As Autumn has marched on through October and we have settled fully into the academic year, I have had plenty of time to reflect on how important the task of raising aspirations is, both for the students and staff at the College over the next twelve months. In the first assemblies of the year, I talked to all students about a phrase that I really believe in: “Dream it; believe it; achieve it!” Each section of this phrase is vital and without any one part of it, the whole thing falls apart. Without the dream, you don’t know where you are heading, without the belief, there is not the commitment to persevere, and the achieving part needs a healthy dose of personal responsibility attached to it as well. Throughout my years at Crookhorn, so many individual students have taught me that, where there is the dream, the will and self-belief, the achievement follows. I want to stretch this phrase out now to encompass the whole student body, and to stretch it up as well to the highest grades on offer, rather than just the standard pass grades. Throughout this month, I have been talking and working with staff on what we can do to increase the enrichment and cultural capital of our students so they dream bigger and believe stronger to achieve beyond their expectations.
Science kicked off the aspirational enrichment in October with a trip to Horndean College for ‘Operating Theatre Live!’. This was an amazing interactive event, where the whole hall was done out like an operating theatre, the students were fully dressed in surgical attire and performed many surgical procedures, including dissection on various parts of a pig’s anatomy. Now it was definitely not for the faint hearted, but it was a brilliant opportunity for our Year 10 students to experience the medical world and be talked to and shown the routes into medicine that they might not previously have thought of. This was followed with a Year 8 trip to Hengistbury Head, where in preparation for the new GCSE and the need to use live data from the field, the young geographers were immersed into the world of coastal environments and habitats. (Thankfully, unlike other Geography field trips the weather was lovely!).
The Year 10 and 11 Drama students went out to experience live theatre through the Southampton Operatic Society’s production of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at The Point in Eastleigh. The intention was to enhance the students’ own understanding of dramatic delivery, stage craft and voice projection. It was much enjoyed and a first trip to the theatre for some of our students.
In the week before half term, the Year 9 students were involved in a deep learning day focused on the dawn of the 20th Century. Our aim here was to increase their holistic understanding of the world at this time from many different viewpoints, and how discoveries and theories from different sections collided to make this one of the most exciting and relevant times in History. Challenging topics were covered from Victorian morals (apparently very important for understanding the repression of sexuality that is central throughout Jekyll and Hyde, a GCSE 19th Century text that the Year 9s may study in Year 11) to the age of scientific discovery and Darwinism (very important for understanding the motives and ultimate vanquishing of the Martians in War of the Worlds; again another 19th Century text to potentially be studied in Year 11), to the rise of imperialism and capitalism, so evident in the British empire, which was at its peak at this time, to the whole philosophical conflict of science vs religion and its liberating effects on a very controlled society. What I am delighted about, is that through days like this, we are not shying away from complex subject matter that previously we might have considered too challenging; instead we are embracing it, celebrating it and the students are proving to us that they are enjoying rising to it. Mr Bezant has already been to see me to request planning time with Mr McGinley and Mrs Rex so they can see where to take this day next year, to inject yet more lasting challenge into it.
For the Year 11s we held the Post 16 Information Evening, where Mike Gaston, Principal of Havant and South Downs College came to talk through the many options available, once the simple route of the GCSEs is complete. Mike Gaston not only focused on the A level route to University, but also the apprenticeship route as well, which I think is excellent and all too often overlooked. Too many Crookhorn students look at me blankly when I talk about University to them, as though they had never considered it and are not likely too, possibly because the self-belief is not there, possibly to do with concerns over funding. Whichever one it is, I really want to get the Year 11s thinking aspirationally about their futures and considering higher education as part of their journey, rather than just something that happens to other students but not to them.
Mock Interview day has always been a very valuable experience to the Year 11s and this year was no exception. The employers who come in are truly excellent at helping the students gain confidence in a situation that many have never experienced before. It is a wonderful example of how a child can be filled with self-belief where previously there was none. I know of two students this year who were absolutely convinced that they would not be able to do the interview at all and who, when they came out, having been successful and receiving some really excellent feedback, were ten feet taller (not literally obviously) and full of a new confidence. Magic!
Mr Galbraith and Mr Brunink have also done an excellent job at instilling self-belief in our artists and photographers and you will now see examples of excellence exhibited in our Reception, which will be updated regularly. If you have not seen them yet, you should drop by and do just that. We have also started to celebrate our Crookhorn Alumni in Reception as well, which I believe is another very important way to raise aspiration and success. Each half term we will be focusing on one of our previous students and what they have achieved since leaving Crookhorn. Our first Alumni being celebrated is Danielle Harding, who is now an Apprenticeship Recruitment Advisor at Havant and South Downs College, having pursued the apprenticeship route herself. Shortly, we will also have our new Student Charter on display as well. Over the years that I have sat on the College Council, the students have been excellent at really pressing home issues that need addressing; it is, for example, entirely down to their unrelenting voice that we have completely changed the canteen provision as mentioned in my September blog. The Student Charter, which has been worked on by Miss Cromey and the College Council is a statement of intent as well as a recognition of the power of the student voice.
Now we are looking forward to the eight weeks that separate the October half term and Christmas (gulp!). These eight weeks will be jam packed, but there is a heavy focus on the Year 11 November mock exams. It is imperative that all Year 11 students understand the importance and significance of these exams, as the grades they get in them will be used by the College as the grades that will be passed on to whichever College of Further Education they are applying to. So, if they wish to be considered for the course they are dreaming about, they need to believe they can do it, commit to the revision and take responsibility for their learning. Then the achievement will come…
(Just as an aside here, I will be informing the Year 11s on Tuesday 31st October about our new study room that will be available for them every day after College, as a quiet space to study and work. It is equipped with six computers and full WIFI if they wish to bring their own device, and is available for staff and Year 11s only!!)