Letter from JCSC’s Executive Headteacher
It doesn’t seem like almost five years since I took up the post of Executive Headteacher at James Calvert Spence College. I knew that this would be the perfect job for me. JCSC is in a part of the world I visited regularly and thought I knew quite well. Looking back, of course, I had hardly scratched the surface of what makes Amble a unique place. I’ve worked in schools across the northeast, but none have had the same ‘feel’ as JCSC.
In March, when we had to close to the majority of children, I took assemblies with the Year 11 and Year 13 students and told them that JCSC is not a ‘normal school’. It’s much better.
I wanted to impress upon them that, during their time at school with us, they had been treated as individuals with every member of staff giving them the care and understanding we would expect for our own children. Our school has a true community feel, with classes and year groups like families. The school gates and corridors are places where staff and students open doors to each other, are courteous and greet each other warmly, that’s special. That’s not, in my experience, the norm for a school, but it’s what you get at JCSC.
The children and their community make James Calvert Spence College such a warm and welcoming place, and we are lucky to be in such a beautiful part of the world. On the flip side, the rurality of the catchment area is a huge challenge and one that, even after five years, I’m still yet to come to terms with. Providing a wide selection of extra-curricular activities and after-school clubs whilst still ensuring all our students can travel home safely is a constant dilemma.
The question of a new or refurbished building is something that comes up regularly. We’d love to see our community have modern facilities for education and leisure, but plans and conversations around this have been put on the back burner.
The coronavirus pandemic has presented the biggest challenge I’ve faced in my time as a school leader, indeed, the biggest accomplishment for all schools is actually being able to provide an education for its students, whilst keeping them all safe. We all know that life has changed dramatically. This time last year, if you told someone that we’d all be wearing face masks to shop, it would be difficult to go to places like the cinema and you couldn’t legally visit the homes or gardens of friends and family, they wouldn’t believe you. Yet, that’s exactly where we find ourselves.
At JCSC we’re trying to strike the right balance to ensure that our staff and students are kept safe, whilst being able to get on with our job of providing high-quality education. After all, this is our students’ one shot at school. We need to make sure it’s as good as possible, and our dedicated team are doing just that.
Our students have taken the necessary changes in their stride:
• zoned areas around the building
• limited hot food choice (click and collect food for key stage 4)
• teachers moving to them instead of vice versa
• regular hand washing and sanitising before each lesson
• masks for students in Year 7 and above on buses, in corridors and internal communal areas. They’ve been amazing.
We’ve developed positive relationships with our students and community. It’s our unique selling point – we’re big enough to provide lots of opportunities for our students, yet small enough to know them all as individuals, to celebrate their strengths and assist with their weaknesses.
The school’s autumn open evening is traditionally a time when prospective parents get the chance to come into school, meet us and experience the warm interactions we foster. They get the chance to see that, in many cases, the school they went to and remember has changed for the better. They get the chance to see that we’re not just people in suits, but caring people and parents ourselves, who talk passionately about our vision for their children’s education. The coronavirus pandemic has meant this could not happen.
Whilst many schools hosted a virtual open evening, we wanted to meet our community and so in October, we ran a pared-down, socially distant and lockdown compliant open evening alongside a virtual event on Facebook. Meeting the parents and carers of prospective students was lovely and emphasised that though the world around us is quite different, it’s incredibly important for us to keep talking and listening to our community in order to best serve its needs.
January 2021 will come around soon and that will mean five years at JCSC for me (and for Mr Nisbet our Head of School.) The weeks are flying by and we’re looking forward to what 2021 will bring, both for JCSC and the wider community.
Wishing you all the very best for 2021,
Executive Headteacher, JCSC