9 December 2008
Headmaster's Newsletter
Dear Parents and Friends of the School

We have enjoyed a very successful term with real progress on many fronts. Though the academic results tend to be measured later in the year, a feature of this year has been the very large number of pupils who are now routinely gaining excellent effort and attainment grades and the relatively few who now have to improve their efforts.

 

This level of commitment has also been evident in major school events, such as the Celebration at the Bridgewater Hall, and the excellent production of 'The Tempest'.  The highlights of both these events can now be viewed in the website's Media Gallery, and I know many parents have enjoyed seeing them again.

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School Aims

During the term we have been reviewing the School’s long term aims and, although the conditions are far from ideal to consider major future capital projects, we remain ambitious and want to continue the upward trajectory we have, especially in three key areas.


Naturally, one of these is academic achievement, primarily to stretch and develop intellectual curiosity, to prepare for university and beyond. We want to be known as a school that achieves this goal as well as any in the North West, amongst some of the best schools in the country.

Examination Results

As in the last two or three years, we have been following up results from the examination boards that were clearly inconsistent with our expectations, and in Design Technology GCSE , Psychology A-level and Science GCSE there have been  a number of upgrades. While the AS and A2 results seem less prone to marking errors these days, supervision by senior examiners of GCSE markers frequently seems to be an issue, and the lifelong implications of large numbers of wrong grades for pupils across the country remains a national disgrace.

Our upgrades have been added to nationally reported statistics and have extended the level of success we celebrated in August.

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Staff Matters

Mrs Gill Wallwork 

Deputy Head at the School for the last seven years, Mrs Gill Wallwork has been appointed Head of Wakefield Girls’ High School, one of the highest achieving schools in the Yorkshire area. She will take up her post in September 2009 and we will be advertising for a successor for her next term. Mrs Wallwork has made an enormous contribution to the academic progress of the school in her time with us and we will wish her well in due course. 

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Mrs Pennie Aspinwall

Mrs Aspinwall will also be leaving us at Christmas and many tributes to her work in the Junior School will be given over the last days of the term. Mrs Aspinwall  has presided over an outstanding period in the Junior School’s history and her contribution to the artistic side of the school has been especially appreciated.


Her successor will be Mrs Barbara Bottoms, currently Head of the Junior School of Bury Girls’ Grammar School. 

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Ms Kathryn Woodward

Currently Head of Key Stage 3 Science at Bridgewater High School, Warrington, Ms Kathryn Woodward has been appointed in place of Mr Paul Welch, who is emigrating to Australia with his family at Christmas. Miss Wood is an experienced GCSE and A-level Biology teacher and will be continuing with Mr Welch’s examination classes.

 

UCAS Progress
We managed to reach our annual target again this year by submitting just over 100 forms before half term. The result has been a significant number of University offers already for our Upper Sixth Form, though some University departments e.g. Medicine, will review applications when they have all been received in January. We are optimistic once again for our overall University offers for our 2009 leavers.
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Autumn Term Games

Our girls’ sport has been the most successful, this term, with the U/14 and U/18 hockey teams winning the county championship for Greater Manchester, one of the most competitive counties in the country. Both progressed to the North finals by becoming joint winners of the North West tournament. Most recently the U/18 team won the North of England tournament, and we think in progressing to the national finals as one of the top five school teams in the country, this may be the best performance of any school team in living memory. We congratulate the coaches, Miss Gale and Mrs Phillips, and the girls.

Sixth Form Curriculum

New A-level courses in most subjects, with four rather than six modules, have been taught since September. With this in mind, there will be no AS modules sat by the Lower Sixth Form in January and this will extend teaching time and reduce pressure on staff and students in a productive way. A two-day session of AS trial examinations in March will take place instead of two weeks of examinations in January. Resits of AS examination will still be possible.

News and Events

Trips
At half term four school trips took place, including the Politics trip to Washington, which could not have been better timed, a German exchange, a Spanish exchange and the Model United Nations Croydon conference at which our delegations won more awards.

The School Website

This continues to develop and is becoming the main means of internal communication with regard to the diary. Parents are encouraged to look at it regularly and especially to explore the latest upgrade of the Media Gallery. This can now show video clips of the latest concerts etc. in larger and longer format. It takes a minute or two to load but is an excellent summary of recent events. The finale to the Bridgewater Hall Celebration, featuring  dance to “Carmina Burana” was featured recently, and there are more or less daily additions.

In Support of Your School
We are delighted by the response to date from the launch of our annual giving programme this month; a warm thank you to those who have already given their support. We look forward to providing regular updates throughout the year as to how your donations are helping us to undertake this year's priority projects. 
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Good News

And finally...I would like to end with some wonderful news. Last week we received an anonymous donation of £50,000 for the Bursary Fund, the size and timing of which have given us great heart. As UK tax payers, the donors have gift aided their donation, which adds a further £14,102 to an already significant and hugely generous gift and increases the Bursary Fund to more than £750,000.  With gifts like this we can transform lives.

Thank you all for your continuing support for the School.

Your sincerely

P.V. Dixon
Headmaster