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Principal’s Round-up

Principal’s Round-Up – 27th May 2016

Posted: 27 May 2016

This fortnight we have been tightening up on the misuse of social media and its impact in school, whilst at the same time taking a proactive approach to how we can build more resilience in students to deal with the pressures they face from cyber-invitations and potential bullying. PCSO Kevin Williams ran an excellent assembly with Y7 and we plan to work with the ‘Teen Angels’ and ‘KIND’ in order to help students develop on-going programmes supporting their learning, and enabling self-responsibility to flourish rather than an easily-led attitude to using social media. We plan to engage parents through Parent Forum and assist with family based interventions. With respect to the use of mobile technology we need to take a tight-loose approach. It is vitally important that teachers maintain ‘tight’ consistency around the agreed policy (not listening to music; phones off and in bags) whilst remaining ‘loose’ with respect to the valuable resource that mobile technology can afford learners (using the traffic light signs for usage; exploiting exciting new applications).

The Hope24 event provided staff with their own mega-endurance challenge last weekend. Two teams consisting of Tavistock College Staff, friends, and Year 13 student David Jones took part in the Hope24 non-stop ultra-Marathon at Newnham Park near Plympton. Starting at 12 midday on the Saturday and finishing at 12 midday on the Sunday both teams completed over 250 miles by running non-stop in relay around a 5 mile trail route over challengingly steep terrain. Staff included Tristan Forster, Stuart Hearne, Nick Read, Julie Greener, Alex Thomas, Alex Jackson, Lisa Mabey as well as former staff member Lee Cochrane and friend of the college Mark West. David Jones from Y13 also ran. Many other staff supported the event, in particular Wendy Stephens who was at base camp for the whole event. Stuart reports that temperatures dropped at night to 2°C! Considering many of the participants had never raced before, and that some had only just taken up running before the Hope24, achieving a near marathon distance each was a real example of how a seemingly unachievable target can be reached. The teams raised over £1150 in sponsorship for the Hope for Children UK charity.

The examination season commenced this fortnight. Whilst it will undoubtedly cause some anxieties amongst our students, I feel they have been fully prepared by a dedicated and expert group of teachers. With the emphasis on the progress of our students being taken into account, and on many superficial measures of accountability we often tend to fear the worst outcomes, especially when we face unfair and biased examinations such as the AQA Biology paper that created a media storm last week. And we are going into an Ofsted year next year. I believe that judging schools too simplistically does no one any favours, and results in many of the unforeseen consequences parents are now, quite rightly, expressing concerns about to the DfE. Peter and Waterman probably called it right in their seminal leadership work ‘In Pursuit of Excellence’ when they argued no one is ever as good or as bad as they think they are. Our road to success will be hard won; ‘little pushes on the fly wheel’ as Jim Collins describes. There will be no key defining moment. No magic ingredient. No quick fix. I made clear at interview that I was in it for the long haul, and that communities like ours need affiliation and long term commitment. There will undoubtedly be much heartache along the way. We will have setbacks and there will be many ups and downs. But when distinguished visitors give us encouraging feedback I cannot deny it is better for the soul than the constant carping and criticism from Government and the ever fluctuating whims of the Common Inspection Framework. Of course, W.E. Deming argued that good organisations should never rely on external validation, least of all inspection, to improve quality. Total quality comes, as it always has done, from within. At Tavistock College we build in quality through restless ambition, rigorous planning, evaluation and by co-constructing good practice with staff, students and parents. This is why Staff Voice, Parent Voice and Student Voice form such a key component of our own self-evaluation. As always, we are better together and live by both our successes and our shortcomings.

Have a lovely half term, and thank you in advance to all staff who are giving up their own holiday time once more to support revision classes, and good luck to Kathleen and the team taking students to Barcelona next week. I hope the sun shines!

Sarah

Principal’s Round-Up – 13th May 2016

Posted: 13 May 2016

Wow! The annual event that is Product of the Year. The hall was bursting at the seams with students from KS3 to 5 showing the work achieved in technology this year. The event was well supported by parents and the community including primary head teachers, local councillors and the new Lord Mayor, Mandy Ewings. It was such an exciting event and more than an odd tear of pride was shed for the winners. Not just from a parent or two, but proud teachers too.

It is always disappointing, therefore, to hear that we have been misrepresented in the community. It only takes one deliberate act of gossip to undermine the work that we do on a daily basis. You know how often I praise the work of staff, and of students (actively supported by their parents) in strengthening community engagement and participation. Just this week we made a good contribution to the Tavistock Heritage Trust by creating a number of concept driven projects that will be turned into QR codes for visitors to access in the town for years to come. These depict the significant events in the history of Tavistock. Thanks to Tristan Forster, Eva Pearson and her team in co-ordinating these projects and unleashing students’ talent. Tavistock College students won first and second prize and will be able to access facilities at Plymouth University to further augment their work. In the same vein, take a moment to visit the new ‘conservatory’ area created by students. Supervised by Helen Harris, students have turned a neglected and tired space in the college into an area of peace and reflection for students of any age to use. We do not need doors on the conservatory; all students have treated it with respect, and will continue to do so. In addition, I received an email from a member of the public who told me how helpful students had been in assisting her when her car had broken down outside the Bedford Hotel and she needed help to remove her children, shopping and possessions from one car to another. I could go on with examples. Of course some students let us down, but they are in the minority and they certainly are not representative of what we all stand for. We are a co-operative school that believes in the collective power of people. And so, while our swimming pool remains out of action (in the short term), we still find challenging and purposeful alternative sporting activities for our students. We certainly are not complacent in positioning ourselves as models of emulation in the community rather than lowering what we stand for to the lowest denominator.

By participating in team-based extra curricular activities we see students develop skills that will make them successful in later life. Determination, resilience and interdependence were attributes exemplified by the 35, 45, and 55 mile Ten Tors teams last weekend. And I took great pleasure in seeing the Jubilee Challenge team set off full of hope and resolve, supported by Julie Edwards, Nicky Sheehan, Jane Parker, Sam Biggs and volunteers. I was delighted to go and watch our show jumping team of Y8 students compete at Tall Trees on Bank Holiday Monday. As a school team, they supported each other through encouragement care and commiseration when an error occurred. Needless to say, they left with a host of red rosettes. Caring for everyone in the team was in evidence on the running track in the Super 8 competition where we saw students determined to finish, even if that meant they came last, in order to gain points for their team. Social responsibility was themed in an alternative fashion through the Y13 organised mock EU referendum where I found arguments made more convincing than the politicians. I wish I had videoed it! Their aim was to give a balanced argument for the rest of the 6th form of voting age. To help them with their European ‘stay in/leave’ decision in June. You may be interested that their mock election resulted in a convincing 81% against Brexit.

Please take time to read the main article I have included in this edition of Fortnightly Focus. ‘What makes great teaching’ provides advice that aligns with our determination to implement the elements of quality first teaching captured in the ‘bottom line’ teaching and learning policy. By continuing to put our efforts in creating a consistent approach to QFT, we will move ever closer to our goal of becoming ‘outstanding’.

We have had a number of visitors in the college this week, most notably the shortlisted candidates for the advertised Assistant Principal’s post. Candidates commented on the litter-free environment, the friendly and welcoming staff and students. Our new AP is Barry Palmer (note the irony of swapping Gary for Barry….). As promised, I have produced a summary of the new SLT structure in this edition for comment.

Finally, we send our best Tavistock congratulations to Elaine Byrne as she starts her maternity leave today. …and many congratulations on her engagement too!

Have a lovely weekend

Sarah

Principal’s Round Up – 29 April 2016

Posted: 29 April 2016

Last week Assistant Principal, Gary King secured a post at Isca Academy as Deputy Headteacher. It is a significant promotion for him and we are delighted that he will take forward, and make excellent use of, all the training and leadership development he has gained during his time at Tavistock College. We have been making many of our own appointments too, with Mark Hillman now the permanent Head of Mathematics, and the Director of 6th Form role has been offered to both Tom Galli and Dan Jacob. Their experience and expertise complement each other greatly, and they will share the leadership of post-16 learning as a co-operative solution. For the senior team (on a temporary basis in the first instance) I have appointed Mark Roberts as Director of Mathematics and English who will ensure that our progress in the ‘Basics’ continues to strengthen through quality first teaching, and Phil Ruse to the post of Director of Culture, Creativity and Enterprise, keeping SMSC and the ‘Golden Threads’ alive and purposeful in the college. I have been able to make so many internal appointments because the talent pool is exceptional at Tavistock College. Sadly, I can’t appoint everyone and whilst I am delighted that so many colleagues chose to apply this time, I am aware that there are disappointments too. I know you will all continue to support each other and the new direction that your colleagues will work with me over the next year so we grow together to continue to improve the college.

Thank you all for the effort and time you all put into Year 7 parents’ evening. For the Year 7 parents it was a very different experience compared to what they were used to at their primary school with so many appointments and so many teachers to see. However, we had some lovely comments about the quality of teaching and support their children have received since joining Tavistock College. They liked the on-line booking system and were also very grateful for the help they received before the evening and during it from Chantelle and Adrian. It was a late finish for some at 8:20pm, and I know this is only one of 7 evenings of this kind after a busy teaching day. It was lovely to have Governor Pete Rodgers in attendance for parents to talk to.

Many of you will be wondering what is happening on the Academy conversion front. It is some months since we started the consultation process, and there have been different announcements from the DfE in that time, along with the new appointment of Rebecca Clark as the South West’s Regional Schools Commissioner. Governors are still pursuing the setting up of a Co-operative MAT with local co-operative schools, or those who have a similar ethos, but we are NOT seeking to sponsor or take over other schools. This partnership way of working is time consuming and we want to give adequate time, through on-going dialogue, to ensure our partners are the right ones. We also have to remain confident that, amongst the shifting sands of governmental strategic planning, that we are moving in the direction that will benefit students and not end up being maleficent.

On Tuesday this week Sally Hubbard, Theresa Garrod, Wendy Stephens, and Lynda Glover took 43 students to Bath Spa and Bath University. They were a credit to us, and Sally tells us that the highlight was meeting ex-student Joe Way who took all students around his flat on campus and stayed with our current students all day.

The universities informed students of the value of the EPQ and have considered lowering offers to include a B grade for those who hold the EPQ. Students gained advice on how to improve their personal statement so they stood out from others and the need to reflect on work experience which is now compulsory.

Yet again we have had wonderful success in LAMDA assessments, and many students achieved exceptional results (see article on the back page). Well done to them, Eva and her team for the efforts made in achieving this.

I hope you all have a restful bank holiday weekend.

Sarah

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