Weekly bulletin 03/02/2023
Please see the latest bulletin below...
Dear UCC Families
I understand that your week will most likely have been punctuated by some form of disruption following the NEU strike. The core issue at the centre of this strike action is the unfunded pay award that schools have had to deal with this year; this has a had a hugely detrimental impact on our budget and has meant we are striving to make in-year savings in order to balance the books. The way in which pay decisions are communicated to schools by the government is appalling; we only learned how much we should be paying our teaching staff in November, several months after term started and half a year after we were required to finalise our budget. It is quite absurd, and no business would ever operate with such bizarre timelines and funding models. However, there are other, well documented issues in education, all of which have the teaching profession in a precarious position, with very concerning recruitment and retention figures each year. In many schools this means that it is not always possible to employ a subject specialist to teach core elements of the curriculum. Fortunately, we have subject specialists in all our classes at UCC, but it is extremely challenging and we have to work very hard to recruit and retain talented teachers. At the centre of all this, are of course, your children, and I know this week you will have experienced an inconvenience with the disruption to their education. I do apologise for this, but it is important that people in the profession are fighting for a better deal, so that young people across the country can learn, develop, grow and thrive in an education system that is properly resourced and funded. At UCC we were open to Year 11 students and a handful of others across Y7-10, all of whom worked very well whilst in school. I will spend the next week or so analysing our options for future strike days, based on the number of colleagues who are likely to be in school on March 1st. This will have to be balanced, of course, with any other factors, such as sickness absence levels, much closer to the time. I will endeavour to give families a week's notice of our intended plan, so that you have time to organise your arrangements at home. Whilst I cannot be specific at the moment, I anticipate there being another partial closure, but not to the same extent as this week.
I spent some time this week, walking around our new teaching block with the building contractors. I was amazed at the speed of their progress and it was great to see the new spaces taking shape. Our new classrooms for MFL, Business Studies and our Mainstream Plus cohorts will be superb, with beautiful views across our fields and the Welland Valley. Everything is on track for an April/May completion and I look froward to sharing more progress updates in future weeks.
We are planning to complete a number of other projects to improve the school environment over the summer break, including remodelling one of the toilet blocks. I spent some time with the Student Council Year Reps this morning talking them through our initial designs and listening to their feedback. This project is at an early stage currently but will gather momentum this term and hopefully lead to a fabulous set of new facilities for students to return to in September.
Following consultation with various colleagues and students, lockers will no longer be available to hire from next academic year. In recent years, the number of students requesting a locker has decreased significantly and some of the students who do hire one, make very little use of it. The lockers do take up a considerable amount of space in some of the busiest parts of the college and in freeing up these areas, will present an opportunity to improve some of our communal spaces. It is appreciated that some students do use their locker regularly and may find this inconvenient at first, but in making and informing you of this decision now, hopefully students will become accustomed to plan and only bring the required resources for the day ahead.
We are approaching the time of year when Year 9 students have the exciting opportunity to begin shaping their curriculum, through the Options process. Whereas some schools limit the number of subjects students can choose, by enforcing an Ebacc pathway (compulsory MFL and Humanities), we have an open process where students can make 4 choices and really tailor their curriculum to their interests and passions. Mr Brooks, Deputy Principal, will be communicating with families to outline the Options process next week. However, here are the headlines:
- Most students will be able to choose 4 options from a list of about 16 subjects.
- English, Maths and Science are compulsory, and are not part of the options process.
- In the week beginning 13th February students will receive the Options Booklet, which sets out details of all the options they can choose.
- We are also holding an Options Evening on 16th February between 5:30pm and 7:30pm, when you can talk to Heads of Department about their subjects.
- After half term you will receive a report and there will be a parents' evening on 8th March. The options choices themselves need to be completed by Monday 17th March.
- There will be support from our careers advisor throughout the process.
Next week on Wednesday (8th) we are hosting Year 11 Parents' Evening, which is the final opportunity to discuss your child's progress with their class teacher. The event is online and the booking window closes at midday next Wednesday.
For families of Year 7 children, please be on the lookout for a 'Transition' survey we will be sending to you next week. We are keen to further enhance this experience for young people and families, so that we can quickly create a strong sense of belonging at UCC and make the experience of transitioning from primary to secondary school a smooth and enjoyable one. Your experiences and feedback will be gratefully received.
Please take the time to read through the rest of the Newsletter.
I hope you have a great weekend.
Mr B Solly