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January 2019 Blog

The leadership team and I have spent most of January looking into boys’ motivation when it comes to academic learning. As with all things, there is no straight route. Some boys are genuinely motivated to learn, and by the time they get to Year 11 are really focused on a goal or an ambition and are motoring ahead. For many others though, and my eldest son is included in this, nothing seems to motivate them more than a spell on the Xbox, swiftly followed by a variety of snack food (none of which being particularly healthy!). For many others, it is to run around the park and play football, for as long as possible, followed by a spell on the Xbox and the snack. In these last two groups, academic ambition and the pursuit of independent learning is a long way down the priority list and of course, this gives us significant cause for concern as we know that these two factors are key to success at 16 and opening doors for future ambition beyond Crookhorn.

I have interviewed quite a few boys now, mainly in Years 10 and 11, with Mr Collins, to see if we can unpick any small measures that can be put in place to help them realise what academic ambition is and how to go about realising it. Firstly, we have ascertained that boys frequently live in a ‘here and now’ bubble and do not connect current actions with future choices. Secondly, boys are very motivated by their stomachs. If they are hungry at the end of the day, then their first motivation is to get home, raid the fridge and following that they then fall prey to the temptations of the Xbox or YouTube. Thirdly, boys are overwhelmingly positive most of the time, to the extent of being unrealistic, about what they are capable of without any knowledge or skills input. It is confidence which if harnessed correctly could see them fly; if left unchecked, leads invariably to disaster and disappointment.

Bearing all this in mind we have taken a number of small steps to try and address some of these observations. Firstly, we have asked our new Careers Manager, Mrs Wilson, to target specific boys to work on their organisation skills and to help them specifically plan their next steps to College (starting with the basics in most cases of completing a post 16 College application form). 

Secondly, Mrs Tuff has applied for and been successful in a bid to a charity which provides free breakfasts in the morning. There is a lot of research out there which highlights how important breakfast is at the start of the day as it provides the brain with energy and makes it receptive to learning, so we are hoping that the free breakfasts will be very well received when they start in March. Mr Collins has also set up his boys’ club, aimed at Year 11 boys at the moment. The boys have been provided with their own study room at the end of the day, with computer access (they didn’t always feel comfortable in the main Year 11 study room which tends to be heavily used by the girls) and a member of staff to keep them on track. To actually get them to go at 3.10pm they are provided with snacks (healthy generally) to ease those hunger pains. (Any Year 11’s in the other Year 11 study room can also access these snacks as well). By doing this we are persuading the boys’ stomachs to stay at College so that the brains can get on with the independent study thereby preventing all the distractions that happen when at home, from the fridge to the Xbox!

Finally, across all year groups, we are scrutinising the standards of expectations we have and where the student work is not up to the expected standard, we are focussing our reteach on making sure the students have learnt what has been taught and have achieved the highest possible standard expected. This is key for the boys, who have a habit of writing a minimal amount, on the belief that that will be enough, and who also fail to pay enough attention to the presentation of their work, which ultimately means that when they come to revise from their books the quality of the work is not helpful to them. Alongside this, we are encouraging teachers to use exemplary work to help the boys realise the standards that others are achieving. For Year 10 and 11 boys, Mr Collins and I did a very specific assembly comparing their performance to that of the girls.  Where there was a significant difference, we spent time explaining the wider context to the boys of the competition for places on courses and apprenticeships post 16.

All these small steps I am hoping will bring about marginal gains with regards to the academic ambition and performance of the boys and over the rest of this academic year, we will be pushing hard to help the boys realise their potential.

January has been a fantastic month for opportunity within the College (opportunity being a key part of OPEN MIND which is our definition of the Crookhorn Learner). We have had a very successful options process for Year 8 and 9. All options forms are back in now, and the process of constructing the curriculum is well underway for next year. We are very excited to be offering two new courses this year of construction and art textiles for Year 9 students onwards. This is a further adaptation of our technology curriculum, so we are delivering courses that we believe meets the needs of our students and prepares them for life and a career beyond Crookhorn. 

Our Year 10 students attended an Oxbridge Conference at Park Community School, while our Year 8s went out on a visit to see what campus life is like at Southampton University. Last week we sent 9 teams to the National Schools Dance Competition. All the teams representing Crookhorn were outstanding and the highest placed was 4thout of 65 other teams competing. We missed a third place but just two marks, so my congratulations to Miss Williams and all of the dancers who took part.

Earlier in the month, Mrs Nicklin had led a team of Year 8 students to a STEM Teen Tech event to compete in two competitions against 35 other school teams. 

The first competition was the Innovation Zone, where the boys were required to design a device to improve the lives of others in 2050.  They chose water purification and won the ‘best user journey’ in this category.

The second competition was the Challenge Zone, where PLADIS; a biscuit manufacturer, were inspiring students to build a marble run (production line) that enabled the most biscuits (marbles) to be made in 1 minute.  The boys won this event and received a goodie bag of biscuits, which I hasten to add never made it back to the College. We are so proud of their achievements in the event and look forward to our STEM participation as a College-going from strength to strength over the coming months.

For the thespians, Mr Bezant led a stretch and challenge trip to Les Misérables in London. The students had a pre-visit seminar run by Mr Bezant in College beforehand, followed by a backstage tour before watching the actual production, which according to staff and students alike was totally awesome. The students now have to complete a piece of creative writing linked to the story of Les Misérables. I know some pieces have already been submitted to Mr Bezant and he is delighted with the quality. I will look to attach some of the highlights to the February blog. 

Mrs Masson organised a number of different events spread over two days to help commemorate the Holocaust memorial day. On Thursday the 24ththere was the live survivor webcast involving the whole of year 9 which was very powerful. Harry Spiro gave a moving and at times harrowing account of his childhood experiences of the Holocaust. The harsh reality of his story included the anecdote about his days in Buchenwald concentration camp where he would on occasion find a dead body in the washroom that the person had died before eating all their rations, thereby allowing him to take the dry bread from their grasp. Despite the challenging nature of the material, the students were impeccable and Mrs Masson and other staff were very impressed by their attention and interest. 

On Friday the 25ththere was a trip to The Havant Borough Council memorial service which was incredibly moving for the 6 year 8 students that represented the College. The students were beautifully behaved throughout and spent time with the Mayor afterwards discussing the issues around the Holocaust in a knowledgeable and mature way. 

Finally, Year 8 indulged in some international culture with our Chinese Cultural Day, in the build-up to Chinese New Year. The students had many varied experiences from fan dancing, to brush painting, Chinese cooking and Tai Chi. Their focus and attention to learning new skills and understanding a new culture was exemplary and my thanks to Mrs Renshaw and Miss Eastmead who masterminded the whole day.

Just before I sign off I want to draw attention to the growing success of our Challenge Award programme. We now have 93 challenges that have been attempted, with 47 of those completed and 3 complete challenge awards gained by Lexi & Julianna in Year 11 and Lauren in Year 10. For those students who want extra stretch in their learning, this is proving a very popular way to get it. To show the standard of the work the students are presenting for this now, I attach Lauren R’s debate about which of the seven deadly sins presents the biggest threat to humanity. 

Learning at Crookhorn is an increasingly exciting (another key part of OPEN MIND) journey!

Which of the seven deadly sins do I personally believe is the deadliest? by Lauren R. Year 10

The 7 deadly sins are all completely different from one another. If you look at them all, or as a collective group, you may not think that they are that serious in interfering with spiritual progress or are not that much of a threat to the world and humanity in general. However, having now investigated them in more detail, they can, all, in fact, be deadly. But, which deadly sin is the worst?

I think that the least severe of the deadly sins is sloth. Previously called the sin of sadness, I believe that this is the least deadly because not all spiritual progress has to be through physical work. Yes, if a person is reluctant to do spiritual work, it may be seen as a sin, however a sin of the least severity. Laziness can prevent people from completing mundane tasks, and this can, therefore, have a knock-on effect. However, I personally believe that issues caused by the sin sloth could be resolved more easily than the issues of the other sins.

In my opinion, Envy is the worst of the 7 deadly sins. As soon as a person starts to become envious of another, they then try to develop into someone different; they try to start being like others and will go to great lengths to do so. For example, if a person was to suddenly become envious of another’s wealth, surely, they would then become greedy? Or, if you were to become envious of someone else’s spouse, surely you would then start to become lustful? As soon as a person is feeling envious, multiple pathways are then created which all lead to the 6 other sins. And, this is the main reason that I personally believe envy is the deadliest of the 7 deadly sins.

I understand that many may argue this point. When you first look at the list of the 7 deadly sins, you may think that anger is the worst. If someone’s anger gets out of control, they could potentially harm others. But, what else can be a result of serious anger? Likewise, I can also understand why others may say greed. If someone’s greed starts to become uncontrollable, they can start to become jealous of others and this could lead to anger or various other potential dangers. However, I personally believe that none of the other seven deadly sins could have the same domino effect that envy has. If an individual starts to become envious, the rest of the seven deadly sins will quickly follow.