As the 2016/2017 academic year draws to a close, I would like to share a few thoughts as the newly appointed Chair of Governors for our school. As a volunteer that has been involved in the setup of the school from its conception, it is a great honour to serve the Atherton community in this capacity. Our Principal, Mrs Burton, has, like me, been at the school since it started so we have been part of the development since day one. In spite of various ups and downs, our enthusiasm remains undiminished.
Change is constant and so we are preparing for the next academic year which will see us welcome over 90 new students, somewhat higher than planned. The school therefore continues to grow nicely and we will have in place a full complement of staff, teaching and non-teaching to nurture our school community. As we are all aware, Atherton can present challenges but we are heartened by the staff who constantly wish to test their considerable skills in following their vocation.
This last week I have been honoured to attend the Year 11 Leavers assembly and the Sports award ceremony. That might appear as nothing special but in our case both are new events. It has taken five years to have a full complement of year groups for these events to take place and so this year we said goodbye to the children and some of the families who joined us right at the beginning. Just to be there was a privilege but some of the unsolicited comments after the proceedings were most welcome. Some families had joined us mid-journey because of problems elsewhere but most had stayed the full trip as the founding 39. It was quite emotional but inspiring.
Last night, Friday 30th June 2017, was our first ever sports award evening. There was a terrific turnout by students and parents alike. It was nice to the see the staff just get on and enthusiastically deliver the reports and show the video and photographic evidence of what had been achieved. With a school ethos of Grace, Love and Fellowship it is not just about winning but about overcoming physical difficulties, lack of confidence and just doing your best. The abiding memory for me was seeing one young man with such problems not only receive the top honour but seeing all his class mates stand and applaud his achievement. Nonetheless we do have some fine young athletes whose sporting prowess has much further to travel.
Afterwards, it was very pleasing to see parents and families stay and talk with us and each other. Again it was somewhat emotional and some of the staff were more in bits than the students! Families again came up to us and made some very rewarding comments about their five years or so at the school. I talked with a local man Paul Ackers, who is a fellow Governor and there from the start together with some other families who were seeing one child leave but had other children coming through the school - they commented about the genuine inclusion that was clearly visible amongst young people from different backgrounds and abilities. Like anywhere else, we have had the odd fallout but I can genuinely say that there has never been any racist, homophobic or similar problems brought to my attention as a local supporter and Governor from the outset. Chapel Street, our sponsor has all the right policies for dealing with issues of this nature, but the policies, it is pleasing to say have not been necessary.
Shortly we will be addressing the size and make up of our governing body and then discussing various issues such as social media, attendance, staffing and of course budgets. Together with our sponsor, we will have to come up with a solution for reducing income and growing numbers but we will get over these problems and provide our Community with the infrastructure for our staff and students to have another outstanding year and fulfil their potential.