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May 2019 BLOG

The month of May has been focussed almost entirely on exam preparation and the start of the exams themselves. I think we all felt a palpable sense of relief when the main exams actually started; the months of anticipation and build up giving way to the business of actually getting on with it. As I said last year the average number of hours a Year 11 student will spend doing exams this May and June is 36. This is quite phenomenal, as is the amount of work that sits around each exam by way of preparation. I have to say that I am very proud of the way the Year 11s have faced this challenge and are really pushing themselves to do the best they can. All year we have been talking about the importance of independent study and the fact that last minute revision will no longer deliver results that could have been achieved or scraped on the old style exams. For many Year 11s, they have taken this on board and the work rate as a result, throughout the year, has been more intense but steady, and this is undoubtedly benefiting the students now as they face the challenge of applying their knowledge to the exam questions.

Evidence of this steady but more intense work rate has been the use of the study room, which has really taken off this year, to the extent that we have had to open an additional study room (specifically for boys this year, although next year this is likely to change). The final figures for study room use have just been issued for Year 11, and in total there have been over 3000 registered individual study sessions with Arundel students proving to be the most prolific users on 923 sessions. This is fantastic and it is really encouraging for us that the message of independent study is beginning to sink in.

I think one of the biggest benefits the Year 11s have found to the study room is the studying together and the way they can support and push each other to greater depths of knowledge and the application of it in exam questions. The comradeship has undoubtedly built resilience and stopped exam pressure being such a lonely place. It is my commitment going forward next year to seek to expand this as much as I can so we can work towards after College study being truly inclusive and available to all in Year 11.

Due to the different exam boards we use and the different types of qualifications we enter students for, some exams are completely finished and we have the results coming in already. The Engineers sat their exam in February and the results are absolutely excellent. The child development exam was also done at the same time with significantly pleasing outcomes, whilst the Dance RSL results have come in and are again outstanding. This has been great to give our students confidence as they go into other exams because they realise that not only can they pass, they can pass with top grades.

For the first time this year, we have the Year 10’s sitting their early entry exams. The whole purpose of doing the early entry is to give the students a chance to get one of their big exams out of the way a year before all the others. The benefits are fewer exams next year, but also the pleasure almost of concentrating on just one subject, being immersed in that subject and seeking excellence in the exam. Overwhelmingly the students have made the most of the opportunity and have coped extremely well with the step up in expectations and responsibility that goes with sitting a GCSE exam early.

As the Year 11s are planning to leave us with just two weeks remaining in College after half term, so the transition process for our new Year 7s is well underway. Dave Lemon and James Collins have been running afternoon transition activities for all of the new students, to start getting them acquainted with the step up to secondary and their new surroundings. The transition team have been out to meet every primary Year 6 teacher to talk to them about each individual student. Although this is significantly time-consuming, it is an invaluable process to help us be prepared in the best way possible for each individual child as they start their journey at Crookhorn. All this preparation will be followed up with the transition day on July 3rd and the transition evening which is on July 4th. When the students start in September they spend 7 College days immersed in SMART Start, during which time they are fully inducted into the Crookhorn learning ethos of OPEN MIND and the ethos of the House system and participation as well.

During May, James and I talked to the students about the concept of being the ‘next generation’ and what this means in practical terms with regards to what is happening around us today. I showed the students a clip from the fabulous BBC 1 programme ‘Earth from Space’ which highlighted the crushing fact that 80% of the northern stretches of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia has gone. The coral has perished in the increasing water temperatures. When I saw this for the first time, I was absolutely devastated, as it has been a dream of mine to take my two boys to see the Great Barrier Reef before it’s too late. What I realised when watching the programme, is that I am already too late. I talked to the students about the reality of climate change and the fact that as the next generation they need to take it seriously as of now, with regards to finding ways to preserve what we have and to find a sustainable future, not just for humans but for all species. I shared with them my experiences in Singapore over Easter, and how dynamic some countries and communities are in looking to the future and finding ways to build and live green. We looked at some of the amazing solutions that are being found in Asia to the problems of overdevelopment and the impact this has on the natural surroundings. We also looked at some of the incredible engineerings closer to home such as Rampion wind farm which is just off the coast of Worthing and Brighton, that now provides electricity for over 350,000 homes from 116 wind turbines.

Out of this, we had a very lively and productive College Council meeting, where Mrs Edington presented some startling facts about our consumption of single-use plastic on the College site and what students could possibly start thinking about, with regards to limiting the environmental impact of this. The students were fully fired up and brimming with ideas by the end and have subsequently set up their own environment group, headed up by Mrs Edington. I made it clear at the meeting that any action taken had to be initiated and run by students; the expectation could not be and would not be that this would be a teacher’s project with students helping out occasionally. Several students have since written to me of their own volition about steps they want to take as individuals to help, even in the smallest of ways, whilst the environment group itself is set to meet for the first time almost immediately after half term. I am delighted by the enthusiasm and the sense of responsibility that many of the students are demonstrating with regards to this, and I look forward to keeping you posted about the steps the students are taking and the success they are having in bringing about change at the College to help protect the environment.

Although our whole focus in May is on the GCSE exams, we have still managed to fit in enrichment opportunities for Years 7-10. On the weekend of the 18th and 19th of May, we had the annual Year 9 leadership camp which saw 23 Year 9s heading off to the New Forest to really find out about what it is like to be being outside of one’s comfort zone. The key activities that the students took part in involved building their own shelters to sleep in; preparing their own dinner- and yes that does mean the skinning and butchering of a deer; managing their own rations as part of a team over the whole weekend and an orienteering exercise in the open forest! For many, if not all the students these are unique experiences and ones that they invariably rise to as they enjoy the challenge. This year the students did not disappoint, and there were some standout moments where the students excelled at working together and supporting each other outside of normal peer groups and through tasks that really tested their mettle and resilience. My thanks to Chris King and Samuel McGinley who run this camp. They make out it is total hardship on their account, but I know that they secretly love it!

We also had a very serious and poignant trip to the Imperial War Museum with 48 Year 9 and 10 historians to visit the new Holocaust exhibition there as part of their Germany in Transition module for the GCSE course. Students had a workshop and then a tour of the Holocaust exhibition. They then had time to explore the other exhibitions in the museum. Many students absorbed every fact they could get from the exhibition which shows great maturity as the subject material is so challenging. At the end, one student commented to Mrs Masson: 'I am glad I came on this trip- I really get it now Miss- it all kind of makes sense!'. When you get that sort of comment, you know the effort of the organisation has all been worth it!

Finally, just before half term, we had our French partner school visit us for an afternoon. The Year 10 French students spent two good hours with their French counterparts, engaging in French and English conversation as both try to improve their speaking and listening skills.

As we return, June promises to be full of exams as the Year 11 GCSE’s give way after two weeks to the Year 10 mock exams. For the Year 10s this will be their first real taste of full GCSE exams, and the realisation of the work that lies ahead of them, but as stated at the start of this blog, there are plenty of Year 11s who will now attest to the power of a constant steady work rate and focus over the next 12 months, so this is a powerful place for the year 10s to start- by listening to the wisdom of their peers!