One of the joys of working at Wisbech Grammar School is that the history of the School is all around you, and you become an integral part of the School’s rich heritage. Founded in 1379 by the Guild of the Holy Trinity, Wisbech is one of the oldest schools in the country – however the School has always kept up with a changing world.
Now that my own history with the school is about to take a different course as I contemplate retirement, I thought I would share some of the changes I have seen during my time at Wisbech Grammar School.
Early days of technology
As a thriving co-educational school with nearly 600 pupils, our sights are firmly set on preparing young people for the future by nurturing their academic, artistic and sporting talent. To do this, we rely on technology which gives us the latest information on pupils’ attendance, achievement and behaviour, all at the touch of a button.
It wasn’t always like that though. When I first joined Wisbech Grammar School as a chemistry teacher back in 1985, our pupil data was held in rows of filing cabinets, and looking up a child’s medical history, or finding last term’s maths results meant sifting through reams of paper.
At that time, we had one or two computers and a couple of technically able members of staff started to use a system called NOVA T4 to help us with timetabling – this was later to become part of SIMS. And as time went on, we saw the potential for SIMS to support us in other ways too.
Our digital revolution
Remember the old paper registers which had to be fetched and returned to the school office once you had marked pupils present or absent? Ours were in big blue books. These days, our teachers take attendance on laptops or tablets in a few taps of the screen, and you can see at a glance where any pupil is at any given time.
Parental reporting was also quite an undertaking before we moved across to SIMS. All our reports were handwritten, in triplicate, and if you made a mistake, everyone else had to write their section again too. Many of us remember burning the midnight oil writing reports.
When we introduced computerised reports, they received a cautious welcome from some members of staff who were understandably apprehensive about leaving behind the traditionally penned and signed comments. However, since we moved to SIMS InTouch, which sends reports home by email, no one regrets the passing of the old paper versions which always carried the risk of getting lost in the post or buried at the bottom of the school bag.
Winds of change
In the thirty or so years since I have been at the School, there have been many other changes; the addition of a prep school, some fantastic new teaching spaces and a brand new 6th Form block to mention just a few.
Like most schools, we have remodelled our approach to assessment in recent years, and SIMS has evolved along with us, giving us the confidence to track pupils’ performance, teach a challenging curriculum and keep a close eye on everyone’s wellbeing.
Another change is just how clued up, and competent, our young people are with technology – they can’t imagine life without it. One thing that hasn’t changed though, is the wonderful enthusiasm, energy and thirst for learning we see in our pupils.
And although I am looking forward to retiring, I have very mixed feelings about leaving my role here at Wisbech. There is something about teaching that keeps your mind fresh and gives you a new perspective on life.
The magic of teaching is that you come to work not knowing what that day will bring – and every day brings you something you weren’t expecting.
As for my own future, I plan to continue enjoying life here in Wisbech with my wife, and getting more involved in charities and the local church. One of my main focuses will be Wisbech Reads, a charity which aims to boost the literacy levels of children and adults in the area.
As one chapter closes, another one opens, but I will always treasure my part in the history of Wisbech Grammar School.
By Mike Forrest, Deputy Head Academic, Wisbech Grammar School, Cambridgeshire