Headteacher's Update - 09/05/23
Dear Parents and Carers
I hope this letter finds you and your families as well as can be expected, at the current time. It has, understandably, been a challenging day in school for staff and students alike, but I am proud of how everyone has responded.
Like me though, I’m sure you are still coming to terms with what happened on Friday afternoon. I readily admit that I am still in a state of shock, disbelief, anger, upset, regret and a myriad of other emotions. The incident itself came so unexpectedly, with no warning signs at all, which you would normally expect to see in these situations. The senior leadership team had been patrolling the area until about 3.45pm, as we do every morning and afternoon, ensuring our students get home quickly and safely. Less than half an hour later, we lost our beloved Renell.
Renell was a bright, capable, charming, talented, popular, charismatic young man who had great potential. His smile lit up the room. It is heart breaking to know that this potential will now not be realised. I am reminded that life is so precious, but also so terribly fragile. I still have great difficulty computing that one day somebody can be here, and the next day they are not.
My heart goes out to Renell’s family, I can’t imagine what they are going through at this time. I hope I am afforded an opportunity to meet with them, in the coming weeks, as difficult as that will be.
I led assemblies this morning to all year groups and did my best to begin a conversation about how to manage grief. Key takeaways being that there are no rules about what we should feel, and for how long. There’s nothing wrong with you if you don’t react in the same way to this situation as your friends and peers. Whatever our reaction, I have asked students to please be sensitive to how other people are grieving, and understand that everyone’s experience is unique.
I also encouraged our community to open up and talk about our feelings. Choosing who to talk to about this, is a very personal decision, whether it is a family member, friend or someone else. Sometimes the most unlikely person can actually offer the most support. The local authority sent psychologists and counsellors to us today; sometimes someone you don’t know at all, can be a good option to talk to, as well. Our own school counsellor has begun work with the students most affected. Drop in sessions ran, with experienced and skilled colleagues from the wraparound care team, at break and lunch times.
I will attach a list of outside agencies at the bottom of this letter, that also provide support at times such as these, in case they are of use.
I hope that school provides welcome security at times like these – well trodden routines can provide reassurance, alongside the usual diet of fantastic lessons. I have encouraged students to continue to work hard, be kind to one another as we pull together as a family, and support each other as best we can, through these very difficult and challenging times.
A book of condolence will open tomorrow for Renell. In this, students can write a message to Renell and/or his family telling them how they feel, and perhaps share some memories they might have, if appropriate. Students can also wish them well during this very difficult time. It is a good idea to practice what students want to write and then they can copy it in, in neat, at a time to suit them.
Flowers and candles are being laid by members of the community on the corner on Markhouse Road and Downsfield Road. I would suggest that directly after school is probably not the best time to pay your respects here. I think it would be better to identify a quieter time outside of school hours. Please remind your child to be careful on the busy Markhouse Road as space is limited due to the cycle lanes.
We will carefully consider additional memorial ideas in the coming weeks and months as we look for further ways to honour Renell’s memory.
There will be an increased police presence in the coming days and weeks before and after school. This is NOT because they expect anything else to happen, far from it. This is to reassure us, although I know if doesn’t always feel that way.
I’m sure I don’t need to remind families not to gossip and speculate about what has happened, particularly on social media. By the same token, if anyone has any information that could be useful to the police enquiry, I hope you will share this with the police, as a matter of urgency; it is vitally important that justice is served.
The police have organised a community meeting on Wednesday 10th May at 5pm at the following community centre: Stafford Hall, St Barnabas Road, E17 8JY.
I’m told this will be an opportunity for community members to ask questions as well as an update being provided on the incident by the police. I will be in attendance.
Thursday’s Year 10 Progress Evening will still take place this week, it runs from 4.30pm until 7pm. We have decided to continue with this event as it is an important date in the calendar, as well as providing us with an opportunity to meet with some of our families during this time. We hope to be able to provide you with some reassurance too.
Year 11 have the additional challenges that impending GCSE exams bring. We have urged all students, but particularly Year 11, to do all they can to work hard in the classroom and out, in the coming weeks, in readiness for those exams. Year 11 interventions continue to take place after school, hopefully this work will provide a welcome distraction.
Life will never be the same for our Kelmscott family, Renell will never be forgotten. Knife crime continues to be a scourge on our cities, despite the very best efforts of families and schools. I hope, in the not too distant future, we can identify an appropriate way for us to respond, in the hope that we can improve things in the future.
I am exceptionally proud to be the Headteacher at Kelmscott. I think our school is a wonderfully diverse, special and unique place that works tirelessly and passionately to develop young people, in and outside the classroom. I know you will be feeling anxious about Friday’s events, to say the least, but I hope I can continue to rely on your trust in me, to lead the school.
I have been overwhelmed with messages of support from parents and other members of our community – on behalf of myself and the school, I am very grateful for these during what has been an exceptionally difficult time for us all.
Finally, I came across these words over the weekend that I thought were helpful and appropriate in the circumstances. I shared them in assemblies today with students, but thought you may benefit from reading them too:
That the turmoil within us is still and we find calm,
That the anxiety within us is quietened and that we find peace,
That the anguish within us be healed and we find joy,
That the gentle listening and understanding of those around us may comfort us in our hour of need,
And that the pain deep within our broken hearts may ease,
That our trust in life can one day be restored,
That we find strength to help us through our darkest days,
And that our hope for the future is returned, to remember that we are not alone,
Those we have loved and lost walk beside us every foot of the way.
Mr Sam Jones
Please find below a list of support services you can access:
Kooth offers emotional and mental health support for children and young people aged between 11 and 24
Mental Health support for young people
For support with bereavement
Victim Support’s youth programme which helps children and young people cope with the impact and effects of crime. Young people do not have to report the crime to the police to get support.
Childline 0800 1111 you’ll get through to a counsellor, they’re there to listen and support you with anything you’d like to talk about. Or you can have a 1-2-1 counsellor chat online. Childline is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So you can talk to them any time.