Principal’s Round-up – 17th May 2019

We have been busy this week. Exams are in full flow with all the pressures they bring including eleventh hour HOT lessons, last minute dashes to make sure equipment checks are made and keeping the rest of the school quiet. And stress, lots and lots of stress. Students have been well prepared by their teachers to manage stress and the pressure examinations bring. At one level pressure can be considered a positive aid to performance: the deadline that spurs us on, the target to motivate, or the challenge to inspire. At another level, pressure may trigger a mechanism to tell you something is wrong – and this is where the pressure becomes stress. Continuing beyond this level for too long can seriously damage mental and physical health. Students have to manage this pressure for the examination period. Then it is lifted. For teachers and other education workers the pressure is continuous. It has never been greater.
Despite this we all still have choices, even within the reality of work currently upon us all. As the pressure at work increases we can either learn how to manage it or we can let work pressures manage us. Stress is considered an individual’s response to pressure, and we all respond to different pressures in different ways. However, learning to recognise our responses, identifying the sources of stress and gaining a sensible perspective are all within our control. It is documented that a universal trigger for stress is being forced to respond to situations that are outside of our control. I certainly feel this when I read unfounded criticisms about the college in public forums that have invited comments from others who happily pile in with strongly-worded responses that have no basis in fact. Or when, despite the severe and brutal reductions to school revenue funding, we are suddenly expected to magic a mental health worker out of thin air to help children who are suffering from politically driven austerity cuts and who simply cannot cope with their lives.
It is not helpful for us to reflect on situations over which we have limited or no control. These thoughts just confirm a sense of helplessness and it becomes our thoughts that generate stress rather than the situation we find ourselves in. I don’t spend time mulling over things outside of my control. I focus instead on what is within my control. I start with adjusting own thoughts. I exercise choice. I reduce my stress. I would encourage you to find ways of doing this. Leaving teaching is becoming fashionable across England. Yet it still remains one of the best jobs in the world. It all depends on how you look at it really. The things that brought us into the profession are still the same. Whilst we all have a right to be angry over the attempts to dismantle the education system, we still are the ones whose responsibility it is to provide quality for the young people in our care. And it is a joy to do so.
Some people find exercise helps them think clearly and put pressures of work into perspective. If this is the case then the brave young people who took part in the annual Ten Tors challenge last weekend must have almost pure clarity of thought! Our teams were: Year 10: Tyler Hunt, Isabelle Hillman, Max Jordan, William Russell, Joe Dix & Abigail Whitehead. Year 11 : Ben Whitehead, George Dunne-Perry, Adam Sellars, Elliott Overnell, Jack Luxton and Amy Brimacombe. Year 12 & 13: Josie Handscomb, George Drew, Phoenix Rinkowski, Dylan Pierce and Lauren Morris. Ben Watt. Y10, Daisy Duncan & Murray Brown Y9 also participated with other establishments. Jubilee Challenge; Year 9: Adam Lee-Hillan, Lee Varma, Reece Winter, Charlotte Doran, Jamie Dove Year 10: Douglas Radcliffe.
Thank you to everyone who supported them, including their parents some of who waved them off from school on Friday morning with trepidation. Our athletes were also very successful at the Plymouth and West Devon games last week. Our team gained a staggering 26 top places and many ‘personal bests’ were achieved. This event provides a platform to progress to the Devon championships, so well done to everyone who competed, and thanks to everyone who coached them.
It is always disappointing to hear that we have been misrepresented in the community. It only takes one deliberate act of gossip to undermine the work that we do on a daily basis. The current dialogue around elitism is unfounded. You know how often I praise the work of staff, and of students (actively supported by their parents) in strengthening community engagement and participation. That is why our two most recent consultations were set up to foster the value of democracy, not to attract the loudest voice. As in all things politically, those who do not agree try sometimes to shout down the voice of reason because they do not get their own way. However, we are a co-operative school that believes in the collective power of people. And so, we certainly are not complacent in positioning ourselves as models of emulation in the community rather than lowering what we stand for to the lowest denominator. Celebrating success is part of this. It is not elitist, and we will never stop promoting the outcomes of consistent efforts and sheer determination. By participating in team-based extra-curricular competition we see students develop skills that will make them successful in later life. Determination, resilience and interdependence were attributes exemplified by the students who have succeeded in sport and in academic endeavours. Others should aim to recognise these as role models rather than complain and moan about their own personal inertia.
By participating in activities we see students develop skills that will make them successful.
9th Degree Theatre Company, made up of Year 13 Performing Arts students, performed their final piece last Friday where talent was verified. ‘Blood will have Blood’ (a reinterpretation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth) was written and produced by the company and you can read a full write up of the play in this edition.
Student opportunities abound if they wish to participate. Exciting future possibilities that are being organised through the MAT include a DMAT Choir to provide a wider range of audiences and experiences for our elite singers, and the return of the DMAT Ability Games in September that will allow students to compete and succeed in a more equitable way that we currently provide through regular events. I look forward to seeing these develop
Have a lovely weekend