September / October 2022 Blog
I think, now more than ever, it is a good time to talk about partnership. The world around us can appear slightly incomprehensible at times and this can be distinctly worrying. When we crave stability and the knowledge that people in positions of national leadership know what they are doing to guide us through the tumultuous times that we are currently experiencing, we just find a vacuum. So, it becomes imperative that we look to our community to see what we do have and how we can work together to provide the stability and support that we all need.
When students arrive at Crookhorn, and throughout their five years here, I and all the staff talk to them about their role as the ‘Next Generation’. This is of course one of our attributes of OPEN MIND as well as fitting into the strands of ‘responsibility’ and ‘commitment’ of our Cornerstones. The students we have with us today are destined to be the next builders, plumbers, engineers, teachers, politicians, doctors and so on. The future of our community is completely in their hands. Our partnership- the Crookhorn College community, parents and carers - has a crucial role to play, and it is this that I want to explore further in this blog.
I wrote to the Year 11 parents a couple of weeks ago, to help layout the partnership that is required from both of us to support these students through the next few challenging months. I wanted to help parents understand what we needed from them so that we had the best chance of deploying our expertise to guide the students through and onwards into their post-secondary education lives. I looked at the partnership in 3 areas;
And so it is these 3 areas that I am going to cover now.
If we start with attendance, this is undoubtedly the most significant aspect of the partnership. When students come to College every day, we can do our jobs fully and to the highest standard. I always say to students that they have to “be in it to win it”. If they are not here, the support we can give them academically and pastorally is so limited. If they attend every day, these are some of the key advantages they will have:
- A consistent understanding of the learning in all classes, as there are no gaps through absence. There might be gaps through understanding, but these will be quickly picked up by the teacher and Teaching Assistants and addressed through the regular check for understanding activities that happen every lesson. Additional support and one to one time from the teacher in the class can then be facilitated. Learning is hard, but it is also exciting particularly when those key light bulb moments happen. These can only happen if the student has regular consistent attendance.
- Students developing and growing their friendships through those regular daily interactions. Sometimes, there are bumps along the friendship route, but rather than hiding away from these bumps, it is important that students learn the skills to navigate tricky situations and grow resilience with regards to their interactions. We have an extensive support team that are here to help with managing all of this. The social skill of daily interaction is essential to the development of any child and their ongoing success as they navigate their way onwards through their lives.
- Support with understanding the world around. Children find going through puberty and their teenage years an incredibly stressful time. The nature of what we do at the College means that we have garnered years of experience and so are best placed to be able to offer support to both the child and the parent, as soon as it is required. We have a wealth of knowledge and also an extensive network of external support to whom we can signpost too if required. If the child attends every day, then our understanding of that child is greater, and we can act quicker to get support or guidance in place.
- Consistent ongoing support with guidance for careers and post 16 options. One of the key functions of the College is to prepare children and young people for the next stage of their educational journey and the launch into their future career. This is not something that is purely the reserve of Year 11 students. This is a process that we start in Year 7 and build on every year thereafter. Engagement in this programme is critical in helping shape the ideas and ambitions of young minds. We take this aspect of our role in the community incredibly seriously as this is a key part of our ‘Next Generation’ strategy, and we pride ourselves on the excellence we deliver in this area.
Our exam results this August were a testament to the success of the attendance element of College-parent partnership. Our Year 11 last year had the highest rate of attendance in the whole College. They rarely as a year group dipped below 93% and for the most part were at 95%. We had fantastic buy in from parents and as a result the students were in to make the most of the support we could offer as a College.
Across the board on every indicator the majority of students exceeded their targets. With a staggering 81% pass rate for English and 73% pass rate for maths, these students put themselves in the best position for their onward journey. When James Collins looked at the results and related these to the Cohort’s attendance data he found the following:
Average grade per subject
What this data tells you is that if a student attended College 95%+ then they achieved an average grade of a 5. A grade 5 is now termed the ‘good pass’ by the government. This achievement is categorised purely on attendance and not at all on whether they were confident learners or not. The students who were in over 90% of the time, exceeded their targets, if they were in over 95% of the time they smashed their targets. It is as basic as that.
If parents buy in to the partnership with the College and set the expectation at home that their child will attend every day, then we can do what we do best, as outlined above and the results for the child/student is transformational! This simple element of partnership is literally life changing.
The idea of academic partnership often has parents running for the hills and I know and understand this, because the idea of me working in an academic partnership with my Year 11 son over his maths work would have exactly the same effect. So I want to make it clear right now, then when I talk about academic partnership, I am in no way expecting parents to be able to support their children with in depth knowledge and understanding of each of their different subjects. Instead, the academic partnership is framed with the following four strands:
- Encouraging independent study. The expectation is not for parents to do the independent study with the child, but rather enable time and space for the independent study to happen. Sometimes it is very difficult to enable this within the home, which is why we run the study club for every year group, every day of the week for an hour after College. We can provide the time and space, all we need from the parents is the ongoing encouragement and expectation that study club will be attended.
I know that a lot of students get very hungry by the end of the day, and so we have kept the canteen open now till 3.30 so students can go down and get a cookie or another snack from the ‘Grab and Go’ selection before then going on to Study Club.
The other bonus about Study Club is that there are members of staff there to help and so a student can get assistance with their homework and revision work if they need it. There is also a tremendous social element about students studying together. We know through research that students are likely to learn 50% more if they can talk through a task and the learning that sits behind it. Being able to do this with their peers is therefore a great opportunity.
- Attending parents’ evenings and SPR appointments where possible. Many parents, myself included, have a sense of dread around parents’ evenings, due to the fear of what you might hear and how overwhelming it might all be. As staff we are increasingly aware of this and so I want to stress now that the purpose of parents’ evenings is to be able to share with you what is going well and what the next steps are to help build the confidence and a ‘can do’ attitude. It is a much more Anton De Beke approach to feedback rather than a Craig Revill Horwood. We want to be able to tell you all the good things about your child’s learning and doing that through a conversation can be much more meaningful than through the basic facts presented in a report.
There can be all sorts of barriers for parents when it comes to attending parents’ evening. In this world of post- COVID, where everything is now done electronically, it can be daunting to know about how to even start the process of attending, by booking appointments. The online School Cloud platform that we use through parentmail, is very user friendly, but if you are concerned about how to book appointments online please don’t worry. If you contact us anytime between now and a week before the parents’ evening and tell us who you want to book appointments with, then we will book the appointments for you.
Another barrier can be actually attending the appointments. To try and support with this, we are running a hybrid system this year of some face to face evenings and some virtual evenings. As a full-time working Mum, I find it almost impossible to make face to face appointments for my two sons and so I am always grateful when their school offers the opportunity for me to have virtual appointments. This has not stopped me being terrified of how to access appointments virtually and then having to face the scathing looks of my older son when we miss one, because of my relative technical inabilities. So as a result of a profound understanding of this fear, we do urge any parents who want to do virtual appointments but are not confident with how to access these, to contact us and Mr Brunink (Assistant Head Teacher for all our virtual learning) will take you personally through a quick tutorial, which will help you understand that there is nothing to worry about and all you need is your phone and internet access.
For other parents, who really missed the face to face during the COVID years, we are now doing two face to face evenings during the academic year. The booking system is the same, the only difference being that on the evening you come to the College site to meet with the teachers.
It is important to stress as well, that at Crookhorn, to maximise the opportunity you have to attend a parents’ evening, each evening is run vertically, which means that they are for all year groups. To ensure that everybody gets to meet with their child’s teachers across core and foundation subjects we do prioritise these per year group on a rotational basis, all of which is explained on each parents’ evening letter that comes out. This means that you will probably need to attend two evenings; one for your child’s core subjects of English, maths and science and one for the rest of their subjects. This does however, make the commitment on both evenings entirely manageable and the feedback coming in bite size chunks rather than all at once!!!
- The 3rd strand of academic support comes with reading. We are increasingly aware that the disruption of education in recent years has left many students behind on their reading. As a result, we would urge parents to encourage reading and one of the best ways to do this is to make sure they always have a book to read. You do not need to buy the book, but you can encourage your child to get a book from the library. If they are unlikely to do this, e-mail our librarian email@example.com and ask for her help in picking your child up and going through all the options for fiction and non-fiction that we have available in the library. If you could then ask them about the story line and get them to explain to you, bit by bit what is happening to the characters and the plot. Children often love explaining to their parents something their parents do not know, and this is a good way to have a non-threatening academic conversation with your child, even if it is just once a week. Helping the students know how to read, building their vocabulary and their understanding of all aspects of literacy - that is our part of the partnership.
Being a confident reader, like regular attendance, is another one of those transformational elements for your child.
- The final strand of academic partnerships is to do with transitions. Throughout your child’s time at Crookhorn, your child will go through a number of academic transitions. The first happens in Year 7 when they do that all important transition from primary to secondary education. The next transition happens in Year 8 when the students make their option choices for Year 9. Year 9 then sees the final transition out of KS3 subjects through the final option process ready for the start of GCSE in Year 10. Year 10 sees probably one of the biggest transitions, which involves the students becoming young adults and entering the world of work for the first time, through their two-week work experience which for many crystalises ambitions and aspirations as well as attitudes to study. The final transition comes in Year 11 as the students apply for their post 16 places in further education, or on apprenticeship training schemes.
As a College we facilitate all of these transitions and we have significant experience at doing so. What we seek in partnership from parents, is an awareness of these transitions and their importance and a willingness to support through the endorsement of how important each of these steps are. One of the biggest ways to show this endorsement is through attending information evenings about these transitions and speaking to staff if you have concerns or believe that your child will require extra support.
This is the last crucial area of our partnership. All children need pastoral support in one way or another as they go through their secondary education. This year we are focussing significantly on the aspect of children’s mental health through our ‘Go WEST’ strategy. Heading this up is Michaela Bishop who has been appointed as Associate Assistant Headteacher for mental health alongside her Head of House Arundel role. Miss Bishop’s initial focus has been to go through the very honest responses we got from students last academic year, about our pastoral support and in particular our mental health provision as well as our safeguarding against child-on-child abuse. From this feedback Miss Bishop has created a thorough action plan, which aims to address the concerns and improve provision. A key starting point for this has been the improvement of the support pages on itslearning with regards to how students can access help in a whole variety of ways.
As a parent, your role in the partnership here is to use the tutor as your regular point of contact. If you have concerns in anyway about your child then please do not hesitate to contact your child’s tutor who will be able to go through your concerns with you and then if required direct your concerns to other appropriate members of staff.
Another key part of our pastoral partnership is engaging children in extra-curricular activities which can really boost self esteem and socialisation skills. This year as a commitment to our end of the partnership, we appointed an extra-curricular Co-ordinator in the form of Adam Baker. He has kicked this year off in a very successful way with the number of clubs we are now offering and the participation rates from students as you can see from the data below which gives the attendance summaries for the last half term:
- Table Tennis - 400
- Football - 200
- Netball - 108
- Badminton - 94
- Basketball - 84
- Running - 68
- Volleyball - 50
- Gymnastics - 44
- Rugby - 35
- Alternative Sports - 14 (attendance limited due to Monday afternoon meetings)
- Chess - 473
- Debate - 60
- Dungeons & Dragons - 52
- Art - 41
- Computing - 7
- Music Club - 120
- Community Action Club - 5
After half-term, our very popular Science Club will be returning which will be very good news to our curious scientists. Some of our clubs will be moving to an after-school slot, to facilitate greater numbers, such as Chess and Dungeons and Dragons which are run in the library, due to the fact that the Year 11 Study Club has now been moved to a much bigger venue due to increase in numbers!
This attendance is just for the regular clubs and does not include the attendance of students to House competitions- which have been running throughout the first half-term as well and will carry on in the build up to Christmas.
The parent end of the partnership is to encourage your child to attend a club or take part in one of the House competitions that runs after school. Sometimes children just need a little parental push in the right direction!
I appreciate this has been a long blog, and I promise subsequent ones will not be so long. However, I feel strongly at the moment, that whilst we cannot necessarily count on sensible external support, we can at least look into what we have within our community and refresh the strength of our partnership, so we can safeguard the most important thing- and that is our ‘Next Generation’.