HERE IS YOUR CHANCE TO FIND OUT WHAT IT IS LIKE TO BE THE HEADTEACHER OF OUR FANTASTIC SCHOOL......
Thursday 6th May 2021.... Well I suppose it had to happen at some point, once we opened to the children again. We had to close the Reception Class Bubble on Friday last week because of one, then two positive Covid cases. It means the children and staff can't be in school until the 11th May - but that is the world we are still in and everyone knows, so parents and staff (and even children) totally get it! The teachers are tonight doing the second of the Zoom Parents' Evenings..... another new skill we have had to learn in the last year and a half.
I am finishing as the Headteacher of St Mary's at the end of August. I have had the genuine privilege of doing this job for 12 years and it seems like the right time to give someone else a go. Miss Jenna Smith will take over from September and of course I will be supporting her induction between now and then. I will miss St Mary's and all the children and adults I work with every day, but I know this is the right thing for me and actually, I know it will be the right thing for St Mary's in the long term. Several children have asked me "Why do you have to leave us?"..... I've not yet perfected my answer, but it could be worse - it could be "Why haven't you left yet?" :-)
Wednesday 10th March.... Everyone back in school again, as of the 8th March. Lots of Covid safety measures in place of course, but the place feels a bit more like a real school once more! The Governors appointed my successor last week - Miss Jenna Smith will start as the new Headteacher in September 2021. It kind of feels like the school is ready for a change and a revised way of doing things, so I hope Miss Smith brings this. At the same time, I pray she will recognise the fundamental beauty of our school and all the great stuff we get up to in normal times. That will certainly make me feel less guilty about leaving!
Little something to make you smile - I was leading an assembly in the hall the other day and after a long, thoughtful, spiritual 10 minutes, with lots of great discussion about the return to school, and some analysis of the time Jesus went into the Temple and threw out the money changers and animal traders, one little girl in the front row (who had had her hand up for quite a while) could wait no longer - so I asked her for her question. "Mr Brennan your head is very shiny today." ...... I took it as compliment! What else!?
Friday 22nd January.... Made it to the end of the third week of the current lockdown. We have about 65 children in school who are from vulnerable families or have critical worker parents. I led an assembly this morning for our youngest children. About 25 of them sat down in front of me - but well away from me of course. I read them the story of the man who was cured of leprosy by Jesus, along with 9 others. At the beginning of the story we hear how Jesus saw the group in the distance and all of them were wearing masks. I asked the children why they thought they were wearing masks and nearly half immediately lifted their arms to give me an answer - One little boy said "Because they were going to a fancy dress party?". Ha... if only!! Sadly, the next child I asked said what I was expecting - "Because of Coronavirus?".
Friday 8th January.... We started back at school on Monday as normal, even though there had been a lot of discussion and national debate about whether this would be a good idea considering the infection rates around the country were very high and continuing to rise - though in Calderdale we were among the lowest in the country. The new variant was also a massive concern. Unfortunately I was not able to be in school because I had to isolate with my wife and son, who had tested Positive for Covid19 just before Christmas. Then, on Monday evening we had another announcement from the PM putting us into a National Lockdown again. With no notice we had to make quick changes to everything, yet again! On Wednesday we opened to about 50 children from Critical Worker and Vulnerable families. This number is of course much higher than we ever experienced in the first lockdown and is stretching our resources significantly. Teachers have stayed at home and are teaching Zoom lessons every day, then following up with work tasks and feedback on the Seesaw App. Our wonderful team of TAs are coming into school every day and are supporting the children in school whilst they access their Zoom lessons and do their work tasks. We are also doing Lateral Flow Tests (result in 30minutes) twice a week with almost all staff. We are also mobilising our spare kitchen staff to make up food hampers for around 70 FSM children who want them. Yet again, we have a new 'norm' and we just have to get on with it. I am so proud of everyone I work with!
Monday 14th December 2020..... So as we move into the third week of Advent 2020 and the last week in school until 2021 I think we should reflect on the year that has passed. I can't say it has been a JOY, even though lighting the pink candle today on our Advent Wreath might normally be expected to inspire that emotion in us. In truth, this year has been the hardest I have experienced in my teaching career by far! When I think about what has happened to us because of Covid, I don't mind admitting I could cry. I know it is temporary but knowing it and feeling it are two different things. It sometimes feels like all the eleven years of my headship here at St Mary's has been wiped away unbelievably quickly and so easily! But actually..... Advent is a perfectly placed antidote to this downtrodden feeling. The word derives from the latin 'adventus' (meaning 'coming' or 'arrival'). Covid has honed us down into a core of what we are about, and the new year gives us a unique opportunity to reset the bar and re-build our school in a new format, whilst not forgetting to keep the core values we have always treasured!
Thursday 3rd December..... "Mr Brennan, can you guess what I am?" .... a very excited little girl ran up alongside me in a light brown jumpsuit-type outfit, as I was walking down the KS1 corridor! Now I happened to know that her class were getting changed into their Nativity costumes in preparation for a rehearsal, so I had a stab at an answer - "Ermmm.... are you a cow?" "No" said replied. "Well.... what about a donkey?" "No" she said, getting a bit frustrated. "Oh, I know. You are a camel!" "Yes I am, and," pointing to two other children nearby, one of whom was in a pair of underpants and the other hidden underneath a massive cloak "he's a villager and she's a King!" Life isn't back to normal at all. We have to film the Nativity and post it on the website, we can't have an Advent Mass together, we can't have assemblies in the hall. we can't sing together except in small spaced out class bubbles and we can't have visitors (even fleeting ones like Santa!)....... But nevertheless, we do have two lovely Christmas trees, lights at the front of school, an Advent Wreath, purple cloth everywhere and a number of Advent/Christmas themed non-uniform days. We will also be helping around 10 families with some presents, a little bit of money and some food hampers donated by anonymous members of the community and parish and a couple of local charities. Advent 2020 - But not as we know it from the past! Let's pray we can get rid of this horrid Virus quickly, and look forward to a more normal Spring and Summer and Advent 2021!!
Wednesday 18th November..... Well it has happened! ..... The Covid virus has started to impact on our school in a more direct way. Since last Friday we have unfortunately identified two positive cases within the school community that have resulted in us having to close 5 classes. This is putting a huge strain on our systems and our staffing resources and currently we not only have around 130 children isolating, but also 14 members of staff not able to be in school.
Last night (around 4pm) we had a vehicle turn upside down at the junction with Arden Road. I wasn't in school but a parent showed me a video clip of the moments following the incident. There were paramedics and police in attendance of course. Luckily the person involved didn't seem to have suffered serious injury. This morning a boy in one of the classes we were sending home came up to me and said "Mr Brennan I know why we have to go home..... it's cos of the car accident last night!" Oh how I wish he was right!
Thursday 22nd October..... We break for the half term today and I was looking back to this time last year on my photos on my phone yesterday. We were of course celebrating the Harvest as a whole school community and the photos of a packed school hall, children setting up the display of donated produce and our Faith in Action Y6 packing bags to put into a car to take to a charity, made me think how so much about this fantastic school has had to change in the last year. With God's will I hope this very stressful and challenging period in the life of our school ends at some point before the end of the Summer 2021 - surely that is not too unrealistic a hope?
Something to make you smile (I hope the parent involved is not offended at me posting it)..... I was out at the top of the road on Tuesday morning, guarding the road closure barriers as usual, when a parent flying by with her push chair and baby asked if she had enough time to quickly go home and bring back a family photo for her daughter to take "on the trip to 'college' today?". I was very confused of course and told her I didn't know anything about this Y5 trip and I doubted we had any children going to the college today (if nothing else, because of Covid!?). "I had a text about it last night and this morning I got a reminder" she replied with total conviction and confidence. She then proceeded to check the text again ............ "Y5 will be doing a collage in school today. Please can your child bring a photo of themselves to help with this project? Thank you." We both laughed!
Tomorrow the teachers and lots of the TAs will be having some training on ASD, but before that I have volunteered to serve them bacon and sausage sandwiches (or bagels for the Veggies!) with some nice coffee from Mr Brown. The way people have reacted you would have thought I'd offered to give them a £1000...... Wait til the taste them!
Thursday 17th September...... Myth Buster Time!..... Following conversations with several parents over the last week I thought I would give some clarity on some of the wilder rumours flying around out there - 1) We do not have an experimental vaccine for Covid19 and we are not injecting children with it! 2) We are not allowed to test children for Covid19 and even though we have some testing kits these are to give to parents who can't access the testing centres, not for us to use on children! 3) We will not be sending children to 'isolation camps' if they have symptoms or if they have tested positive - they will just go home. I am sure there will be a few more myths to give clarity on as the weeks go by! HANDS - FACE - SPACE! Ha Ha
Friday 4th September 2020.... Having been without more than two thirds of our lovely, creative, exciting, enthusiastic and wonderful pupils since the end of March we are now just a few days away from having them all back! We open Wednesday and although things will still be very different to what we normally have in place each September, at the heart and soul of everything will still be that very special St Mary's ethos. There will be a few new faces among the staff, a whole set of new faces among the pupils and a few subtle changes to the building - new toilets for KS2, a very posh newly decorated and refurbished Staffroom and some nice door corridor doors in a few spots. I have deliberately not mentioned all the 'stuff' we have to have in place to ensure our school is as Covid Safe as possible..... I'm sure the children will tell parents all about these over the next few weeks, and of course we all hope they won't be needed for very long.
Pray for us as we start 2020-21!
Monday 24th August 2020..... The end of term came quite slowly in July but it certainly wasn't quiet or boring! We ended the year with a fantastic series of events and activities for Y6 which meant they had the best possible send off we could provide given the Covid19 situation. We finished the year with about a third of the children in school (Y6, Y1 & Rec + Vulnerable and Key Worker children). By the last week we had offered Zoom sessions to all children except those in Reception, on at least three occasions. We continued setting work on our website through the whole of the Summer and teachers rang families at least once, to check they were ok. The SLT did calls nearly every week to families that were more at risk. I am very proud of our achievements in supporting families through the crisis. We did everything we could to keep the school going and to ensure pupils were safe.
I am now sitting in my room planning for the return of all children on the 9th September. It will be another very challenging year I'm sure, with lots of problems to solve on the hoof! We will cope though.... we have become experts at finding solutions to everything that has been thrown at us since March, and my wonderful team of hard working, dedicated staff will put their 'First Best' into everything once again. I'm glad we have all had a proper Summer break - it was definitely needed!
Tuesday 16th June 2020..... Things have moved on since my last posting. The school started to feel a little more 'normal' as soon as our 20 Y6 children came back. They were all nervous and oddly quiet to start with, and they still are in many ways, but gradually they are relaxing and enjoying the 1:10 ratio in each pod (or Kingdom as we are calling them). We then brought in Y1s and they have been with us about a week. There are currently only 12 children in, so very small numbers and lots of room to socially isolate! The Reception children came back on Monday 15th and they have been small numbers as well. 7 altogether - It feels like a Private School. We are bringing Y5 in from next Monday, and they will be with us in split groups of about 6 per class on mornings and afternoons 3 days per week. It will be great to have them back. We will need to invest lots of booster work and support into them, so they can hit the ground running in September!
I did a spot check on several children's hand washing abilities today..... Needless to say, they are all experts! We will have the cleanest generation of children ever, by the end of this Covid19 period!
I keep reminding the children that they are literally living through history at the moment and they will probably have their children and grand children studying this period of history in school! I have advised them to write diaries and take photos, so they can help them with their homework in the future!!
Wednesday 3rd June 2020...… We open to 16 Y6 children from tomorrow as part of our response to the DfE's request that we open to more children, beyond those we are already providing for as children of Key Workers and Vulnerable children. This decision has been very hard to make, as you will imagine. I have of course thought it through extremely carefully, with the help of the staff, governors, DfE, LA, Diocese and parents, as well as lots of my fabulously supportive headteacher colleagues. Our school will be very different to what it was like in March, when we started the lockdown. We have worked very hard to get to a point where we are ready - we can't promise that staff or children will not get Covid19, but we can promise that we will all do our absolute best to avoid this happening. Please pray for me and our beautiful school, as we enter a very strange period of our history! We will get through this together and we will be even more beautiful in the future!
Wednesday 6th May 2020..... Just a lovely story in these very difficult times - A little 6 year old boy who is with us because his parent is a Key Worker rushed into his classroom last week full of the joys of Spring! His teacher asked why he was so pleased with himself. "I'm really pleased because Cpt. Tom has raised £33 million for the PTFA by walking up and down his garden!" I need to inform the Chair of the PTFA that she can expect a huge bonus for next year!! :-)
Saturday 11th April 2020.... We are now 3 weeks into the national lockdown to help fight the Covid19 virus. School is a very strange place now, as you will imagine. We have about 7 members of staff in each day (including someone in the kitchen, a cleaner, Mr Griffin our wonderful Caretaker, and TAs and teachers. We great the small number of children still accessing school at 9am each day, Usually this amounts to between 4 and 7 children. They sometimes spend the whole day together or we might split them into older and younger groups if we have enough. We do a bit of exercise with Joe Wicks on the internet first and then perhaps some bits of work from the packs teachers have produced for you to do online. There might be some science or art work next and then the afternoon tends to be something outside if the weather is good - which it has been generally. Lunch is strange as well, because we have to sit separately with a couple of metres between us. However, there are positives.... the hall is very peaceful and every child get one to one support - indeed throughout the day there are actually more adults around than children! We are talking and listening to each other much more and we are appreciating each other in a deeper and more compassionate way. We are being more creative with our activities and the children are getting so much more time to just be themselves. I don't know about you, but we are finding we notice nature more, especially the birds and insects that inhabit our grounds. The pond is full of frogs and frog spawn at the moment and we have had hedgehogs and even ducks wondering around outside. I hope this experience, whenever it is ended, will be looked back on with a sense of gratitude, renewal and fondness, as well as sorrow and worry and inconvenience. The trials of Lent and the passion of Christ lead always to the great feast of Easter when the tomb is opened and the light rushes in to reveal the glory of Jesus risen! If you want to know where God has gone at the moment - just look for Him around you. He is more evident now than ever! HAPPY EASTER EVERYONE - STAY SAFE - PROTECT THE NHS - SAVE LIVES.
Tuesday 24th March...… Today things have changed drastically again! The PM announced more stringent rules last night to help the nation fight the COVID-19 virus even more vigorously! We have only 8 children in school today and we have revised the timetable for staff again so that a minimum safe level is in place to care for the children of Key Workers and some more vulnerable families. We have had moments of tearfulness over the last few days and we have also laughed and looked to the future, when hopefully we will all be ok and together again. It seems a bit odd to be suggesting we can all pray to God for His strength and hope...… I hear some people saying "Where is God in this?". Actually, I am finding God everywhere at the moment and if praying is not appropriate now, when is it?!" Keep safe everyone!
Thursday 19th March...… The announcement last night that schools will be closing to all but 'Vulnerable' or 'Key Worker' children has of course come as a massive and unprecedented piece of news. This goes against everything I have known in my life time and everyone is feeling very discombobulated (look it up!). The next few days and weeks will require cool heads and clear minds. If we pray for these virtues perhaps God will give them to us..... He won't be busy listening to Mass for a while so maybe he will have the spare time?! Look after each other everyone!
Tuesday 17th March...… On Monday this week everything I had taken for granted for the last 23yrs as a Headteacher about running a school has been altered completely! The COVID-19 virus has begun to impact on us all to a massive degree and the PM (Boris) has told us to reduce 'social gathering' to nil wherever possible. Everyone displaying the symptoms of a persistent cough or /and high temperature has been told to self-isolate for 14 days!! Yesterday we had about 93% attendance of pupils, with many of the parents of the absent children saying their child had the symptoms or they were not sending them to school because they are worried. We have 4 members of staff off school self-isolating at the moment and I guess there will be more in the next few days. On the positive side, the staff have been extremely flexible and are coming together in a way I have really only seen before, during an Ofsted! I hesitate to say this - but a Ofsted would probably be preferable at the moment!!
Tuesday 10th March...… At pretty regular intervals I find that children are more and more interested in my age! Sometimes it works out ok but on other occasions I really do wonder what I must look like! The other day a boy on the minibus to watch Man Utd. play at Old Trafford asked how old I was. I suggested he guess...…. He said "78?"
Monday 13th January..... Just a funny little story for you. A Y4 boy turned up this morning at the Office asking if "Rosemary Prayers" were on today before school. He obviously means Rosary Prayers - which happen for about 10 minutes before school during May and October. Close enough I suppose!
Sunday 5th January 2020.... Happy New Year to everyone! I came into school this morning (Sunday) to do a few little jobs - including changing the Hall Display to reflect the fact that it is now the Christmas Season, rather than Advent. The Christmas Trees in the two halls are still up and we will keep them shining their lights for the rest of the coming week, so that our children can fully appreciate the fact that Christmas is still with us. Indeed, it is still Christmas in the Church until the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord on the 2nd February!! Not sure we could keep the trees going that long though! I attended a Conference for Catholic Headteachers just before we got fully into Advent, at the beginning of December and the Bishop of Leeds told us that he wouldn't mind if we arranged our Nativity Plays to happen in January. He didn't actually recommend this option however - he said he knew it would be quite a revolution (perhaps even a revelation!) for some parents and probably very difficult for them to accept. I can see his point though! Think of us tomorrow morning will you, as we celebrate the Feast of Epiphany when the visitation of the Wise Men gave us the message that Jesus came for everyone!
Tuesday 19th November.... One of our former teachers has been on a short holiday / pilgrimage this week in the Holy Land and she Whats App'd me to say she had thought about the school and prayed for us and lit a candle in one of the Churches. I received requests for prayers from two people in the last few days, once for a person who has died and another for someone who is very poorly. We are about to enter the season of Advent and prayer plays a big part in this time of preparation, leading up to Christmas. Prayer can be a powerful tool in helping ourselves, as well as others, to cope with all that life sends our way. Give it try - you might like it!
Friday 8th November..... We had a wonderful experience on Thursday with some of our children. We were given 20 free tickets to the Manchester Utd. vs FK Partizan match there was no way we could ignore the opportunity, even though we needed to sort out transport and it was forecast to be raining all night and the kick off was not until 8pm. The whole experience was enhanced in several ways for me - It was so nice to have the handy offer from St Ann's Catholic Primary School for us to use their car park for our minibuses. It was also very good of Mr Dyson (ICT Technician) to offer to put himself through the LA Driving Test in order to allow us to take two minibuses. It was such a rewarding night for me, to see the faces and reactions of the children as we passed the Police Horses lit up like Christmas Trees, as we approached the the stadium itself and especially when we got to the top of the terraces and entered the stadium, which was filled with 62,000 people. One little boy, who will never have been anywhere like that before said to his teacher, who was sitting next to him, "Miss, it is just like FIFA but a bit more real!" A special night!!!!
Friday 25th October..... I am always amazed and so proud of the staff we have in our school. They are so dedicated and all want to do their best for the children in the school. I love to especially see people growing in their confidence, competence and creativity. Whether it is seeing someone give their first input in a Staff Meeting, or someone demonstrating a massive amount of professional knowledge in a meeting with professionals, or another being so creative in their teaching or our wonderful Site Manager keeping the school so clean and well maintained, or seeing a teacher have his lovely long hair shaved off in front of 300 children and adults in aid of Prostate Cancer - the end result is a growing, improving, strong school! Thank you to all our staff - Have a well deserved half-term rest!
Wednesday 9th October..... The Governors and I made a decision recently that was amongst the hardest I have encountered in 22 years as a headteacher. I am certain it was the right decision and therefore, strangely perhaps, I feel more content than I have for several weeks and months. I hope the people affected feel the same, if not right now - hopefully in the longer term future. In the words of a little boy I meet nearly everyday at some point, "What you doin?"....... Answer - "I hope the right thing! That is not always the easy thing!"
Friday 13th September 2019.... Little boy on KS2 playground (Y3) "Mr Brennan, what do you exactly do?" My response "Well I mainly sit at my computer and play computer games". Boy looks at me for a few seconds and then says ".... and you do assemblies!" I'm please my contribution to the running of the school is seen and valued!
Friday 6th September 2019...… The children started back with us on Wednesday this week and they all seem to have settled really well so far. It has been lovely to see them all in their posh new uniforms and to hear some of their stories about how they spent the holidays. One boy went to Blackpool but he insists he didn't see any sea and he certainly didn't see the tower!!! "I'm talking about Blackpool, the pleasure beach Mr Brennan.... I don't know which Blackpool you are talking about!" Another told me he "did a bike ride of 23 miles with his dad, who is good at cycling because he used to be in the navy and worked underwater for 5 years." I'm not really clear why being in the navy helps with cycling - but he reckons there is obviously a link! Another boy told me he had played on his XBox all the holidays. When I asked him if he had not considered playing outside a little, he said "I'm just not that kind of guy Mr Brennan!". Good to be back!
Friday 5th July...… Anyone looking at our Twitter account at the moment will see how sporty and active our children are. This is something that is a constant source of pride for me personally. But sometimes it feels like we are fighting a losing battle. How often these days do we hear the cry of most adults "I can't get him/her off that mobile phone!" I've noticed in the last two years or so that increasingly children as young as 7 say to me that they have a mobile phone, and it seems already to be an expectation of being in Y6 that you 'have to have' a phone to be street credible. In their place, and if controlled effectively, I don't have a problem with mobile phones, indeed I have no doubt at all that very soon we will be allowing mobile phones in lessons, to use as the very useful tools they can be - but I also fear for what we are creating in terms of the physical abilities and fitness levels in our children, if we allow them to see mobile phones as their only or prime source of entertainment.
I had a boy in our Y5 a few years ago tell me that I didn't need to worry about him at the swimming lessons we were starting, because he had watched You Tube videos about learning to swim and he knew he would be able to do it!! I don't need to tell you what happened the first time he got in the water at Halifax Pool! Just recently, our current Y5 children have been doing personal survival sessions at the swimming pool and it was really quite a shock for me to see that many of them (aged 10 of course) could not drag themselves out of the water - They literally could not get their heads round how to put their weight, legs, hands etc. in the best positions to pull themselves out...… Thankfully there were steps, but even so!!?
To be fair - The majority have now learnt this skill, after we made them persevere! Don't worry.... We haven't left them in the water.
Wednesday 19th June...… What a fantastic evening was had by all last Saturday! Our Choir were absolutely brilliant as they sang 'Simple Gifts' on their own and especially 'A Million Dreams' with the celebrated Yorkshire adult choir Chordiality. I am of course a member of that choir myself and singing in front of parents and children was quite a nerve racking experience. I was so proud of the children, even after I was told that some of them giggled with embarrassment when they realised I was singing a short solo section in 'Rock-a My Soul'. We think we have raised upwards of £800 towards the Church Heating Challenge, so probably worth a little humiliation! :-)
Friday 24th May 2019.... The end of another half-term - just 4 weeks this one, but it has still left everyone tired and ready for rest (children and staff!). It has been a very busy four weeks, with a lot of energy and time having been spent on the recruitment of some new teachers for September. I have also been simultaneously saddened and gladdened by the success of younger teachers who have worked in our school for a good number of years and have now secured new posts from September elsewhere. I am especially proud of these colleagues as they move on in their careers - I hope that in some small way they have learnt from me and will take something with them from St Mary's, to their new schools. Enjoy the half-term everyone!
PS: Little shout out to Gary and Tom..... Friends from my college days in the early 1980's. I believe Gary is one of my regular readers. Yes- there are apparently a few out there!
Friday 10th May 2019..... So - (a modern way of starting sentences it seems) - you know how when a child comes to you and with great seriousness wants to show you the little graze, about 1 millimetre long, on their hand, and you do the 'over-the-top' sympathy and consolation act? I've had a few of those moments in the last few weeks and they always raise a smile in me. If only we all just had these types of worries to concern us in our lives!
At the other extreme, it was with great sadness that my wife and I received news yesterday that a dear friend of ours, who we have known from our early 20s has lost her battle with Cancer. She was only 56 and still had so much to live for. Lorraine left two beautiful young daughters and a devastated husband. I don't share this news with you (alongside the comments above) because I want you to be upset, but instead, for two very relevant reasons...…. 1) We must treasure the little tender moments in our lives, especially with our children 2) We must cherish our health. Please say a prayer for Lorraine if you get the chance.
Friday 29th March 2019..... I had a lovely email from a gentleman called Andrew Sweeney earlier this week. He is a former pupil of St Mary's, attending in the late 1960's / early 1970's I believe, along with his siblings. He said he occasionally logged onto the website and remembered his time at St Mary's (in the brand new building) with great fondness. He had been reading my Blog as well - always nice to know someone is!
Andrew went on to tell me about several of the teachers he remembered and especially a Mr Williamson, who he credited with introducing him to the joys of gymnastics. This spark of interest led him to take it very seriously and he eventually represented England as a Junior International and was a British Youth Champion. Gymnastics took him around the world as well. He competed in tournaments in Italy, Germany, France, Turkey, Norway and Russia!
I've been walking through the KS2 hall this lunchtime and seen our young gymnastics team training for their upcoming tournament. Who knows - There might be another Andrew Sweeney among them!! Look out 2029!!!
If any other past pupils want to get in touch, please feel free!
Friday 22nd March 2019.... "Mr Brennan, I've made you a picture" "Mr Brennan I had two bagels this morning" "Mr Brennan, have you ever expelled someone?" "Mr Brennan, where did you work before St Mary's" "Mr Brennan, how come you work in Halifax and live in Bradford?" "Mr Brennan, what does TNT stand for?" "Mr Brennan, J..... called me stupid." "Mr Brennan, did you buy the new projector for the KS1 hall?" It's nice to be in demand! :-)
Friday 22nd February 2019...… It is of course still half-term but I thought it best to post something now, before the proverbial hits the fan, with all that a busy school week brings, and I forget. Lent will soon be upon us of course - a time when we get the children to think in a more focussed way on Fasting, Almsgiving and Prayer, leading to the great feast of Easter. We are also going to be celebrating the Confirmations of around 65 young people (11yrs and 12yrs) from all the parishes in Calderdale and the First Confessions (8yrs) of a similar number of children from the same area. As a school this is an exciting time for us, as we hopefully see the recruitment of a new Deputy Headteacher for September, a new ICT Technician (as Mrs Hinsley begins to reduce her role and move closer to retirement at the end of the Summer), a new Temporary Teacher for 3/4R, as Mrs Roe prepares to go on Maternity Leave and the appointment of a Forest School Leader (for September)! The weather will start to improve, the daffodils and other plants will start to make us smile once again and the list of new Reception children coming to us in September will be notified to us..... A few changes to absorb in the coming months, but the same St Mary's!!
Thursday 31st January 2019...… Sorry I haven't checked in recently. Time flies when you are enjoying yourself obviously! We were practising our singing in the hall this afternoon with the children. At the end I told the children that because they had worked so hard and sung so enthusiastically I had arranged for a treat for them. I showed them the next slide on the Powerpoint which was a link to the You Tube song below. They absolutely went crazy and sang their hearts out with great gusto! The office staff came out into the hall at the sound and both were in tears at the impact of the children's voices and energy. I must admit, so was I!
Friday 7th December 2018..... Just about to leave school after another long day (10 hrs is normal to be honest). The Christmas Fayre has just finished and all the tables, food left on the floor, paper strewn around, glitter dropped on carpets etc. has been virtually removed. The adult helpers (staff and parents) have left the building and as tour 'superman' Caretaker (Mr Griffin) walks down through school turning off lights and bolting doors as he goes, he and I will soon be ready for setting the alarm and leaving the building for the weekend. There is something quite sad about leaving school at the end of the day on your own, especially in Winter when it is dark and often wet and cold and windy. As the gates are closed and the padlock goes on, it feels like the life-blood has been removed and it will only come to life again and be the fantastic place it always is, when that blood turns up again in the morning and flows through its corridors and classrooms!
Thursday 6th December 2018.... A boy in Y5 asked me a question this morning, before he came into school. "Why do we come to school Mr Brennan?" Slightly mischievously I answered, "So that I get paid of course!". He smiled.
Tuesday 13th November 2018...... The other day I was visiting the hospital (Airedale) for a routine check up and on my way out I passed the Prayer Room. I had a few emails and texts to answer so I thought I might go in and sit at the back and enjoy the calm and quiet atmosphere while I did this, and I then intended to say a prayer or two for someone I know who is very poorly. As I entered the room, which had an Altar at the front I noticed a couple of people sitting just inside the door to my right and a young woman on her own on the front bench. The woman on her own was muttering to herself "Our Father.. hallowed be thy name... thy will be done on earth.... Forgive us... etc". She clearly was struggling to remember the prayer and turned to the couple at the back and me and said out loud "How does that one start?... Have I got it right?.... Can someone help me?" I immediately, on impulse more than anything, began saying the 'Our Father' and she copied me as I did. We went right to the end and then she made the sign of the cross and left crying, after giving me a hug! I don't know who she was or why she was upset or even why she wanted to pray, but I know it helped her and I'm glad I answered her request. I told the children this story in Assembly this Monday and I simply left them with the thought - When God gives us an opportunity to answer His call or do His work, do we always do it, or even notice that it is there?
Friday 5th October 2018 ....... Occasionally I come across some awe inspiring 'You Tube' clips that I just have to show the children - Usually in KS2 Assemblies. This one is my latest favourite and I will be showing it to the children on Tuesday next week (or very soon) and asking them to think what it might be telling us about human nature, working together, leadership etc. See if it gives you the same thought provoking stimulation! Start watching at the beginning - sometimes it starts half way through. Not sure why!?
Wednesday 26th September 2018..... Pay Day!!! Sorry but it is nice when that bank balance rises again (all be it temporarily). I was with some newly appointed Headteachers on Monday this week, who were all obviously a LOT younger than me! They are just starting out on their fantastic, exciting, frustrating, stressful, rewarding careers as school leaders and I can almost remember being in the same position in 1997, when I was appointed as Headteacher of a small rural Catholic school (St Edward's) in Boston Spa. One of the speakers at the meeting was a long-time colleague of mine who has followed a similar Headship path to me. He gave a very inspiring talk about the role, but one thing stuck in my mind which is so important to cherish.... "The job we do makes a difference and if it doesn't, we shouldn't bother doing it..... We chose to put ourselves in this position. No one made us do it, so let's find 'the difference' everyday".
Tuesday 4th September..... I hope everyone has had a very well deserved and restful Summer. The teachers and support staff have been in school today and yesterday working hard on preparing our classrooms and reviewing our School Prayer. We will of course share the new prayer with the children and the rest of our school community very soon. Tomorrow the children will be bringing the school alive again for another new academic year. Once again we will be a community where we live, learn and laugh together in God's love. :-)
Friday 22nd June 2018..... Being the Headteacher of a very close knit and happy school is a roller coaster! At the same time, it IS a fantastic job and if ever I feel like things are falling around my ankles I only have to spend time with the children to make me realise how lucky I am. Some examples of the highs!!....... On Thursday this week the whole school went out onto the road outside school to welcome a boy in Y6 who had completed a 20mile walk on behalf of Barnardo's. All the children cheered and chanted his name as he arrived and celebrated his massive achievement with very positive and open hearts! Today, as I arrived at school (a little late) I could not help but hear a lot of noise coming from the Infant Hall. I went into the hall from the car park to find a massive number of parents and children working on models, kites, artwork etc. This event was wonderful to witness - talk about Parental Engagement! The children were so engrossed in what they were doing and the parents were loving the sticking and cutting and folding and drawing and painting as well! Finally, I have to mention the Dress Rehearsal for the Y6 Production of 'An Inspector Calls'.... It was an absolute pleasure to see the children singing and acting and dancing and being so confident and proud of themselves! I cried a few times I'll happily admit! A few weeks and they will be gone, but the way they have made us feel will not be forgotten.
Thursday 10th May 2018..... It was an honour to attend the Requiem Mass of a former Headteacher of St Mary's yesterday in Keighley. Peter Wild was the last headteacher of what was then a Junior School from 1963 (when I was born!) to 1985 (when I qualified as a teacher!). Peter is still remembered fondly by a few people I have spoken to, including Mr Griffin our Site Manager. We found a photograph of him at the age of about 8 standing in a class group with Mr Wild. Peter and his wife had 11 children, 24 grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren and were married for just short of 65 years!! His son told us that his Dad must have had an influence over the lives of thousands of children during his years as a teacher and headteacher and he loved every minute! Peter went on, after he retired, to live a very full life and especially enjoyed his amateur dramatics, walking, golf and cycling and of course his family and his Faith life. We thank him and God for his dedication and commitment to St Mary's and to all the staff and children he worked with. May he rest in peace.
Wednesday 9th May 2018...... We are two days away from KS2 SATs Week. The children in Y6 have been doing so well over the last month getting themselves ready and I know they have just about reached the point of being perfectly ready to do their best! All the staff in school will be rooting for them as they climb this mountain......... Actually, it is their Keswick Residential the week after - another few real mountains to ascend!
Thursday 29th March 2018....... One week on from our Ofsted and everything seems to have flown by! It was so lovely to see the children in Y5 present the story of Holy Week so movingly this afternoon. There were some very strong actors and singers who brought some of us to the verge of tears - in a nice way of course. Looking round at the staff and children I can see that they all need a really well earned rest over Easter. Though it has only been just short of 5 weeks this half-term and we had two days off because of snow, it has for some reason felt to be longer. Not as long as the time one member of the support staff has spent working here though - Congratulations to Mrs C. who has now served us for 25 years! Just think about the 100s of children she has had a part in forming and growing..... Well done!
HAVE A PEACEFUL, RESTFUL AND HOLY EASTER EVERYONE!!
Thursday 22nd March 2018.... We had Ofsted in school yesterday. We have been expecting a visit since October 2016 so as you can imagine it is a great relief to have it over with. Ofsted's are always very intense and rigorous and stressful of course, but they are very quick and are now conducted in an extremely focused, efficient and professional manner. Our Lead Inspector was very good at her job and challenged us all the way through the day, but we felt she got the final judgement right and that is always the result (speaking as a Headteacher) that is wanted. I wanted to particularly mention the massive support and encouragement given to the staff by our governors, relatives, friends, colleagues, pupils, and parents. It made the difference! One parent in the meeting with the Lead Inspector said that when he came into the school, "It was like entering paradise" and when the Inspector asked a Y6 boy why he was taking part in the Soup and Bread Lunch for Lent, he replied, "This helps us remember that while we have lots, some people in the world have very little, and we need to help them". ...... Paradise indeed!!!
Thursday 15th March 2018..... I don't know where the time has gone since my last posting??? Time certainly has flown! I went up to Ampleforth with Y5 yesterday to start their Retreat with a walk in the beautiful countryside. We got very muddy and scruffy together and of course the kids loved every minute, even when they were complaining and grumbling! I came back to school at the end of the walk because I had our First Confessions Workshop to lead, but the children have stayed up there with Mr T., Mrs Dunnett, Mrs Beevers and Miss Goulden. I think I had the better evening though - apparently the children were not all asleep until midnight and they were heard talking the next morning at 5am!! Hope they do a bit better tonight! Mr T. suggested they might be good candidates for training as Monks or Nuns - not because of their Holiness, but more because of their ability to be up so early!
Thursday 21st December...... We had a visit from Santa today. The KS1 and FS children really enjoyed it and asked the big man lots of great questions. Before he left he obviously needed to pay a short visit to the toilet, but as he went into the 'facilities' he had to pass a little boy sat on a chair outside the Office because he was being sent home with a poorly tummy. I was in my room quietly catching up on some paperwork so I could hear everything........ While Santa was in the toilet another little boy came through the corridor on his way back to his classroom. The poorly boy caught his attention and in a hushed whisper reported that "You won't believe who I've just seen!" "Who?" answered his friend. "Santa!! He is in there! He walked straight past me and said 'hello' and it is the real one I think." Of course when Santa came out of the toilet he wasn't Santa anymore! I couldn't see the boys faces, but I can imagine the confusion written all over them!
Perhaps the toilets in our school are a secret portal to Lapland??
Friday 15th December...... Not sure what to say about the events of today - Being wrapped up in masking tape to look like an Egyptian Mummy, topped off by a Santa Hat (all in a good cause for the Christmas Fayre) I think I have reached a new low in the respect stakes!! All good fun I suppose really.
Just finished the last Newsletter (No147) of the year and as I look down the items I am so proud that as a school we are living the Gospel values of charity and love and peace to all, in so many practical ways with our pupils. What an outstanding school we are!!! Let's pray that Ofsted see that when they come to visit!
Thursday 7th December..... So when we are preparing for Mass in school it is really quite important to make sure that there are the right amount of hosts ........ I'm not laying the blame with anyone for the fact that today we definitely got it wrong somehow! It is tricky when there are not enough because the Priest has to break the last remaining few into smaller and smaller pieces so that every one has some who needs it! It was kind of worse today because somehow we ended Communion with about 40 spare hosts!! They have to be consumed because they are 'The Body of Christ' so Fr Martin and I stood and ate all of them between us with everyone watching! We laughed afterwards - but it was hard work at the time! :-)
Tuesday 28th November..... We should always be prepared to take risks! It is the only way to move things forward. This little gem of wisdom was inspired by part of a sermon delivered by my Parish Priest a few Sundays ago. He was considering the Parable of the Talents and told this story: Two farmers were talking over hedge one day, discussing their plans for planting crops in the coming year. "What you planting then Fred? Corn?" said the first farmer. "Oooh no Jack, I'm worried the Corn Mould will get to it." replied his friend. "OK, so what about potatoes then" said the first farmer?" His friend came back straight away, with an concerned tone, "No way, I'd be sure of getting potato blight and losing everything!" "So what will you be planting then?" asked the friend. "I'm not planting anything this year at all..... I'm playing safe!" grunted his mate.
We should teach children about taking a chance, taking a leap of faith, having a go at something new! Sometimes it will not work out so well, but often it will help them grow and learn and expand their experience, and sometimes it might even change their world!!
Friday 17th November....... I was very proud of our Y6 today. They were visiting the Holocaust Centre in Newark today. I first came across this inspiring and special place about 11 years ago when I visited it with several other headteachers. The place has changed and adapted and improved over the years but at the heart of it is the very important mission of teaching children to understand the way prejudice, stereotyping, bullying and ethnic victimisation can escalate and result in unbelievable acts of cruelty and violence and injustice being perpetrated on innocent people. The children visit a special Primary School exhibition called 'The Journey' following a German Jewish boy in about 1938, as his family start to have their lives completely changed by the Nazi ant-Jewish laws. Anyone can visit this place and I would strongly recommend it to everyone!! Our Y6 were serious, focussed, attentive and very well behaved and they were especially good when they listened to a real holocaust survivor, Simon, at the end.
Tuesday 24th October..... I was in the playground the other day and from behind me I heard a little girl's voice "Oh, dear me.... ". I turned around to find out who was behind me and as I did so she said, "Mr Brennan I nearly hugged you then - I thought you were my Grandad!" So it has come to this!!!!
Thursday 19th October 2017..... It really is a great mistake to assume you know everything about a child. They can and do constantly surprise me! A little boy recently - just walking through the hall, stopped me and showed me a certificate he was obviously very proud of. When I looked at it I could see it was from an organisation called 'Start a Heart' or something similar. The boy (aged 6) had attended a session for children on CPR with his cousin, who is in Y4. He was able to tell me about how to check someone was conscious, ring for help on 999 and how to even hold your palms together to do compressions if necessary. WOW! I was so impressed! On the same subject, I was with our wonderful Y6 children yesterday on their pilgrimage to Fountains Abbey. As we were walking along I got talking to a Y6 boy and quite by chance I found out that he does a lot of angling in his spare time! I never knew that and it opened a whole new world to me as he spoke about this hobby and especially liked telling me about the biggest fish he had ever caught and described his extending fishing rod! Again - WOW!
On another subject, but again one that deserves a WOW..... There is a girl in our Y6 at the moment who, because of moving away from the vicinity of the school is now getting two buses to school and two back home every night, all on her own! Now I know that seems a big thing, and perhaps potentially quite a dangerous thing for a 10/11yr old to be doing, but she has been determined to stay at St Mary's for her final year at school and this is the only way that can be achieved. She is doing so well and is growing so much in confidence and maturity - I am so proud of her!! I DO tell her that by the way!
Friday 22nd September 2017..... Just spent the day with 60+ Headteachers from other Calderdale schools. Among the people giving us lots of positives (something even teachers need every now and then) was a great speaker called David Cameron - No not that one! He asked us to look at the You Tube clip below whenever we doubt the impact a great teacher can have on a child.... It made most of cry!
Ian Wright meets his old teacher!
The thing about this clip that is so amazing is that the guy who was his teacher isn't some kind of Superman and doesn't really strike me as the owner of a magnificently charismatic persona! He is just ordinary! ..... "To the world you are just one person. But to one person you may be the world!"
Monday 4th September 2017 ...... Training Day for the teachers today. We were joined by some TAs and other support staff, as well as some Governors and had a great day reviewing our mission as a school. We came up with a great document which is very brief and straight forward and which we feel describes what we are about very well. When we roll it out to everyone else we hope they will agree... especially the children! Another Training Day tomorrow - Safeguarding. Then the real work begins as all our 'customers' arrive! Can't wait to be back with them all.... excited, well rested, full of energy!
Wednesday 19th July 2017..... This time last year we were on holiday! Just another two days to go until we break for a nice 6 week rest! Sorry to everyone out there who doesn't have that length of holiday, but I hope you won't mind me having a brief moment of excitement! We celebrated our End of Year Mass yesterday and as I looked across the ranks of children (including the ones at the very front who were mostly either asleep or well on the way) I realised how worn out they all look - and that is just the teachers!!!
Our wonderful Y6 children leave us on Friday to go off into the world and be the best people they can be! We are very proud of them and will miss them in September I'm certain. At the other end of the school we will have a new set of children to work with, to mould, foster, support, stimulate and to nurture - such a privilege!
We are also saying goodbye to Mrs Gordon today (who has been with us since 2006) and Mrs Bell leaves us on Friday, having worked in the school since Spring half-term. I wish them both all the luck and success and happiness possible and pray they will always remember us in their thoughts and prayers.
Wednesday 28th June 2017..... I am sure those among you who are the parents of young adults or teenagers will know about the way children start to morph from their lovely, innocent, willing, compliant and energetic selves into a new and quite horrific persona around the age of 11 - 13 (ish). This phenomena is definitely starting to happen here with our Y6 as they see the finishing line of their journey through our school! Don't get me wrong - I love them all to bits and I am so proud of them as they turn more and more into human beings who will be facing what is quite a challenging world these days! They will need all the confidence and bravado and attitude they can muster over the next few years! I was talking to one boy - who has been a particular success in terms of the journey he has travelled this year - was in my office the other day for a 'little chat' about the need for him to review his current behaviour trends. I told him that it would be good if he could avoid being a 'Kevin' for at least the next few weeks. Of course, he had no idea what I was talking about so I thought I would enlighten him by showing him the attached clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLuEY6jN6gY ....... His reaction at the end was "That's not me!?" True.... but not long before it is I thought to myself!! Actually he has been better since that conversation!
Wednesday 7th June 2017...... After a lovely break at half-term (mainly because I was in Tenerife!) we are starting the last run towards the Summer holidays hitting the ground. We have an S48 Inspection going on that started today and of course that always brings challenges - but mainly because I love our school so much and want the great work we do to be recognised. Please pray for us. On a slightly related topic, but a bit 'outside the box' I had to laugh when today I was in the middle of a very serious conversation with Fr Martin (our Parish Priest) in my room and was interupted by a knock on the door. The two girls I was confronted with (Y4s) didn't really observe any formalities and just went straight into the question they needed to ask me "Mr Brennan, we were just wondering if you could tell us how we know God really exists?" OMG! ..... with the Parish Priest sat there listening!! I did manage to give them an answer and I think it satisfied them! Not sure whether Fr Martin was impressed - he didn't comment when they had gone away! :-)
Friday 12th May 2017... So there I was taking a group of Y2 children in a hired mini-bus to Sowerby Church Institute Cricket Ground. Listening to the conversations between the children in the back was so funny.... I had to share it with you. "My dad has bought a Range Rover, that is smaller than a Land Rover and it is costing £500!! That is a lot of money isn't it?!" "I go to India a lot. It takes 12 days to travel there and back.... I have spent my entire life going to and coming back from India!" "I hate India because it is too hot!" "I love India because you can get candy and icecream there..... you can also get it in Manchester you know!" "My sister has started wearing my Mum's scarf you know..... but if my mum needs it she has to give it back." Children are ace!!
Tuesday 9th May 2017.... Apologies for not getting the chance to write for a few weeks. I was away in Keswick with our fabulous Y6 in the final week of the term. They were of course a real credit to us and their parents in the way they all approached the week together. There were a few individual stars - you know who you are!!
The new Summer term started with lots of revision for Y2 and Y6 as the SATs approached. I walked into a group of Y2s doing a Reading test this morning. The teacher was reading the questions!!! I was about to question this and make quite a fuss about cheating, when I realised she was reading the first page of the test - it was a practice question to help them understand how to complete the rest of the questions on their own! The Y6 have so far done the Reading Comprehension, Spelling and Grammar and Punctuation tests as I write. They have the Maths papers to do tomorrow and Thursday. We always call on all the help we can get with SATs in Y6 so a prayer and a decade of the Holy Rosary is said before we start each day, positive phrases are read out by the teachers and cotton buds infused with lavender oil are placed in the classrooms!!! Don't laugh.... I'm not joking!!
Monday 27th March 2017.... We have had a very busy couple of weeks as the events of Lent have really started to happen. The Soup and Bread Lunch last week and the Stations of the Cross today are always really inspiring. Red Nose Day of course also gave me a lot to be proud of our children for! The week before last I was with Y5 at Ampleforth for their Retreat, and the move to this new venue, following the closure of Myddelton Grange was definitely a positive one. The children loved it, especially the Compline Prayers in the low lit light of the Abbey. The loud boom and vibration of the bell was absolutely awe inspiring! Next week I am in Keswick again with Y6 for their 5 days of adventure! I know there will be so many occasions during this experience when I will again be so proud of our pupils!
I can't go into details of course, but there have also been parts of life at St Mary's that have been hard to cope with in recent weeks. The good always outweighs the bad by a long chalk..... the day that changes will be my time to go!
Tuesday 14th February ...... I had just finished the KS2 Assembly, having spent about 30 minutes talking to the children about the small things we can all do to make a positive difference to those around us. We had looked at a short video on 'Random acts of kindness' and read The Widows Mite from the Gospel. The children had thought about lots of ideas to apply this idea to their daily lives at home and in school. As the children were leaving the hall one little boy in Y3 put his hand up and called me over to him. "Mr Brennan, I think you are half man and half God!" I smiled and asked him why he thought that. He said, "Because you teach us things that help us to be good, like Jesus did".
Thursday 19th January 2017..... Back for the new year and things have begun with a smash! Year Y3 and Y4 have started their topic on Greece/Ancient Greece by smashing plates in the playground - you can imagine their excitement I'm sure!