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March 2019 Blog

This month we were visited by OFSTED. As always and rightly so, their visits come with only a day before warning, so that they can assess the day to day practice of a school as close to reality as possible. I have always maintained that what we do in the College is not for the benefit of OFSTED, it is absolutely for the benefit of the students and their outcomes. The vision that I outlined for the College two and a half years ago when I became Head focussed round the statement: 

‘Excellence as Standard’ 

and we strive to exemplify this through: 

  1. Excellence in Teaching and Learning 
  2. Excellence in the Learning Environment 
  3. Excellence in Ethos and Enrichment 

The way we achieve this excellence is through the 4 key areas of: 

  1. Leadership 
  2. Curriculum, pedagogy and assessment 
  3. Staff training 
  4. Ethos and environment. 

Everything we have worked on during this time is within these 4 areas. What OFSTED’s recent visit has given us is a clear insight into how far we have come on our journey towards the vision: through careful analysis of the feedback in the report we can really focus on the areas that require further development to bring us closer to our goals. 

The inspection itself was a very fair and rigorous process and I was really pleased with the amount of time the inspectors spent in lessons; looking in exercise books and talking to students and through this really interrogating the quality of our teaching and learning. They spent relatively little time with myself and members of my senior leadership team, because ultimately if we are doing our jobs right then it will be evident in the day to day practice and application within the College. As a result, this report is a true testament now to the quality of teaching we strive to deliver on a daily basis here and to the quality of learner, we grow in the College. 

The way our students can now articulate and indeed demonstrate what learning means to them, and how they make progress, is brilliant. It is my belief that if they can master this now then they will be able to go forward as confident learners in the increasingly independent learning environments of further education and higher education and be successful. 

I was also extremely happy that the OFSTED Inspectors identified our students as ‘highly courteous’, hardworking and with ‘positive attitudes to their learning’. The report highlights in some detail the strength of the enrichment that students get here at the College through all the extra-curricular and the benefit that this brings to them. It is also great that all the work we have done around stretch and challenge in our curriculum is recognised in several places with comments like: “the most able students say that they are challenged in lessons and are able to persevere with difficult work”. I have talked about these areas a lot in my blogs as well as the high expectations we have of all our students with regards to their behaviour and the aspiration with regards to their level of learning, so it is great to see it now recognised by external visitors to the College. If you have not had the chance to read the report yet you can download it from the website or access it on the link below: 

Aside from the inspection visit, we have had a busy March particularly for Year 11. What has really struck me this year is the amount of GCSE final components that we have had to complete in this month under the new specifications. This includes the exam sections of engineering and child development. In both subjects, we are really pleased with the way the exams have gone, and we look set to have some great results in these two subjects. In dance and music, we have had the final performances of group pieces, where each student is assessed for their individual contribution. For those of us who attended either the Spring Gig in Havant or the Dance Show at Crookhorn, we know that the students have a lot to be proud of with regards to the way they rose to the challenge of the occasion and produced their best work to date. We have also had the drama moderation of the scripted pieces, which went very well, and I know that Mrs Callaghan, was proud of the way the students really shone on the day in front of the examiner. Finally, there was the catering practical, where the Year 11’s have produced some stunning final dishes. I have seen the pictures - and they are of fantastic quality. (The dishes that is, not the pictures!) 

It is not only been the Year 11 caught up in this whirl of exam practicals. The early entry Year 10 students for both dance and catering have also completed their final performances or dishes. In both cases, I have been impressed with the rigour and determination with which these students have approached their work. 

It is full on, and what I have noticed more this year than any other year is most of the students really striving to meet the high expectations they have set for themselves. They are indeed working harder than any Year 11 I have seen go through before and I do recognise it is tough for them and I also know that for some, they feel like walking away right now. My message to all of them is clear though, and comes from a motivational clip that we have watched and listened to together in assembly: 

“Pain is temporary, it might last for a minute, an hour or for weeks, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place; if I quit, however, it will last forever”. 

As a staff we are doing all we can to support them and help them with the structure of their revision and independent study, and for the first time alongside subject-specific study sessions over Easter, we are staffing general study sessions where the students can come into the College and work during the second week of the Easter holidays. 

It is fantastic that alongside all of the exam work, we have still kept apace with our enrichment programme. We had a fantastic Japan Day for our Year 7 students which focussed on looking at the culture, art and food of Japan; my thanks to Miss Eastmead and Mrs Renshaw who organised the day so well. We have also had a couple of key transition events going on with Year 10 early entry catering students visiting the professional kitchens at HSDC to see what it is like and to understand the breadth of opportunities within the catering industry. For the Year 9 early entry PE students there was a trip to HSDC to experience a sports science workshop which was both practical and theoretical. The session was designed to help our students understand the science behind how the body works during exercise and all 16 students thoroughly enjoyed the day 

We have also had great enrichment opportunities for the primary schools as well- with Miss Faulkner’s Sublime Science designed for Year 5 students and their parents and Mr Taylor’s magical Press Gang sponsored by the Cosham Rotary where the standard of writing overall from the Year 4 and 5 pupils was exceptional and this year, Purbrook Junior School walked away with the trophy.

Finally, of course, and possibly the jewel in the crown, we had the fabulous trip to the Royal Opera House to see ‘Romeo and Juliet’ performed as a ballet. Students from Year 7 to 10 were involved in a pre-visit seminar with Mr Bezant, where the expectations were laid out clearly as to what the students should strive to get out of the visit and how they will demonstrate this in follow up work that needs to be completed after the trip. On the trip itself, the students had a wonderful two-hour workshop with the professionals, all to themselves as another school did not turn up. How the students developed during that workshop was frankly awesome according to both Mr Bezant and Mrs Edington and I have seen some great pictures of what they were up to. They then watched the three-act performance and I believe came to realise that ballet is one of the most beautiful and emotionally stimulating art forms there is. What growth! what enrichment!

It is time to draw breath over Easter, it is also much needed. I hope everyone has a happy and productive break and we regroup the day after Easter Monday!