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November 2021 Blog

It has been a very busy half-term and I want to celebrate in this blog the fact that we have been able to do so much enrichment against the continuing backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic which, despite all best efforts by so many scientists and strategists worldwide, is just not letting go yet.

A parent asked me a week ago, how many confirmed positive cases had we had as a College since September and how had it affected our attendance. He was aware that it has obviously affected a number of schools both within Hampshire and nationally quite significantly especially as we get towards the end of term. Having collated the information, I thought that actually it would be a good idea to share with the community how we have fared so far in this new academic year.

As a result the number of positive confirmed COVID-19 cases as of the 10th of December since the start of term in September has been 109 students. We have not at any time met the threshold for an outbreak which is more than 5 in each year group who have had close contact in the previous 10 days. Our attendance to date is 92.33%. Whilst this is approximately 3% lower than where we would expect our attendance to be compared to other years, compared to the Hampshire average for secondary schools which is 91.7% and the national average for secondary schools which is 89%, I am pleased that our attendance is as strong as it is.

For this I would like to thank all parents who have continued with the testing throughout the term and to all the students for showing commitment to the education by making sure they attend every day that they can. I would also like to thank the Crookhorn Pastoral Team, who have been totally amazing with the follow-up on absence and support to students who have struggled to return to education after all the disruption over the last 2 years. We still have a number of students who require very bespoke support in accessing their education at the moment and I am delighted that itslearning and the Blended Learning vision that we have been working so hard on over the last two years has really come into its own. This enables students who medically require a different level of support to still be able to access their lessons and learning every day and, through the easy submission of work on the platform, not miss out either on the crucial teacher feedback.

Times continue to be challenging and as the restrictions appear to be ramping up again in light of the new Omicron variant, I am at least confident that whatever the spring term holds, we are well set to deal with the challenges with the quality of the students learning and wellbeing remaining at the heart of what we plan for and what we set out to achieve each day.

All of this brings me back to one of the key parts of College life that I was really keen to re-establish in this Autumn term, and that has been the enrichment side of our learning. So much had to stop for so long, I really do think that the return to trips, visits and events has been most welcome for both staff and students.

So hold on, for here is a recap of what we have achieved in this area in just the month of November:

At the very beginning of November, we got the half-term off to a busy start on the Monday when we had three visitors to the College to work in dance for a workshop session with a range of our students. The workshop lead - Ricky and two others from the Guildhall - led our students through a number of activities focussed around boosting skill and performance quality. The visitors left having been seriously impressed with the ideas the students had and how well they communicated these with one another. Miss Grundy was particularly impressed with how thoroughly engaged all the students were and how well they communicated and represented the College in such a polite and respectful manner throughout the afternoon.

Geography had a big week as well as the COP26 conference was in full swing. To make maximum advantage of this Mrs Edington had made sure that all geography lessons during the week focussed on the COP26 Conference with students being asked to consider why tackling climate change is essential for the future of the planet. By the end of the week the geography team were confident that all students in geography should be able to talk about the three key target areas identified to try to meet the aims of the Paris Agreement (reduction of deforestation, the burning of fossil fuels and biodiversity loss), and some would be able to go on and cite the impacts of sea level rise in the Solomon Islands. The geography department have taken the time to emphasise the importance of climate justice and looking beyond the boundaries of some of the students' insular existences to see the global responsibilities the world leaders have, in creating effective change.

We were also invited by Radio Solent to participate in a live question and answer session with Chris Packham via Zoom on Wednesday the 3rd of November. Now although we didn't have any of our questions selected to be put forward to him, 15 of our Year 9 geography students watched live as he did respond to questions from children in schools from Hampshire and Dorset. It was inspiring to hear his opinions, advice, and the sharing of clear facts (some of which are not so well publicised) and his hopes for the future. He suggested that we perhaps should not be so rushed to expect immediate change; the importance of never giving up on ambitions and taking steps towards these over time being more likely to bring success with bigger issues. My thanks go to the geography team who have worked so hard during this week to make the connection for the students between the news of the COP26 conference and the ongoing crisis now facing this planet. The whole experience has been a fabulous exemplification of OPEN MIND in action with the attributes of the next generation, opportunity, positivity, never giving up and determination being key characteristics focussed on.

And we were not yet done with politics in this week…

On Friday 5th November twenty students from years 8-11 spent an hour with Alan Mak MP as part of Parliament week. The students had a session with Mrs Masson before their meeting to explain the role of an MP and discuss some contemporary issues. They were then given 20 minutes in mixed year groupings to create questions.

The questions the students came up with ranged from the general 'how did you get into politics?' to more specific questions on nuclear energy, votes at 16, availability of GP appointments and climate change. All the students were respectful and had just the right level of challenge in their questions. I was there to witness Max P hold Alan Mak to account over the risks associated with nuclear energy: we clearly have some budding politicians for the future, here at the College and it is my earnest hope that these students will seek to enter positions of influence and bring some common sense and a level of reality to everyday politics to the benefit our community.

The following week it was the turn of the maths department to take centre stage with numeracy week. Firstly, there was the UKMT maths challenge on the Monday where Mr Patel and Miss Clifton led 20 Year 11 students through the challenge. The exemplary conduct of the students gives us great hope for some strong results. Secondly on Wednesday there was the first of the numeracy week competitions with Countdown in which 76 students took part. The winning team came from Arundel House and was made up of Joe B, Frankie V, and Harry V, with a close second team coming from Goodwood House headed up by Dakota M.

Then on Friday after school we had Geocache which was the second numeracy week competition and aimed at Year 7 and 8. A record 115 students excitedly took part with the winning team coming from Romsey Year 7 and made up of Kasia W, Connor B, Dominika T.

It was wonderful to see so many children getting involved and being so excited about House competitions. At least this year so far our Year 7 and 8’s are getting a real experience of what the House system is like. 

RE were also involved in enrichment during this week with a Sikh visitor Harkirat Singh coming into the College on Monday 8th to talk to our Year 8 students about his faith. The day was broken down into three sessions, where students came to the hall and had the opportunity to ask questions about The Sikh Faith. The students were able to use many keywords that had been learnt in lessons to ask the questions, specifically about his Kes (uncut hair) and Kirpan (sword), as they seemed fascinated by these! This enrichment activity was undoubtedly a valuable experience for them, as they were able to apply their knowledge into a lived context and were able to see how their knowledge of The Sikh Faith played out in the real world.

On Thursday 11th November, although disappointed that we could not realistically do our Whole College Act of Remembrance in person in the Sports Hall (a gathering of a 1000 people at this time in a confined space being deemed not wise), we held our virtual Act of Remembrance. All our students were exemplary in their behaviour throughout the 15-minute-long assembly that was conducted so that the two-minute silence in College and the Last Post, played as always by the brilliant Mrs Osbourne on the trumpet, coincided exactly with 11.00am and the nation’s two-minute mark of remembrance.

The focus this year was on two key turning points in the Second World War. The first was the war in the east and the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbour and how this brought the USA into the war and the implications this would then have over the eventual outcome of the war. The second was to mark the anniversary of Hitler breaking the Nazi Soviet Pact on the 21st of June 1941 when he launched Operation Barbarossa and invaded the Soviet Union. As any keen historian will know, these two events are frequently debated as the time when the tide turned in the fortunes of the Allied and Axis powers involved in the Second World War. Alongside the education of the event, it was just wonderful to see so many of our students who are in the cadets or in other uniformed groups wanting to be involved in the Act of Remembrance and looking so smart around the College during the day.

On the following day, Friday the 12th, Mrs Mack took 14 Year 7 students to Portsmouth University where they participated in a transition mindset workshop. The tasks they completed focused on growth/fixed mindsets, transferable skills and what it’s like to be at university. A short tour gave the students a further sense of the environment that higher education students work in. The Year 7 students engaged in all tasks and were a credit to the College with their enthusiasm and maturity asking and answering questions.

As we got to mid-November, all attention turned on the Year 11 and Year 10 students as we entered an intense week of mock exams. Despite my concerns about how the students would cope, all the exams went extremely well. The behaviour of the Year 11 students was excellent, and all the staff involved in the process were very impressed with how they conducted themselves under exam conditions. There was naturally some anxiety from a few students at the start of the week, but with careful handling and brilliant support from the pastoral team and others, all students were able to have a go at taking their exams in core subjects under proper exam conditions. It is of course important to remember that the last time this Year Group experienced the College conducting external exams was when they were in Year 8 and the then Year 11were sitting their summer GCSE exams. So much water has travelled under the bridge since then!

The Year 10’s were also very well-behaved, if slightly discombobulated at the start, by all the different venues where the exams were taking place (due to different levels of support that are required for students, so their individual learning needs are catered for) and then trying to work out or remember, which venue they were meant to be at. Throw into the mix as well that all the early entry subjects were being sat at the same time, this was a lot for the students to process in their first ever experience of formal exams, but they handled it brilliantly.

Both year groups are now in a good place for us to start building their resilience for the February exams, which will be more demanding again, as it will be all subjects for Year 11 with more content in the core subjects, as well as more content for the Year 10 early entry subjects too.

The week after the mocks we were able to get straight back into some serious enrichment activities, with Miss Pitassi kicking the week off with her amazing virtual Art exhibition visit where she took our GCSE art students down the rabbit hole into the gloriously mad world of Alice in Wonderland. The amount of work that went into staging this event in Miss Pitassi’s art room was truly breathtaking, and the students were thoroughly immersed in understanding the backstory behind the visual representations of Alice and all the characters of Wonderland.

On the Tuesday a different group of 38 students from across the year groups were able to enjoy visiting the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton, to enjoy an evening of escapism in Narnia. Mr Bezant’s recap of what unfolded sums it up nicely: “The touring production of 'The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe' was in town and we were indeed bewitched.... for all the best reasons. Acting, music, dancing and flying.. the show had it all. Students rated it at no less than 9/10 and some are now inspired enough to already be planning careers in the theatre!”

Surely - this is enrichment at its best; igniting sparks from which roaring fires can be lit! And there will be more to come, in my December update - which I will hopefully get out just before Christmas, COVID notwithstanding!