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September 2018 Blog

I know that September is often a favourite month for parents as children return to school and a routine that is a relief after the weeks of the summer holiday. From the education perspective, September is a time of intense excitement, and activity, as we get started again on the next academic journey after weeks of preparation and planning. It is also a critical month as we are totally focussed on looking forwards and setting the expectations for the new academic year ahead, yet at the same time we are also looking backwards and reflecting on the exam results of the previous year and what this tells us. At no other point in the year does the past and the future need to be considered so carefully together to ensure that the ethos is set right for the forward journey!

This year, we had the careful reflection of what the GCSE results told us in terms of the new exams and curriculum. On so many levels we were delighted with the performance of the students. Our top end grades were up significantly from previous years and we also saw an increase in the number of students achieving the ‘good’ pass of grade 5+. What was abundantly clear when we drilled down into the results and the individual performance of specific students, is that those who worked hard and did independent study (ie homework) outside of lesson hours did extremely well, often surpassing expectations. However, those who felt confident that they could ‘pull it out the bag’ for the exam, were disappointed. Under the previous exam system, these students might have been able to do just that, but with these new exams, this approach is only going to guarantee underachievement.

It is with this very much in mind that we have started this academic year with a real drive on ‘learning’ and what this means at Crookhorn. The new Year 7s have been absolutely brilliant at helping us define what a successful learner looks like, and it is through their words that we have created our definition of the ‘Crookhorn Learner’, with the acrostic of OPEN MIND:

These words represent the next generation of Crookhorn students who will learn by having the courage to make mistakes, the determination and perseverance to never give up and the aspiration to see the exciting opportunities and challenges surrounding us today!  These attributes will help Crookhorn students become independent, confident learners who are encouraged to think flexibly and critically. Now this approach, undertaken seriously, will lead to fantastic success with the new curriculum and exams.

To support our focussed drive on learning, the MADE for Education team have been in already to work with Year 7 and Year 11, on bespoke learning strategies suitable for where the students are in their academic journey. To support the Year 11s further, one of the MADE presenters did an evening session for parents so they know how best to support their child through this next tough, but exciting year. We have always done this evening, but previously run it just before the Easter holidays to support with the last push on revision. Last year parents suggested that it would be much more beneficial to them to run it at the start of Year 11, so the support can be in place throughout the whole year, including through the two rounds of mock exams in November and March. We listened and changed our programme and were rewarded with the biggest ever turn out to this event. This shows the power of us working together for the benefit of the students!

The message about learning being at the core of Crookhorn was very much a feature at our 2018 Open Evening which saw a record number of visitors to the College, even more than last year which I did not think possible! It was a brilliant evening, with the staff and students doing the most amazing job of showcasing all that our College stands for, from our focus on the learning ethos to the full extent of enrichment we pursue through the House system and academically through subjects. We look forward now to the start of the next transition process, as we start to get the Year 6 applicants to the College ready for their induction into the Crookhorn Way in September. I hope they will be as brilliant as our current Year 7s have been.

Talking of enrichment, we have started this year with two theatre trips already. The first one went to the Kings Theatre in Southsea to watch ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ for, as Mr Bezant so succinctly put it, the sheer pleasure of going to the theatre to watch a brilliant play. The second one was to Covent Garden to watch ‘The Woman in Black’ with Mrs Callaghan. This trip had a double benefit, as it not only supports the drama students with their understanding of the presentation of a character theatrically, it also happens to be one of the GCSE texts for the English Literature course.

There have also been two geography field trips out to Lee on Solent, completing a key coastal study for the Year 10 early entry and the Year 11 geographers. The weather on both trips was excellent, if a little blowy and the students certainly enjoyed the opportunity for field study, immensely.

To get the Year 11s on the right aspirational track at the outset of the academic year, there has been a trip for students to Southampton University and a morning dedicated to a post 16 options fair, held specifically for our students at the College. All the main post 16 providers were in attendance, including representatives from the armed forces, and from apprenticeship providers. It was an excellent morning and really helped the Year 11s to start thinking very seriously about what they want to be doing by this time next year, and what they have to do to achieve that. To support parents with Post 16 options, we are running an information evening on Wednesday the 10th of October in partnership with Havant & South Downs College. Again, we have done this for the last two years, and it is an evening that is becoming increasingly well attended, as parents are keen to know more about what lies beyond the end of secondary education at 16 and the wealth of opportunities that now exist. I look forward to seeing many of our Year 11 parents at the evening this year.

Within College, our extra-curricular activities have literally taken off. Science club on a Wednesday lunchtime is now attended by well over 30 students (there is something appealing apparently about exploding jelly babies and fire writing!), our new politics club has been launched by Mrs Masson, Mr Elvy has established Rugby club after school for all those keen to get to grips with the sport, computing club continues every lunchtime and remains incredibly popular and the Maths Challenge club is also off the ground with the first session of the academic year focused on the strategy game of Risk.

The concept of participation, which was a significant focus for us last year, is really beginning to shine through as we can see from the numbers now attending house competitions after school. We have had 6 House football competitions so far, this academic year with 290 students attending which works out as an average of 48 for each competition, which the Heads of House are delighted about. Likewise, with the way we have redesigned the library, enabling more computers and a greater study space, we have seen a significant increase in the number of students using homework club. We now regularly have 3 members of staff in the library to support students and assist with homework or extra study. I am delighted to see how the Year 7s, in particular, have really taken to it. Since the start of term, we have had 229 sessions registered in homework club across years 7-10. Our Year 11s are making the most of their own study room with 123 sessions registered since the start of term and I am sure this number will escalate as we move towards the November mock exams.

 So, we are off and running for 18/19, and I am personally really pleased with the focused way we have started the academic year.