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September 2019 Blog

We have had a focused and purposeful start to our new academic year, which is exactly what I was hoping for. As of the 4th of September, we welcomed our new Year 7 cohort into the College and started them on their intensive SMART start week, which is all about laying the foundations for successful learning at Crookhorn.

All subjects across the curriculum were responsible for designing a lesson that would introduce the students to the expectations and content of their subjects.  We also delivered specific lessons on OPEN MIND, which is all about the eight key attributes of the Crookhorn Learner and related study skills. Incorporated into the programme for the week we also asked employers from the local community to come into the College, so that the students could start right away to make the connection between their education and the world of work.

At the end of the week 99% of all Year 7 students said that they had found the SMART start programme very beneficial for how they had settled into Crookhorn and I have to say that I was delighted to read some very insightful and detailed answers to their homework question of 'What makes a good Crookhorn learner?'

To ensure that the rest of the College had an equally focused start, Mr Collins and I delivered assemblies to each House on the priorities for this year, and what the exam results of 2019 had proved clearly to us about successful learning habits. We discussed five key areas with the students:

  1. Attendance
  2. Importance of independent study
  3. Presentation of work
  4. Quality of writing
  5. Response to feedback- redraft/re-edit

The attendance point is emphasised every year, but this year, following some specific analysis we were able to show the students some statistics that took even me by surprise. When we looked at the students who had attended College 95%+ of the time in Year 11 in 18/19, we found that their average grade was a 5. When we looked at students who had attended between 90% and 94% of the time during the same year, we found that their average grade dropped to 3.8. In previous years, we have aimed to get as many students attending above 90% as possible. Last year we raised this to 93%, but what is very evident from the results is that we need all students to be in at least 95% of the time to ensure that they have the best chance of achieving the top outcomes for themselves. 

The power of independent study was a real theme for us last year, and following some analysis on the results, we have worked out that the average grade for students, who regularly attended the study room every week, was a grade 7. So straight away, two simple points for students to take on: be in College as much as possible and be prepared to study outside of the classroom and your chances of success are significantly improved.

Following some question level analysis across English, history and RE, we have also deduced that our students need to focus on the quality of their sentence structure and broaden their use of vocabulary. To this end, we have launched a professional development programme for all staff around the power of sentence construction using a model called ‘The Writing Revolution’, which originates from the United States. I am personally very excited about this and the training we are planning to do throughout this year, to help re-enforce the standards and quality of writing across the curriculum. When I started teaching it was naturally assumed that all teachers would know how to teach sentence construction, but the reality is, this is not always an area of strength. Another assumption is that students are taught how to write at primary level, so this does not need to be a focus at secondary. Well, it does, and so going back to basics to re-enforce good grammar; variety of sentence styles and how to plan paragraph, is an absolute must.

As part of Open Mind and the strand of ‘make mistakes,’ we will continue to drive the importance of redrafting work this year, to constantly improve on a first take. The learning that comes from doing this cannot be underestimated, and it is a life skill to accept that quality comes from a revisit and a reconsideration.

September 2019 will also undoubtedly be remembered for the launch of the tartan skirt. I am proud of how smart our girls look in their new uniform, and although we still face the battle of the ‘roll-up’ with some, the overall look of the girls is vastly improved and has been noted as such by many parents and members of the community. How long before I can introduce the tartan trouser I wonder?

One of the biggest events in September is Open Evening, where we start the recruitment process all over again, for prospective Year 7s for September 2020.  We had record numbers attend our Open Evening in September 2018 and I absolutely did not believe that we would be able to beat that this year, but we did! We had 322 prospective Year 6 and Year 5 pupils visit us with their parents or carers to see for themselves what Crookhorn has to offer. The students and the teachers did a fantastic job of showing what the College strives to achieve each day concerning the quality of learning and the quality of personal growth. Our Head Boy and Head Girl as well as two Year 8 students (Will. S and Harmony B) did an incredible job of public speaking in front of two packed audiences. To be honest what they sold more than anything else is the confidence that Crookhorn students have and that participation in all aspects of College life is key. 

Straight after Open Evening, on the next night, in fact, Mr Bezant took a group of 40 students to see ‘An Inspector Calls’ at the Mayflower Theatre. The students thoroughly enjoyed it, so much so in fact that Mr Bezant was back in my office the very next week, requesting a second trip to see the same production in April, with students who now really wanted to go, because their peers had come back and said how good it was. How could I refuse!

We have rounded September off with another first- a Bingo Night for Year 7 parents and students, run by the PTA. Well, it was a wonderful way to meet some of our new parents in an informal setting and was very well attended indeed. I have never played Bingo before but now I have my head around some of the rhyming nomenclature attached to each number I absolutely intend to play again. Probably a significant motivating factor would be my win of a full house in the first game. I have never played a game for the first time before and won, so that was a complete first for me. I have to mention as well that our chef Julie provided a delicious meal of lasagna with all accompanying parts, such as salad and garlic bread, which went down very well halfway through the evening.

If you missed coming to this one, I can absolutely promise you we will run a whole College Bingo night in the not too distant future.