Letter to Parents - Spring 2019

Dear Parents,

January seems a very distant memory now, as this term has definitely flown by, however, two significant events happened right at the beginning of this term.  The first and biggest blow was that Mr David Meadows (Deputy Head Academic) has decided to retire at the end of this academic year.  I think after 19 years of dedication and total immersion in all things Abbey Gate College, that he is deserving of some free time to spend with his family and enjoying his passion for being waist deep in rivers, fly fishing.  David is a consummate professional, who has put AGC at the forefront of everything he has done for the past 19 years – his calm professionalism and passion for teaching history (latterly a lot of Russian history), will be sorely missed by everyone.

As a result of this news we have re-structured the Leadership Team and created two new roles, Director of Studies (dealing with all things curriculum, timetabling and staffing) and Director of Teaching and Learning (dealing with data, progress tracking and monitoring of teaching and learning).  Both appointments (internal) have now been made, I am delighted that Mr Andy Green has accepted the role of Director of Studies and Mr Mike Booth, Director of Teaching and Learning.  Mr Gavin Allmand will be the sole deputy and will continue in his current role supporting myself and the rest of the Leadership Team.

The second piece of news was that we just missed out on being top of the leader board again of the Department of Education Performance Tables in Cheshire West and Chester for Pupil Progress at A level.  As you are aware for the past two years we have come top and although our outstanding progress score again this year matched last year’s 0.3 of a grade higher, we were pipped to the top spot.  A second blow in one month!

Our charity endeavours have been as evident as ever, with support for World Book Day across both sites. Much fun was had dressing up as favourite characters from the world of literature for both staff and pupils at the Infant and Junior School and in Year 7 at the Senior School.   The pupil led fundraising for Comic Relief this year raised £674 with some mad cap adventures taking place throughout the day.  This year we are supporting Trauma Response Network (TRN) as our whole school charity.  This has been set up by one of our parents, Mr Sean Gardner as a result of him and his daughters being caught up in the Manchester Arena Bombing.  The charity aims to respond to trauma following a major incident within 48 hours as opposed to the waiting lists for support of up to and over 12 months currently.  We have had an amazing start, with the proceeds from our recent pupil talent show, raising just under a staggering £2,000 in one evening.  The calibre of talent within the student body at AGC is truly outstanding, and once again the student led and run talent show (huge congratulations to Heather Churchill-Evans and her team) highlighted the depth and range of all that we do creatively.  Our MC for the evening was John Muir who did an excellent job of transitioning one act to the next and well done to Lewis Maundrell for televising his magic trick to us all and more importantly making it work!

Our second Wellbeing Day across both sites was a huge success and something we are very proud of.  We are truly leading the way with our work on positive mindset, mental wellbeing and mental health first aid.  Pupils enjoyed even more personal choice in what they attended throughout the day, and a chance to come off curriculum for the day and to focus on themselves, is obviously something they value from their feedback.  Thank you to all who helped and ran courses for us.

84% of all of our staff currently have had some form of Mental Health First Aid training and just as we are looking after the pupils in our care, we very much want to look after our staff too.  Several wellbeing sessions are being run by outside agencies for the staff and include an introduction to mindfulness, a wellness check and wellness and lifestyle workshop.  Investment in our staff is of paramount importance and although it is almost impossible to reduce workloads easily or lessen the scope of what is required of us all to be a teacher these days, we can hopefully help with strategies on how best to cope and recognise when we are not well and have an understanding of who we can go to for help or how we can best help ourselves.  A huge thank you to Mrs Julie Paterson who has worked tirelessly with our Head of HR, Mrs Beccy Upton to make this happen.

British Science Week (BSW) is a ten-day celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths - featuring fascinating, entertaining and engaging events and activities across the UK for people of all ages and our pupils at the Infant and Junior School had an amazing time taking part in a range of activities with external agencies and Senior School staff. 

Mr Tempest ran a workshop with some children to design and build a dragster, Dr Leatherbarrow led an investigation in J6 to see if there is a relationship between the colour of a party popper and the force needed to pop it.  Our Sixth Form scientists, taught the pupils about the solar system and Foundation, I1 and I2 pupils went on an exciting trip to Techniquest in Wrexham.  A good time was had by all.

Our wonderful librarian, Mrs Julie Littler has worked hard with Mrs Amanda Williams at the Infant and Junior School to get the Junior library up and running.  Everything is now electronically monitored and the J6 pupils and librarians are loving it.  I am glad to say that over the summer the Senior library is to undergo a much needed and well deserved spruce up.  It is such a well-used facility and valued space that we are excited for it to look its best again.

Congratulations must go to our U14 football team who won the ISA North 8-a-side competition outright, by not conceding one match nor one goal all afternoon.  Two other football teams fought valiantly in their respective finals but were pipped into second place recently.  The U11 football team were runners up to 16 other teams at the Franklin’s Star football tournament, which is held in memory of our much loved late football coach, Danny Jones.  Our Year 9 boys worked hard to get to the final of the Chester and District Cup and started off well with the half time the score being 1-1.  In the final half, we were unlucky to concede a couple of goals, forcing us into a very credible second place.  I’m sure next year will be our time boys!

AGC’s equestrian teams are enjoying their time in the limelight too, having had teams qualify for the NSEA County Championships in April and at the prestigious Royal Windsor Horse Show in May.  The team, although small in number, are strong in stature and really have come into their own under the watchful eye of Mrs Katie Holden.  After six years – I am finally able to stroke a horse – thanks Ted (although still from behind a fence!).

We are all looking forward to welcoming our potential next Infant and Junior School pupils at our Big Outdoors, Little Explorers Open Morning on Saturday 18 May from 10-12.30 pm at the Infant and Junior School.  The grounds are looking beautiful at the moment and the children are enjoying their outdoor lessons which have included team building games, outdoor art and den building.  We are very excited that our new Infant building, Hazledine has been nominated for the Best Educational Building at the North West Building Excellence Awards.  There is a team of us going to the awards ceremony and I look forward to sharing the outcome with you.

Our older pupils have been trail blazing in their own way.  Our GCSE Business Studies pupils visited Co-op HQ in Manchester and were very well looked after by Craig Noonan (Head of Food Retail PR) and Amanda Jennings (Director of Marketing Engagement).  The pupils were fascinated to hear about the Co-op’s festival pop-up shops and came up with a few ideas of their own, which I think they may see come to fruition.  

At Sixth Form level, huge congratulations have to go to our Young Enterprise team who won the Cheshire County final held at the University of Chester.  They fought off competition from 12 other schools and won Company of the Year as ‘Green Bean.’  The team’s product which they created and developed is a mini bean bag made from recyclable materials which can be used as a stress aid and as something to assist in helping develop fine motor skills.  They now go onto represent the county at the North West Regional Company of the Year final in Lancaster in May.  Good luck!!

I am happy to share with you some news about the plan to alleviate the continuing issue we have with parking outside the Senior School.  In the summer holidays we are going to create a new parking area on site which will accommodate up to 60 cars.  This in turn will negate the need for any employees or Sixth Form pupils having to park in the spaces opposite the entrance to College.  This will then allow parents at pick up time to park in the designated parking spaces outside the College, instead of on the road, on the grass verges and around blind corners.  As ever, I would really value your co-operation in this matter by parking safely at the end of the school day, ensuring the safety of our pupils.

Finally, I would like to thank you for your support at our Passiontide service earlier this week at Chester Cathedral, which I hope you will all agree was a beautiful service.  The choirs and readers were once again magnificent and added to the solemnity and mood of the occasion.  Thank you also for the ‘parent power’ as alluded to in my Broadsheet article this term, which helps us to keep the wheels turning and the opportunities plentiful and varied for the pupils.

I wish you all a wonderful Easter break and look forward to welcoming the pupils back to College on Wednesday 24 April.

Mrs Tracy Pollard 


Published: Friday, 5th April 2019