Mr Burke – 10th February 2017

With half term now upon us, depending on the year group there have been various events to focus the minds of all the staff and students this week. For those girls in 5th Form and Upper 6th they return to school after half term for their final set of mocks before completing their GCSE, iGCSE and A level examinations in the summer. Looking at the data it would appear that we should be expecting great things in our public examinations this year but of course there are lots of contributing factors to this success including the outstanding teaching, the effort and ability of our students and of course the preparation they make for the upcoming examinations. When I spoke with the 5th Form this week in their assembly I told them the story of the Young Cherokee Rite of Passage and how the boy became a man. I shared this with them because I think it is important that they each have a phenomenal team behind them providing them with every chance to be the best that they can be but as well as being aware of this support there is the need to show appreciation for what is being provided for them.

I do feel incredibly blessed to have the team of staff that we have here at St Martha’s and I used my whole school assembly on Monday to show much we all appreciate everything they do. With my army of helpers we ensured that every member of staff received a candle and holder as well as a card which had the words “Receive this light, may you bring light to our hearts and minds.” I know that the staff were touched by this sign. In the busy environment in which we teach and learn we can often forget to say thank you and show our appreciation but if we are to deliver on what we say we are as a school we must put into action our words and this was one way I thought we could. It is our intention to give the same gift to every member of staff who joins our community in the hope that they understand what it means to be part of our family.

Today saw the culmination of much practice with the inter-house languages competition. It is always great to see the girls throw themselves into these events and contribute in their own way to their house. With so many opportunities for this to take place there should be at least one competition that plays to the strengths of each individual girl. I am very proud of the strong house identity that exists here at St Martha’s and this is down to the girls and staff in each house ably led by their House Captains and Housemistresses. What is also wonderful to witness on these occasions are the interactions between girls from different year groups. Given the size of our school it is important that each girl feels she has people she can talk with and to in various year groups and the welcoming nature of our girls means that this does take place and it was great to see a number of girls who have only joined this term taking part in this week’s competition.

Tuesday of this week was Safer Internet Day and I do hope that by now the parents will have had time to read through some of the resources we shared from CEOP on this topic. We aim to ensure that the pupils and students receive advice on how to be safe online through curriculum lessons as well as assemblies. I hope that these resources proved useful for you but do let us know if there is anything else that you feel we could do to support you and your daughters in this particular aspect of their lives. The girls also completed a review this morning on the use of mobile devices in lessons. As you know this is something we have been experimenting with for this past half term. I do feel that on the hole this has been embraced positively and that the girls have been responsible with the use of their devices. Technology has become so much part of their everyday lives that our intention was to try and capture that engagement but also ensure that it benefits their learning. We could never move to a complete educational system based solely on technology because when they come to complete their GCSE, iGCSE and A level studies they will be writing by hand and recalling the knowledge and skills they have developed but if there are ways of accessing the curriculum creatively that will create a positive learning experience for the girls it is, I think you would agree, worth exploring.

The calendar for our 70th anniversary celebrations has now been completed. If you are a former pupil you will have received this via email but it is also available on the schools Facebook Page and via our various twitter feeds. If you know of any former pupils who have not received it could you please ask them to get in touch with us ( as we would love as many former pupils to visit us during this significant year in the history of our School. A lot of time and effort has been invested by a considerable number of people to make sure this year is celebrated and I thank them on your behalf and also you in advance for attending the various events that are taking place.

As you will be aware, the school was inspected by the Diocese of Westminster at the end of the last academic year and their findings we were very pleased with. A copy of that report was sent to all parents at the time and is also available on our school website. However, in addition to the Diocese we are inspected by the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) as a result of our membership of the Independent Schools Association (ISA) and the Girls’ Schools Association (GSA). We are given a days’ notice of inspection and we could reasonably expect that notification soon. There are two parts to their inspection. The first part deals with compliance and we much demonstrate our ability to meet the various Independent Schools Standards and Regulations (ISSRs) for which the Department for Education (DfE) is responsible for and then a quality of education inspection which looks at teaching, results as well as the opportunities provided for the girls to develop both inside and outside the classroom. As part of this you as parents will be asked to complete a questionnaire, as will the girls. As soon as we are informed we will write to you with the details for completing the survey and we as well as the inspectors would be really appreciative of you taking the time to complete this. This inspection is about helping us become an even better school. I know and you know that a lot has been achieved in recent years with numbers as well as our academic output but we do not want to stop here or even become complacent. My meeting with the Parent Guild this morning is always an event that I look forward to. It has, as I have shared on a number of occasions, become one of my most important strategic groups and I do hope that you all feel that you have an opportunity to contribute to this forum and be part of our long term plans for our great school.

May I take this opportunity to wish you all at least some time off during the half term break? To those in public examination year groups use your time wisely and prepared for your mocks and to those fortunate enough not to be returning to exams enjoy the operate to recharge your batteries and return ready to tackle whatever the next half of term may throw at you!

Mr Matthew Burke




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