Last month I talked about the College focus on aspiration and we had an event right at the beginning of November, which really confirmed for me how important this focus on ‘Dream it; Believe it; Achieve it’ is. The event was Hobbies and Interests Day which is run every year for the Year 8s. The students come in on that day with evidence of their hobby or their interest outside of College and talk to staff and other students about it. It is generally a lovely event and a brilliant opportunity for us as staff at the College to see what talent we have amongst our midst!
This year I was struck though, by the number of boys who brought in just their XBOX games, or sadly nothing at all, and the number of girls who brought in their make-up sets or phones as their hobby. Now the XBOX and makeup might be seen as valid outside interests and ones I know that are very popular with our students, but it worries me slightly that they won’t stretch the students in the long run with their social interaction, team spirit, skill development or intellectual development. More worryingly the age of 12 or 13 seems very young to me, to have given up on having any interest at all, outside of College.
I believe that to have a hobby or an interest indicates a degree of personal motivation and what this event highlighted to me was that we have a bit of a gulf between those who are involved in the most amazing things outside of College and are really motivated, and those who appear to have very low personal motivation and low self-interest. I have no doubt that this will ultimately translate itself into outcomes as far as academic achievement is concerned in Year 11. As a result, it reinforces with me how important it is to have a thorough enrichment drive in the College, to ensure a balanced depth and breadth to the learning that is accessible to all, as well as really pushing the participation in all the events we do and clubs we have, to hopefully ignite that small flame. I have also asked the Heads of House to now really target specific students to get them involved in the Leadership programme that we run in the College to help build confidence and self-belief where possibly these don’t exist.
Our November enrichment programme has turned out to be very academically focused. Forty students from various sets attended a performance of ‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’, a set text for English Literature, at the New Theatre Royal Portsmouth on November 9th
- the trip proving so popular it was a sell-out! The Year 11 top mathematicians went to a Maths Challenge event where they were some of the only Year 11 students there, as all the rest were A Level students. The team did incredibly well, and have now returned to help Mrs Greig train up the Key Stage 3 team for their Maths challenge event that is coming up soon in the New Year.
Mrs Duncan took a group of Year 10 girls out to the Enterprising Women’s Conference at Chichester University, where they had the opportunity to ask successful business women about routes into different industries such as banking, law, science & engineering, events management, fashion design and food nutrition to name a few. Also led by Mrs Duncan, we saw the launch of the Year 7 Books and Stories project with the University of Portsmouth, a programme which is designed to capture the students’ enthusiasm for creative writing and nurture an intellectual quest for knowledge with a series of tasks, including script writing. Ultimately, the Year 7s will have their script turned into a short film under the guidance of the University of Portsmouth student ambassadors. December will see the start of the Year 9 programme that will focus on Sports Science and the planning of a training programme, utilising Sports Psychology and lessons learned from the animal kingdom! On Wednesday 22nd
November we organised a Year 9 higher attainers visit to the University of Southampton, where the students gained a better understanding of the pathways to Higher Education and explored their own career aspirations.
Ten of our Year 9 students travelled to Winchester to take part in the Hampshire book awards ceremony, while a number of Year 8 students visited a local School to meet the author Robin Jarvis. We also had a highly entertaining and interactive visit by the ‘2 Steves’, who write ‘immersive’ books where the reader makes their own choice as to how the story proceeds. The ‘2 Steves’ ran workshops which were aimed at inspiring a passion for creative writing in our students. The Year 10 catering class entered the Rotary Chef Competition and three of our girls made it to the event on 11th
of November to cook off against other schools. They each had to prepare two courses and having spoken to them individually, their menus were fantastically ambitious but what was most important was what the event taught them in terms of time management and how to operate under pressure and outside their normal comfort zone. All three girls feel that the experience will help them significantly when they come to do their GCSE practical in College for their actual exam. The participation of the three girls in this event teaches us all that it is not about winning, it is about taking part, going outside your comfort zone, because the experience will grow your confidence and teach you lessons that can’t be gained any other way. Ultimately taking part, increases chances of long term success!
Finally, our Year 7s enjoyed a trip out to a Jewish Synagogue in Portsmouth on 27th
November, to deepen and make real their understanding of Judaism, which has been the focus of the RE curriculum this Autumn term.
There has been plenty of opportunity for engagement through House events this month as well. The week beginning 6th
November was Numeracy week. All teachers were encouraged by Miss Walmsley to start each lesson with a numeracy conundrum and after school we had two of the most popular House events of the year in the form of Geocache and Countdown. Both events have grown massively in popularity from one team taking part in every House a couple of years ago to numerous teams now taking part including staff ones! (The main hall was absolutely jammed packed for Countdown). This event was followed up on 22nd
November with Techno Hunt - a huge favourite with the students and staff alike, which this year saw 42 teams taking part with 168 students running around and demonstrating their fast thinking!
It’s been good to see different Houses taking the glory in the winning spot as well, with Romsey House winning Hobbies and Interests Day and Arundel House winning Countdown, although both the Petworth student team and teachers team won the actual event, but just missed out on the final points tally, with Arundel gaining slightly more points for numbers participating, (You see everybody counts in these competitions!) and Goodwood winning the Geocache Event and Techno Hunt. Miss Bishop’s strongly competitive side is beginning to show through in House sports competitions now, with Arundel just sneaking ahead of Goodwood at the moment as a result of a great basketball competition two weeks ago. Talking of sport, our Year 11 football team won their 4th
round FA cup match against Westgate 2 - 1, with some fantastic skill and determination. Last year they got to the quarter finals, could this be the year they go even further? Well it’s their last chance so let’s hope so?
Alongside enrichment, November has been a month of remembrance and all Houses came together with all the staff for our reflective and beautiful Whole College Act of Remembrance. I would like to extend my thanks to the Reverend Connie Sherman from St Johns the Baptist Church Purbrook, who officiated at the event and led us all in our thoughts and reflections. This year we remembered the destruction of war, through the Battle of Passchendaele, and recent acts of terror, but we also remembered how hope can come from devastation, and how terrible events can shine a spot light on the kindness and compassion of so many human beings, who respond often without a thought to their own safety, to help and aid others struck down. I was so proud of all our cadets on the day and it was incredible to see so many services represented, including St Johns Ambulance, the Police cadets, the Guides and Scouts and, of course, our armed forces cadets.
November has also been the month of hard study and opportunity! Our Year 11s have been completing their mock GCSE exams and in preparation for this we had the MADE company in for an extra session to work with fifty seven of our Year 11s on how to stretch and challenge themselves in their revision and study to make sure it has the most impact for their exam performance and their learning overall. It might surprise you to know that a lot of students only really like revising the topics they already know and understand and don’t go near the topics they really struggle with and should, as a result, absolutely be revising! Sander De Groot then ran a session for the staff so that we can use some of the strategies he was teaching to the students in our revision activities.
I am really pleased with how many Year 11s have taken up the opportunity of the new study room to stay after College and continue working. Every night so far it has been full (even Friday nights!) so when I originally said that it was for staff and students, staff don’t have a chance of working in there until after 5.00pm as there is literally no space! The staffed Homework Club is also running in A4 for Year 11s and we have some regular customers to that, but ideally I would like to see a lot more.
Year 10s have had the opportunity to submit their Prefect applications and the first round of selection has been completed. The successful candidates to make it this far are now starting on their two-week trial, shadowing the current Year 11 Prefects. After this the Year 11s provide us with feedback on how the two-week trial has gone and the second round of selection is made, so that we are ready to start with the confirmed successful prefects after Christmas, in time for the Year 11 prefects to step back from their duties to really focus on the final push for their exams. This is a great chance for the Year 10s to show their leadership potential prior to the selection and election process for the most senior student roles in the College in May and June. It has also been an extremely useful lesson to them; to understand the importance of participation and enrichment so that they have plenty of detail to put on their application forms, making them stand out and successfully get through to the next stage of the process.
Year 8s have had the opportunity to have taster sessions in subjects that they can potentially opt for next year, but they might not know much about them at this stage as they are not taught in Year 7 and 8. Subjects like photography, child development, business studies and sociology might sound intriguing, but turn out to be completely different to what the student is expecting, so it is really important that they have the opportunity to find out more about them, before making their options just after Christmas.
Finally, November has seen new opportunities as far as our communication with parents is concerned. Firstly, our website is undergoing a significant review and has been freshened up and streamlined. Hopefully the new format with the tabs at the top make it easier to find the relevant pages, and the loss of the black background makes it slightly less oppressive. We are working on improving the size and style of the font, as it is currently rather small and difficult to read. Some new additions on the website include our updated curriculum page under the ‘Student’ tab with an attached PDF for the Year 7 curriculum. The Year 8 curriculum should be up before Christmas, followed by a summary of all the option subjects available to Years 9-11 in the New Year. We should also have our residential and overseas trips calendar up before Christmas, to enable parents to be able to plan which trips their children can go on over a four year cycle. This should help manage expectations and financial planning.
Secondly, we launched our new online booking for Parents Evening appointments for the Parents Evening on 2 November and this has been met overwhelmingly with very positive comments from parents. It certainly resulted in a record turnout for us with 264 families attending, the majority being in Years 8 and 11.
And thirdly on 17th
November we went live with our online payments so that parents can now update their child’s canteen allowance electronically rather than trusting the child to take the cash in to College and put it onto their account. This has resulted in an extra 20-30 more students eating from the canteen each day, as the money is now not being spent in the local shops on inappropriate but highly priced items such as sugar pumped monster drinks, before the student has even got to College, but instead on the healthy options provided by the canteen with either hot or cold food. I think that is a winner for everyone all round, although some of the students might not see it that way just yet!
So, there we have it, November done and dusted and now as we move into December, can I take this opportunity to wish all the students, parents, staff and governors a very happy Christmas and a restful break.