The Headteacher: A school should always create great partnerships within communities

Jonathan Britton, headteacher of Woldgate College
Jonathan Britton, headteacher of Woldgate College

I believe we should be at the heart of the community we serve, providing the care, support and guidance our children need to make the decisions that will define their future.

I believe, as headteacher, that a good school is one with shared values, where every child is known and cared for as an individual. A school with a supportive and caring community where a child’s talents can grow through academic study and the opportunity to participate in the many activities, productions and visits that, I believe, make Woldgate College unique. A school where we ensure each individual pupil achieves academically through consistently good teaching, in an environment that seeks to nurture their love of learning and challenges them to excel.

At the heart of the school the very best pastoral care, where every student feels cared for and valued.

As part of this community, we should articulate what makes our school distinct and special, how we provide an environment where our children can, in a warm, welcoming and supportive atmosphere, feel able to let their talents shine and take pride in their achievement, in the confidence that their success will be celebrated.

This is especially important as our children move from primary to secondary school and then to sixth form. These moments are vitally important and we must ensure a smooth transition throughout which our children feel supported as they move from an often smaller primary school to a larger secondary. We want our children to be happy, to achieve, and to be given the opportunity to grow personally and academically.

As a child, the move to a new school can seem either daunting or exciting, as they leave the familiar friends and staff who have cared for them during their time at school.

With the right care and support, this move can provide new, exciting opportunities and allow our children to develop their interests further in subjects such as science or technology. They move forward and explore, and participate in different experiences, visits and productions.

Before half term I met our wonderful Year 9 Buddies, who joined our Year 7 students in September, giving their time to help our new pupils settle into the school.

I joined the Buddies for breakfast – a treat organised by Mrs Atkinson and Mrs Vickers in recognition of their kindness. I talked to the pupils about how they have supported and cared for our younger students. I also asked for a few tips myself as part of my induction to Woldgate College.

I know, from speaking to Year 7 pupils, the difference our Year 9 Buddies have made in helping them settle into a new school.

They should be very proud and, as head, it was a privilege to speak to such kind and motivated pupils.

The transition from school to sixth form is also an important step.

An opportunity for our young people to take time to make decisions about which subjects they will study and, ultimately, university or employment. Although they are older, I have always found that students find this transition as difficult, if not more so, as the move from primary to secondary. The move from GCSE to A-Level brings significant new demands and the need to develop new skills, such as time management, organisation, resilience and leadership, as they prepare for university or a career. Sixth form study brings greater responsibility as students take on a new role as a sixth form student and extend their academic knowledge and build experience.

This month, I have met 146 Year 11 pupils individually, to offer support and guidance as they decide upon the subjects they would like to study post-16. As a previous head of sixth form, I know how important these decisions can be in either keeping options open or, alternatively, ensuring progression onto a specific university or course. With 30% of our students progressing onto Russell group universities, Ms Longstaff is very proud of her students and has organised these tutorials to ensure they are supported in making their decisions.

In these meetings I, along with Ms Longstaff and Mr Martin, have sought to provide impartial guidance and to support each pupil in making an informed decision. I believe that the combination of choices is key to success and the selection of options needs to be carefully considered. Opting for subjects to study post-16 is very different from selecting GCSE choices. The route from GCSE through to sixth form and on to university needs to be carefully considered, and having sufficient information to make an informed decision is, of course, very important.

The meetings are also about ensuring our pupils are ready to make the transition, as sixth form study is hugely demanding, with assessment underway within a couple of weeks of a student starting a course.

Whether the transition is from primary to secondary, or school to sixth form, the success will always be dependent upon the caring and supportive environment within which a child or young adult can flourish.

I have worked in many schools and my experience has always taught me that those schools where children feel valued will always provide the greatest opportunity and, ultimately, academic success. I want the maximum achievement for every child in my school, for our students to succeed and achieve the very best outcomes in every subject they study. I want every child to realise their full potential as we create opportunity and foster ambition.

I am fortunate to lead a school that is at the heart of the community it serves. To live and work within this community is something very special and I know from my previous experience that a school is a reflection of the families, villages and town of which it is a part of. We should never underestimate the importance of our village primary schools, or secondary schools. They are part of the fabric of our communities and provide part of the rich tapestry that makes this area, for me, so special.

I know how important the partnership is between the school and community and how working together we can support each other and our young people by providing the very best care and guidance they need.

The pressures on our children are ever more demanding and the decisions made are as important as ever.

With the care they need they will always have the support of their families, school and community, working together to provide the very best opportunities and to establish a place where as they grow, as they make these key transitions and decisions, they can feel supported and valued.