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Principal’s Round-up

Principal’s Round-up – 15th April 2016

Posted: 15 April 2016

It was with great pride that I attended the West Devon Mayoral awards in the Easter holiday to see the Tavistock College SWAT group: Year 9 students Beau Waycott, Jack Andrews and Ben Moran, and a Year 13 student, Will Dax, receive awards from the Mayor, Cllr David Cloke. The full report is included in this edition of the Fortnightly Focus. These students are great ambassadors for the college, and exemplify the values of solidarity, self-help and social responsibility. These values matter, and form part of the foundations upon which the college ethos is built. Well done also to the 6th form engineering team: Hugo Challis, Camilla Snowden, Peter Alexander and Dominic Newton on winning the Engineering Education Scheme competition, and the newly formed Year 7 football team who won against Launceston College in their tournament.

We continued our international theme this week, hosting visitors from Sweden, Lithuania, Spain and France for the SMART competition. Given the inopportune decline of the swimming pool we moved the location for the water-based testing of their boat projects to the canal, which turned out to be a perfect venue. Members of the public were very interested in what was going on, and were very complimentary about the enthusiasm of our students taking part…. and of course, they witnessed true dedication by Chantelle Cocker, Nick Read and Tristan Forster who were to be found waist deep in the water as boat-testing began and the competition progressed. Winners were Harry Wilkinson, Oliver Venning and Tom Gardner (Year 9) led by Rob Moore … and their prize is an all expenses paid visit to Sweden next Easter.

None of these events could have happened without the tireless efforts by members of staff who coach teams and invest their time in these activities when they could be spending time with their own families or on their own interests.

Sometimes we all have troubled times. Sometimes they are good. A co-operative school holds dear the value of solidarity. This means that we leave no-one behind when times our tough. Through joint enterprise we can help each other to succeed and maintain the excellent standards that we all seek. By acting alone and trying constantly to outcompete one another there will be casualties, so while I will never accept low standards, I applaud the efforts made by staff to ensure we achieve more together than we do when we act in our own interests. There are so many unsung heroes – TA Fay Hodgson who stayed until 6pm on Monday to ensure a Year 7 student got home safely when his mum did not arrive to pick him up; hours of Easter school time given by teachers throughout their holiday at student and parental requests; the many lunch times and break times spent supporting and counselling students who are in crisis; working out of hours night after night to meet the needs of students. It does not go unnoticed or un-valued by me. I feel privileged to work with you all and share your passion for outstanding teaching and learning. And what a journey we are on!

“You can mandate adequacy; you can’t mandate greatness. It has to be unleashed.”

This quote by Joel Klein, former superintendent of schools in New York City, encapsulates my thinking in reflecting upon the recent teaching and learning review. I see almost everywhere the efforts teachers have made to comply with what has been asked of them. To become great, we need now to turn our attention to what we mean by ‘excellence from, and for all.’ This term we turn our attention to ensuring that we unleash in students skills of independence and interdependence, especially at KS3 where there are high levels of compliance without the levels of challenge that we should aspire to.

Thank you for what you have achieved, and thank you for what you have done for others. Have a lovely weekend

Sarah

Principal’s Round-up – 18th March 2016

Posted: 21 March 2016

The Tyre Fires of Tavistock wonderful winning efforts have eclipsed many of our achievements this fortnight. It was a superb outcome for the team of Year 12 students: Ellesse Blackmore, Phoebe Sanders, Lauren Abel, Lauren Crick, Sophie Horn, Alice Kodritsch and Patrick Ahern and well deserved; even the Duke of York was re-tweeting his congratulations. The team actually won two awards in the Peter Jones Tycoon in Schools competition at the final held at Buckingham Palace this week. They were the KS5 winning team and the overall winners. You can read all about it in the papers locally. One of the proudest aspects for me in this process was the way the students conducted themselves throughout the competition, and the care that they showed for each other and their fellow competitors. Plus their generous donation of £600 to support a student in Year 13 whose life was enhanced by their kind gesture. A true measure of students understanding of co-operation in the truest sense of the word.

Of course we have also been celebrating the successes seen in other areas too. The MFL Faculty prepared students well for a Languages speaking competition in Barnstaple last week, and, again we saw students supporting each other in ways that are not typical of other schools. Katie Gray stood in for a student who temporarily lost his nerve, and Darcy Brown persuaded him to regain his confidence to then compete. Well done to Tom Whitting who did complete this speech. And especially well done to Amy Eaton who won the competition in her age group for her speech in Japanese.

Sport goes from strength to strength, and the newly formed mixed hockey team are performing well against local schools. This is a team that was set up in response to a student voice group and who were keen to take more ownership over their competitive sport. The Sports Relief events were fantastic. Well done to Ross Corkell and the team for all their hard work.

On an international note, we welcome Kanto Daiichi Senior High School from Edogawa ward in Tokyo and students for the whole of next week. This is part of the Japanese exchange, and follows the successful visit of our students to Japan last November. The Year 10 Japanese group have been given permission to wear their Japanese jumpers next week while we host our visitors. After Easter we have schools and teachers visiting from Lithuania, France and Sweden and will be up to all sorts of antics in the swimming pool – See Tristan if you need an explanation!

I continue to receive words of praise for you all from parents. One really successful event was the parent forum evening which was led by Alex Thomas and Elton Lane. It was a successful evening and I really appreciate the extra work that staff put in to building parent voice as well as student voice. The impact of work here is quite transformational and I look forward to the next event.

This week I have been completing the teaching and learning reviews with Barbara. We have much to celebrate from the work we have seen. The concept of performance being linked to teams rather than individuals is accelerating the level of collaborative responsibility and support. Much progress has been made with marking and feedback, and where there are weaker practices, these are being identified more readily and colleagues are taking the lead in professional development. There are some articles in this week’s edition that may be of help in understanding the key elements of teaching and learning that make a difference to students’ progress and learning. The main push to improve engagement, participation and the rate at which students learn will now come from paying more attention at developing independence in carefully crafted pedagogical practices. This undoubtedly will form part of the professional development programme next year, and the college improvement plan.

Finally, we say a fond farewell to our trainees that leave Tavistock College this week : Emily Barron, Connor Heelan and Sam Wilson. They have all made an impact on their faculties, and we wish them well in their next placement and for the future.

Have a lovely weekend

Sarah

Principal’s Round-up – 4th March 2016

Posted: 4 March 2016

I have said in briefing many times that I receive positive comments and feedback from parents and governors about you all, but this fortnight I have been overwhelmed. Not all of them are appropriate for the Fortnightly Focus because they contain some personal information. It is so lovely for me to know, and to be able to pass on to you, how much you are all valued. In conducting, with Barbara, the second Teaching and Learning Review of the year so far, I am also delighted to see so many of the improvement ideas we discussed last time being implemented. Short marking and the use of targeted questions, rather than WWW and EBI, are really taking off in Faculties like English and Humanities, and I am sure this is the case in other areas too. Most students are getting a really good deal, and we should celebrate these good times. The challenging times are on the horizon. With the soon-to-be-published White Paper we will find out just what a ‘coasting school’ will be defined as, and what the consequences will be for schools that end up with this label. Whatever this is, we know the judgements will be applied retrospectively and all we can do is continue to work really hard on improving in incremental steps the quality of teaching and learning, with the support around the edges, to ensure we make progress. I know we can do it.

Some successes this fortnight: Our Intermediate Youth Speaks team have won through to the Southern Final. This is one step before the National Final, so it is a massive achievement for these students. They were the youngest at the District Final last Saturday and delivered a strong message about ‘power from the primary’ with humour. The team is made up of Reuben Thomas (main Speaker), Max Jordan (chairperson) and Adam Hutchin (proposer of the vote of thanks). Adam also won a special award for being the best in his category. The southern final is in Cheddar on March 19th and we all wish them well. U18 football team beat Mount Kelly in the latest round of our on-going competition. We are 1-1 currently, with Kelly leading in rugby, and Tavistock in football. It all rests on the netball now on 14th March. Any support will be welcome. And well done to the girls Y9 football team who are through to the Devon final.

Students at Tavistock College had the exciting opportunity to meet celebrated children’s author Anna Perera this week. Perera – best known for the critically acclaimed novel Guantanamo Boy, which was nominated for The Costa Children’s Book Award – made a lasting impression on the college’s pupils. It was a real coup for the college to attract such a high profile writer as Anna Perera. The students involved found the event stimulating and very thought-provoking. Year 7 pupil Adam Hutchin (11) said “It was really interesting to discover her inspiration for the novels; I particularly enjoyed the creative writing ideas we developed, focussing on the power of our dreams.” Some students also had an opportunity to watch Billy Elliott in the Theatre Royal in Plymouth last week. Two of our Governors fed back about the students’ behaviour – notably how impressed they had been with their attitude and conduct. This message was repeated from Teresa Tyler who took a group of Y9 students this week to the So Cool for Science session at the Peninsula medical school. They were all exceptionally well behaved, articulate and enthusiastic. They are asked some really thought provoking questions and carried out some fantastic experiments.

For the 5th consecutive year, we have received a glowing annual review from BTEC. Gary Smith from BTEC, spent nearly 4 hours today with Gary and Wendy grilling them. The assessor was very impressed with our vocational provision and praised us for our outstanding organisation. Thank you very much for all your hard work in preparing for this visit, especially to Shaun and Jackie who were asked to speak to Gary about their roles, and also to Simon and Tom who spoke to him on a brief tour of the creative media department.

Have a lovely weekend.

Sarah

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