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Principal’s Round-up

Principal’s Round-up – 24th February 2017

Posted: 24 February 2017

I hope by now you have all had ample opportunity to read and digest the letter sent by Kevin Wilson regarding the Multi-Academy Trust proposals. If there are any questions regarding the future direction of travel for the college, then Kevin will be happy to answer them, and I am always available if you want to raise any concerns. There is still much work to do to form the Academy Trust and to appoint members and trustees. One of the benefits that I have already started working on is our access as an academy to the EFA’s Condition Improvement Fund. As many of you will be aware, Devon has allowed our building stock to fall into disrepair over the last 20 years, and we hope to accelerate our building refurbishment on conversion. I will continue to update you on all developments and I will be interested in your views as we move forwards to the completion of the MAT.

Whilst most of us embarked on a week’s break at half term, a number of staff were accompanying students on ‘trips of a life-time’ – some in Florida on the sports’ tour, and some in Italy on the ski trip. You will be able to read about some of their exploits in future publications and on our website, but suffice to say here that everyone had a wonderful time. Extra- curricular trips and activities provide chances for students to form life-long allegiances and memories that sustain them in more challenging times. Thank you to all staff who organised and participated in both overseas trips. The sense of solidarity and social responsibility can be brought alive for young people who take part in more localised extra-curricular teams and activities. This was affirmed for me watching the Y7 girls’ football team come running in from the field to tell me they had won their match and are now in the county cup round. Some of these girls struggle a little with social interactions, and I was delighted to see the excitement on their faces in their haste to tell me about their win. I was able to go and watch some other students in action in the holiday. Three of the college show jumping teams were out in action, and I saw them ride to victory at Tall Trees Equestrian Centre. Competitive sport is so important for young people. It’s where they learn what it takes to be a winner- and how to deal with failure. It is where they learn just how hard they have to work to be successful.

Sue Madgwick carried out a review of our work with disadvantaged students in diminishing the difference in their performance compared to other students nationally. She gave us some good feedback, and, whilst there are still discrepancies between the performance in some faculties compared to others, she was able to affirm that the work we have undertaken is making a difference. We must now all support each other to ensure that gaps between faculties do not get wider.

Thank you all for your hard work this week, and I hope you have a lovely weekend.

Sarah

Principal’s Round-up – 3rd February 2017

Posted: 6 February 2017

Well done to Anne Partridge, our School direct trainee on gaining a permanent position at Paignton Community College last week as a teacher of English. We are delighted for her, and wish her well. The School Direct route into teaching was introduced in 2012 and is offered by schools, Teaching School Alliances and ITE providers. Many providers are struggling to recruit, but our programme (DACCA) is highly successful. Some find this puzzling, but we believe it is the co-operative nature of the programme that makes it so successful. The numbers speak for themselves, and we are proud to be responsible for providing schools with the next generation of decidedly well trained teachers.

On Friday 27th January, Year 9 students took part in a global event to mark Holocaust Memorial Day. They, along with 500 other schools around the world, gathered to hear Mala Tribich’s testimony broadcast in a live web event which allowed them to hear first-hand Mala’s experiences of the Holocaust. Students had much to say about this experience, and this is captured in Keely Andrew’s words

“I felt that it was very eye opening to be able to hear from Mala Tribich and how her life went from living life with a full family to having just her brother and cousin. I feel like it was very important to be told by an actual survivor of horrific events because as a younger generation we need to hear these things so that we can ensure they never happen again. Now most people should know that genocide is wrong and if we can prevent it then we should.”

Most of Y7 have been at the Science Museum this week and, apart from considerable coach travel sickness and frequent toilet stops, it proved to be a very positive House based experience. The staff at the Museum were complimentary about our students and would welcome us back in the future. The same can be said of our students who visited Duchy College with Helen Harris last week. Students from Years 10 and 11 spent a fascinating day, enjoying taster sessions across a range of departments including the Equine Centre and the Animal Care department where they met a wide variety of animals, some more appealing than others! They had the chance to see the sports facilities, but most students opted to go to the Plant department and drive the tractors and fork lift trucks – a serious piece of kit, as one student said appreciatively. Days like this matter because they introduce students to a huge range of opportunities for the future. Thank you to all staff who accompany students, often resulting in late nights and early starts. It is very much appreciated. These cultural and extra-curricular events could not happen if it were not for your additional efforts.

Of course, while these events are taking place, the rest of us are ploughing our way through the frequent and ever changing directives from the DfE. Sometimes this encourages us all to take our eye off the ball, and incidents occur. These are often symptomatic of the tip of the iceberg, with the bulk of the background hidden below the depths. It is at these times, when we see colleagues sinking under imposed pressures, that we should revisit our values as a co-operative school. We must invest in each other by pulling in the same direction. Accountability is tough. The P8 article I have included in this edition shows how flawed the measure is, but how powerful it is in creating judgements around schools. The P8 measure is worked out retrospectively (norm-referenced) and is pulled down by a few poor performers (eg those who were educated off site but on a school roll). This loses for a school all the benefit of the top performers. The 5A*-C measure did not do this but had its own weaknesses. Sometimes I am reminded of U2 and the ‘I still haven’t found what I’m looking for’ lyric when looking at how the DfE over the last 10 years have struggled to find a ‘true’ measure of progress. Certainly we are not there yet! But maybe there can never be a simple measure around data that is fair? Only a proxy indicator at best. Our job in the meantime, however, is to take control of what we can do something about. We can teach well; we can make the college a better, more value-driven place to be; we can build positive and constructive relationships with parents; and we can be kind, compassionate and fair. And this begins with applying the last sentiment to ourselves.

Have a good weekend

Sarah

Principal’s Round-up – 20th January 2017

Posted: 20 January 2017

At the recent training day I reminded all staff of the need to follow Robin Sharma’s advice and to ‘sweat the small stuff’ in order to contribute effectively to the essential drive in improving standards. This means paying attention every day to the basic expectations around punctuality, uniform and behaviour. It also means keeping an eye on litter, being on duty on time, reading important emails so errors that have long lasting consequences for colleagues are not lost. By acting together we become a formidable force for change, but as soon as a few decide to operate outside of the rules, we have a problem. Consistency and persistence are essential ingredients in a disciplined environment. It gives a platform for outstanding teaching and learning to flourish. I hope to be able to capture an accurate picture of this quality in the next Teaching and Learning review. The focus will be on the quality of learning and progress for SEND, Disadvantaged and low attaining students (see objective 3 of the College Improvement Plan). Whilst we can celebrate the performance of some high achieving students, these are relatively easy wins. The hard work will be in ensuring that ALL students make good progress across ALL year groups. By working together we can achieve this.

Some of the efforts are already taking root. My assemblies this week focussed on the value of self-responsibility. I was delighted with the behaviour and self-discipline shown by students in assemblies this week. For Y9 and Y10 we had total silence entering, during and leaving assembly, and this is the expectation moving forwards. Punctuality is much better this term, and whilst we are still tackling the ‘mental truancy’ exhibited by some passive learners, we have a strategy now to improve their participation in learning. Social time is much better with tutor rooms being used sensibly in the large part, and the refectory remaining tidy and organised despite about 600 students passing through in a 40 minute period.
Whilst I am not a fan of league tables, I was delighted to read our position in the post-16 performance tables yesterday. Our performance as a college exceeds most local schools and is in-line, even slightly better than, all post-16 provision nationally. It shows that our 6th form has the potential to become the provision of choice for students, and I am happy that the majority of Y11 students want to return in September to start Level 3 courses.

Y11 were all crammed into the Octagon this week to receive their ‘brown envelope’ PPE results. There were some disappointments, but plenty of good results and lots of self-satisfied smiles with their performance. Well done to them, and to the teachers of Y11. They have an excellent work ethic. Those that do not demonstrate this ethic will be asked to repeat tests and exams in detention where their performance is well below that of which they are capable. From this we will develop a real sense of urgency around the need to perform. Y8 are now choosing options alongside Y9 so that KS4 learning will begin earlier. Parents have been delighted with this, and students are very excited about their future. Thank you to all staff who have made contributions to the Y8 assemblies this week.

In these challenging times of financial cuts with expectations being higher than ever before we must find time to take care of each other. Re-read the story of Roseto I shared with you last July. Take time to talk to each other rather than pinging off thoughtless emails, take time to provide support, and contribute to Staff Voice. When we choose not to do these things well we lose all sense of humanity – and compromise the foundations upon which the college was built. As Mother Theresa once said ‘we cannot all achieve great things but we can all achieve small things with great love’. The small things with great love add up to greatness in my opinion. So keep going – it will all be worth it in the end.

Have a restful weekend.

Sarah

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