As we approach the end of term I would like to wish you all a happy and restful Christmas break.
It has been another busy and productive few weeks at school.
During this season of Advent, we have listened to three excellent presentations from local organisations concerning their work in the area: these were the Samaritans, St Michael’s Hospice and Hereford Food Bank. I have been struck by the care and commitment of these respective organisations and how much good work is done by volunteers for the people of Herefordshire. There are some very special people out there, unsung heroes who dedicate hours of their time without reward or question in an attempt to make the lives of others so much better. Whether it is an individual in a crisis and at risk of harm, a person with a life limiting or terminal illness or families who, through no fault of their own, are unable to provide sufficient food, volunteers act selflessly to support such people through their difficulties. These organisations were invited to St Mary’s as one of our final acts in this ‘Year of Mercy’, declared by Pope Francis.
On a related matter, it was so rewarding for me last Tuesday to see the contributions brought in by your children as they were being loaded into the car of the representative from the local Food Bank. I was proud of our contribution to this project and also to Operation Christmas Child: I would like to single out Mr Matthews for having masterminded both of these worthwhile charitable donations. These acts of charity and care for others are important for us all and for the rounded development of your children. It is important for them to see a bigger picture outside of their own ‘mini world’ and to understand that they can make a difference as individuals.
While our own worries and concerns can seem all-consuming at the time, it is important to keep a sense of perspective. I watch with horror the news footage from Aleppo in Syria and witness the fate of the people there. The accounts from those experiencing unbelievable suffering make any worries that we might have pale into relative insignificance. However, because Syria is so far away it is easier to put it out of our mind and that is why I was so pleased to hear from charities on our own doorstep in Herefordshire. They are right here doing great work for our community and we must continue our support and raising awareness of what they do. In turn that enables us to look at ourselves and make decisions about what really matters, and to not be side-tracked by trivia and incidentals.
Your children have worked hard this term. We have been pleased by the work ethic shown, particularly from the majority of Year 11’s who have now completed their mock exams. In addition, your children have given their time for others so generously: the Advent Fayre was another example of a community getting together to raise money, and have fun in the process.
I have a small request of parents in Years 7 and 8. We have for a few years been promoting reading through the Accelerated Reading Scheme but we can do more. I would ask parents to really encourage your child / children to read regularly: the AR programme recommends up to twenty minutes per day. I suggest that you switch off the Wi-Fi for an hour and encourage reading. Perhaps as a stocking-filler this Christmas you could buy them a book? Their ‘mini world’ does exist outside of Snapchat, Instagram and other forms of social media.
Finally, I thank you for your continued support of the school. No organisation is perfect, least of all us, so your tolerance of our idiosyncrasies is much appreciated. I promise we do listen and learn when things go wrong and try to promote a culture of improvement of your child’s education. Working together as partners with strong trusting relationships can make so much difference. In the New Year let us try to really build on that and keep moving this school forward. The well-being and care of your children is core to our mission, but part of that care is to ensure that children (and adults) are robust enough to cope with the general knockbacks of life, as well as the good times: keeping a sense of perspective about ones own troubles is a vital part of that. If we have learned little else, surely the Year of Mercy has taught us that.
Once again, may I wish you all a peaceful Christmas and a happy New Year.