Principal’s Round-up – 10th November 2017

I was honoured to be part of the Remembrance Service today. This is an annual act of solidarity and an important part of the college calendar. I always find the act of remembrance very moving for personal reasons, and I was immensely proud of the way students conducted themselves throughout the service at St Eustacious Church. Alongside Y9, Y13 and staff, we welcomed members of the serving armed forces, Governors and other distinguished guests. The introduction was given by Darcey Hepworth, the Head Girl, and this was followed by a reading by Laura Meredith. Head Boy, Cyrus Larcombe-Moore, read ‘In Flanders Fields’. A very moving part of the service was the Roll of Honour. Sam Beard, Deputy Head Boy and Rebecca Banks, Deputy Head Girl read the names of the former students from Tavistock College who lost their lives in conflict in WW1 and WW2 before the wreath was laid by Connie Ballard and Charlie Hooper-Noulton. We listened to readings from Isabel Hillman and Connor Maunder and from children whose parents are service personnel. I was able to make much of the futility of war and the effect it has on innocent people in the world. This is something that is lost in the way war is portrayed in news bulletins and through computer games that glorify the process. I quoted from the United Nations Charter, signed in 1945, to exemplify the importance of fostering a co-operative and pacifist approach to world affairs. Thank you to Helen Harris and Marianne Hastings for your organisation and hard work in making this a wonderful event.

The staff voice questionnaire and student voice meetings are throwing up quite a mixed bag of responses. It is certainly heartening to read that the vast majority of staff and students feel that young people are safe and free from on-going bullying in the college. This is as a result of hard work undertaken by tutors and Heads of Year, along with more focused assembly themes reinforcing the tutor activities. Having a demonstrably clear school improvement focus with objectives that are well understood, especially around pedagogical developments, are strengths within the feedback. There is a sharp message, coming from both staff voice and student voice groups, that not all colleagues are consistently applying polices. This is something that Heads of Faculty must work on so that mixed messages are not given to students. If mixed messages prevail then it becomes increasingly difficult for staff who are doing the right thing to sustain the expectations of the college. Low level disruptive behaviour was raised again as a barrier to improving the school, and to solve this we will be doing the following:

1. Ensuring teachers take a proactive stance in meeting students’ complex needs through the application of appropriate strategies to support them. Many of these are captured in the Top Ten Tips for common learning difficulties including PDA, ODD and ASD.
2. Ensuring that teachers are quick to respond and to apply the BfL policy as a reactive approach. Students complain that some teachers take far too long to give warnings and red boards.
3. Redesign the process of BfL. This is being achieved through the introduction of ‘Ready to Learn’ which will begin in January once the logistical problems around staffing and rooming have been completed.

Despite the cold and rainy weather, we have had sporting success this fortnight. Some of this is detailed in this edition of Fortnightly Focus, but I will just mention the performance of our Y7 and Y9 football teams who had great success in cup matches over the last few weeks. The teams are made up of students of all abilities. The camaraderie and sense of solidarity shown by these boys is exceptional and having a very positive influence on their behaviour and effort in other parts of the curriculum. This is why sport matters, and I am grateful to the PE faculty for all that they do to encourage participation in every year group and for the endless sports fixtures that students are taken to.

The 6th form student trip to Venice revealed why it is not always a good thing to fly with a budget airline with Wendy Stephens having no clothes for the whole trip due to lost luggage. However, the students enjoyed the visit and gained skills to support them in the curriculum. There will be a student report in the 6th form Fortnightly Focus next week. The Japanese exchange fortnight begins on Monday, and we wish Crispin and Theresa well as they travel with Y11 and Y12 students.

Have a good weekend