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July / August 2019 Blog

The three weeks of July always take me by surprise with the sheer amount of activity that takes place in such a short period of time.

We started the month with the rollover to our new timetable. This is the second year that we have done this and although it’s hard work at the time to launch a new timetable, I think the benefits it provides totally justifies the input. Students spend the last three weeks of term meaningfully engaged in their new classes, with many in year 9 starting new subjects for the first time as their option choices kick in. It has also meant that the holiday homework, set in July, is completely relevant as the current subject teacher set it and therefore it feeds into the autumn learning plan.

At the end of the first week, we had the Year 11 prom, held for the third year at the Port House at Port Solent. It was a really wonderful evening; one of the most enjoyable proms I have ever attended and I have attended a few now in my time. The Year 11 all got into the spirit of the party and there was much dancing had on the dance floor. As staff, it was a wonderful way for us to say goodbye to the students after the year of hard and fearsome work.

In the penultimate week of term, we had the College Production of ‘Teechers’. The College Production was a real triumph on so many levels. Firstly, it was the most complicated scripted piece that I believe we have ever put on and the characterisation, rigour, and determination that the students showed in delivering the script is something that I have not seen here before. Secondly, it is the first time in many, many years that we have had live music accompanying the show. The musicians were fantastic and again showed maturity and professionalism in delivery, which made it Mr Jones’s easiest production ever. His words, not mine!!! Finally, the dance routines were almost entirely choreographed by the students and rehearsed by them as well as showing real commitment and responsibility. If we bring these three elements together, I believe we have seen a real shift in what the College Production means to our students and the standards that they strive for in themselves concerning the delivery and the responsibility they have with this, which is brilliant.  Interestingly whilst the script was a parody if you like of 1970’s teaching, I found it a very poignant piece as in many places it reflected on the gap between those who have and those who do not and the seismic differences within the education system that makes this so inevitable. Sadly, I feel within the 21stcentury nothing in this country has really changed to address this and in fact, the social issues that we face today are even sharper than they were in the 70’s.

The very next day after the last production performance, we had the now legendary Year 7 (but actually Year 8- due to rollover) Camp. Once again, the staff and students had a totally brilliant time with many activities such as; the night walk, archery, bushcraft and kayaking which pushed the students right out of their comfort zone. The team spirit that is the essential ethos of the camp ensures that all students support each other and work together to meet the challenges, helping new friendships to be forged and self-confidence to grow and grow. My thanks as always to Mr McGinley and Mrs Edington who put so much into the organisation which helps to ensure the success of the camp year after year.

We then celebrated the end of term with the Whole College Assembly, where Goodwood emerged triumphant winning the House cup for a record 6thtime in a row. However, the pressure is building as the other three Houses are closing the gap all the time now on Goodwood, so I predict 2019/2020 could see a significant upset!

Whilst teachers and students vanished from the site to enjoy their break, the site team got ready to embark on what is always one of their busiest times. This summer we had the need to create a new classroom as the College is now at its maximum capacity as far as student numbers are concerned. As a result, we have converted the Creative Arts Office and group practice room into a new photography classroom with a suite of 24 new computers. 

To help ease the congestion concerning the flow into the canteen, we have taken out a wall that narrowed the entrance into the servery area into just a single doorway. It is now a double entrance which has improved the access to the servery no end. We have also removed the bar from the Performing Arts foyer and have replaced the floor, so that now we are all set to install a new serving area where students can purchase cold menu food, thereby taking some of the pressure off the canteen.

A lot of work has been done in the classrooms as well to ensure that all rooms have clear and instructive learning walls that are designed to prompt and aid the students with their learning. These should all be completed within the first two weeks of the start of term.

Naturally, of course, the big event of the summer holidays as far as the College is concerned is the results day. At least students and parents only have to go through this once in their lifetime as far as the GCSE results go. I seem to have landed myself in a position where I have to relive the stress and anxiety year after year. This year, however, I have to say results day was a complete pleasure. We had so many students who were genuinely delighted and relieved with their results. All the hard work, and yes, there was lots of that, paid off, as the students were able to celebrate their first major academic success in their education journey to date. They are now set for the next stage of their studies, with the confidence that they can achieve top grades through hard work and personal study and with the skill set that will enable them to learn in the increasingly independent environment of further education. 

As a College overall, we were really pleased with the increase in our academic results. The 8% improvement in our standard pass rate for English and Maths is excellent as is the significant improvement in progress concerning students achieving the top end grades. I have talked a lot over the past year about the importance of our stretch and challenge work and the emphasis we have on academic enrichment, and both of these, it is clear, has paid off for our students which means of course that we continue to invest in them with rigour. 

 One of our biggest drives though has been to empower students to study independently outside of the lesson time. This, in particular, has been important for boys. Our improvement in results this year, specifically with the boys, is a testament to the success of this strategy, but there is still plenty of work to do here. The boys are still behind the girls when it comes to the higher end grades, and I believe that this is because the girls are that bit more committed to the independent study on a regular basis over a sustained period. The numbers attending our study room after College during the course of the year bear witness to this fact. This September, therefore, will see all staff across the board hit the ground running with regards to getting the boys into the habit of studying after College hours and making that study/revision as accessible as possible to them. (We will of course probably continue to use food as bait in this matter as well!). We also need to work on the skill with which our students write, specifically for opinion or argument. A lack of confidence in this area holds some of our students, mainly boys, back from achieving the good pass, rather than just the standard pass. 

For our new Year 11 students we are in a position this year where they have already taken sat one of their option subjects and got the results. I am delighted with the performance of the early entry subjects, particularly the academic subjects. I also believe that this gives our Year 11 a couple of real advantages now that they need to capitalise on. Firstly, they have one less subject to have to study for this year, and that means more time on the curriculum for other options subjects, English, and maths. Secondly, they have had a taste of what the GCSE exams are like, and so have a very clear understanding of the amount of work that is required to be successful in the exams next May and June. I hope that this results in a significant committed drive from the outset from the students (and yes the boys in particular), to study independently and ensure the best possible preparation, as so many of them now know how successful they can be!

So, as the College prepares for the start of the new academic year, against a background of grave political uncertainty and upheaval, which never does education any good, I can say at least that our direction and purpose is clear. Enrichment; stretch and challenge through subjects; independent study and the quality of writing are our clear foci, and as a staff, through this focus, we are absolutely ready to deliver another outstanding year to the students of the College.