School Focus: Hinde House Secondary School
Equipping children with skills they can take out into the world is central to the ethos of Hinde House secondary school in Sheffield.
That is the belief of executive principal Vicky Simcock, who has been bringing about change at the school in Shiregreen since she took up her role in December.
Whether it be the reintroduction of a library facility along with subjects such as music and food technology, or a smarter uniform policy, everything is done to ensure the students reach their full potential and – eventually – become rounded adults.
Mrs Simcock said: “People say to me ‘As a headteacher aren’t you more interested in teaching the children reading, writing and maths?’ Of course I am, but actually I’m a mum of three kids and I know one of the things that can really affect a child’s mental health is how they feel about themselves.
“You know what makes you feel better? Listening to a good piece of music. It can take you to the very highs, but also take you to despair.
“But it is a really emotive tool and when we think about mental health and worry about how many children are not getting access to services, I think introducing music to the curriculum is great.”
Mrs Simcock has also set about developing links with local councillors, businesses and – most importantly – parents to help build trusting relationships.
“I think it is really important to remember that your parents are your customers and when a parent sends their child to this school they’re giving us their most prized possession,” she said.
“And, I’d much rather have parents that are on my case questioning me and challenging me, or challenging the reasons and the rationale of what we’re doing, than those parents that are disinterested.
“One of the things I’ve found is the parents have got very clear opinions and part of my job is to make sure our opinions and our direction of travel sit side by side.
“There is a job to be done in some way in terms of improving communication – working with parents and other stakeholders so they understand the rationale for some of the decisions that we make because when they realise it’s actually the right thing to do it’s very hard to be antagonistic or confrontational.”
Every half-term a drop-in surgery is held in which parents can discuss their concerns.
Mrs Simcock said she also believes in an open-door policy, meaning she is always on hand to deal with any complaints either by email or over the phone.
She added: “We held a drop-in just before we broke up for half term and we had over 35 parents that came and that was about sexual relationships education.
“There were a lot of questions about the government’s insistence that we teach about same-sex relationships. In the community that I serve that causes a lot of concern as that can be contrary to some of the religious beliefs and cultural expectations.
“We’ve promised parents that before we teach SRE we will publish how we’re going to do it and they can give us constructive feedback.
“We’re split so much as a society that I believe as the executive principal here I have to make myself open to the customers. It is no use my working through the 1,300 pupils that come to Hinde House 3-16 school, I’ve got to work through the parents as well.
“We’ve put PSHE and RE back into the curriculum too. People say ‘What’s the use in RE?’, but I want to teach about morals and values and about how similar we are. I want us to start celebrating the similarities we have rather than the differences.”
The school has developed a behaviour and welfare team headed up by former police officer Jon Ekubiri.
“Jon is Burngreave born and bred he knows what it is like to police around here and knows the families,” said Mrs Simcock.
“He is now leading a team of behaviour and welfare officers and they are adding an additional layer in terms of our ability to safeguard and provide social care for the children.
“But it is not just the children. We are making referrals, for example families that are in crisis – it is not just the kids.
“They say schools have become the fourth emergency service. If we are going to move from being a good school to being absolutely brilliant, we’ve got to work in the community, with the community and meet all the needs even in the chaos.
“It is about being that supportive role for families.”
Mrs Simcock said the future will involve making small but vital changes to ‘do the right thing by the children’.
She will be meeting with the Junior Leadership Team and working with pupils to decide on a clear uniform policy that will establish a smart dress code – setting them up to be well turned out for jobs later in life.
“I stood up in front of this school in December and said ‘If it isn’t good enough for my own it isn’t good enough for you,” Mrs Simcock said.
“I believe that. I want children in this school to go on and be absolutely brilliant.”