Senior School Virtual Open Morning Q&A

We hosted our Senior School Virtual Open Morning online on Saturday, 26th September. The event started with a presentation from Headmaster, Dr Huw Williams and Deputy Head Academic, Mr Darren Morton, before a 30minute live Q&A session.

If you missed our Virtual Open Morning, we invite you to watch the recording below.

Below is a summary of answers to all of the questions asked during this event, including those we did not have time to answer live on Saturday.

If you would like to request more information or want to find out more, please don’t hesitate to contact our Senior School Admissions Secretary, Mrs Jane Herbert on head@yarmschool.org. You can also explore the School grounds and watch videos from pupils and staff from the comfort of your own home in our Virtual 360 Tour.

General

How long has Dr Williams been Headmaster at Yarm School?

Dr Williams joined Yarm School as Headmaster in September, 2019. Dr Williams joined Yarm from Tonbridge School in Kent, where he was Second Master. He moved to Yarm with his family and his three young children are currently pupils at the Prep School.

Dr Williams studied Anatomy and Developmental Biology at University College London before completing a PhD in early embryonic patterning at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge and the Wellcome Trust Gurdon Institute. Following this, he completed post-doctoral research in the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and became a Research Fellow at St Edmund’s College in Cambridge. His teaching career started at Westminster School in London where he taught Biology, becoming an Assistant Housemaster and then the Housemaster of a Day and Boarding House. He left Westminster to become Second Master at Tonbridge from where he joined Yarm School.

How many staff/teachers work at the Senior School?

Currently, the teaching staff comprises 63 full-time and 18 part-time staff in the Senior School. We also employ support staff, many of whom have important specialist, professional and technical skills and experience to facilitate the smooth-running of the School.

How many children are at the school?

From First Year (Year 7) to Upper Sixth (Year 13), we have approximately 770 pupils. This averages out at 110 per year group, but does vary from year to year.

What is the male/female split?

There is a nearly equal proportion of boys and girls in the Senior School. The split is currently 48:52, boys:girls

How are house groups determined?

House groups are carefully arranged to ensure a mixture of pupils from the many different feeder schools. Siblings are generally placed in the same House.

What is the food like?

Our fantastic catering team provides a daily menu of brilliant-quality food each day. As well as a varied selection of delicious main meals, pupils are offered soups, pastas and jacket potatoes. There is also a salad bar, the option to make your own sandwich, and a dessert station including fruit.

What do you talk about in assemblies?

Assemblies are a really important part of the week. Normally, weekly whole school assemblies take place in our impressive, 750-seat auditorium and would be run by Headmaster, Dr Williams, teaching staff or pupils. There are also weekly assemblies for First to Fourth Years and, separately, for Fifth Year to Upper Sixth.  Individual year group assemblies take place as required.

Currently, we are broadcasting assemblies live into tutor rooms via an online webinar or recording and distributing assemblies for the whole school to watch.

We talk about a whole range of topics, with examples from this term including the power of incremental gain and the value of practice, ways to find positives in difficult situations and how to recognise and take control of things you have the power to whilst not worrying about things outside your control. Typically, our whole school assemblies within each term loosely follow a theme such as ‘adventure.’ 

What challenges does the School face?

The process of applying to Yarm School is very competitive and we are always faced with more families applying than there are places available. We want children who are going to thrive in our learning environment to be given the opportunity to join us, however we have to be academically selective when it comes to applications.

We are very proud of the amazing facilities available to our pupils, from the range of delicious food available from our Dining Hall and Bistro to the performance opportunities that come with our fantastic 750-seat Auditorium. We continue to look for new ways we can add to and improve our existing facilities, such as our plans for the provision of sports pitches on the opposite side of the River Tees accessible by a new bridge. Projects like this demand a significant amount of time and energy from our dedicated Estates Team.

The process of building timetables, particularly in organising our extra-curricular activities and clubs, is complex. We aim to meet the needs of all of our pupils and allow time for them to pursue as many of their interests as possible whilst also being able to manage the core curriculum. For the majority of our pupils, our timetable makes it possible to take part in the activities and clubs they are interested during and/or after school and we support them in managing their school work.

Please outline your COVID-19 preparations and risk assessment

We have made a significant number of changes throughout the School which ensure we meet or exceed the expectations of Government guidelines and Public Health advice. Here are some of the measures we have put in place but please note this is not an exhaustive list of everything we have done/are doing:

  • 40 external sinks
  • 50 floor-operated and wall-mounted hand sanitising stations
  • Year group bubbles with designated areas around the School site
  • Staggered school arrivals, departures, break times and lunch times
  • One-way systems around the School
  • Classroom layouts meet social distancing requirements
  • Increased cleaning regimes

Pastoral Care

What is in place to help children transition from different primary schools and promote integration with those from the Prep School?

The process of integration is extremely important to us and we put in place a number of activities to ensure that pupils are immediately able to integrate and form a sense of belonging within our community, and a confident identity as a Yarm pupil.  We work hard to ensure that there is no sense of divide between our pupils, whether they are joining us from our Preparatory School or a different primary school.

This process starts in the summer of the academic year prior to your child/children’s entry year. We invite all of our prospective First Year pupils to School for an induction day which helps the children in getting to know each other through a variety of taster sessions including group challenges in their Houses, having lunch together, familiarising themselves with the school site and spending time with their tutors. Our induction days assist in helping pupils feel ready, confident and excited for their first day.

Typically, about 50% of our First Years come from the Prep School and 50% come from a wide range of other primary schools. We mix all of the pupils together in their Houses and tutor groups and each class is represented by a range of different schools.

The experience of joining Yarm Senior School is the same for every child as they are leaving a small school and starting their journey in a big, busy and vibrant environment. We offer a supportive transition programme to support their move and help them feel settled in this new setting. Our Discovery Day is held on the first Saturday of the Autumn term and sees all of our First Year pupils taking part in a number of team-building activities with their tutors, teachers and tutor groups, alongside older students from their Houses – out on the river, in the hills and in the classroom – before being joined by parents/guardians for a big barbeque in the school grounds.

A well-structured pastoral programme is in place to ensure all pupils feel at home, respect each other and embrace all of the opportunities on offer to make the most of their time in school. Find out more about pastoral care and support at Yarm School.

How do you promote inclusion, diversity and equality in the classroom?

We have high expectations of our pupils and how they treat other people and there is a strong sense of community throughout the School. Our values are based on respect for every member of the community, on thoughtfulness and courtesy and so inclusion, diversity and equality are naturally weaved into everyday life here.

For example, in a recent assembly we have considered the Black Lives Matter movement and the death of George Floyd, and we will be reflecting on Black History Month in Tutorials, whilst in another we considered the history of the pride movement. We also invite pupils to share their opinions and ideas with the School via our weekly newsletter.

We aim to instil high personal and social standards, within a friendly atmosphere, characterised by mutual tolerance in which pupils of all ethnic and cultural backgrounds, of all religious persuasions and of various levels of ability are welcome and supported. Our pastoral structures, coupled with our programmes for spiritual, moral, social and cultural development (SMSC); Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (PSHEE) and mindfulness training, help pupils understand themselves and each other.

How do you deal with/prevent bullying at Yarm School?

Bullying is something all schools take very seriously and is something that every school has to deal with and manage at some point. As children develop they are learning about themselves, discovering boundaries, understanding what’s right and wrong and trying to understand how to manage their emotions and their friendships. Sometimes that goes wrong and we understand that.

We would like to hope that there is very much less bullying here than at most schools because our expectations of our pupils, from the beginning, are so high. We build a sense of community and belonging which means we have a kind and compassionate community here but when things do go wrong, we are very robust in dealing with it. We want pupils to learn from their mistakes and that doesn’t just apply to bullying, that applies across all aspects of their life at School. We will engage with pupils to help them learn from and empathise with the people they may have upset, because we want them to become better able to manage themselves. We support anyone who is struggling in any sort of way, through our pastoral team and tutors and of course in the end, we have a disciplinary system in place to enforce the rules and we use that when it is needed.

We make sure parents and families are involved so that everyone, pupils and parents, can understand what has happened as well as why certain decisions have been made in line with the School rules, and that really is a partnership.

Senior School Curriculum

Is there an example First Year timetable available online?

There is not an example timetable available online at the moment, however the School day is divided into six 50 minute long lessons alongside morning and afternoon tutorials, break time and lunch. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, one lesson is replaced with the pupil’s chosen activity or club. Pupils get plenty of exercise, too, with Games and PE lessons built in to their timetable and opportunities to do more sport in activities and after school. 

How much homework will pupils get in First Year?

We believe in breadth of education and want all of our pupils to be able to enjoy the range of extra-curricular opportunities the School has to offer, so the last thing we want to do is overload our pupils with homework. However, homework is key to making good progress in all subjects.

We run a homework timetable so pupils will have homework from particular subjects on different days, amounting to around 1 hour’s worth of homework each night. This can vary and pupils may have less or more on some occasions.  Tutors are on hand to help pupils manage their work and to offer advice and support as they develop their time management skills in the busy school environment.

Do you offer Drama GCSE as an option?

We do not offer GCSE Drama, however all the way through the School, pupils have the opportunity to take part in lots of extra-curricular drama. One of the big annual events is the House Drama Competition which many of our First Years are enthusiastic and eager to be a part of. This event helps set pupils up for the remainder of their school career; there are all sorts of productions from small-scale to whole school performances that take place over the course of each year and these give pupils plenty of experience performing or working backstage with production design and lighting and sound.

Although we don’t offer the formal GCSE course, there is the opportunity to take the A Level Theatre Studies course when they get to that point.

At GCSE, is science dual or is there the opportunity to do the 3 individual sciences.

After a combined science course to lay the foundations for learning in the First Year, the sciences are taught as discrete disciplines which means that the majority of our pupils take triple-award science (Biology, Chemistry and Physics) at GCSE rather than the Double Award Science qualification that is the national norm.

In some cases, pupils complete double-award science if that is the right decision for them but we will work with them and their families to discuss the options available and determine the right path for their learning.

How do you support a child’s interest in computer programming?

Computer Science is a part of the core curriculum and all pupils experience lessons that focus on broad IT skills, but also computer programming or computer science. From that common ground, computer science is a specialist option in the Third Year and at GCSE.

s well as being able to pursue this interest within the formal curriculum, there are a range of clubs and activities that are an outlook for computer programming. On a Tuesday afternoon and a Thursday afternoon, all pupils take part in the Activities Programme where they make choices about what they want to pursue for enrichment. Computer science has a number of different programming clubs which operate, all of which work on the level of independent projects and supported challenges where members of staff are on hand to help pupils work out how to approach different problems and develop creative ideas.

When can pupils start getting advice from the Careers Department?

Our Careers Department is very active throughout the School and pupils in all year groups can seek advice and guidance.

The department engages pupils throughout their journey here and offers opportunities to further understand careers both broadly and more specific to their particular interests. Lectures, guest speakers, Morrisby testing and career cluster evenings enable pupils to learn more about their aptitudes and interests and gives them insight into a broad range of career options so that they are equipped to make decisions about their life beyond Yarm.  Our Sixth Form team are very experienced and work closely with students as they consider their next steps and, in nearly all cases, their university applications.

How do you support gifted children?

As an academically selective school, many of our children are high in the national spectrum of academic achievement. We offer a range of societies, clubs and opportunities which allow pupils to get involved as widely as they’d like and extend themselves. Our teachers will also extend and differentiate their teaching to support and push pupils who are particularly able, gifted or talented in their subject.

Extra-curricular

Is there an opportunity to learn about space technology?

Within the Activities Programme pupils are often responsible for the introduction of new activities of clubs. If a pupil or group of pupils have a particular interest they would like to explore further within their activities timetable, they are encouraged to approach us and discuss this further.

We don’t currently have any activities or clubs related to space technology, however there are certainly members of the Physics Department with a keen interest in space and if possible would more than likely be willing to accommodate a new club. At present, astronomy is a very popular activity within the Physics Department and may be something of interest to pupils interested in space.

Equally, if there are particular projects, such as building rockets, that are of interest to a group of pupils, then a discussion can definitely be had with the Physics Department in order to set something up.

Can girls play cricket?

Both boys and girls can play cricket at School. Cricket typically takes place during the summer term and we offer school practises during our autumn and spring term. We have a number of cricket nets located on the School site which our pupils can make use of.

What year can pupils start rowing?

Pupils interested in rowing can start taking part in Second Year. They will usually have their first lessons during the summer term before they enter Third Year. We are lucky to be located on the banks of the beautiful River Tees, making rowing an extremely popular and accessible sport for our pupils. As well as a number of single and crew boats for water sessions, our state-of-the-art boathouse is fitted with fantastic indoor training facilities.

Do you have an Outdoor Education programme?

We do have a busy and varied Outdoor Education programme here at Yarm. We have two full-time members of staff who run the department who organise and run a range of trips, expeditions and tasks such as rock climbing, canoeing, ghyll scrambling, mountain biking, hiking and camping. We also have a purpose-built outdoor classroom on site, in the woods where children learn bushcraft and outdoor skills.

As pupils move through the School there are opportunities to take part in more demanding excursions and trips to help pupils build skills and confidence and further explore particular areas of interest within outdoor education.

Can pupils take part in fencing and climbing in First Year?

Fencing is one of the activities that has historically been offered at School and if there is sufficient interest we would look to source a coach in supporting the activity.

Climbing is something that we offer in-house on a regular basis through the Outdoor Education Department. As well as making use of local climbing walls, pupils may also visit outdoor venues and take part in traditional climbing which includes rigging ropes, abseiling, bouldering and more. Our First Year climbers will often visit Brimham Rocks, an impressive collection of rock formations in North Yorkshire, where they try bouldering and work in groups to practise key skills and overcome problems.

As well as trips around the UK, we may offer trips abroad. In the past our climbers have visited Fountainbleu, the Alps and South America. Conditions permitting, each January pupils are invited to take part in winter mountaineering training to learn how to operate safely on the snow as well as how to use an ice axe and crampons.

Some of our pupils develop a high degree of confidence as climbers and navigators outdoors in the hills and look to take national qualifications themselves. 

Do you offer a Duke of Edinburgh programme?

We have a thriving Duke of Edinburgh programme and many of our pupils start their Bronze Award with us here at Yarm. Our programme is set up to support pupils throughout their DofE endeavours, across all of the different sections.

Pupils are eligible to start the programme in Third Year (Year 9) however we have developed our own Yarm School Baccalaureate (YBACC) for First, Second and Third Years which recognises achievements and commitments in key areas of school life outside of the classroom and challenges pupils to demonstrate similar skills and aptitudes needed to succeed in DofE.

In the Sixth Form, a large number of students participate in the Gold Award and an unusually high proportion go on to complete their Gold Award before leaving the School, with many others finishing soon after they’ve completed their A levels.

Does school transport allow for children to undertake extra-curricular activities at the end of the school day?

The Activities programme is held within the normal daily timetable and so all pupils are involved in this, and there are a large number of extracurricular opportunities organised within the long lunch break at school.  There are, however, some sports practices or other activities that carry on after the end of the School day and our coach service is structured around core school hours, so all of our buses leave the School at 4.10pm each day.  When children are taking part in an after school activity or club, parents arrange collection from school later in the afternoon.

View our coach timetable.

Senior School Application Process

How do I apply?

The next stage of the application process is to download and complete the School’s application form and return this to the School at your earliest convenience. Alternatively, the application form can be found within the Parent Information Handbook which is available to send via the post and can be requested from Mrs Herbert on janeh@yarmschool.org. You will need to supply your full postal address if you have not previously been in contact with the School.

There is a £60 registration fee to pay (either via cheque made payable to ‘Yarm School’ or via Bank Transfer – the School’s bank details are provided on the application form) which must be returned with the application form. This will formally register your child/children with the School for the January Entrance Assessments.

Please note, the online form you filled out to register for the Open Morning/Twilight Tour programme does not formally register your child/children with the School.

What is the deadline for submitting an application?

There is no deadline date as such. However, we would prefer to receive your completed application form by early to mid-November if possible. This will enable us to contact your child’s school in good time to enable us to obtain a school reference/copy of a recent school report.

How do I apply for the Entrance Assessments and what date are these being held for September 2021 entry?

As soon as you complete and return your application form along with the £60 registration fee back to the School, your child/children are formally registered for the January Entrance Assessments.

The Entrance Assessments for September 2021 entry into Years 7 – 10 are scheduled to take place on Saturday, 16th January 2021. If this date is already known to present a problem for you, please get in touch with us directly so that we can advise further.

What do you test in the Entrance Assessments and why?

Our application process is there to help you establish whether Yarm is a good fit for you and your family. It also offers us an opportunity to make sure that your child/children will thrive here if they do join us. Equally, our Entrance Assessments are not there to try and trip anyone up, they are designed to be accessible for any child who is enjoying their school life, is meeting or exceeding age related expectations, and is interested in starting the next stage of their educational journey with us here at Yarm School.

The 11+ Entrance Assessments are suitable for any child in Year 6 and does not test beyond the standard curriculum. There are four tests in:

  • Mathematics
  • Spelling
  • English writing (written paper)
  • Reading (online test)

Does the assessment take into account existing academic performance? A child may not perform well on the day under assessment conditions.

There are always more families applying to join the School than there are spaces available and whilst your child’s previous academic performance and school reference will be taken into consideration, the results from our Entrance Assessments are extremely important in helping us determine which children are going to thrive in our learning environment.

We understand that assessments may be a daunting experience for some pupils, but we do our best to reassure them and to make the day as straightforward as possible. Our tests broadly follow the KS2 curriculum.

Where can I get hold of some Specimen Entrance Assessment Papers?

Updated 11+ specimen papers for September 2021 entry will be sent out in early December to all those pupils who have formally registered with the School (i.e. who have completed and returned the School’s application form and paid the £60 registration fee).

We issue 11+ specimen papers in English Writing and Maths (non-calculator) upon request and can forward those for 2019 and 2020. They are based on the real exam papers for those entry years. We do not issue sample spelling tests or online reading tests. We do not issue specimen papers for entry into Years 8 and 9 however we follow the KS3 curriculum. Again, we test in English Writing, spelling and an online reading test and Maths for entry into Years 8 and 9.

We issue specimen Science questions (not a paper as such) and a specimen English paper (comprehension and short piece of creative writing) for entry into Year 10. We do not issue a specimen Maths paper for this entry year group.

Should I engage a Tutor in preparation for these tests?

This is up to you as you know your child best. We would not wish our applicants to be over-prepared and simply ask that they try their best on the day. Our tests broadly follow the KS2 curriculum. As a guide, if your child is working beyond national age related expectations, they should cope well with our tests.

How many places are available and can my child re-sit the if they do not pass?

The number of places available does vary year upon year and it is a competitive process with more families applying than there are places available.

We do not normally allow children to re-sit the assessments if they do not pass however we would naturally discuss this with the families concerned.

When will I hear if my child/children have got an offer of a place/places?

All of our offers will be made at the end of w/c 18th January so you will hear from us hopefully on the following Saturday i.e. 23rd January.

Is there a contingency plan if the Entrance Assessments cannot take place as normal in January?

At present we are intending to hold our Entrance Assessments as normal on Saturday, 16th January 2021. However, if we cannot host our Entrance Assessments as normal due to COVID-19 restrictions, all parents/guardians of the pupils registered to take our assessments will be contacted in advance with information on how we intend to proceed.

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