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Principal’s Round-up

Principal’s Round-up – 13th November 2015

Posted: 13 November 2015

This week’s open evening for post -16 students was exceptionally good. Thank you to all the staff who yet again gave up their time to make the evening a success. We need to recruit 150 students (a very ambitious target) into next year’s Y12 so that we can continue to offer the subjects that make us so successful. Last night’s event gave us a fighting chance. I heard many positive remarks from parents and students as they left. Of course, this is not the last opportunity to recruit and the best advert of all will be the results we anticipate this summer for Y11. These students have great potential, but some have begun to show signs of stress and fatigue as the pressure of controlled assessment and examination pressure mounts. The teachers feel this too. We will be finding time through staff activities and student events to try to assist everyone through this challenging time, whilst ensuring we still secure the outcomes that students deserve.

Some great things have been happening for the students. I have enjoyed reading reports and watching the films made from our recent trips abroad. The first ever Iceland Geography trip was a massive success. Tori said ‘’We did not have one negative or low point in the entire 6 days and the guides, drivers even hotel staff complimented us on the politeness and behaviour of our pupils. We had a laugh (onesie night, with karaoke, wearing glow sticks to mimic the Northern Lights) but they were sensible whilst whale watching, hiking on glaciers, behind waterfalls and up volcanic craters, looking out for one another and following the guide’s directions exactly. The guide told us he wished all school groups were like ours and he asked to be requested by name for our trip next year as he enjoyed the company and the enthusiasm of the group so much. As trip leader these are obviously the kind of comments that you pray for. From snow, sunshine, Gale force winds, drizzle, temperature range of -5°C to 17°C, we really did experience it all and the pupils grinned with huge smiles throughout. Honestly, apart from the sleep deprivation on the journey home, we arrived at College at 0400, I am still on such a high from an incredible experience with terrific students.’’

This week also saw us engaging in the remembrance events. The head boy and other prefects laid a wreath on behalf of Tavistock College on Sunday and we not only observed the 2 minute silence on Wednesday, but gave Y9 and Y13 the opportunity to participate in a very moving and reflective service at St Eustachious church. We were joined by cadets across all year groups along with members of the community, ex-staff, governors and current staff. I was immensely impressed with the organisation and heartfelt inputs from Helen Harris and Sally Hubbard, along with fantastic support from Marianne Hastings. On page 2 of this Newsletter is the poem that was written by Myles Hodge in Y11 that I read out at the service.

Have a lovely weekend


Principal’s Round-up – 23rd October 2015

Posted: 23 October 2015

Eight weeks in and we are all still standing – just. This last fortnight has been extremely busy, but I feel we have made some real leaps forward with standards of behaviour, litter reduction and uniform. The real challenge will be maintaining these standards as the Autumn term draws to a close and Christmas approaches. By all of us taking small and repetitive actions we will succeed. After half term the first teaching and learning review of the academic year will begin. The purpose of this review is to examine teachers’ use of feedback and its impact on the progress of students. Feedback includes verbal feedback and questioning; short marking (in class) on written work; long marking (out of class). Underpinning the quality of feedback will be the teachers’ use of end point planning; their planning to ensure the more able are challenged; and the efficacy of the differentiation strategies used to meet the needs of the students. I will be undertaking these reviews in Faculties alongside the HOF with support by Gary. Governors will be involved in at least two of the 4 planned reviews for the academic year ahead. The role the governor is not to comment on the quality of the learning and progress, but to talk to students and staff about their experience at Tavistock College. Their feedback will be incorporated into the review.

I would like to thank all of the staff (and students) who have accompanied me to the feeder primary schools over the last term, and to thank the primary schools themselves for hosting our visits. These visits have given me an opportunity to share some of the wonderful and exciting experiences we offer to young people, much of which could never be captured in a league table or set of data.

Highlights for me in the last fortnight have been hearing about the student success in show jumping and eventing, watching the launch of ‘Pi in the Sky’ (I hope the computer will soon be rescued from the English Channel!) and participating on the judging panel for the poetry slam that enabled me to enjoy poems devised by Tavistock College students as well as entries from Co-operative Trust schools- Whitchurch, Princetown, St Peter’s, Tavistock, Bere Alston, Horrabridge. Well done to Lifton School on their win, but it was a very close run competition and a shame that there could not have been more than one winner.

I hope you all have a lovely half term, and I thank you all for your hard work this half term.


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.