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Thank you to Dr Mark Pegg who visited us on Thursday 14 February to interview staff and students for an article which will appear in the next edition of Your Amersham.  His article is as follows:

 Local Schools

This article is part of an occasional series where we get to know more about our local schools, with a focus on the important part they play in our local community.  This time it is Amersham School an upper school, a business and enterprise college in the heart of Amersham as seen through the eyes of their Headteacher Sharon Jarrett, her senior leadership team, the Head Boy and Head Girl and students from each year in the school.

Sharon Jarrett is a dynamic Head – who ‘walks the talk’. Everyone I meet says she is a very visible and accessible leader.  She knows the name of every student.  She is the face of the school, but she is also a dedicated team player and her determination to build an impressively strong collective culture shines through.  She greets me by saying ‘everything that happens at Amersham School happens because of the people, the teachers and students and the way they work together.’ To prove her point, this is not an interview with her, but with her senior team, and lots of students who come to meet me and freely answer all my questions.  

Mrs Jarrett has been Head for over a decade and has a very loyal, dedicated team; many in her senior team have been with her throughout her Headship and together they’ve worked immensely hard to develop and apply the school’s values and culture.  As colleague Peter Ashman says, ‘the values and ethos permeate the whole school and everything we do’.

It’s not just fine words: all schools say they put their children at the heart of everything they do, but it is crystal clear Sharon Jarrett and her team have been immensely successful in making it happen.  As she explains, ‘We’ve invented a new word, we immerse everyone, students and staff, in the life of the school: they are “Amershamised”’. If it is right for the children, it will happen for them.  She also underlines how the team’s work is ‘relentless’ (she uses the word several times), working hard every single day to apply the learning philosophy, their moral purpose, values and ethos and add value to every child.  It has paid off in improved attitudes and behaviour and in results: Amersham School is one of the highest rated upper schools in Buckinghamshire. 

The school balances continuity with change in a world full of change.  They take decisions on changes by applying two key tests: ‘how is it going to influence delivery of a first-class education’ and ‘how is it going to impact on the quality of what the children receive’.

Mrs Jarrett definitely enjoys doing things differently: there are only 4 lessons – they call them ‘learning episodes’ - each day in a two-week cycle.  This shapes the pace of learning, gives teachers more time to be creative where students are able to focus on deeper learning.  Her team explain how this is part of a commitment to trigger the ‘joy’ of learning.  Her colleague Katie Strain illustrates how this manifests itself by describing a satisfying moment she observed in an English lesson recently where the children cheered when they were invited to read the next chapter of a book: they are reading and learning, but they are doing it by acquiring the joy of reading.

I don’t have to take the Head’s word for all this: I meet the Head Boy, Rory, and Head Girl, Emily, who tell me what a friendly place the school is – ‘friendly’ features many times in the conversations with students. They say the teachers are very approachable and open; Emily says, ‘I can go to a teacher at any time and can trust them always.’  Rory says, ‘There is a huge sense of happiness, we create moments of joy here, in lessons, sport and school life generally’. He is proud of the way students work together and praises the way 6th formers help pupils in the younger years to tackle learning – such as reading – and by being ‘mind mentors’ who help to strengthen their mental attitude.

I also meet a group of children from all the age groups and they are bubbly, cheerful and confident.  All describe the school as a happy place, everyone is very accessible, they like the learning and all agree the support system is really good. They all say the teachers care for them and are dedicated to help them learn, and this pays off when they really need it. One says, ‘People value you for who you are, not just how good you are’.  Another says, ‘There is never a dull moment at school’; yet another says, ‘You are always busy, there are lots and lots of activities, inter-form and inter-house competitions’.  They all say they enjoy the charity fund raising; there is a Valentine Day’s cake sale going on that morning, where the students sell all the cakes and raise lots of money.  

The Head underlines how vital it is in the “Amershamised” culture to boost students’ self-esteem, develop their self-confidence, to help them help each other to learn and to create lots of opportunities to grow high-quality leadership and enterprise skills they can call on in life.

We can’t end without mentioning two very popular members of the school: Ruby & Ella, the school support dogs - King Charles spaniels, perfect for children to care for. They help children needing more confidence with their learning and are always there for them if a student needs a few minutes of love in a stressful day.