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Principal’s Round-up

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


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.


Principal’s Round-up – 12th February 2016

Posted: 12 February 2016

This week we have much to celebrate. We learned that we have 220 first choices with 48 second choices from Y6. This means that we will be more than full next year. We also received plenty of applications for advertised posts, and I have been approached by staff in other schools asking if we have a post available for them. This indicates that we are rapidly becoming the school of choice and we should all be proud of this fact. In addition, the students’ successes seem to be flowing in thick and fast. Despite enhancing the grade boundaries for the Y11 PPEs, there were a number of students gaining A and A* grades across a range of subjects, and a full report is given later in this edition. Will Dax has not only qualified for the national cross country championships, but has won a prestigious photography competition. His work was proudly displayed at the Youth Speaks district final held at Tavistock College last Tuesday. Here we saw our Y7 team win yet again, beating off competition from Launceston College, Mount Kelly school, Ivybridge Community College, Teign School, Plymouth High School for Girls and Liskeard School. They spoke with confidence and judges commented on their team work. Great to hear about students from a co-operative school. The Y12 Tyre Fires of Tavistock team have now reached the final of the Peter Jones’ Tycoon in Schools competition and are off, with Sarah Holt, to Buckingham Palace in March. This is a fantastic achievement, being in the top 8 teams out of 900 entries. I am always delighted to report our successes. However, what I am most impressed with is the way our students support each other. Tyre Fires have donated £400 of their profit to support another student in the 6th form and the students who did not progress to the main competition for Youth Speaks turned up (for the second time) to support their peers.

The second teaching and learning review will start after the half term. I have already seen and heard about the improvements in many subjects since the last review and this has been confirmed in an external review of Mathematics by the LA. Well done to the teachers in that Faculty. I have often made much of individual achievement, but it is team work that makes the real difference. None of us is as smart as all of us. At the training day today I talked about ‘tweaking to transform’. We do not need to make radical changes to be outstanding. Small incremental steps taken by us all in the same direction will make the difference. It is not possible to identify one single recipe for improving the quality of teaching. It is however possible to identify some basic ingredients. These are captured in the ‘bottom line’ that I often refer us back to. By putting our collective focus here we will soon be achieving much more. I am hoping that there will be some good outcomes from today. If professional development days fail to generate concrete strategies it is highly unlikely they will lead to significant improvements in the classroom. As Covey reminds us, the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. ..and the main thing is learning. Teaching is not the same as learning. I referred to a quote by Mike Hughes in my presentation: ‘Every lesson, students embark on a journey. The fact that they begin their journey from different places, travel at different speeds, in different directions and on different modes of transport presents a considerable challenge for their guide – not least because the system demands that they all arrive at the same destination at the appointed time’. If we look at every lesson from the perspective of ‘how am I going to teach this?’ then solving the problem seems impossible. If we shift our thinking toward ‘how are the students going to learn this?’ then we can envisage a way forward…..and we know that learning is optimised when students are challenged to think, make relationships between ideas, and are relaxed, confident and motivated. Teachers cannot control levels of motivation and self-belief. But we do influence them. We are more likely to be effective when we do so consciously, consistently and congruently.

I look forward to working with you on these ideas through the CIT teams. Becoming greater than we are is not brought about by a one off event like an inset day; improvement is a process. And all development takes time.

And finally, we have said goodbye to three members of staff. Virginia Hola, Bryony Summerfield and Penny Curnow Morris. We wish them well in the future.

Have a lovely half term.