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Headteacher's Blog - Digital Immigrant Hide

I come from a time significantly before the digital age was even contemplated, let alone brought into being. Although I use a mobile phone, am writing this piece on an iPad and seem to spend increasing hours every day in front of a computer screen, I am not instinctively ‘digital’, am very much an immigrant not a native in this new world, and find increasingly that this state of being brings with it a sense of perspective as well as one of frustration when ‘intuitive’ devices appear to have no connection to my particular type of intuition. Though no great fan of instruction manuals, most notably those which accompany flat pack furniture, I have never quite come to terms with the look of condescending amazement my children give me when I complain that a new digital device does not come with accompanying printed advice and information.

I remember well when Fulston Manor received its first computer. It was positioned in the staff room, between the Banda machines, and there was great scepticism that it would ever prove useful or, indeed, that we would ever perceive the need to purchase another one. Even the acquisition of a first home computer, a state of the art Commodore 64, failed to convince me that the future lay in devices that, at the time, seemed capable of doing little more that electronic ping pong and Tippex free typing. It is a good job that my career choices did not include roles involving prophecy or clairvoyance.

Although endlessly tempting to spend time complaining about the operational efficiency of digital devices - lack of mobile phone signals, battery life, network crashes, printers that don't, endless upgrades apparently designed more to baffle than to benefit - I have come to accept that the overwhelming majority of problems I have with the technology is about what it delivers to me not the way in which it is delivered. Once having reached this all too obvious conclusion it is but a small step to the realisation that the problems I have are about what the digital age has unleashed rather than how it has unleashed it.

On an average day at school I receive between 200 and 300 emails. A few of these are from parents or colleagues, a few more contain important information that needs either to be acted upon or redirected, but the overwhelming majority are simply in transit from the sender to my deleted items, unless, of course, I wish to buy the unsellable, subscribe to the unimaginable or provide all my security details to the unspeakable. Whilst I would not suggest that junk mail did not arrive by post in the past, the proliferation of email does seem to me to be an invitation to the idle to mass communicate to the many and,more worryingly, an invitation to the unscrupulous to prey upon the vulnerable through an ever evolving and complicated series of scams. Although we may all by now be aware of the odds against a Nigerian general wanting to send us £10,000,000 for safekeeping, apparently official communications from banks and tax offices still fool the unwary and the elderly, causing intense suffering and psychological damage.

There is not the space within this piece to consider all the joys and pleasures of other social media which appears to proliferate on an almost daily basis. No sooner had I decided not to participate in Facebook than I was having to decide not to participate in twitter, snapchat, what's app and a whole range of other all too resistible opportunities too.

Let me therefore end by offering genuine thanks to all who send me interesting, relevant and important emails, which stand out from the rest like  diamonds on a dung heap, and apologise if there are occasions when my response is tardy. I appear to have placed 55,389 items into the deleted folder during the past twelve months which, allowing 5 seconds for each action, adds up to around three days of my life and may explain delays in replying, the repetitive strain injury developing in my deleting finger and the spasmodic yearning for the era when the post arrived at a set time each morning and, occasionally, in the afternoon too; those were the days....

 

Mid Term Message

We are at that point in the school year when, with the clocks changing and the nights drawing in, it is time for final reflections on last summer’s results before focusing entirely on what is to come over the coming months. It was, therefore, timely to receive a letter this week from Patrick Leeson, the Corporate Director for Children, Young People and Education in Kent. In this, Mr Leeson states:

“I am writing to congratulate you on the school’s Progress 8 2017. It is very positive to see that this is well above the National Average. This means that learners in your school do well compared with their peers from the same Key Stage 2 starting points. This is great news for Kent.

We appreciate that this is due to quality leadership and a sustained focus on ensuring high quality provision. Achieving well in this measure highlights consistently good or better teaching and high expectations across the school.”

I hope that you will share with us the pride we feel in having performed so well in 2017 and, more importantly, the commitment to do even better next summer. These GCSE results were, of course, due to the factors identified in the letter, but they were also due to the hard work of students supported by the involvement and interest of their families. We have always maintained that the successful education of any child is a team effort and last summer’s achievements would not have been possible without everyone in the team working together to achieve our goals. As well as being “great news for Kent” it is also, of course, great news for the young people whose results have opened up a wealth of post 16 opportunities for them.

One simple way of involving yourself as fully as possible in your child’s education is to access Classcharts on a regular basis in order to find out exactly how well they are progressing at school. You will be able to see all the positive and negative entries (if any) and therefore be able to hold informed discussions at home rather than engaging in the usual end of the day conversation in which parents ask how school was and children reply that it was “all right”. It is perhaps interesting to note that parents of the best performing 50 students in the school access Classcharts regularly whereas parents of the 50 students who are performing least well scarcely open their accounts! If for any reason you do not have access to your log in details, please inform your child’s head of house who will arrange for one to be provided for you.

As indicated at the start of this, now is the time for us to look forward to the remainder of the year. Whilst for many, particularly in the senior years, that will involve a focus on academic work, there are numerous other activities taking place which help to create an educational experience designed to develop young people of whom we can all be proud. Whether your child is involved in trips or sporting fixtures or performing arts events or taking on responsibilities or any other of the opportunities on offer, I know that we can continue to work together to ensure that 2017/18 becomes the most successful year ever for all our students, at least until 2018/19.