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Principal’s Round-up

Principal’s Round-up – 11th November 2016

Posted: 14 November 2016

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 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 for Y11. These students have great potential, but some have begun to show signs of stress and fatigue as the examination pressure mounts. The teachers feel this too. We must be mindful if these issues and work hard to improve work-life balance and reduce stress for everyone by finding time through staff activities and student events to try to assist everyone. This will go a long way in ensuring we still secure the outcomes that students deserve.

I was honoured to be part of the annual Remembrance Service today. 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 Eustachius Church. Alongside Y9, Y13 and staff, we welcomed members of the serving armed forces, Governors and other distinguished guests to join us. The introduction was given by the Head Boy, Lawrence Dobson and the Head Girl, Alice Kodritch. This was followed by Olivia Bates reading ‘In Flanders Fields’. A very moving part of the service was the Roll of Honour, read by George White, Deputy Head Boy and Ellesse Blackmore who read the names of the fallen from Tavistock College before the wreath was laid by Connie Ballard and Tabitha Carpenter. We had readings from Peter Alexander, Henry Ware and Luca Bergonzini who told the story of three of these ex-students, and I was able to read extracts from the real diary of a soldier, Arthur Simkins. We had acknowledgements for the peace we enjoy in this country in all of the languages spoken at the college from Connie Ballard, Louise Taylor, Natasha Griffiths, Daria- Elena Eftimie, Bruno Graziosi and Zuzanna Jedlak demonstrating our gratitude to the servicemen and women who have fought for our country. The music and singing was provided by Hayley Plokker, Isabel Hillman, Emilia Barrett, Tom Gourd and Max Jordan. Thank you to Helen Harris, Niki Sealey, Marianne Hastings and Rebecca Hillier for your organisation and hard work in making this a wonderful event.

Despite the cold or rainy weather, we have had sporting success this fortnight. Most of this is detailed in this edition of Fortnightly Focus, but I will just mention the performance of our Y7 football team who had great success in Penzance this week. The team 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.

Well done to Mike Harris who has passed his NPQML qualification, and a belated ‘congratulations’ to Simon Hunter, who got married in half-term but forgot to tell anyone!

Have a good weekend

Sarah

Principal’s Round-up – 21st October 2016

Posted: 21 October 2016

I have spent quite a few evenings and late afternoons this half term visiting our feeder primary schools. Technically these number 16, but we are increasingly attracting students from many other schools traditionally not in our ‘catchment area’. It is particularly encouraging when existing parents turn up to the talk that Tristan and I deliver and give example after example of the excellent work that happens every day in school. So, whilst I am delighted that Tavistock College has not been labelled as a ‘coasting school’ (now the DfE has explained what this means), it is not the numerical, overarching headline figures that define for parents and students the value of the college. It is the work we do to build outstanding relationships, improve behaviour and the wider extra-curricular opportunities to support the personal development of their children to help them become really good citizens in the future they appreciate. The actions we are taking to strengthen teaching and learning will inevitably improve outcomes over time, and I have seen some really encouraging examples of efforts being made to improve independence in learning as I walk around the site in the school day. I have seen the introduction of additional static whiteboards to be used for students to solve challenging problems in Mathematics; students being encouraged to ‘talk to the duck’ to verbalise and self-solve their challenges in computing; and seemingly impossible ‘pit questions’ used in science to assist with interdependence. But leadership matters too in improving the college. The methods used to strengthen the way we run middle leadership development is effecting transformational change. This week we reviewed BfL and took some instant steps to develop what we do. This is a co-operative school at its best: using the principle of positive interdependence that underpins co-operative improvement. I await with anticipation the outcome of the CITs as they conclude stage 1 of the co-operative professional development programme now in place.

Last week we found out that very sadly Helen Harris’ dog, Sheba, had died. Sheba was a loyal friend of Tavistock College and we will miss her. Quite a number of students have gained confidence and developed resilience through working with Sheba. Kimberly Eden told Helen ‘at least she knew she was loved before she died’, and I know that is true. Although not replaceable, we will be gaining a new school puppy. More details will follow.

Jamie Edgecome was selected to be writer in residence at Plymouth University this week. What an achievement! Jamie was up against some very well established and award winning novelists. This success comes after his novel, The Art of Kozu, was awarded the Manchester Metropolitan University Novella Award in 2014.

After an intensive in school workshop with Ignition Physical Theatre Company (Frantic Assembly) 8 Year 12 and 13 male students decided to audition for this national company. 2 young men in the sixth form, Zach Woodward and Richard Montague, impressed the panel so much that they were shortlisted from all the participants in the South West. Although they have now not made it in to the company the experience of working at this level is impressive and helpful as their performance careers progress.

From 31st October we will be having our long awaited windows fitted in the main block. This will cause some disruption to rooming for a few weeks, but we will at last be losing the drafty, damp winter atmosphere and overheated classrooms in the summer months.

We end the half term celebrating the Y7 rugby team’s win against Launceston College yesterday. They won by 75-0, and, according to Shaun Hulbert, they all scored a try each. What a co-operative effort!

Have a well deserved rest this half term.

Sarah

Principal’s Round-up – 7th October 2016

Posted: 10 October 2016

Being part of an external review is rarely a welcome experience for a school. However, the feedback we received from the six school leaders who carried out our ‘challenge visit’ this week was fantastic. We chose the following areas to be reviewed

  • The quality of marking and feedback across all faculties
  • Improvements to SEND provision.
  • The degree to which SMSC impacts on students at Tavistock College.

The review lasted for two days and involved many staff giving up time for meetings, tutorials and an assembly, lesson observations and walk-throughs. Students were grilled about their experiences at Tavistock College and observed working in class and in extra-curricular activities. They were expected to talk through their work and explain why the teachers had led lessons in particular ways and how they felt about the feedback on their work. It was certainly an intensive two days.

Whilst we all have some way to go in achieving consistency across the school in all Faculties, the reviewers found that marking and feedback has improved significantly over the last year. Students were very positive about being given time to improve their work, and they told us that there were good levels of differentiation, especially for the more able students. They found that the TAs that work with vulnerable students, and students who require extra support in learning, used outstanding methods to engage them. The interventions used for students with SEND were observed and commented favourably upon. SMSC was described as ‘an absolute strength of the college’ which was good to hear. Bringing life back to the college houses was seen as a positive move, and students spoke eloquently about how extra- curricular experiences, including overseas trips as well as clubs and awards, made their time at Tavistock College exceptional. One student said ‘I just love it here’ which says it all really. Needless to say I was very proud of the college last Tuesday, and I am grateful to all of you who took part in the review.

Some exciting news to report. On National Poetry Day, 6 October 2016, the winners of this year’s Foyle Young Poets Award were announced at a sparkling ceremony at the Southbank Centre. Judges Malika Booker and W.N. Herbert chose the category winners and commended poets from over 6,000 poets and over 10,000 poems. I am delighted to announce that Cyrus Larcombe-Moore (Y12) was the overall winner of this extremely prestigious award. Cyrus will gain a publishing deal for his poetry, and will spend a week with the Poet Laureate in February half-term. The Foyle Young Poets 2016 anthology will see the top 15 poems in print, with the commended poems being published in an online anthology. You can read Cyrus’ poem on the back page of the Fortnightly Focus.

We have had other successes since the last Fortnightly Focus. Our Y7 football team and Y7 netball team competed in an inter-school event last week. There were 16 teams entered for both netball and football. Our girls’ netball team came third, our boys football B team came fourth (although they reached the semi-finals which was excellent), and our boys football A team won the event overall. It was a tense match to watch, with the semi-final won against Okehampton on penalties, and the final won against Cullompton on a ‘golden goal’. Our wonderful show-jumpers have been out in force once again, with Frankie McKechnie gaining qualifying place alongside the team qualifier for Addington Grange on 20th October. We have established a new school equestrian team – this time for dressage. They competed for the first time last Saturday. The team came 9th out of 11, which was good bearing in mind that two of our team had never ridden in a dressage competition before, and the standard was extremely high. The team are head girl Alice Kodritch (who gained 6th place overall) Henry Ware, Erin Young and Josie Bickley. As a new team, they could do with lots of encouragement. This applies to the Greenpower racing team who did really well at Castle Combe Grand Prix. The students all worked really hard for these events, but without the staff and their parents, we would not have team successes, so thank you to all involved.

Next week is Goose Fair day. Tavistock College students have been working on a history project that will be displayed around the market in the town. This includes memories and photos gleaned from grandparents and members of the wider community. Thanks to Philippa Lay for co-ordinating this work. I have included a picture on the back page for you to see.

Have a lovely weekend

Sarah

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