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Brandles School

Part of Larwood Academy Trust

Mr Pearce's Blog

With the emergence of our new website, I would like to welcome you to my first Blog.

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  • Mr Pearce’s Blog

    Published 09/07/21, by Robert Adams

    We are entering my final couple of weeks as Head at Brandles and there is absolutely no doubt that the past five years have been some of the most remarkable and rewarding of my career in education.

    A couple of hundred young men – many of whom are now young adults – have passed through our doors in that time and are now making their way in the world.

    It has been a privilege to get to know each one of them and their families.

    I do believe that it is the right time for me to make a move, although it was not a decision I made lightly.

    Head teachers may be described as control freaks – but age is one thing that I have no control over and if I am going to embark on a new journey in education, I need to be young enough to have the energy to throw my ‘everything’ into it.

    I have experienced the full range of emotions, foremost among them sadness that I will be leaving this place, where I have worked with so many amazing people, both as colleagues and students.

    Of course, I am excited about the future, as I know I can move on to the next chapter in my life secure in the knowledge that Brandles school is in the best place it has ever been, with great staff, amazing students, and extremely supportive parents.  I have also got to get out of the way of Mr Smith, so he can assume the leadership of Brandles and take it from strength to strength.  I know he will do a fantastic job and I wish him and his team every success.

    Martin Bertulis who was the Challenge Partner Lead and an Ofsted Inspector for five years wrote the following about Brandles.

    “Brandles is one of the most inspirational schools I have visited.”

    And over the lockdown period, we received many messages of support from our parents; an example of one is shared below:

    “To the most dedicated, approachable, inspirational and genuinely caring school staff that we’ve ever come across. We just wanted to say that you’re all doing such an AMAZING job and that goes to all of you from Leadership to teaching staff, pastoral team and admin you all go above and beyond as always. You’ve made such a huge positive difference to our boy and on our family life, S is a different child to when he first arrived at your gates three years ago. We’ve never seen him so happy and settled. Please keep smiling, keep safe and we thank you all from the bottom of our hearts and thank you for taking the time to phone and check we are doing okay, it means such a lot. We know we always have your support.”

    Those two quotes are just a couple of examples of a legacy of which the whole school community should be extremely proud.

    I would like to thank all the teaching and support staff, Sean Trimble as CEO of the Trust, and the Trustees for their time, emotional investment, and hard work; everything achieved at Brandles is a team effort.

    With regards to the young men of Brandles, I will miss the daily interaction.  We have cultivated an ethos where the individual is encouraged to be just that, an individual.  One size fits all is definitely not our approach at Brandles.

    All the students at Brandles School give the place its distinct flavour, and while they have made their mark on us, I hope we have made a lasting impression on them.

    Indeed, one of the real pleasures in this job is meeting ex-students who come back to tell us of their personal successes and how much they miss the school.

    Goodbye and good luck to the Brandles team, students, and families.  I wish you all a fond farewell and every success in the future.

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  • Mr Pearce’s Blog

    Published 24/06/21, by Robert Adams

    The term continues to fly by, and it has certainly been a busy one! I have summarised below.

    Year 11 students

    All our Year 11s have completed their courses and their final grades were submitted to exam boards on Friday 18th June.  We wish them every success for the future and hope they can attend our Prizes and Awards event on Tuesday 20th July.

    Virtual Review by Challenge Partners.

    In normal circumstances, this type of event would have equated to three/four colleagues visiting the school, going into lessons, and having a range of conversations with staff. As you would expect, this had to be planned for in September, and at that stage with so many unknowns relating to the pandemic, I opted for a virtual review.

    Please note that Challenge Partners describe themselves as follows: ‘We work with schools across the country, sharing excellent practice, facilitating peer review and running programmes grounded in evidence of what works, so that all pupils can benefit from the combined wisdom of the system, and of other sectors.’ Therefore, due to pandemic and the need to allocate a virtual consultancy review, this resulted in:

    · Three reviewers – The Lead being Martin Bertulis, ex Headteacher and Ofsted Inspector and two senior Leaders from similar schools attending a series of events over three days with us.

    · In depth meetings to explore leadership, behaviour, and curriculum.

    · Meetings with nine staff and the CEO of the Trust

    · Meetings with parents

    · Meetings with students

    · Scrutiny of a range of documents including the School Development Plan and Self Evaluation documents.

    The formal report identifies, what is working well and ‘even better ifs.’ This is the same format that we review lessons when we observe them. The process was challenging and helpful and represents a set of ‘external eyes’, helping us to review our progress and direction.

    The report is extremely positive and can be read in full on the Website under the Ofsted banner.

    Please read a few of the snippets below:

    “Students benefit from an innovative, well-planned curriculum, which builds on the Brandles hierarchy, to ensure that students are ready to learn and contribute to society. In later years at Brandles, students make accelerated academic progress, and many achieve vocational qualifications and GCSEs. The curriculum has a strong commitment to spiritual and moral development. Students’ behaviour and conduct are well understood.”

    “Community engagement is a major feature of school life. The extensive range of activities include, the Duke of Edinburgh Bronze and Silver Awards, bushcraft, visits to care homes, volunteering in charity shops and litter picking.”

    Attainment gaps for students have mostly closed. Assessment and mock examination data show that three students are likely to attain GCSE grade 6s in PE and art, the highest ever grades attained at Brandles.

    New builds

    The foundations for the new music room were laid this week so hopefully the room will be completed very soon.

    All planning permission for the new classroom block of two classrooms next to the gym has been agreed and the construction will be starting shortly.


    Drug and Gang Awareness

    We were extremely fortunate to be able to secure the services of Paul Hannaford.  Over the past 10 years he has built a successful career educating over 400,000 school children from multiple year groups.

    Paul offers workshops and talks about the dangers of addiction, drugs, and alcohol as well as involvement in gangs, knife crime and county lines. Through his own experiences as a former addict of over 20 years, he conveyed an incredibly powerful and hard-hitting message.  I am sure that some of the boys have gone home after the workshop, discussing what they have learned.


    Prizes and Awards Event on Tuesday 20th July

    Unfortunately, after Boris Johnson’s announcement we have been informed that we cannot hold a large-scale presentation day as we had first planned.  This will not stop us, however.  It is so important that we celebrate our students’ achievements and say goodbye properly to our Year 11s.

    We are still planning to have an outside speaker, live music, and plenty of awards to present, but we will have to restrict the live audience to students and staff.  We are planning to stream the event live so that parents can watch it in real time, with the students being able to see their parents/carers faces on a screen like they did with the Zoom audience on Britain’s Got Talent. 

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  • Mr Pearce’s Blog

    Published 28/05/21, by Robert Adams

    I am enjoying the fact that I can write this Blog celebrating that much of school has returned to normal.  Not only have many of the restriction lifted at Brandles, but we also have boys leaving the school site to engage in a variety of activities ranging from work-experience to golf lessons and photography.

    I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the boys, through your support as parents, for helping us achieve the best attendance the school has ever had.  Overall, the boys have also arrived punctually and well dressed, taking a real pride in the school and their own appearance.

    Laptop Returns

    Throughout the lockdown we supported many students with a laptop helping them engage in online learning.  Please could you ensure these are brought back to the Pastoral Office by Friday 11th June.  These are a valuable resource that can be put to good use in and around school.  Thank you.

    Looking forward to next half-term.

    We will be saying farewell to our Year 11 students who will be moving on to new and exciting things.   They have been real characters around the school and will be missed.  We wish them all well and hope they come back to visit us often.

     Mr L Wainwright and Mr C Russell are organising a sports day in the penultimate week of term.  This will not be restricted to the traditional athletics events but will encompass many different activities across the day to get as many boys involved as possible.

    Covid allowing, we will be organising several trips and visits for all boys before the year is out, and the term will culminate in our Prizes and Awards Day on Tuesday 20th July 2021.

    I wish you all a wonderful, relaxing, and safe break over half-term.

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  • Mr Pearces Blog

    Published 04/05/21, by Robert Adams

    The weeks of the summer term are passing, and we are beginning to enjoy the opportunities afforded by the Lockdown being lifted.

    It is great to see boys leaving the school site to take part in photography trips to Royston Heath, the driving range at a local golf course and work experience at ‘Waste Not want Not.’

    As there are no formal examinations again this year for our Year 11s, staff and boys are working hard to complete coursework and provide supporting evidence for their Centre Assessed Grades. 

    Many have been asking when their last day of lessons will be.  In short, every boy will finish at a different time as it will be dependent on them finishing their work. 

    Every student will be provided with a sign-off sheet and when their coursework is completed and they have submitted their portfolios of work, they will be signed off and will no longer need to attend.  The earliest boys will be complete will be the last day of this half-term Friday 28th May 2021; no boys will be allowed to finish before this time.  We would expect all boys to be complete within the first two weeks after half-term, but this will be determined by the speed that students finish off coursework.

    In the next couple of weeks, we are welcoming some new residents to Brandles School.   Some hens’ eggs are arriving which will be nurtured by the boys in science and when they hatch will make their new home in the quad.

    Our new music room has been delivered and should be erected over the next few weeks.  We have also received encouraging reports that our two new classrooms being built next to the gym will be in place for September.

    Finally, I would like to remind you again that our Prizes and Awards day will be on Tuesday 20th July.  Please keep the morning free as invites will be sent out nearer the time.

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  • Summer Term

    Published 14/04/21, by Robert Adams

    With the emergence of our new website, I would like to welcome you to my first Blog.

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  • Off-site opportunities

    Published 14/04/21, by Robert Adams

    Despite being locked down, we have not been complacent.  We have developed new relationships with alternative providers that can offer the boys new experiences and greater variety in their learning.

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  • Learning to Listen ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

    Published 14/04/21, by Robert Adams

    provides an opportunity for boys to work with horses. This is a wonderful experience for some of our young men that struggle in other environments.  They not only care for the animals and learn to ride them, but they build relationships with the horses and learn the importance of caring for something other than themselves.

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  • Creative Minds

    Published 14/04/21, by Robert Adams

    in Hitchin offer mentoring for young people and work-based learning in Music, Catering etc.  They have remained open during lockdown and have been an excellent resource for several of our young people that need something different from the day-to-day Brandles experience.

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  • Waste-Not-Want Not ​​​​​​​

    Published 14/04/21, by Robert Adams

    is a new partnership for us and we have our first five boys visiting on April 21st, 2021.  They are a horticulturally based social enterprise and community interest company which uses horticulture as a therapeutic tool to assist young people.   Their aim is to create a friendly and supportive environment for positive activity where the boys can make new and supportive friendships and feel included in their local community.  Waste-Not-Want-Not seeks and gains donations from organisations including B&Q, Country Gardens, Europlants, Ayletts, A1 Nurseries and members of the public – they give them their unwanted plants which would otherwise end up in landfill. They nurture them and sell them at the nursery. They also receive unwanted used items including fencing panels, mesh wire and other materials which they recycle and put to good use.

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  • On-site developments

    Published 14/04/21, by Robert Adams

    As a school our popularity continues to grow, as does our waiting list to gain a place.  Consequently we are at a stage where we desperately need more space to deliver the wide range of activities on offer to the boys.

    We have a new music room being delivered on 16th April, which we hope to be erected by the end of the summer half-term.

    We also have two new classrooms being built between the fire station and the gym and a further two classrooms being built next to the outside classroom.

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  • Staffing

    Published 14/04/21, by Robert Adams

    After Roger Grybowicz retired as site manager last term, we have now welcomed his replacement, Joe Vary who started over half-term.  I am sure he will settle in quickly and have some of the boys working alongside him; keeping the learning environment  clean, fresh and vibrant.

    We also have Mr Grover joining us from 19th April to teach Performing Arts and English.  Ms Manning has done a stirling job covering this position for the last few months and we would like to thank her for everything that she has done.

    As explained in the Headteacher’s letter at the end of the Spring Term, I will also be moving on at the end of the summer term and Mr Smith will be stepping up to lead the school in September.  This provides us with plenty of time for a smooth transition, ensuring the school moves seamlessly into the 2021/22 academic year.

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  • Prizes and Awards

    Published 14/04/21, by Robert Adams

    Prizes and Awards

    Two years ago we held a tremendous prizes and awards event that involved the boys’ achievements being celebrated with their parents, a guest speaker, live music and drinks and snacks.  Unfortunately the pandemic put pay to this last year, but we are hoping that we can resume proceedings on the last day of the Summer Term.  Please can you make a note in your diary for 20th July when you will be invited to celebrate a challenging but highly successful year at Brandles School.  We will put a contingency plan in place just in case the worst happens and Covid begins to re-emerge and curtail our activities.

    As always I would like to thank you for your continued support and we look forward to a return to a degree of normality as the Summer Term progresses.

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