Pocklington School

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Headmaster's Blog - Farewell to a special school

When I leave Pocklington School at the end of this term, I will do so with many cherished memories of my time here. I’ve watched pupils grow into accomplished young adults and shared teachers’ satisfaction in seeing hard work and dedication pay off.

Thank you to parents present and past for the trust you place in Pocklington School in educating your children and helping them to become young men and women of whom society will be proud.

I am indebted to colleagues who work consistently hard to ensure it continues to run smoothly and remains an exciting and supportive place to learn. Thanks, too, to the governors for contributing so much of your time and being a source of advice and challenge.

The School itself has evolved considerably over the last decade, with the addition of buildings and facilities which have helped make it the comfortable, safe and stimulating environment in which pupils thrive. The OP community have been remarkable in their support, donating generously to our fundraising for the Annand VC Centre, our floodlights on the Astro pitches and, more recently, the Art and Design Technology Centre. So, too, have our wider School community of parents past and present who have shared in our vision of providing excellent all-round facilities.

A successful school never stands still and I believe a creative, forward-thinking environment is the best setting for children to learn. Many of our staff have outside interests and areas of study which feed in to the classroom, to the benefit of pupils. The Chatta learning app, which we championed and used from its earliest days, was recently named as one of the most inspiring education innovations in the world. It has benefitted the language skills of our early learners and non-native speakers, and is now being used in schools across the UK and globally.

The new Careers and Business Network is already enabling the whole school community to share advice and new opportunities; thanks to OP speakers who have generously shared their experiences. Older pupils are finding it a particularly useful insight into the world of work and I have no doubt it will go from strength to strength.

The School’s excellent pastoral care is a huge source of pride. Our committed staff regard safeguarding pupil wellbeing as an essential part of their role and the School has rightly become a beacon for its mental health and wellbeing provision. This term we became the first boarding school in the country to receive the Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools’ Boarding School Mental Health Award – many thanks to all involved.

Our support staff regularly go above and beyond to ensure pupils have a secure and pleasant environment. When a burst water main cut our School water supply several years ago, domestic staff swung into action to ensure the school remained open; even ferrying buckets of water from the swimming pool to keep our toilets in working order. When the “Beast from the East” descended in March, our support staff struggled in to school through the snow and ice to clear pathways, spread grit, keep corridors clean and feed us. The School simply couldn’t function without their dedication and attention to detail.

We all come to school to learn and venturing out of our comfort zone is an essential part of that. I have practised what I’ve preached – and can attest that I have learned a lot about myself along the way. The first of these that spring to mind is my lack of dancing ability. Apologies once again to Sheena McNamee, my dance partner for the Strictly Pock charity dancing competition, held in aid of Help for Heroes. As we strutted our stuff to Disco Inferno, I was consistently half a beat off the rhythm; and take full responsibility for our lack of success.

I thoroughly enjoyed my acting sojourn when I joined the cast of Animal Farm last year, but despite the kindness of the cast and my euphoria at getting through it, I realise a career switch was never on the cards. Ditto my solo singing attempts, which our Director of Music Martin Kettlewell called “courageous”. I will also not forget when then-pupil Will Blackburn took me on a glider flight over the Yorkshire Wolds. His calm confidence helped me face down my flying fears – and reminded me that as teachers; the best service we can provide is to instil the confidence and courage to allow pupils to take the lead.

Undoubtedly the greatest reward of being part of Pocklington School has been the pupils themselves. All that they achieve, in the classroom, on the sports field, on the stage and in other co-curricular areas, is a testament to their strengths and drive. The characteristic that sets Pocklingtonians apart – the Spirit of Pock – is hard to pin down but easy to recognise in the mutual support, respect, friendship, sense of fun and a quiet confidence.

I received the following email from a teacher who met our teachers and students on their tour of South Africa this summer:

“Having just returned from South Africa myself I felt that you would like to hear about the very favourable impression the pupils and staff of your school made on my wife and I as we shared time with them at the Kariega game reserve at the end of our respective trips.

The pupils conduct was exemplary at all times and their sense of fun and enjoyment throughout was evident. As a teacher myself who has experience taking groups abroad I can appreciate the care and planning which goes in to making the tour a success.

The staff supervision was excellent and you should be proud of how this group represented your school.”

I will always be proud of all we have achieved together at Pocklington School. I will continue to carry the Spirit of Pock with me and wish you all the very best as I leave you in the very capable hands of new Headmaster Toby Seth.