Principal’s Round-up – 9th December 2016
Thank you to all my colleagues who have made the end of term so special. I am currently hosting a rather artistic Christmas tree in my office, courtesy of some SEND students in Y7 and 8, and I am very proud to explain its presence to visitors who question it. We have had sporting successes in badminton, football and netball, with convincing wins in each match. Thank you to all of the team coaches who give up so much time to develop this talent. Our show jumping team competed on 3rd December and I watched our three sub-teams (Tavistock Blacks, Tavistock Reds and Tavistock Whites) ride to victory in different classes. In addition, the House Captains and Heads of House organised a wonderful ‘Have Your Say Day’ this week with over 400 student responses. This will really help us shape our plans for the new year as we continue to improve the college.
Students from the Upper Dance Company at Tavistock College had a fantastic opportunity to participate in a dance workshop on stage at the Theatre Royal Plymouth, led by Rambert Dance Company last week. They also got a chance to have a tour of the whole theatre, as well as going to visit TR2 where they saw where sets and costumes are created for the shows! We are so lucky to have this opportunity all because we are in partnership with the theatre.
I had the delight of singing with Y7 in preparation for the Carol Service at St Eustachius church this morning after checking that Y9 were in their options assembly and that Y11 were on time for their Chemistry PPE. Although these were very different events, all students were focussed, enthusiastic and keen to participate. This is what I expect from students. High standards of personal excellence; a positive attitude; commitment to what is asked of them; ownership of their behaviour rather than perpetuating a culture of blaming others or their past history; and social responsibility. And from the staff, no compromise around these standards. This is what is making Tavistock College the school of choice. This week I found out that we have 240 first choice numbers, with 46 second choices. This is amazing. At a time when the demographic pattern in the area is in decline, our numbers are growing.
Of course it is not all plain sailing, and there are times when every day seems a struggle. While we get to grips with the new curricular changes, the new examinations, changes to accountability measures and dark rainy days, there are the challenges we face around students’ complex needs. This is where the value of solidarity comes alive. Knowing that we are all aligned to make the college as good as it can be but that we all sometimes get overwhelmed. But a co-operative school always copes: when it’s tough, lift your head up and go out there. We get through the difficult times together by helping each other develop resilience, resourcefulness and reminding ourselves of our moral purpose.
I look forward to our House Assemblies throughout next week where we can celebrate together a wide range of student achievement. It is also the Carol Service and hope many of you will be able to come to St Eustachius Church on Wednesday evening.
Thank you for all your hard work this term and for all your support. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday and a superb Christmas with your families.
Principal’s Round-up – 25th November 2016
Working in schools is hard. Sometimes it is very hard. For schools with significant numbers of disadvantaged students (we have 24% of our school cohort) it is harder still. Occasionally working in schools with its constant and biased media criticism and ill thought-out political interference, it can feel like a battle against all odds. But it’s a battle worth having. Teachers, and other staff, are the ones who cannot give up: they are the ones who must pick up the pieces when everyone else has gone. When the budgets of support services are cut, forcing them to retreat, schools are still there. Because they have to be. Even when school budgets are slashed, those that work in schools will not withdraw. Instead we shoulder the burden. To let children down is simply not an option
We provide the vital calm in society’s storm. Intolerant views and ‘hard line’ doctrines abound at the moment in the public discourse, and their influence has been felt recently in school. Stridency seems to be in vogue politically, and this filters down through families and in the community. Compromise, subtlety and ambiguity are perceived as weak. Battle lines are being drawn, even in education, between ‘hard’ choices.(‘grammar schools are the only solution to mediocrity’ versus ‘grammar schools represent the return to a totally divided and elitist past’). Ann Mroz describes how, in whichever ‘side’ you are on in these societal hard choices, you are encouraged to ‘gaze in horror; feel the fury; feel the righteousness. It becomes good to know your arguments are not only evidentially right but also morally superior’.
But moral superiority does not entertain doubt. Without doubt, there is reluctant change and precious little improvement. Moral superiority does not seek answers to questions it hasn’t asked. This is all part of our newly intolerant age, and it will not help us mend the holes in our arguments and imperfections. It is against this intolerance we must now rage. The very thing we have worked so hard with young people to put right. We will fail to help them create a better world if we do not encourage them to embrace other peoples’ points of view. And we must do the same. Responses to parental criticism should not be defensive and conversations about impact in teaching rather than efforts made should not be dismissed. Sometimes workload can be reduced by embracing change. Student voice is not to be feared – it is a valuable developmental tool. This week, for example, my student voice group told me how much they value the relationships that they have with staff but that some teachers are slow to respond to disruptive behaviour and that they needed to be stricter over some issues. The two stances are not ‘hard’ opposites of each other – there is some middle ground.
Let us then pursue debate. Let us encourage discussion and opportunities to create. Let us shun the intolerant and closed minded approaches, and reach out to finding middle ground solutions by examining all the evidence. Let us celebrate the compromises that enable everyone to benefit. This is how we will grow as a school, and how we will regain the energy to cope with extremely challenging times in schools.
Have a lovely weekend
Principal’s Round-up – 11th 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