Transcript of Open Morning Address to prospective parents

4 October 2018

Hello. So now you’ve heard from our Head Girl and Boy, my address will cover other important characteristics about USH, and answer what I feel is the most important question for your visit; will my child be happy and successful here?

I’m a great believer in the life-long power of secondary schools.

I believe our values are created during the formative years of secondary school, and this story (one which has stayed with me since my own secondary school days) underlines what matters most to a successful school life.

One of my least favourite subjects in secondary school was Art because I did not like my teacher and she didn’t like me. We were both strong characters with strong opinions. Things came to a head one lesson when I was being taught perspective drawing and I thought I knew best. I didn’t but the disagreement with my teacher (Miss Semple) escalated and resulted in my mum being called into the school to discuss it. Now 30 years ago, parents came into school very rarely, usually for parents’ evenings, so being called in by a teacher was a big deal. The day of the meeting arrived and as my mum approached the school gates, I instantly knew this meeting was likely to change things. With one look I could see she meant business. How did I know? Because she was wearing her best coat. I saw this coat typically just three times a year, so its appearance was of significant symbolism. And I intuitively felt that something would change that day.
I was not included in the meeting and waited outside the classroom listening for clues to the conversation through the change in tone of voices. I waited and I waited and eventually, my mother emerged. And silence. We walked the half a mile home without words and when we got indoors she sat me down and said. ‘Things will be ok now’. Somewhat startled by a seeming anti-climax, I turned to go when she said in a low and commanding voice, ‘one more behave yourself’. Without question, I knew this was non-negotiable.  She never told me what was actually said in the classroom that day, but from then on a transformation occurred between me and Miss Semple; my work improved and my attitude did too. I went on to ace my GCSE and then to A level Art before continuing my love of design through my minor at University. The new found security I felt from those two adults working things out helped me understand boundaries and appreciate that adults know how to do things that children don’t.
After a decade in industry it was the creativity fostered at secondary school which inspired me through teacher training and later led me to this headship.

I tell you this story for two reasons, firstly as insight into the power of secondary school to but also to highlight the importance of strong home & school relationships in helping children feel safe and secure.

Doubtless you will already know something about our school but let me start by saying that I am immensely proud of our high-performing and inclusive school and invite you to experience it for yourself. Talk to our students, see what we do, hear how we do it and importantly, feel what it’s like to learn here.

So permit me to deal with a formal element first. Our exam results are highly competitive; typically USH performs above or significantly above national comparisons in all key headline measures in English and Maths and their combined results. This summer's results are no exception. We are projecting our overall progress to be around the top 20% of schools nationally and in the top 5% of schools in Hampshire; you will hear this referred to as a Progress 8 score.

All staff here know that the ultimate proof of their passion and commitment lies in ensuring our students leave us with the best qualifications to thrive in whatever they choose to do next. Our traditional curriculum (The English Baccalaureate) has exceptional quality and is a national leader in its results and quality. We are also regional leaders in sports and culture and our enrichment programmes (which rival the private sector) are designed to enhance the student experience and broaden horizons. 

Results are, of course, only one part of the USH offer. We fundamentally believe is raising happy and confident learners and family values form the bedrock of our school. Relationships between staff and students are typically exceptional and without fail, ex-students return here to visit and tell us of their successes. Recently, one Year 11 student told me ’USH has been my second home’.

Due to demand in places, USH is undergoing a gradual and modest expansion, to a maximum of 1050 students by 2021. We are protecting our values and our highly regarded pastoral system to ensure all children continue to enjoy a genuine sense of belonging and togetherness. Collectively, our students speak 43 languages and our international dimension and inclusivity blends brilliantly to create a contemporary British mix; We are a secular school and one which is proudly spiritual. Our thoughtful, reflective practice and restorative ethos, underlines the premium we pace of individual dignity and esteem; and these are the things we are committed to protect throughout our expansion.

Practically speaking, Phase 1 of the expansion is now complete and in time we will be adding additional sports facilities as Phase 2. It’s hard to believe we have secured such great sporting achievements whilst being the only secondary school in Southampton without a sporthall. But then that’s the power of people for you.
And talking of power, In a recent meeting with a mixed group of students, I asked them to describe USH to someone who doesn’t know us, what they said (without prompt or contribution from me) talks to the heart of what it’s like here from a student perspective; ‘Upper Shirley High’s community gets to the core of learning. No matter what your interests; there’s a place for everyone here. You can achieve your goals while having fun, in a safe and welcoming environment’.

So you’ve heard a number of factors which make USH unique but now I invite you to meet some of the best professionals in the business and put them to the test. What I know to be true is, your parental instinct will serve you well. Doubtless, it’s never let you down.

Should you need specific technical assistance with our admissions process, or help with an application, Jo Glenton (our Admissions Officer) can be found in our reception area or contactable later via E mail on

I will conclude my address today with a final request; if ever you come in for a meeting with one of my staff, please use the opportunity to strengthen your relationship with us, and in turn communicate to your son or daughter that the adults are all on the same team. Show you mean business and wear your best coat. 

Thank you

I’m a great believer in the life-long power of secondary schools.
I am immensely proud of our high-performing and inclusive school