Message from Mark Thomas - Headteacher

Message from Mark Thomas - Headteacher

Message from Mark Thomas - Headteacher

At the time of writing I am really looking forward to the Christmas Carol service, having missed the Harvest Festival and cross country, which is one of my favourite Brymore events of the year. I always feel that the boys are at their best when representing the school and helping run whole school events. Last year the service was disrupted due to severe snow, with many parents unable to attend, so hopefully things will run more smoothly this year. The Autumn Term is always a long one and I am sure the Year 9’s in particular are looking forward to the Christmas break. They have settled into the school well and the older students, through the new boarding house arrangements, have shown typical Brymore responsibility in assisting with this process. With the opening of School House and new boarding arrangements, along with the new Leadership Team, there have been a number of changes this term. The boys have responded well to these changes and have helped influence how the school works through the new prefect and school council systems. I feel it is important that the boys continue to have a voice in helping shape the future of the school, both in the short and long term, which is why the the prefects and members of the school council have a vital role to play.

On a personal note I would like to thank all of you who have sent cards, presents and personal messages of support following the birth of my son Isaac Walter a few weeks ago. The boys have been fantastic and Isaac has already visited the school on a couple of occasions which I hope will increase when my wife is able to drive and spend more time living on the school site. Staff have also been hugely supportive, as I have tried to squeeze in at least some paternity leave over the past three weeks whilst Mrs Davis has continued to lead the school in my absence.

Finally I would like to wish you all Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

New Behaviour System

Staff have been working hard this term, led by Mr Oliver, in revising the schools behaviour policy and procedures. This will be launched in January 2012 and it is an attempt to ensure more consistency is reached, boys are aware of clear boundaries and that support is available for individuals where necessary. We have used two outside consultants to observe lessons, evening procedures and deliver training to all staff. I feel this has become necessary because there are many new staff in the school and some aspects of behaviour management in the past has been handled by monitors as part of the old ‘Brymore way.’ It is also vital that students receive a fair but consistent message from all staff. It is all part of the ongoing work to review procedures across the school to ensure the welfare of the boys continues to be top of the agenda. I will write to all parents in the new year, outlining the behaviour policy and this will be launched with the boys on their return in January.


Please see the enclosed paper outlining the progress we have made in addressing the issues highlighted in the Safeguarding Review carried out in March 2011.

Staffing News

As reported earlier Mr Turner retires as the Head of Maths at Christmas but will continue in his role of House Parent so will still be seen around the school. I would like to thank him for all he has done at Brymore and I know the boys are sad to see him leave. Mr Manlow also leaves the maths department in the new year having covered temporarily this term. I was pleased when Mr Manlow agreed to join us at Brymore, as securing quality part time staff is never easy and I am grateful for his hard work this term. This all means there will be a new maths department in January. Ian Ashton replaces Mr Turner, who has a history of raising achievement across more than one school and I know is an excellent teacher. I worked with Mr Ashton in the London Borough of Havering a number of years ago so I am well aware of the qualities he will bring to the school. Brian Edmunds (former Deputy Head of Brymore) is also due to return to teach maths part time in January. All students in Years 10 and 11 will be well aware of the strengths of Mr Edmunds and I am delighted he is able to join us again after his travels around the world last term.

Finally Clare Turner joined the school last week as Office Manager and has already settled into the school well. One of her key tasks will be ensuring data relating to student performance is available to all staff, parents and students to support our new mentoring scheme and our drive to raise achievement.

Building Works/EDF Energy

All major building works are now complete, with only minor alterations/snagging outstanding. The old teaching block will now be removed in the summer holidays.

EDF energy has submitted their proposal for the Cannington bypass to the IPC which could take up to a year before a decision is made. As a reminder, the bypass will cut across our drive, approximately a third of the way up from the entrance but not taking any of our farm land. It will however cut part of the Brymore ‘estate’ off from the rest of the school grounds. We have been in negotiations with EDF since the whole scheme was first proposed and even though we still oppose the construction of the road, we are close to agreeing a figure for mitigation purposes should planning permission be granted. In reality they will actually acquire a small part of our land, so we have been concentrating on the effect it will have rather than the loss of land. I hope to be able to report the outcome of these negotiations very soon. If successful, construction could start in 2013.

University Technical College

The enclosed document has been put together giving more information on our application to become a UTC. I am well aware that there are a small but significant number of people who would rather Brymore never changes and remains as it is. In an ideal world the majority of the staff, leadership team and myself included would love Brymore to continue to be a small, boys only school. However we do not live in an ideal world and the demands from the Government and those placed on young people in an ever changing job market, mean that Brymore has to develop to ensure we are providing the best education for the young people we serve. Less and less boys now go on to work on the family farm and those that wish to pursue a career in agriculture are finding they need a grade ‘C’ in English and Maths if they are to progress on to a level 3 course. More and more boys wish to pursue other careers, with engineering and related courses proving more and more popular, along with an increasing range of other options. We therefore owe it to these boys to prepare them academically, as well as socially, to be able to compete with the very best in the job market. We cannot therefore ignore the ‘academic’ side of the school, whilst still wishing to maintain the practical bias.

In addition it is likely that in 2013, due to the government spending review, Brymore could lose out in some significant funding it has been receiving from the Local Authority for many years. In effect we are the highest funded school in Somerset, yet our A*-C including English and Maths figures do not reflect this investment. This is why Brymore was forced to become a National Challenge Trust School two years ago. The cold hard facts are the school needs to improve its results to survive and make itself financially more viable without additional LA funding. This risk I knew when I applied to become the Headteacher, as did the leadership team when they also applied to join the school, so we are committed to ensuring the school continues to thrive in the future, for the sake of the boys, let alone the jobs of all the staff concerned. My philosophy has always been to be open with staff, parents and students which I will continue to be and I can assure you there is much hard work going on behind the scenes to ensure the future of Brymore is safe. In assembly I compared our future to two companies who were forced to change to survive, Woolworths and Apple. One did change and became one of the most successful companies in the world by doing things differently and one did not. Brymore needs to learn from this.

I met with a number of representatives from local and national food companies this week, who were keen to work with Brymore. Bridgwater College and Bristol University have also agreed to sponsor our application and Government Ministers have made positive sounds about Brymore. There is a huge amount of work to do to make this a success, as the Government will not invest £5-8 million in a school without there being a clear plan for success. I therefore urge you to read the enclosed paper, complete the enclosed questionnaire, and attend the parents forum which will be either side of the February half term. I will inform you of an exact date and time when it has been finalised. If you would like to discuss any of these matters personally, then please do not hesitate to contact Mrs Davis, Mrs Bindon or myself at the school. Things are inevitably moving fast as we have deadlines to meet and details may change with time, however, I will continue to share these developments as and when they arise. If all is successful, then Brymore could become a UTC as early as 2013, which will directly affect the current Year 9’s and those Year 10’s who chose to stay on into Year 12. However, anyone who has ever attended Brymore will care about its future and I welcome the views of all concerned.

Student Activites ~ Mr Fitzsimons

I am pleased to report a large number of boys have continued to take part in a wide range of activities this term. Activities provided include:

Motor Vehicle Maintenance at Bridgwater College (two courses), Bricklaying at Bridgwater College, Welding (two courses), Black-smithing (three courses), Engineering (three courses), Working with Wood (two courses), Fishing, Dry slope ski-ing, Garden Club, Golf, Production of School Newspaper, Guitar lessons, Drum lessons, Football, Choir, The Message (Christian Based Discussion Group), Young Farmers Club, Book Club, Weight Training, Digital Photography, Bee Club, Poultry Club, as well as the usual activities of Farm duties, Garden duties, Chads Hill run, Fitness, Circuits, Rugby and Hockey training.

Student Council ~ Mr Oliver

During the course of this term the student council was set up. Boys were voted for and then selected to represent the voice of the students’ within the school. In the first meeting the council agreed terms of office and condition. It is hoped that from the council other groups will emerge and discuss very specific issues close the students’ hearts.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the following boys on their appointment to the student council:

Michael Hutchings (Chairman)

William Cleave, Charlie Coleman and Joe Warren (representing Reid House)

Huw Edwards, Ed Rook and Charlie Rowsell (representing Kemp House)

Harry Baines, William Waind and Lawrence Weekes (representing School House)

I am sure that they will represent the voice of the students’ within the school with passion and vigour and I look forward to working with them over the academic year.

Prefects ~ Mr Oliver

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the prefects for their contribution to this term. They have given tours, helped out on break and lunch time duty and more importantly acted as student ambassadors in and around the school.

The school prefects are:

Harry Baines, Tom Blackman, Callum Cameron, George Darby, Hamish Forfar,Jasper Gutteridge, Lloyd Hewish, Tom Hopkins, John Hurford, Henry Macilwaine, Danny Norman, Josh Ursell and Lachlan Verry

I am also looking forward to appointing several new prefects in January.

SEN News ~ Mrs Anstice

During the course of the term a number of annual review meetings have taken place for students in Year 9 to review their progress and how they have settled into Brymore. Thanks to parents for attending and for their support of their son. Well Done to the boys concerned.

Should your son need an Annual Review meeting you will be contacted by Mrs Anstice.

It has been a busy term within the learning support department and I am pleased to say we now have a number of intervention groups running including individual and group literacy support, social skills meetings and language and communication sessions. Thank you to all the learning support staff for your hard work in running these sessions and to the boys for making them such a success. They will continue after Christmas.

Course Information Booklet ~ Mrs Anstice

A pink A5 booklet which is the Key Stage 4 Course Information Booklet is enclosed for Parents of Year 11 students. You will find term by term information about the topics your son is studying in each subject, as well as key exam dates and controlled assessments. Staff have also provided information detailing what your son needs to do to ensure he is successful each term. This is a valuable tool in supporting your son in his final year at Brymore, so please do take the time to read it through. On the back page are the contact names for the different heads of department should you have a specific subject enquiry.

Being a Year 12 at Brymore ~ Oliver Mahon, Deputy Head Boy

This means I have the best of both worlds, I get to live at the school but study at Bridgwater College, Cannington Centre.

If I have an early start, I cycle down after breakfast and join the other 15 on my course for a days studying, both classroom based and practical. If a later start or my work experience days - which I am attached to the school Horticultural Department - I attend morning assembly, which gives me a chance to wear a suit!

Living at the school means that I can enjoy the many evening activities available especially Chads Hill and the whole of a Saturday morning doing practical Blacksmithing. I can also help in the house during prep and with the sports.

Ski Trip ~ Mr Ball

This year another 17 boys are heading to the Austrian resort of Mayrhofen - the sixth time we have visited this end of the Ziller valley. We have a great hotel booked right next to a gondola station and the boys and staff can’t wait to hit the slopes (not literally!!!).

We have some great activities lined up for the evenings - Curling, Swimming and a 1.3km Coaster ride down the mountain to name a few.

There will be a couple of trophies up for grabs as well along with some humorous t/shirts to wear during the evenings.

I am sure that we will all have a great time.

Sports Report ~ Mr Spridgens


At the time of writing we think that the Year 11 rugby team has reached the final of the Sedgemoor League. This will be played in February 2012. Further details later.

The Year 10 team finally won their first game at the 13th time of asking. They then went on to win three in a row. Additional squad members will prove useful in the future.

The Year 9 team also won their first game 25-17 in a hard fought match at Shapwick. Numbers for practice are a respectable 23 on average.


Under the help of Mrs Gemal and Miss Bowering the hockey team played their first game against Chilton Trinity on Wednesday with a final score of 3-1 to Chilton.


The evening fitness sessions are still very well attended. These will continue in the new year at the same times on the set evenings.

Chads Hill

The Chads Hill runs still remain immensely popular with staff and students. A great many starter certificates of 10 runs have already been awarded. Two boys have already awarded their bronze certificate of 25 attempts. Further awards are issued at 50, 75 and 100 runs. During the winter months the students run wearing fluorescent bibs for safety reasons.

Horticulture News ~ Mr Willcocks

Another busy half-term - there’s always something to do! The boys have worked on their plots – double digging some of them. We have continued to juice apples to make into cider, the year 9s have become very proficient at this. Whatever the weather we carry on, so please make sure your son returns with warm clothes to wear under their overalls - school uniform is NOT acceptable. We also expect all boys to have steel toe-capped boots to wear. Year 10s and 11s have carried out a number of tasks rejuvenating beds and putting down mulch, taking cuttings, mixing compost and plenty of potting on. Do remember we always have a range of herbs, perennials and shrubs to sell. The leaf pile is now full to overflowing and the grass, which has kept growing, has been kept tidy by Mr Coats. Many thanks to all the team for all they do on a weekly basis.