25 Nov Head teacher’s Blog 25.11.18
Over the course of this coming week, year councillors have been tasked via an announcement on Google Classroom with finding out the issues that students in their form groups would like to bring to the year council meetings that will take place during the week beginning Monday December 3. This follows on from the excellent year council meetings and the impressive school council meeting (the former always feed into the latter) that took place during autumn term 1 and which have already led to a number of changes to how we do things at Daubeney, namely some repairs to some parts of the playground, the creation of Head Student roles (which will be launched over the next few weeks) and attempts to upgrade some of our furniture to take into account the increasing height of many of our older students. Students at Daubeney have a genuine say in how their school is run, and I will always encourage articulately and intelligently worded comments by our young people if they think that they have noticed a way in which we might be able to improve even further. Two weeks ago, for example, I received two letters written independently by two different groups of Year 9 students and two emails from a Year 10 student and a Year 8 student stating their reasons why they wanted us to bring back non-uniform days. To be clear, non-uniform days were never banned in Daubeney, we simply moved away from them because there was an overall consensus that they weren’t working. For example, what we noticed during these days was that some students felt under pressure to buy new items for the day itself (even though we made it clear that this wasn’t necessary!), others didn’t bring any equipment for learning with them on the day and that a number of students’ mindsets were different, as if a non-uniform day was a day out of school rather than a day in school. What we have had a lot more of in recent times, of course, are Curriculum Enhancement Days, which offer a much more targeted approach to doing something a bit different in school, such as our Art Curriculum Enhancement Day in collaboration with Bedford Creative Arts, our Sports Relief Day in partnership with MK Dons and our World Religions Day, when we were supported superbly by community members from a variety of local faith groups. All of the communication that I received were very welcome, and I believe strongly in our students standing up for something that they feel passionately about (this is without doubt a skill that they will need when they reach adulthood!), but my response to all of them was clear: we will consider arranging another non-uniform day when all of our students are wearing the complete and correct Daubeney Academy school uniform each day. To illustrate my point, I explained last week to some of our students how one of the students who had heard about her friend’s email spoke to me about how, in her opinion, it is unfair that we don’t have any non-uniform days planned, but as she talked to me she was wearing black jeans as part of her uniform at the time. Sadly, we must too often attempt to deal with students who have been sent to school by their parents in either jeans, brightly coloured trainers, long fake nails or with uniform items missing (I’m not writing about the odd days here and there – that’s understandable and happens to everyone at one point or another, I mean parents who consistently send students to school with the wrong items and who then argue with us that it’s fine to wear jeans, bright trainers or fake nails or that it doesn’t matter that their son or daughter doesn’t have a tie or a blazer!) We will never deny a student an education because they aren’t dressed correctly, but it makes it much more difficult for teachers to focus upon the important act of delivering lessons when there are some students who have been given the impression at home that they can wear what they want in school. It may well be, of course, that during our forthcoming year and school council meetings we come across a solution to this problem, perhaps along the lines of granting a non-uniform day only to those students who have earned the right to have one, but an important lesson to learn here is that no one has an entitlement to get everything that they want, especially if they don’t deserve it. The majority of our students, of course, are dressed superbly all of the time and I am hugely proud of how smart they look with their ties, blazers and badges worn correctly each day, and it wouldn’t be fair for the behaviour of some to impact upon what the majority deserve to have in place, so it is indeed important that our councillors debate this issue over the next few weeks.
Similarly, it is also worth noting that our clearly communicated healthy eating and drinking policy means that students can’t just eat or drink what they want in school. To be clear, if a student is to bring a packed lunch to school then it must be healthy food and the only drink that is allowed is water. If a student is found to be bringing unhealthy items in (last week, for example, we found a student with a giant bottle of Lucozade and eight packets of Moams for lunch, supported by her parent!) then those items will be taken from the student and returned to them at the end of day, with a healthy lunch provided instead. Eating and drinking healthily is vitally important for the physical and mental wellbeing of all members of our community and it’s not ok to be ok with our young people intentionally putting rubbish into their bodies, especially at such a crucial time in their lives. In school, of course, we will be completely cashless from Monday December 3 (we have had a grey period of a few weeks in order to help people to get used to the new system) so there is no need for parents to give any money to their children for school at all. All lunch money must be uploaded online via our ParentMail app, with separate payments for breakfast, break times and lunchtimes. School, just like wider society, has a set of rules that all members of its community must follow if success is to be had: we expect all of our students to be dressed correctly for school and to be eating and drinking healthily whilst they are with us.