Head Teachers Blog

23rd October 2020

posted 23 Oct 2020, 06:48 by Liz Pattinson   [ updated 23 Oct 2020, 06:57 ]

Dear Students/Parents/Carers,

I hope this letter finds you and your families well.

I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank everybody involved with Alde Valley Academy this term. The way that site staff, support staff, teachers, parents and students have adapted themselves and their work routines throughout this term has been absolutely remarkable.

We have achieved our objective of welcoming back all of our students to the ‘new normal’ and have instilled a culture of safety and teamwork. We have opened our school to prospective parents and students in order to support them to make the extremely important decision about their secondary school education. We have also welcomed over 30 new students to Alde Valley Academy, re-written the timetable to ensure we are true to our pledge to maintain our small class sizes and produced a student led video to give parents an insight into what it is like to be a student at our school. 

The video can be found at:  https://vimeo.com/468484061/09ea415472

We are making plans for a significant intake of Year 7 students in September 2021. We have made a pledge to all Year 6 parents that we will accept all applications from families who put Alde Valley Academy as their first choice of secondary school irrespective of our published school capacity. In order to maintain our school ethos and small class sizes in this scenario we are actively making plans for increased building space and increasing our staffing numbers; both teaching and non-teaching.
As planned we have reviewed our initial Risk Assessment after the Phase 1 of our reopening and have decided to make the following amendments. These changes will improve students’ educational experience whilst ensuring the safety of our our staff, students and community. The fully updated Risk Assessment can be found on our website. 

We have taken on board advice given by several government advisors on the most effective ways to prevent the spread of the virus in schools:

 “The big key to managing coronavirus prevention in indoor environments is ventilation. Anything you can do to increase the number of ‘air changes’ will help. That refers to how many times the whole air volume of the room cycles. If it is cold, I don’t actually advocate changing that. I would not say close the windows. The better thing would be to advise parents to send children in with warmer clothing. You shouldn’t be so cold that your hands are too cold to work, but I don’t think it ever would be that bad in an indoor setting with children.”

In order to support students to keep warm in school whilst we consciously open windows and doors as much as possible, we have made a few amendments to our uniform policy:
  • We encourage all parents to send their children to school with a winter coat every day. Outdoor coats will be allowed to be worn in corridors and classrooms following the half term holidays.
  • We encourage students to wear a white ‘base layer’ under their school shirt.
  • We encourage students to wear a black jumper over their shirt but under their blazer. We have relaxed the rule on this layer and will allow students to wear a plain black sweatshirt as an alternative. This sweatshirt must not have a logo or zip visible. 
  • Our ban on hoodies and scarves remains in place.

PE changing
We are aware that as the weather becomes colder students remaining in PE kit all day is no longer appropriate. For this reason we have updated our cleaning protocols and have established a way of allowing our students to get changed in a safe and efficient way. 

The points to remember are as follows;
  • Students will come to school in their PE kit if they have a PE lesson Period 1 or Period 2. All students will get changed into their school uniform at the end of their lesson.
  • Students who have a PE lesson during Period 3 will change for PE at the end of morning break and change back into school uniform at the beginning of lunch break.
  • Students who have a PE lesson during Period 4 will change for PE at the end of lunch break and will leave school in their PE kit.

School food
Food will continue to be available using the canteen or trolley service but we will start to provide a limited amount of hot food. This will constist of pasta bakes and baked potatoes as well as the normal selection of food available.

We have made the decision to start to set homework again after the half term holidays. In order to reduce the amount of books/worksheets moving between home and school, the majority of work will be set using online platforms. The completion of homework will be mandatory and the sanction for non-completion will be as set in the homework policy following the H1, H2 system. For Year 11 non-completion of homework will immediately result in an H2 after school detention.

Extra curricular clubs
We have decided to reinstate a small number of extra curricular clubs after school which will be limited to one pod at a time. A timetable for these clubs will be distributed to our students and placed on our website and social media platforms on our return from the holidays. There will be a late bus leaving at 4.30pm every night of the week.

During Phase 1 of our Risk Assessment we had moved the Oasis centre in order to allow staff to use the area as a second staff room to allow for social distancing. This meant that our SEN and vulnerable students have not been offered our normal high level of support before, during and after school hours. During Phase 2 the Oasis centre will be reopened for students in order to support their academic and social progress. Students will be invited into school early, be removed to the Oasis during lessons and will be invited to spend break and lunchtime in the centre if they wish to.

Breakfast Club
Breakfast club will begin again in the Oasis centre from Monday 2nd November for any student who wishes to attend. This provision was extremely popular prior to the lockdown and we would like to encourage all students to attend from 8.15am for some breakfast and a sociable, settled start to the day.
Other considerations
If a parent needs to contact the school, please do so by telephone or email. Please do not come into school without an appointment. If parents are contacted because of an unwell child it is important that they are collected quickly. All the measures will be under review and subject to change, particularly in the light of Government guidance. The next phase of our plans will be reviewed in December 2020. We have also developed a contingency plan for remote education. This would be for students who need to self-isolate or where there is a local lockdown. If you have any particular worries or concerns about our plans please do not hesitate to contact me: d.mayhew@aldevalley.suffolk.sch.uk

As always we welcome your feedback on any of the measures already put in place or on any of our plans. Any feedback can be sent direct to me on the email address above. 

Thank you very much for your ongoing support. Wishing you all the very best; stay safe and and have a great half term holiday. 

Yours Faithfully,

D.M Mayhew

October 2020

posted 22 Sep 2020, 03:50 by Liz Pattinson   [ updated 24 Sep 2020, 05:37 ]

Dear Parent/Carer,

It gives me great pleasure to write to all parents outlining a number of initiatives we are launching to help you get to know Alde Valley Academy a little bit better.
It was with huge regret that we were not able to welcome all parents to Alde Valley Academy for our Open Evenings but in the current circumstances we felt that it was a risk to our students, staff and parents that we were not prepared to take. 

I am aware that many parents may have had older children or family members who attended the school in the past and therefore are familiar with how we work and the fantastic facilities that we have. If this experience was not in the past few years I would urge you to ‘take another look’ as we have made huge strides over recent years in all aspects of school life.

Our GCSE results have improved year on year with the 2020 results demonstrating that students of all abilities are able to make great progress in all subjects. This is reflected in our Progress 8 score of +0.28 indicating that on average every student in year 11 achieved nearly a third of a grade more than expected in all 11 of their GCSE subjects. A pleasing 69% of students achieved a grade 9-4 in English Language and 70% achieved a grade 9-4 in Maths, which is significantly above the National Average.  

In order to allow parents to see how the school works we have created a video of staff and students working together demonstrating the the close working relationship that we have with our students. This video will be available on our website and social media pages from mid October.  
In the summer term 2020 we were very conscious that we had a record breaking number of Year 6 students who had chosen Alde Valley Academy for their secondary education but were unable to join us for the formal transition process. The transition process is always extremely important to us in order to relieve anxiety for our new students and enable them to make the change to secondary school as seamless as possible. For this reason we introduced a number of innovative ideas which you are welcome to see for yourself:
  • vLogs:  Published to try to introduce certain members of staff to the students and give them a ‘brief’ introduction to their roles in school. The vlogs were posted on our website everyday and are available for you to see at: http://www.aldevalley.suffolk.sch.uk/students/transition-2020.
  • Letters from our students: A personal letter was sent to the Year 6 students from one of our Year 7 or Year 8 students. In them they summarised how they felt when they were transitioning between schools and how things turned out in reality. This provided reassurance regarding the experiences that our current students have at school.
  • Personalised video messages: Some of our Year 7 students who went to one of our nine feeder primary schools recorded a ‘personalised’ video which was shared with Year 6 students at their primary schools. These videos were available during the day at school or at home and, again, can be accessed on our website. 
  • Year 7 ‘buddies’: Each Year 7 tutor group now has two Year 11 ‘buddies’ who they were introduced to in vlogs. The Year 11 students provided reassurance and support to the Year 6 students.
  • Year 7 tutor groups: Students gave us information about who they would like to be in a Year 7 tutor group with.
  • Virtual tutor group meetings: Once we were able to put all 130 students into one of six Year 7 tutor groups (average class size of 21/22 students) we introduced the students to their new form tutor and Year 11 ‘buddies’ through the vlogs during the week. Following the introduction to the tutors all Year 6 students were invited to join a virtual tutor group meeting with their new class mates and tutor.
  • Virtual parents meeting: Following all of the children centred activities, myself and Mr Ketteringham (Deputy Headteacher) arranged a virtual meeting with as many parents as possible to give all parents the information that they required and an opportunity to ask any questions that they may have had.
  • School visits: Despite the lockdown, I personally visited every one of our feeder primaries (and those outside of our catchment) to introduce myself to the students and answer any questions that they had during this unprecedented time.
  • SEN Transition: Mrs Wills (SENCO) contacted all primary schools and parents in order to provide additional support for our vulnerable students who may have additional needs or need to be part of a nurture group. These groups of students were invited into school to meet the ‘team’ and familiarise themselves with the school site. This was obviously done following government guidelines on social distancing and other precautionary measures such as keeping students in pods based around their primary school groups. 
You can see from our work that the welfare and pastoral support of our students is absolutely paramount to us at Alde Valley Academy. This is reflected in the views of our parents:

‘All 4 of my children have gone here and we've seen the school improve massively in the last few years. I wouldn't consider sending mine anywhere else & recommend it to everyone. I really think AVA is a great school with really good staff.’ – Year 10 parent

‘I have had two children attend this school and can honestly say that it is a fantastic school. They both had an amazing education as well as an enjoyable one. The staff really do go above and beyond to support the students. I wouldn't have wanted them to go anywhere else as in my opinion AVA is the place to be!’ – Ex Year 11 parent

‘My daughter is now in Year 10 and is throughly enjoying her time at AVA ... AVA has something very special that is hard to put your finger on. Without wanting to sound too bonkers it feels like a big family. From the friendly office staff who know who you mean when you tell them your child’s name, to all the teachers and finally the head ... A ruddy brilliant place and I make sure to tell anyone who asks!’ - Year 8 and 10 Parent

Open Mornings
With the cancellation of the Open Evening we are extremely keen to ensure that all parents who would like to see the school in action are able to do so in a safe and controlled manner during the day. For this reason we are offering more dates to book a tour. There will be two bookable tours on each morning, lasting approximately 1 hour. Tour 1 will begin at 9.15am and Tour 2 at 10.30am.

The additional dates are:
  • Thursday 8 October 
  • Friday 9 October 
  • Friday 16 October 
  • Tuesday 20 October
  • Thursday 22 October 
The booking system is on our school website at: www.aldevalley.suffolk.sch.uk
Small ‘pods’ of guests, made up of up to 2 family groups of no more than 4 members, will be taken on a tour of the school to see our refurbished school site.  
We hope you find the information in this pack insightful and useful. If you have any questions or queries about any aspect of the school please don’t hesitate to get in touch with either Mr Ketteringham (n.ketteringham@aldevalley.suffolk.sch.uk) or myself (d.mayhew@aldevalley.suffolk.sch.uk). 

From all of us at Alde Valley Aacdemy we would like to wish you well during this difficult and challenging time.

Yours faithfully, 

Mr D Mayhew

September 2020

posted 22 Sep 2020, 01:00 by Liz Pattinson   [ updated 22 Sep 2020, 01:03 ]

Dear Parent/Carer,

I very much hope that this letter finds you and your families safe and well.

Due to the unprecedented numbers of students joining Alde Valley Academy in the past few weeks we are in a position where some of our tutor groups and teaching classes have exceeded the number that we feel is acceptable.

We have extremely high expectations of our students in terms of behaviour, conduct and work rate but also demand a great deal from our staff. In order to teach, mark and assess students’ work effectively on a regular basis we feel that class sizes need to be manageable. This obviously has a financial implication for the school but we are prepared to meet that cost for the quality of education for your children.

Year 9 currently has three tutor groups which is not enough to accommodate the number of students that we have in the year group. We predict that the number of students joining us in this year group will continue to increase as students and parents start to consider GCSE subject choices. The breadth and quality of our curriculum is such that we have experienced an influx of students into year 9 in previous years.

A new timetable has been written and new members of staff have been employed to allow us to increase to four tutor and teaching groups in all subjects. The timetable is currently being checked by Heads of Faculty and Subject Leads and we propose to start it on Monday 28 September 2020. In the meantime we are pushing ahead with four teaching groups in Maths and Science starting on Monday 21 September 2020. These groups will be set according to ability and will be dynamic, allowing students to move up or down sets according to the progress that they are making.

The Key Stage 3 team lead by Mr Kelsall have arranged the four tutor groups using academic data and have taken into consideration which students work best together. It is inevitable that there will be a small number of students who are disappointed not to be in each others’ class anymore or not to have the same class tutor. We feel that the huge benefit of smaller classes and improved quality of teaching and learning far outways any ‘friendship’ disappointment.

If you have any questions about any aspect of our plans please do not hesitate to contact Mr Kelsall on his school email address: a.kelsall@aldevalley.suffolk.sch.uk

Wishing you all the very best; stay safe and well.

Yours faithfully,

Mr D. Mayhew


March 2020

posted 18 Mar 2020, 04:28 by Liz Pattinson

Dear Parents/Carers                                                                                                                                     

As the Government has updated its advice on how they are dealing with the Coronavirus outbreak, I thought parents/carers would appreciate an update from the school.  We have been following the advice from Public Health England and the Department for Education.  Their advice has been around the importance of hygiene and how students and staff can reduce the spread of any outbreak. Posters and information have been publicised around the school

“Personal hygiene is the most important way we can tackle COVID-19, especially washing hands more; and the catch it, bin it, kill it strategy for those with coughs and sneezes.”

“Wash your hands more often for 20 seconds with soap and hot water.”

Public Health England recommends that in addition to handwashing before eating, and after coughing and sneezing, everyone should also wash hands after using toilets and travelling on public transport.

On the 12th March 2020 the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) offered the following travel advice.

The FCO has advised:

• Against all but essential travel to Italy

• Against all travel to Hubei Province in China

• Against all but essential travel to the rest of mainland China

• Against all travel to the cities of Daegu, Cheongdo and Gyeongsan in South Korea


You are probably aware that the Government has requested that anyone who has a high temperature or a new continuous cough should self-isolate for 14 days.  Any pupil absence should be reported in the usual way and if you have made the decision to self-isolate the absence will be recorded as an authorised absence

Will the school close?

At the moment, in line with the vast majority of schools, we are open.  We expect to remain open and can adjust as and when required.    

How will I find out if the school closes?

If the government places restrictions on all schools we will all be told through public information.  I would expect to be in a position to inform parents and we will use the website, emails and if possible, a letter.  The letter will include arrangements that we would put in place in terms of providing students with work, the priority will be Years 10 and 11 in view of public examinations.

What will happen to public examinations for Years 10 and 11?

At the moment, these year groups are very focussed on external examinations.  Any decision and information about what would happen would be made by OFQUAL (Office for Qualifications and Examinations Regulation).  They will be very mindful of the need to balance health with educational considerations.  

Why had some schools already cancelled all school trips abroad?

Some schools had made the decision in response to FCO advice.  We did not have any trips planned to Italy or China for example.  On the 12th March the Government announced that all school trips abroad are banned.  This will mainly affect Activities Week and we will look at the implications for this.

What about school trips in England?

Any decision here will be made with Public Health England and FCO advice.  At the moment we have cancelled the planned rewards trip to Thorpe Park.

Will there be an Activities Week this year?

Given the announcement about school trips abroad it will be different this year.  More information will need to follow.    

What will happen to any events with large amounts of people?

Clearly all events are under consideration.  We will need to review the Presentation Evening on 6th May 2020.

Is there soap in the toilets?

More frequent checks and replacements are being made.  In the event that there is an issue, pupils should alert the School Office who have additional supplies.

Should I bring my own sanitiser in?

This seems a very sensible thing to do alongside having your own supply of tissues.

What information should I believe on social media?

Misinformation and rumour are not very helpful.  Only trust credible sources such as HM Government and Public Health England.  School will contact you as mentioned earlier.  Don’t assume that lack of information means that we are trying to hide something.  Any information we share will be carefully considered. 

This is clearly an evolving situation and the school will respond appropriately.  In the meantime, the key messages are around hygiene and public health.

The Department for Education coronavirus helpline is available to answer questions about COVID-19 relating to education and children’s social care.  Staff, parents and young people can contact this helpline as follows:

Phone: 0800 046 8687

Yours faithfully

Mr D. Mayhew


December 2019

posted 29 Nov 2019, 03:29 by Liz Pattinson   [ updated 29 Nov 2019, 03:30 ]

It has been an extremely busy first term for our new year 7 students who have settled in extremely well and have quickly become part of the family. At the other end of the school the KS4 students are starting to gain momentum towards their GCSE exams in the summer with both year 10 and 11 sitting ‘mock’ exams in November.  

The Academy continues to nurture its partnership with a number of local, national and international businesses including EDF Energy, Morgan Sindall Construction Group, TA Hotels Collection and Leiston Press. EDF Energy have fully funded the purchase of a third school minibus with SZC and AVA livery placed on all three buses. Following Suffolk County Council’s decision to only provide free school transport to the closest school we have established our own transport plan using a combination of service bus routes and our new minibuses to transport an increasing number of students who are making Alde Valley Academy their school of choice irrespective of their closest school. Our commitment to sustainable, affordable transport remains in place for all parents. 

Indicative numbers of applications for September 2020 show that Alde Valley Academy will be oversubscribed in Year 7 for the first time in the school’s history. We are exploring the possibility of take students over our Published Admission Number (PAN) of 112 students whilst maintaining small class sizes and our unique ethos. 
Alde Valley Academy has had an Ofsted style review of student Behaviour and Attitudes (November 2019) by the Trust which was rated Good. The report concluded that ‘It is clear throughout every meeting and interaction that the students are deeply cared about by every member of staff, and that students recognise, and are grateful for, this level of care’. It also said ‘The school has worked hard to build a culture of success, and ensure that students are happy to celebrate their achievements, both around the school and in public. The behaviour system is simple, clearly understood and very effectively operated’.

Mr D. Mayhew

September 2019

posted 24 Apr 2019, 07:16 by Liz Pattinson   [ updated 25 Sep 2019, 02:02 ]

This summer we saw another great set of GCSE results for our students who continue to thrive at Alde Valley Academy. We were able to celebrate success with students, their family and carers and provide them with advice and guidance on their next steps in their education or apprenticeship.

Headlines show notable improvements in all of our core subjects of English, Maths and Science. The number of students gaining a 4+ in English was 69%, in Mathematics was 63% and in Combined Science was 60%. This was backed up by our separate Science results where the majority of students gained a 4+ in Chemistry (86%), Biology (86%) and Physics (82%). A huge ‘thank you’ to all of our staff for their hard work in supporting all of our students.

I am grateful to parents and carers for supporting the school by purchasing suitable school resources and uniform. The new skirts fit in really well and have enabled us to ensure consistency. We have received a number of positive comments from members of the community about how well behaved and smart our students look.

Our new Year 7 have made a particularly impressive start. Our new transport plans have proved to be really effective as we have been able to fulfil our promise of providing transport to any student wishing to come to Alde Valley Academy without a significant financial burden to the family. We are offering, and will continue to offer, student transport to and from school for just 50p per journey irrespective of the distance from Leiston. We have also worked closely with Sir John Leman High School who are offering free Post-16 student transport to their 6th form.  

I have spent a significant amount of time, as we start the term, in assemblies and visiting lessons and I have been impressed with student ‘buy-in’ to our ethos and values. A particular focus for development this year is peer and self -assessment to enable students to be more effective learners. Pleasingly, I have already seen this being effective in the classroom.


Great Autumn Term

posted 14 Dec 2018, 01:33 by Admin Admin   [ updated 8 Jan 2019, 09:11 by Robin Oxborrow ]

Alde Valley Academy staff and students have, as usual, been busy this term with many activities in addition to teaching and learning. This newsletter highlights some of the amazing opportunities that our students have at school and how well they grasp them.

We are very pleased to announce that Waveney Valley Academies Trust has been approved as the new sponsor of Alde Valley Academy. We all feel that this is a fabulous opportunity for students, parents and staff. We see this as a very positive and exciting move forward enabling us to continue on our strong journey of improvement.

Year 11 students have just completed their ‘mock’ examinations and we have identified and addressed their stengths and weaknesses in all subjects. We have set challenging targets and we hope to fulfil the potential of all of our students.

We are proud that Alde Valley Academy raises a large amount for charity. We are currently supporting Team GB athlete Ryan Crouch through ‘Inspired Through Sport’. The growth mind set for the physical and mental well-being of all our students was reinforced by Ryan through his own shared experiences of his life through sport when he visited us on 18th October 2018. Our students raised £2421 through sponsored exercise so ‘thank you’ to all that took part and to all of the friends and family who sponsored them.

‘Children in Need on Friday 16th November saw the Alde Valley community coming together once again to raise money for a great cause. A total of £525 was collected throughout the day. A huge thank you to all involved; this was a fantastic result!

I would like to thank you once again for your support in helping us to maintain high standards with regard to uniform and appearance. There has been a huge improvement in the overall appearance of our students over the past couple of years. We now thankfully see very few students wearing jewellery, hooded tops, incorrect footwear or in possession of mobile phones. If you need to check uniform rules, information is available on our website. I would like to remind all parents that students are not allowed piercings apart from one small stud in each ear lobe. Hair styles and colours should not be extreme. Acrylic nails are not suitable for school activities. Mobile phones should be switched off and kept out of sight throughout the day. Students must also wear black polished shoes.

Students are often commended by teachers for excellent academic work, improvement or progress in work or an outstanding contribution to the school or local community. The commendation is given via posters displayed around the school. Headteacher awards are also presented to a number of students throughout the school year. I would like to congratulate all of our students on their achievements this term.

After an amazing Open Evening in September, where we were overwhelmed by the amount of attendees eager to see the school in action, I am delighted
to report that the popularity of Alde valley Academy continues to grow. This is reflected in the fact that we have had 23 students start ‘new’ at the school since the beginning of September with the vast majority of parents and visitors to the school complimenting us on what a ‘calm and nurturing environment’ there is at Alde Valley Academy. Any new prospective parents and students are very welcome to join me for a tour of the school. In addition, the DfE and Ofsted provisional school performance data was released in October, and from that I am again delighted to inform you that Alde valley Academy continues to perform extremely well in terms of the Progress 8, which measures students’ progress across all subjects.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy Christmas and look forward to welcoming all of our students’ back on Thursday 3rd January 2019.

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