wyedean School

Aspire together, Achieve together
Adfecere pariter, Perfecere pariter


THIS HEART SHAPED LAND:  Principal's  Blog


23 May 2017

Jane Elson‏ @Mousegirl2502 May 12


We are so happy we chose Wyedean, it has been a fabulous 5 years. Hopefully grades will be good enough to return for 6th. Thank you all. I always wonder how teachers feel about seeing another group move on.

Wyedean School‏ @WyedeanSchool May 12


Last week I gave an assembly to Year 7 on the idea of “Home” and the notion that this was more than just a place to live drawing upon the more powerful meaning in the German word “heimat” and especially the beautiful Welsh word “hiraeth”. Almost upon hearing the word, it makes me want to put my hand automatically towards my heart. I went back to Shropshire last weekend to celebrate my sister’s birthday.  On the Sunday morning, I took the dog and my kids along with my niece’s family and her dog on a long walk through the Ironbridge Gorge and my childhood haunts.  On the way back we came past the site of my old school now just a pile of hardcore rubble awaiting use for a new housing development. It was a shock.  Ironically, it was a “Shropshire Lad” (even more ironic because he was from Worcestershire to the south), AE Housman, whose famous lines came instantly into my head:

Into my heart an air that kills From yon far country blows: What are those blue remembered hills, What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content, I see it shining plain, The happy highways where I went And cannot come again.

I wish I had quoted my favourite lines of Housman to my Year 11s when I spoke to them and wished them well for their exams and their future at their last assembly in mid-May. Essentially this time will not come again and when Mrs Elson tweeted to the school her thanks and asked how we felt about such moments as educators I conveyed that they were a mixture of sadness at the change but also joy at a pivotal moment for these young people in their lives. They are an exceptional year group and watching them today go into their first English exam, the first time with the new changes and numerical grading awaiting them, I felt proud of the people they are now and the people they will become.

There is a lot of pride in the achievement of our young people at Wyedean and we are fortunate as educators to play a small role in helping to shape this success. It was a privilege for me last Tuesday to sit with the two Year 8 music classes as their video from their “Journey to the Heart” project was shown officially for the first time.  There is a link to it here and on the school website. The confidence and passion demonstrated by the students as they sing is very clear when you watch the video, and my thanks to the Songwriting Charity for their work with Wyedean staff and students producing this song. Although the weather was against us last week, the first rain for a long time, the BARK Street Art project came into school again to continue their project with Year 9s and creativity and History came alive with the Year 7 model castles last week.  Not all based on Chepstow Castle I should add. Last Friday evening Year 10 student, Amyleigh Brice, was a finalist in the “Pride of the Forest” awards where she narrowly missed winning the award for young community activist. The Forest of Dean community rightly recognised her dedication, leadership and initiative in raising money and awareness for cancer charities.

Year 13 will leave this Friday as we break up for half term. Many of them have been at Wyedean seven years and once the small matter of A levels or BTEC exams are out of the way they should have a long summer to rest and enjoy some freedom.  The next generation of Wyedeaners are getting ready to join us from Year 6, as transitions are starting to take place soon for our primary partners in Monmouthshire and the Forest of Dean.  The day Year 11 left, we were holding appeal panels for those parents who have not been able to get their students into Wyedean School.  It is a nice position to be in, to be oversubscribed as a school because that means the education and the ethos at Wyedean is right for our communities but it is not a nice position when so many families are left in limbo because they cannot get into Wyedean as their school of choice. We are about to see the same for Year 12 with record applicants this year, because the present Year 11 here and in other schools want the quality education, breadth of curriculum choice and wider opportunities our Post 16 centre offers the area.

Not many of the Year 13s would have expected to be in the position of voting right now in the upcoming general election. On Thursday in school, we have a hustings in the JK Rowling library for all parliamentary candidates standing in the Forest of Dean constituency.  I think the school community is looking forward to this unique event and judging by the questions submitted there are a fair few on Brexit also a whole lot more on education, health, tuition fees, taxation, transport, fracking, rural deprivation the list goes on.  Hopefully a lively participatory debate and dialogue to come, and I am grateful to the candidates for agreeing to come to Wyedean School in what we believe will be the only time all will be debating together on the same platform in the Forest seat campaign.  I had a strange email from my French colleague who said that such an event in her school would be unthinkable, and the education system there would not allow politics to enter the school in this way.  Whereas the French and indeed Europe breathed a collective sigh of relief the other Sunday, for me as an educator it is only through these opportunities and events that we get young people engaged in politics. We also develop how to debate and get used to a dialogue with one another in a democratic respectful forum.  I know the French are far from apathetic when it comes to societal issues but if education is abstract from the real world, our students do not have the skills or ability to question or put forward or even challenge arguments then for me we would be failing as teachers.

I will finish with the lovely event from this Sunday just gone, at my daughter’s primary school where they held a family day to support Syrian refugees. The various communities in this part of north Bristol including eastern Europe, the Middle East and even Staple Hill, got together to raise money and awareness of the awful tragedy taking place daily at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea.  For many Syrian refugee families home is now just a diminishing concept and not a place at all. Let us hope the young people we are setting forth into the wider world this summer are the next generation of leaders who can make better-informed decisions and build far more bridges than walls than the present generation.   There is always hope and optimism in this World.  Our young people carry it forward.

Please click HERE to view the Wyedean School and Sixth Form Centre, Year 8 - Journey to the Heart video

Please click HERE to view the Wyedean School Hustings programme – 25th May 2017


2 May 2017

“Today is another opportunity to change the trajectory of your students.” Blunt Educator Twitter Post, April 2017

“The terminology of ‘a culture of high expectations’ is in itself complex and problematic, but any opportunity to explicitly raise expectations should be seen as a moral imperative”.Julie Smith, Director of Teaching and Learning, WyedeanSchool

It’s always good to have a long weekend with the Bank Holiday we’ve just had, but also it’s hard to believe we are now in May already and the countdown for Year 11s and 13s to go on study leave has entered the final few weeks in earnest. The sun shining today certainly gives a summer atmosphere around the campus. The focus on our commitment to compelling teaching and learning for all students at Wyedean School gets shared again this evening in Cardiff; at the kind invitation of South Wales TeachMeet our director of Teaching and Learning, Julie Smith, is presenting to Welsh colleagues on the innovations here at Wyedean. Julie’s recent blog contribution for UK Ed Chat highlights the drive and strategy we have to keep raising standards and expectations for all of our students. I am a huge fan of the Blunt Educator’s Twitter feed, and coming across this quote from April reminded me how important it was for all educators to remember it’s their moral imperative to use every opportunity every day to positively influence the pathways for all the students in our schools. It really doesn’t matter if it is a sunny Spring day in May or a wet Wednesday in gloomy November, the core purpose of a school is to ensure there is always a culture of high expectations to inspire students to learn more, to understand and access their world further and to develop all potential in a nurturing framework. That is the culture of Wyedean. For example, since the start of the new term last week, the brilliant Wyedean Gospel Choir have just won the regional competition to go forward to the national finals in Birmingham. This places Wyedean Gospel Choir amongst the 30 best nationally. Imagine the pride, the whole staff took in hearing that this morning at the end of staff briefing.


It was a pleasure to have former Wyedean student and a local entrepreneur, Neill Ricketts of Versarien, in school today at a careers event for Year 10 talking about his success in business, and inspiring students to think about where the skills, knowledge and understanding they are learning now could possibly take them in the future. Education is often erudite for good reasons but it cannot be in abstract and the best schools bridge this gap. I spent part of my day today working with the Assistant Principal and Director of Sixth Form, John Lane, on the enrichment programme for Post 16 and the careers developments for Sixth Formers. It is no wonder the Sixth Form is inundated with applications, and the curriculum is not narrowing down or excluding subjects for students to study post 16 such as Music or Maths.


The Wyedean Adult Community Learning programme gets underway this evening for the summer programme and this is such a rich element of not only supporting the local community but also the commitment to lifelong learning we have as a school.


Last week I was impressed with the commitment of the student leadership team, led by student president Matt Grindle, who represented the school in Chepstow at the WWI commemoration for Chepstow Victoria Cross hero Able Seaman William Williams who was killed at Gallipoli. A poignant reminder of what previous generations of people of this community have given to ensure young people today can enjoy the freedoms we often take for granted even in this uncertain world. These are the same student leaders who have continued to raise money and collect for Chepstow FOod Bank this term. I often feel confident about the future knowing such strong moral leadership exists in our young people.


The school’s participation in the Carnegie/Greenwood reading scheme has got underway this week inspiring greater numbers of young people to read and develop further their passion for literature. There are two astonishing GB climbers at Wyedean, Finlay and Lyall Wood, who will represent the UK at four international climbing tournaments across Europe this summer. It is incredibly inspiring and both brothers epitomise the very best of our young people. The culture of WyedeanSchool makes you so proud as an educator every day.

Last week, Gwennan Jeremiah, the Vice Principal for the academic side of the school which includes teaching and learning as well as the curriculum, attended an ASCL conference in London looking at exciting opportunities for the future curriculum at Wyedean. Wyedean School is seeking to become an IB World School in 2018, and to offer International Baccalaureate programmes to our students. There are many reasons for any school to look at the IB, not least it’s global learning and curriculum but my central reason is the premise of IB, to look at what the student will become as a result of studying the programme at the end. How refreshing is that for an idea in education, and how exciting for educators, parents and students to look at education this way instead of through the narrow national prism of a politicised curriculum model. The IB learner profile is below. If only politicians were debating the merits of education from this perspective in an election campaign. You have to be an eternal optimist in education.


Finally, the English Learning Area are trending with#whyreadwyewrite throughout May, promoting creative and imaginative writing opportunities that don’t normally exist or happen in the confines and constraints of the formal curriculum. On the day that a former famous inspiring Wyedean student apologised to her fans on Twitter for killing Professor Snape, it seems appropriate that the next generation of writers are given the opportunity at Wyedean to alter their own future trajectories. I love this job.