Over the course of a year I particularly enjoy the opportunities given to me to meet pupils in Year 7, 8 and 10 in small groups, and Year 11 and 13 individually. I feel it is a head’s responsibility to understand how their learning and wellbeing journey is progressing and what more both they and the school could do – hence our aims highlight the call to “be limitless in potential” – to enable us to be the very best we can be. My Year 7 pupils have talked about how much they love the environment, the opportunities and the teachers at Claremont although they wish the journey between our most distant rooms was shorter (we have even debated having a Go Ape style zip wire!), the tuck queue was shorter and the wifi wasn’t playing up (we have had a gremlin in the system that is being fixed with expediency, but that doesn’t help in the immediate here and now, of course).
Personally, I also really enjoy hosting parent forums. This week’s meeting was a full two hours of energetic discussions on those matters that interest or concern our families. Sometimes parents are surprised at the candour of our answers at such meetings, but truthfully, like last term’s parent questionnaire, conducted by an external consultant, they provide exactly the moments that empower and inform us of the niggling matters that may have been at the back of our minds; becoming a call for action on specifics. For example, we have recently increased our staffing for music and have ambitious plans for the facilities too, for which understanding the views of parents really helps to reinforce such hunches. Having seen a desire for more sport in last term’s survey, it was rather nice to sense how much we are heading in the right direction from Tuesday’s face to face forum.
Many parents will know I preach against the use of WhatsApp groups – such a brilliant medium for small groups to confer but a noisy forum for larger communities – encouraging instead that they should make sure I, and the school generally, know what their concerns are directly. It is similarly empowering when we enable pupils the opportunities to tell us what their concerns are, so easily triggered by the Dumbledore question is “there is anything you’d like to tell me?”
I believe there is always scope for us to further improve our parent voice and pupil voice, which is about listening to the individual, even though we start from a strong position. Fundamentally, for a school to be as true to itself as it possibly can be, it is our responsibility not only to hear, but to make sure the right vehicles are in place so that we can respond effectively.