prejudices no longer have any hold over us.
Thank you for all your patience and support over this first half term and wishing you all a great half term holiday.