The Headmaster’s Blog
I am very pleased to be able to update you on some very positive developments in relation to the school’s strategic planning and recruitment from September 2018.
The values and ethos of Huddersfield Grammar School are both well-established and
clearly understood by our students. Whilst they will always remain pivotal to the education that we provide, both within and beyond the classroom, childhood today is tougher and more complex than that which we enjoyed, as you may recall me highlighting in an earlier blog:
The explosion of all things digital has created a parallel universe in which children can wile away the hours communicating online with ‘friends’ whom they will never meet, engaging in increasingly addictive gaming habits and having their weight, looks and likeability crudely judged by those within their social networking circle, often unaware of what is happening until ‘likes’, retweets and shares place them centre stage.
In spite of these manifest challenges, all too many schools now approach education
through a hollow and increasingly narrow academic prism.
This is increasingly apparent within both comprehensive and grammar schools, with both funding cuts and the reductive spectre of academic league tables having contributed in recent years to the sidelining of an emphasis on developing the ‘whole’ child, as extracurricular activities have been cut back, character-building residentials have faded and non-core subject provision has been reduced, whether through performing arts ‘rotation weeks’ or the sidelining of school sport.
Such retrograde steps fly in the face of a growing body of research linking success in
adulthood to finely tuned social and emotional skills, which range from empathy and the ability to make and maintain relationships, to mental toughness, delayed gratification and self-control.
I would go further still: over the course of my career as an educator, it has invariably been the children who have thrown themselves into all manner of extra-curricular pursuits who have achieved their academic goals. Emotional well-being feeds academic success, and the child who leaves home each morning looking forward to debating club, football fixtures or drama rehearsals, is the child who genuinely loves being in school.
At Huddersfield Grammar School, the whole child is the whole point. The quest for academic excellence must be accompanied by a very deliberate emphasis on developing character, and by a concerted effort to make lesson time as exciting and inspiring as it can be.
With this in mind, the three key areas for the school’s focus in the years ahead can be
summarised very simply as follows:
New Deputy Heads: Achievement, Character Development and Pedagogy
Now, more than ever, I strongly believe that it is incumbent on future-facing schools to
place a very firm emphasis on character development alongside a dedication to
academic excellence – ensuring that our young people are given an ever-increasing
range of opportunities to build resilience, hold an argument, learn from setbacks,
collaborate with others and fully explore their range of passions and interests, building life skills that will enable them to thrive within future careers.
With this in mind, I am delighted to confirm that Mrs Donna Holmes, currently Deputy Head (Pastoral) for the Senior School, has been appointed as the school’s new Deputy Head (Character Development), effective September 2018. Mrs Holmes’ extensive pastoral expertise leaves her well-placed to take on her new position, in which she will not only oversee pastoral care, but will also be tasked with working across curricular and pastoral teams, with pupils and staff, and beyond in the community, to embed character education right across the school.
This will include the creation of an Active Learning Programme at HGS that will extend the range of character-building experiences for our 3-16 year olds, including new outdoor learning residentials and a ‘service leadership’ programme for pupils in Years 6 and 7.
Whilst Mrs Holmes’ markedly reduced teaching timetable will enable her to undertake this wider brief, she will, of course, continue to teach within the Science Department. In light of Mrs Holmes’ forthcoming promotion, the school has acted quickly to appoint an additional Chemistry specialist, Miss Chloe Hulbert, to further support the Department. Educated at Durham University, and also a skilled geneticist, Miss Hulbert will join the school when Mrs Holmes commences her new post in September.
As many of you will already be aware, we were very pleased to welcome Mrs Claire
McMurdo to Huddersfield Grammar School at the beginning of this term, where she will serve as Deputy Head (Achievement). In this new whole-school role, Mrs McMurdo will lead and manage the day-to-day curricular, assessment and reporting functions of the school, and will be charged with overseeing the further enhancement of a school curriculum that is academically rigorous, promotes character development and fully embeds 21st century skills.
The creation of this dedicated role, which – for the first time – focuses solely upon
furthering the academic and wider achievements of our young people, underscores our
continuing commitment to promoting academic excellence at Huddersfield Grammar
School, irrespective of an individual child’s starting point when they arrive in school.
Improvements to the quality of our reporting to parents are amongst a range of significant items on Mrs McMurdo’s extensive ‘to do’ list.
I am delighted to inform you that the third of our three new Deputy Head posts, each of which will provide support to our excellent Heads of Early Years, Pre-Prep and Prep, and Senior School colleagues, will be filled by Mrs Olivia Wareham from September 2018.
As our new Deputy Head (Pedagogy), Mrs Wareham will be charged with ensuring that
innovative teaching and learning is placed at the very heart of what do in school. She will work across all phases of the school, leading by example and role modelling the effective use of auditing of teaching standards, and the use of research, to identify and promote outstanding pedagogy in school.
Whilst Mrs Wareham will also continue to offer support to the Pre-Prep from September, the school recently appointed a talented new Teacher of Year 1. Miss Gemma Lancaster, who joins the Pre-Prep in September to add further strength in depth to an already thriving department, graduated in first class honours in French and German at University College London before embarking on a career as a Primary School teacher. Fluent in Spanish, Italian, Latin and Classical Greek, Miss Lancaster has trained and worked as both a primary class teacher and as a Primary Modern Foreign Languages specialist. Whilst she will be working as a Teacher of Year 1 next year, her versatility promises to further enhance the school’s academic and extra-curricular options in the years ahead.
Further Teaching Appointments for September 2018
Huddersfield Grammar School has recently appointed Miss Emily Belshaw to add
further strength to the Humanities in the Senior School from September. Miss Belshaw, a History specialist, is currently the Teaching and Learning Coordinator at Haileybury, an overseas sister school to the well-known British public school of the same name, and was hugely impressive at interview.
Having led whole-staff training sessions, organised INSET and established a school-wide teaching and learning newsletter at her current school, Miss Belshaw will add further strength to the staffroom as we bid to place highly effective pedagogy at the heart of our daily practice and is already working closely with Mr Poulter-Dunford, Head of History, on academic planning for next year.
Over the last month or so, the school has also taken steps to further enhance the English Department with the appointment of two new members of staff. First, I am delighted that Miss Kate Brearley has accepted our offer to become the school’s new Head of English, effective September 2018. Miss Brearley is a talented teacher who is currently oversees school-wide literacy provision at the highly regarded independent day school, Bolton School, and will be joined in the English Department by Miss Lucinda Parker-Jones, who has taught for over a decade at a range of schools in the region.
I am also pleased to confirm that Miss Emma Wright will be joining the Modern Foreign Languages Department in September. Miss Wright, who trained at Huddersfield Grammar School before spending three years at Rastrick High School, is a University of Leeds graduate in Spanish and has consistently been graded ‘outstanding’ in inspection.
Finally, and after 17 years of service to Huddersfield Grammar School, it is with great
appreciation that I inform you that Mr Rob Crookes will be departing at the end of this
academic year to explore career opportunities outside of teaching. Mr Crookes has made a very considerable contribution to our ever-growing sporting culture as Director of Sport and, in the short time that I have known him, I have found him to be a person of great integrity who has always put the needs of the students first.
From September, Mr Stephen Butters will be our new Director of Sport. Mr Butters is a dynamic appointment with a range of middle leadership experience, varying from Head of PE to Head of Key Stage 3. He currently oversees the House system in a Bradfordbased school, having returned from three successful years as Head of Key Stage 3 at Haileybury, the overseas sister school to the famous British public school from which the school has also recruited Miss Belshaw to the Humanities Department.
Finally, I am delighted to confirm that Huddersfield Grammar School will be collaborating with the acclaimed educationalist, Alistair Smith over the course of this term and next academic year, as we deepen our three-pronged commitment to pupil achievement, pedagogy and character development.
Once described by The Guardian as “the UK’s leading trainer in modern learning
methods”, Alistair Smith plays a prominent role in the divergent worlds of education and professional football and has written numerous books on learning, brain development, happiness, parenting and the culture of high performing schools.
More recently, Mr Smith has served as the designated learning consultant to the Football Association, designing and delivering the world’s first Elite Coaches course and directing the UEFA Pro License, a now-mandatory qualification for all first team managers who wish to work in the Premier League. In doing so, Mr Smith has coached the likes of Ryan Giggs and Mark Hughes.
This term, Mr Smith will be observing lessons, interviewing HGS pupils and supporting the Senior Leadership Team in shaping a compelling strategy for the school premised around achievement, pedagogy and character development. He will be the key note speaker at this term’s Prep School Prize Evening, before returning to school in September to run training sessions for our teaching staff.
These are exciting times for Huddersfield Grammar School. Following a very successful ISI inspection last term, our sights are now firmly set on building a truly exceptional learning environment for your child in the years ahead.
With best wishes,
Mr M Seaton
Published on: 4th May 2018