Dear Parent / Carer
Apology: This is a long letter but please take the time to read it and share it with your child.
I am writing to formally welcome you as a parent/carer to our team at Droylsden Academy. I would also like to let you know about the routines, standards and protocols we have that are very important to our whole school, especially our new Year 7.
Although this is a long letter it is very important that you read it because it tells you about some strict routines and protocols that will affect your child directly. If you have any concerns or queries about the contents of this letter please e mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone the school on 0161 301 7600 as soon as you possibly can so your message is passed on to me. Please leave your contact details and the nature of your concern or question.
The Droylsden Way - “We are great learners because of our politeness, hard work and honesty”
These are our values:
When I look at how well our students are doing, at first sight I am reasonably proud. The majority of our students conduct themselves well and they work hard throughout their school career to ensure they succeed in their GCSE examinations.
SO WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?
But the question I keep asking myself is just what would our students be capable of if all of them and not just most of them could develop great learning habits. When I look at the last 2 years’ results very closely (and this is true of so many schools up and down the country), it means that a large number of our students left without 5 GCSEs at grade C or above, including English and Maths.
I think in the Britain in which we now live, this will become more and more of a problem for those students who leave having done less well than they should have done. There are fewer and fewer jobs or college places for students without strong qualifications and skills. As you know, it is not like when we left school.
WHY ARE SOME STILL NOT DOING AS WELL AS OTHERS?
You could argue that there are some children who couldn’t possibly get grade C or above in English and Maths. For some children with learning difficulties that is no doubt true (but we should still expect them to make great progress). At Droylsden Academy we work tremendously hard to support such youngsters with their learning. But why can’t the others? Is it because they are not clever enough? Well, given the wealth of educational research carried out on this subject, THIS IS NOT THE CASE.
Droylsden Academy believes we have to develop GREAT LEARNING HABITS amongst all our learners, not just some. I don’t accept that only some of our students can get 5 or more GCSEs including English and Maths. I am sure you don’t either. I also don’t accept that all our children are as happy as they could be with their progress.
We believe we have to improve learning habits at a young age so that by the time students choose their GCSEs in Year 9 (3rd year) and then sit their exams in Year 11 (5th year) our students are strong, independent learners who can shine. Our students need to believe in effort-based ability: you are not born ”smart”; its lots of reading and really hard work that makes you smarter.
WHAT DO WE MEAN BY GREAT LEARNING HABITS?
This isn’t rocket science but it is vitally important. Most of our students are good learners; however, as is common in most schools in the country, there are some students who never come equipped for school. Do you know that a minority of our pupils answer back and question the teacher’s decision in class, whilst others are trying to learn? Do you know that some students have an attendance rate below 90% and some are regularly late for school in the morning? Do you know that some stop thinking about their learning and go off task too quickly? Do you know that a minority rarely do enough homework?
These are the students who fail at school. In short, it’s about effort and commitment, not brains.
So why are some students like this? What is stopping them from being great learners? It is likely to be that they have picked up habits that stop them from learning or making progress. The bit that I am worried about is that, in a strange sort of way, just to be nice or for an easier life, at home and in school we have been making excuses for them or we have let them make excuses that we accepted. We no longer do this and we ask that you don’t either.
The more we’ve looked into this the more we’ve realised that by letting such learners off we are actually doing them a great deal of harm because, by Year 9 or Year 11, they are no longer in a position to do well. Of course, not everyone will leave with straight ‘A’ grades, but many have just slipped into sloppy learning habits which we shouldn’t tolerate in school or at home. It’s almost like when we start to pick up sloppy driving habits, for example. We have greatly raised our expectations of students over the last term. We have also been asking our parents to raise their expectations of their children because our students need to be taught at home and school the meaning of hard work (not just doing the work but doing it really well).
CAN WE DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT?
Of course we can. We are very positive about learning and improvement at Droylsden Academy and so are the majority of our children and parents. I believe we can do something about it because we are the adults and as long as we use the 3 Cs (by staying calm, being confident and being in charge) we can help some of our students to help themselves. Instead of excusing bad learning habits we can insist on great learning habits day in, day out with HIGH EXPECTATIONS AND NO EXCUSES.
Your child may already have really good learning habits. If so they have nothing to worry about and, if they keep those habits as they move through adolescence, they will shine at our school.
My view - and it has been shown to work in the best schools in the country and abroad – is that, over time, almost all learners (not just most) can pick up great learning habits for themselves and will end up happier, better qualified and more successful.
From the first day at Droylsden Academy, your child will be expected to pick up and keep to 6 GREAT LEARNING HABITS. If your child meets these expectations, they will be rewarded. If they do not demonstrate great learning we think it will be in the long term best interests to receive an automatic sanction.
There will be no discussion of this in class and it will be automatic in all classes and every day. By all means you can contact me privately to discuss it but I am asking you to see the longer-term benefits of short-term praise, reward or sanction on the same day.
GREAT LEARNING HABITS - Here are the 6 habits that we will insist on, day in and day out:
1. NEVER ANSWER BACK.
Like a referee, sometimes teachers get things right and sometimes they get things wrong, but what is totally unacceptable is for a child to answer back or question the decision in front of the class. It stops others from learning and it undermines all respect for the teacher. This is a very bad learning habit to get into. Great learners politely discuss concerns with the teacher after the lesson or at break / lunchtime.
2. ON TIME
We will insist on punctuality to school and to each and every lesson. School begins at 8.30am prompt each day. Every child should be registered (without fail) at the start of the day and will be considered late if they arrive after 8.30am. After Form Time or Assembly lessons begin at 8.45am and lateness to lessons will also not be tolerated. Please support this by keeping to bed-times and preparation time in the morning before school. Attendance at school is vital. Children should attend 100% of the time. Anything below 96% would be a grave cause for concern as progress becomes slow and achievement suffers.
3. PERFECT UNIFORM
We will insist on perfect uniform: not nearly perfect but perfect. This is because we want children at Droylsden Academy to be proud of their school. Top buttons should be fastened at all times. Ties should be worn correctly; socks and shoes should be of the right colour (no trainers). Jewellery is not permitted at all. No make-up should be worn. There should be no extreme hairstyles. Evidence suggests that sloppy uniforms lead to sloppy behaviour and sloppy learning habits for many students.
We will insist on all homework being completed on time and to a high standard, neatly and with pride. Your child will receive a homework planner in September; this will be used to record homework and for you to monitor what work has been set. There will be compulsory homework set each week that must be completed to a high standard. There may be other work set at the teacher’s direction.
5. STAY ON-TASK
We will insist on focused learning in class. When a teacher has carefully planned a lesson and other students are trying so hard, there is nothing worse (you will remember) than a child or children being off task and distracting learning for themselves and others. When work is marked your son or daughter may be asked to improve it by following the teacher’s feedback. This may mean doing the work or a certain part of the work again if the teacher has identified that the learning isn’t secure. When someone is talking we expect “Politeness” where all students sit up, face the speaker and pay attention.
6. PERFECT EQUIPMENT
We will insist that every child carries an appropriate school bag, pencil case, planner, the correct exercise books for each day, homework books and text-books (where relevant) to every lesson. At first you could help by packing bags with your child but you should expect them to check their timetable each night and learn for themselves very quickly. Each pencil case should always have in it as a minimum: one working pen, pencil, ruler and rubber (the 2Ps and 2Rs).
PRAISE & REWARD
To help your child to pick up these 6 habits very quickly we will teach great learning habits in class. We will also praise and reward those who demonstrate these great habits using merits, positive postcards, letters and phone calls to parents and big termly and end of year prizes (including reward trips to places of interest)
WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF CHILDREN DO NOT GET THESE GREAT HABITS?
Our system of sanction is very simple and we are counting on your support. If you are worried about it, the best way to avoid it is to make sure your child picks up the habits and sticks to them each and every day.
If any of the 6 learning habits are broken the teacher will record this on our behaviour database and Student Services will text/contact you to inform you that your child has either a one hour or two hour detention (in some cases this could be on the same day). The length of the detention will depend on the nature of the offence.
This may sound harsh but it needs to be if it is to make a difference over time. The evidence from the UK and abroad suggests that the sanction must be immediate (a detention one week later doesn’t work with children) and it must be specific to the problem.
I don’t want to upset anyone. I am a great believer that children should control themselves (it is not our job to control them). If anyone doesn’t want a detention they should simply try their best to meet our 6, easy to meet, learning habits (they don’t answer back, wear the wrong uniform, fail to do satisfactory homework, go off-task in lesson, arrive late or forget their equipment).
Our hope is that the system is so simple and fair that Year 7 will not get a detention in the first place. If a detention is given, please do not see it as ‘the end of the world’. Your child simply completes the detention and gets a totally fresh start the next day! Remember we are trying to instill great learning habits; that’s all. If your child fails to attend the detention a much more serious punishment will follow and a detention will still have to be done. This will be the school’s decision, not the parent’s or child’s.
Please remember to explain how important it is that your child doesn’t get a detention: you may have to make arrangements to get them home. Please do not blame us for this; rather discuss how inconvenienced your child made you. This will further develop great learning habits and consideration for you and the family. Your child must accept this responsibility if he/she is to grow into a responsible citizen.
LESSONS AND LEARNING: WHAT’S IN IT FOR YOUR CHILD?
Your child will have a great opportunity to do well at Droylsden Academy as this plan will further improve the school for all. We are considered to be a caring school and relationships are seen to be very strong between children and teachers. We try to make our lessons relevant and interesting and your child should want to do her/his very best. Great learning habits are easy to pick up if your child cares about her/his own learning and about the needs of other children. We need your full support.
Evidence suggests that if children get involved in a school club, activity or team they will grow much more attached to the school and the people in it and as a result they will start to do better in class. I sincerely hope your child will get involved in the wider life of the school as there are so many clubs on offer at lunchtime and after school each day.
WHY HAVE I WRITTEN TO YOU?
As a new family to our school, I hope you appreciate that we are trying to get the very best for your son or daughter. The Executive Headteacher Mr D Duncan, the staff and I are improving your school. As usual we can achieve nothing as a school without your active support, but if you have any questions or concerns please contact me as soon as possible so that we can work together to resolve any issues before the start of term.
I look forward to working with you over the next 5 years. Droylsden Academy is an improving school (according to Ofsted) but it can and will be so much better for all children: not just most. After all, “We are great learners because of our politeness, hard work and honesty”
Please share this letter with your son/daughter and encourage them to read it for themselves.
May I wish you a very enjoyable and relaxing end to the remainder of the summer holidays.
Mr P Wilson