Even as we go into the Easter weekend, it is evident that spring remains a distant hope, as the cold clutches of winter cling on, through the chilling winds coming at us from the north, east and west, reducing temperatures yet again to icy levels. The clocks might have sprung forward, but spring itself has not yet sprung!
Nevertheless, despite the lack of cheer and warmth from the weather, March has been a productive month at the College. Firstly, and really most importantly, it has been an intense month for the Year 11s. At the start of the month we had the practical exams for both dance and drama, which I know was nerve racking for both the students and teachers alike, as it was the first time through with the new specification for both subjects. However, the hours of endless practice and feedback and then re-practice paid off and both days went well with all the performances.
All year 11s apart from the single scientists (Chemistry), had a master class day focussing on Biology, with another one planned on the 24th April focussing on physics. As further support we did a walking talking science mock in the exam hall, to really help the students understand the technique that is required with questions that require longer answers. Many students found this beneficial however, they have been keen to advise us on how we can improve it going forward to make it shorter, but even more impactful.
In the last two weeks of the half term there was the last round of Year 11 practice exams for the core subjects, history and RE. This undoubtedly stretched the students as there were frequently up to two big exams on one day. Despite being hard it has been good though, as it has given many Year 11s a much-needed boost, proving that the extra study and hard work is resulting in steady incremental improvements in results. For others, it has acted as another wake up call, for exactly how tough these exams are going to be in May and June.
The Year 11s also had their final session from MADE training on the Wednesday just before we broke up. MADE training focuses on study skills, and specifically at this stage for Year 11, impactful revision techniques. It is so easy to spend hours revising and actually manage to take nothing in (I remember it well; I was particularly talented at this!). MADE really try to skill the students with successful ways to make revision efficient and effective, and also to persuade the students to revise the topics they find really hard, rather than just doing the ones they find easy (Another very common trick; to revise what you already know, because it makes you feel good about yourself!). The day for the Year 11’s was followed up by a session run by MADE for parents in the evening, focussing on the best way to support one’s son or daughter through this very stressful time. The evening was well attended, and parents found the session very useful judging from the feedback which is excellent. Again, some good suggestions were made by some parents, that they would have appreciated the support earlier, like at the beginning of Year 11, and possibly we should consider an evening for parents of Year 7 students, to go through successful study techniques right at the outset of their secondary education. These are both excellent suggestions and myself and Mr Collins will consider them in our planning for next year.
Coinciding with the MADE training, Mr Collins also launched GCSEPod to the Year 11s. I know he is very excited about this and so are many of the teachers. Through GCSEPod, the students have access to hundreds of podcasts that are specifically targeted to support the key knowledge and understanding required for the syllabuses of the exam boards used by the College. Within 24 hours, 70% of the Year 11 students had logged in and started viewing specific podcasts, so we are hoping that this will be greatly beneficial to their revision over the Easter break.
It’s been a significant month for the Year 10s as well as they have spent the last two weeks of the half term out on work placement. This is such a great experience for the Year 10s, where they really get to understand for the first time what a full day at work really feels like! It puts many students right outside of their comfort zone, but by doing this, opens their eyes to the possibilities of the world beyond school. Every student was placed successfully and all but two students finished their experience successfully, which is a tremendous outcome for the team, so my heartfelt thanks and congratulations to Mrs Duncan and Mrs Brown, who make this possible every year. (Total logistic champions!)
Mrs Duncan has had a very busy half term, because alongside Year 10 work experience she and Mr Potts have interviewed every single Year 8 student about their options choices going forward into year 9, and so we are now able to send out the option confirmation letters in the first week after Easter, which is the earliest it has ever been done.
For our lower years, we have had the fantastic Red Cross physical theatre work shop organised by the indefatigable Miss Williams, whose energy and enthusiasm for all things dance (and panto to be fair) knows no bounds. Miss Faulkner organised a great trip to the Winchester Science centre, whilst Mr Russell indulged in a spot of star gazing with students in the last week of term at the Clanfield observatory. The skies remained clear long enough for the students to spot Venus before the clouds closed in like the curtains at the theatre signalling the end to the show!
Mr Weaver took a group of Year 9 students to the Hampshire Youth Conference where they were commended for standing out against students from other schools, for the confidence with which they were able to converse with councillors and argue a point of view. It is great to see this confidence really growing in our students.
Mrs Wood, our very determined librarian, refused to allow the snow, which caused the cancellation of the original World Book Day, to stop our Year 7 students from having a great session with the author Andy Briggs, which she managed to re organise for the penultimate day of the term. I know many of our students enjoy his books so the chance to meet the author in person and then do a creative writing workshop with him, was brilliant.
On the last day of term, we waved off the teachers and students led by Mr Mc Ginley, on their trip to New York and Washington. After such excitement and anticipation at their departure it is obviously with complete dismay and devastation that we had to manage the sickness outbreak that occurred on the trip and which left the trip schedule in such disarray. I would like to take this opportunity to thank sincerely the staff on the trip for their unswerving and truly dedicated support and care of the students, often when they themselves were suffering from intense sickness. Also, to the team here in the UK who put in many, many hours over the Easter weekend to try and help as much as possible to manage the situation, and finally to the students themselves who were absolutely exemplary in their bravery and courage during this very difficult and challenging time. Finally, I would like to thank my international rescue team in the form of Mr Potts who flew up from Florida to assist the group whilst in Washington. I am just so pleased that they are all back safe and sound now and recuperating ready for the start of the new term.
Finally, from me, I would like to say goodbye on the behalf of the College community to Miss Graham, who is leaving teaching to pursue her artistic career, Mr Holman who is leaving England to become an Assistant Headteacher of an International School in Malaysia and Miss Manley, who is leaving secondary education to work at Sparsholt College as subject leader for Animal Care. All three staff have been a wonderful part of the College community over the last few years and we wish them all the best with their new ventures.