Principal’s Round-up – 10th March 2017
The future success of this country depends, as it always has, on our ability to create wealth. We have to reposition ourselves in a world which is increasingly economically inter-dependent. What we have done well historically is to create new ideas. If ever there was a need to re-create this culture of innovation, it is now. Developed countries have limited opportunities to compete on price; they must compete by adding value; by offering new, high-quality products and by learning and responding more quickly than their competitors.
The key to our future success therefore, lies in our ability to develop these skills in our children. Our approach to co-operative education develops a love of life-long learning, social responsibility and team work. We know that training for specific jobs is not enough. Our young people may have to change careers many times in their working lives. They must be adaptable and able to learn new things quickly and efficiently. They will also need to take responsibility for their own learning and performance. Employers know co-operation matters, because many of their staff work in small, self-managing teams where good relationships are paramount. They must be people-people who emphasise easily with others. They will also need to be motivated self-starters with excellent communication skills.
Our students will have to cope with the accelerating rate of change in technology. They must be confident users of information technology with excellent literacy and numeracy skills. Of course, in the future students will have to invent the new products and services that will keep us competitive. They will need to be lateral thinking risk-takers, with the ability to come up with the solution that no one else has considered. Again, such experiences are not always nurtured alone, but in well managed co-operative groups. All the students involved in the Radio Station, Camps International, sporting teams, and the Theatre Royal partnership workshops, give examples of co-operation and creativity at work.
Beyond the workplace, our students will have to develop relationships and raise families in an increasingly changeable and uncertain world. They must be emotionally literate and able to cope with the pressures life will put upon them. Our pastoral system supports such emotional development and I am delighted to see the growing number of assemblies and tutorial sessions being run by students themselves. The interest in the House system has created a greater sense of belonging.
Sadly, some will also have to cope with periods of economic inactivity and possibly long retirement; they will need to have the creative interests and abilities to enrich their lives outside the world of work. Hence, we lay great store by our excellent extra-curricular provision. Extra-curricular activities are worth fighting for in Co-operative schools and are included in activities that educationalists refer to as, the ‘hidden curriculum’. In other words, we develop ‘the whole child’.
The work that our staff undertake supports all of what I have written above, and it is for this reason that I take seriously the agenda of work- life balance. Recently, a pamphlet was published that was endorsed by all the teaching unions, professional associations and the DfE. It asks schools to consider reducing workload by re-assessing what teachers are asked to do in three main areas: marking, planning and data management. We shall be addressing these at the next whole staff meeting in a couple of weeks’ time.
Have a lovely weekend
Principal’s Round-up – 24th February 2017
I hope by now you have all had ample opportunity to read and digest the letter sent by Kevin Wilson regarding the Multi-Academy Trust proposals. If there are any questions regarding the future direction of travel for the college, then Kevin will be happy to answer them, and I am always available if you want to raise any concerns. There is still much work to do to form the Academy Trust and to appoint members and trustees. One of the benefits that I have already started working on is our access as an academy to the EFA’s Condition Improvement Fund. As many of you will be aware, Devon has allowed our building stock to fall into disrepair over the last 20 years, and we hope to accelerate our building refurbishment on conversion. I will continue to update you on all developments and I will be interested in your views as we move forwards to the completion of the MAT.
Whilst most of us embarked on a week’s break at half term, a number of staff were accompanying students on ‘trips of a life-time’ – some in Florida on the sports’ tour, and some in Italy on the ski trip. You will be able to read about some of their exploits in future publications and on our website, but suffice to say here that everyone had a wonderful time. Extra- curricular trips and activities provide chances for students to form life-long allegiances and memories that sustain them in more challenging times. Thank you to all staff who organised and participated in both overseas trips. The sense of solidarity and social responsibility can be brought alive for young people who take part in more localised extra-curricular teams and activities. This was affirmed for me watching the Y7 girls’ football team come running in from the field to tell me they had won their match and are now in the county cup round. Some of these girls struggle a little with social interactions, and I was delighted to see the excitement on their faces in their haste to tell me about their win. I was able to go and watch some other students in action in the holiday. Three of the college show jumping teams were out in action, and I saw them ride to victory at Tall Trees Equestrian Centre. Competitive sport is so important for young people. It’s where they learn what it takes to be a winner- and how to deal with failure. It is where they learn just how hard they have to work to be successful.
Sue Madgwick carried out a review of our work with disadvantaged students in diminishing the difference in their performance compared to other students nationally. She gave us some good feedback, and, whilst there are still discrepancies between the performance in some faculties compared to others, she was able to affirm that the work we have undertaken is making a difference. We must now all support each other to ensure that gaps between faculties do not get wider.
Thank you all for your hard work this week, and I hope you have a lovely weekend.
Principal’s Round-up – 3rd February 2017
Well done to Anne Partridge, our School direct trainee on gaining a permanent position at Paignton Community College last week as a teacher of English. We are delighted for her, and wish her well. The School Direct route into teaching was introduced in 2012 and is offered by schools, Teaching School Alliances and ITE providers. Many providers are struggling to recruit, but our programme (DACCA) is highly successful. Some find this puzzling, but we believe it is the co-operative nature of the programme that makes it so successful. The numbers speak for themselves, and we are proud to be responsible for providing schools with the next generation of decidedly well trained teachers.
On Friday 27th January, Year 9 students took part in a global event to mark Holocaust Memorial Day. They, along with 500 other schools around the world, gathered to hear Mala Tribich’s testimony broadcast in a live web event which allowed them to hear first-hand Mala’s experiences of the Holocaust. Students had much to say about this experience, and this is captured in Keely Andrew’s words
“I felt that it was very eye opening to be able to hear from Mala Tribich and how her life went from living life with a full family to having just her brother and cousin. I feel like it was very important to be told by an actual survivor of horrific events because as a younger generation we need to hear these things so that we can ensure they never happen again. Now most people should know that genocide is wrong and if we can prevent it then we should.”
Most of Y7 have been at the Science Museum this week and, apart from considerable coach travel sickness and frequent toilet stops, it proved to be a very positive House based experience. The staff at the Museum were complimentary about our students and would welcome us back in the future. The same can be said of our students who visited Duchy College with Helen Harris last week. Students from Years 10 and 11 spent a fascinating day, enjoying taster sessions across a range of departments including the Equine Centre and the Animal Care department where they met a wide variety of animals, some more appealing than others! They had the chance to see the sports facilities, but most students opted to go to the Plant department and drive the tractors and fork lift trucks – a serious piece of kit, as one student said appreciatively. Days like this matter because they introduce students to a huge range of opportunities for the future. Thank you to all staff who accompany students, often resulting in late nights and early starts. It is very much appreciated. These cultural and extra-curricular events could not happen if it were not for your additional efforts.
Of course, while these events are taking place, the rest of us are ploughing our way through the frequent and ever changing directives from the DfE. Sometimes this encourages us all to take our eye off the ball, and incidents occur. These are often symptomatic of the tip of the iceberg, with the bulk of the background hidden below the depths. It is at these times, when we see colleagues sinking under imposed pressures, that we should revisit our values as a co-operative school. We must invest in each other by pulling in the same direction. Accountability is tough. The P8 article I have included in this edition shows how flawed the measure is, but how powerful it is in creating judgements around schools. The P8 measure is worked out retrospectively (norm-referenced) and is pulled down by a few poor performers (eg those who were educated off site but on a school roll). This loses for a school all the benefit of the top performers. The 5A*-C measure did not do this but had its own weaknesses. Sometimes I am reminded of U2 and the ‘I still haven’t found what I’m looking for’ lyric when looking at how the DfE over the last 10 years have struggled to find a ‘true’ measure of progress. Certainly we are not there yet! But maybe there can never be a simple measure around data that is fair? Only a proxy indicator at best. Our job in the meantime, however, is to take control of what we can do something about. We can teach well; we can make the college a better, more value-driven place to be; we can build positive and constructive relationships with parents; and we can be kind, compassionate and fair. And this begins with applying the last sentiment to ourselves.
Have a good weekend