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Principal’s Round-up

Principal’s Round-up – 9th October 2015

Posted: 9 October 2015

It is impossible for me to capture here the depth and range of emotional impact that was felt by the sudden loss of our colleague Ashley Tossell. I did not know Ashley personally, but the grief felt by colleagues, governors, students (especially friends of Barney) and members of the community of Tavistock has had a profound effect on me. The solidarity and care for each other shown by you all is a measure of Tavistock College. As the news spread of Ashleys’s tragic death the emails and messages flooded in to the College, and prompted us to start capturing these tributes in a coherent way so that the family could receive them. Governor Peter Rodgers wrote ‘Whenever I was fortunate to be in his company I was the richer for it and he made a huge contribution to the college as we all know.’ This tells me so much about Ashley and explains the loss you all feel. Below is a tribute written by Tristan that I want to share with you.

‘Ashley Tossell was cruelly taken from us on Saturday morning, following a heart attack at Derriford hospital. Ashley served this school as a teacher and head of PE for over 32 years but more importantly he was an absolute inspiration to thousands of children over that time period, whether it was on one of ‘Tossell’s Tours’ all over Europe, in his amazing role as a tutor, in one of the thousands of PE lessons he taught or with the countless trainee teachers he mentored, and who have gone on to be outstanding teachers. Whatever he did, he did it with a jig in his step a smile on his face and a wink in his eye. Being among a small privileged group of friends including his beloved children Natalie and Barney that shared what would be his last meal last Friday evening I can promise you that he was on absolute top form right till the end and didn’t suffer, which is a small blessing at this time.

In time we will of course find a fitting tribute to a great man that loved this town, this school and this job, but for now we must all play our part in remembering someone that can I can only describe as a legend. Many staff and students will be shaken by this tragic loss either through a personal connection to Ashley, his beautiful children Natalie and Barney or indeed to Carolyn.

For those of you who met Tossell even once you will know that silence was not his style, I would however ask you to applaud a great man.

I will leave you with what was to be his last toast to us on Friday evening and a message that summed up a great mentor, colleague, friend, legend.

‘Firstly I’d like to say the most famous toast of all, beans on toast.’

Never above you, never below you, always beside you. God bless you boss.

If you would like to make your own contribution to the memorial book, you can do so at any time in main reception. There will be news of memorial events and a fitting, lasting memory to Ashley in time. I have spoken to Carolyn and the funeral will take place in St Eustachius Church on 30th October.

There have been many events taking place over the last fortnight. We had a very successful Languages week organised by the MFL Faculty, and I was delighted to see the level of participation by the students, especially by EAL students who were proud to teach others their language and share their cultural identity. Great sporting and social enterprise events have taken place, many of which are detailed throughout this edition.

Miriam from Eduaid was keen to let everyone know how impressed she was with the behaviour and engagement of our students. Thank you to Tristan, Tori and Cicely for making the visit possible. We were delighted to learn that former student Elaine Budden has just graduated from Exeter University with a Master of Engineering with Honours in Civil and Environmental Engineering. An excellent role model for current students in the 6th form.

Finally, I would like to say good luck to Nike Westman this weekend. She will be singing the national anthems of Romania & Italy with the Exeter Festival Chorus when these two teams meet for their world cup match at Sandy Park, Exeter, on Sunday. She would like to thank Virginia Hola & Kathleen Jones for their help with pronunciation in their respective language.

Have a restful weekend, and thank you for all your hard work this week.


Principal’s Round-up – 25th September 2015

Posted: 25 September 2015

What a busy fortnight this has been for us all. We have been hosting visitors from Sweden, Lithuania, Spain and France, making visits to Primary Schools, competing in a wide variety of sporting events, supporting a range of students visiting Cambridge University, and all this on top of improving standards around the College. No mean feat, but I am beginning to realise that this kind of energy and commitment is typical of life at Tavistock College. I would like to thank all the students, staff, parents and governors who helped out at a most successful open evening last Thursday, and for the effort made with the open mornings. Below is a letter from a prospective parent.

‘I would like to personally thank you and your members of staff for the exceptional tour of your school this evening, which I have to say was very eye opening. What was evident throughout the school was the commitment and passion, not only to me as a parent but also to my child’s grandparents who are just as much involved in her school learning journey.’

In recognition of just some of the talent that we have amongst our staff, last Monday Governors decided to make two internal appointments permanent. These are Tristan Forster as Assistant Principal, and Shaun Hulbert as Head of PE. I could have run adverts for these posts across the whole of the UK but I would have no hope of finding more talented and capable people. Both members of staff have an amazing future ahead of them, and what a credit to the development opportunities over the years from Tavistock College. Governor, Sharon Samuel wrote to me to say:

‘Just wanted to say how pleased I am – and I know that a lot of parents feel the same -about the new appointments. I have been involved in a few faculty reviews for this team (PE), and what has really stood out and is now proven is the evidence that good succession planning is key. This team do not seem to have an ego – which is very refreshing – and I know from experience we have had to sing their praises as they do not often do it themselves…’

I think you can tell that I am clearly very proud to be working at Tavistock College. That is why I am disappointed with the government’s new definition of a Coasting School – 60% 5ACEM 2014 and 2015 and being above the median for progress. Also included in the definition is the P8 (Progress 8) measure, but we are yet to be told the coasting definition of this. We can’t change the past, but we can change the future. We must work together to ratchet up our success rates for students and future proof ourselves against grade boundary changes by continuing to set our internal KS4 and KS5 grade boundaries at 5% above last year. I encourage Faculties to learn from each other and other schools, take advantage of exam board training, take risks and experiment with problem solving and relational thinking, especially at KS3. In order to facilitate exceptional learning and progress, we must have an orderly and disciplined school. That is why I am working hard on standards. I am pleased to say that the majority (but not all, yet) of our students now wear their uniform properly. I thank staff for their support in achieving this. Standards beget standards, and since we have tightened up on the uniform, behaviour has improved. Pride in the College has also improved. We have a way to go, but it is getting there. In improving in these areas early in the year, the barriers to quality-first teaching and learning are being removed. This is what I believe and this is what I promote. I call it a no nonsense attitude to standards, and I have certainly had a lot of positive feedback from students and parents about this approach. But we must all pull together to sustain this.

Some good luck messages. Firstly, to Elliott Jago who is off to Barcelona to compete in a European Skateboarding Comp at the end of the month. He and his brother represented the UK last year and he has qualified again. Also to Yr 7 student Ben Bluett who dives at national level. He has a national competition in November. Finally, I would like to congratulate both the new Yr7 and Yr12 Students on the transitions they have made. They are setting high standards and have settled in really well. Thanks must go to the transition teams in all the schools involved, our own very hard working staff and of course all the family and friends who have supported them.

I hope you all have a well-earned rest this weekend


Principal’s Round-up – 10th September 2015

Posted: 10 September 2015

What a great start to the term! I have enjoyed every minute of the short time I have been at Tavistock College. The students have largely come back with the right attitude to learning and through my daily ‘walk rounds’ I can see some of the excellent opportunities that they have been given in lessons. In my assemblies this week I have asked students to consider the legacy that they leave. To get the ball rolling, Katharine West from Tavistock Heritage Trust has asked me to consider promoting a series of projects based on different periods in Tavistock’s history. She would like to run a competition for KS2, KS3 and KS4 students to tell a story of a significant historical event. This could take the form of a written narrative, a piece of art work, a film, or any other medium. The winners in each category will get to work with Plymouth University to convert their work into a digital piece of work and it will live forever in the digital ‘wall’ that the Trust are intending to produce. An excellent opportunity for students of any age to consider.

Examination results days are always charged with emotion and this year it was no exception. National changes to grade boundaries and statistical fixes to limit the amount of high grades awarded means it is now much harder to predict results. The photographs and stories shared on our social media platforms were set to music and used on the first day. Teachers, support staff, students, and their families had shared a journey of highs and lows and waited patiently in the hall for envelopes to be distributed. Some students kindly allowed their parents in to share the moment, others made friends and family wait outside. As always it is a very personal choice. For some euphoria, and a job well done. For others disappointment and time for reassurance and a new plan. I would like to thank the staff who give up days of their holiday to download results, distribute results, comfort, celebrate with or counsel students. Thanks also to the parents who have been there every step of the way for the last 7 years. Many parents have the joy of the moment tinged with the sadness of goodbyes as our students start on the next part of life’s journey. There were also a number of exciting trips and activities that happened over the summer, and I look forward to Nick Reed’s report from Cambodia to include next week. Nick gave up a significant period of his summer holiday and returned with a nasty leg infection, but the students that he took had a life changing experience. Included this week is a condensed version of student Joe Jordan account of the summer term’s trip to China. Thank you to Di, Julie, Alex and Nick and all the staff who give up their time with their families to run these trips for our students.

Thank you to everyone for their support so far, and for the warm welcome I have received. I am really looking forward to working with you all this year. And finally, everyone sends their best wishes to Jackie Kates who will be competing at the World Masters Rowing Championships in Hazewinkel, Belgium. Good luck Jackie!


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