Principal’s Round-up – 21st 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.
Principal’s Round-up – 7th 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
Principal’s Round-up – 23rd September 2016
In the busy start to the term we sometimes need to pause for reflection. We received some very sad news last week that a former colleague and great friend of Tavistock College, Gerry Woodcock had passed away. Many existing staff, some of whom are ex-students remember Gerry.
Helen Harris tells me that Gerry was very well known and really well regarded for his work as Head of History and then Head of Sixth Form at Tavistock College. He was also celebrated for a long series of books exploring different aspects of the history of Tavistock, and two books on the world wars – ‘Lest We Forget – The Tavistock Fallen of the Second World War’ and ‘We Will Remember Them – The Men of Tavistock Who Died in the First World War’. He wrote the definitive textbook on the history of Tavistock School, looking at its first thousand years, which traced the history of the school back to the founding of Tavistock Abbey in the 10th century. Helen said ‘As Head of Sixth Form I remember him as genial presence who nevertheless expected – and got – high standards of scholarship and behaviour from the sixth form. When he was in his office next to the sixth form study area (then on the top floor of what is now the IT block) you could hear a pin drop as the students worked in silence during their study periods and on the day he retired several of the staff were in tears.’Jo Neill also remembers Gerry. She said ‘Gerry was a bit of a legend in Tavistock, he pretty much built the sixth form here and I remember in the 5th year (before my exams) having to submit my letter of application for a place in the sixth form and then waiting in dread to hear whether I’d be called for interview, only then did I find out what grades Mr Woodcock thought I should be able to get and therefore how well I needed to do to get into Lower Sixth.’ I know many of you will have your own tributes to pay. I understand his funeral is on 24th September.
Tristan and I have been happily visiting all our feeder primary schools over the last three weeks, and we still have some visits left to make. These visits provide chances for us to talk to parents about Tavistock College, the opportunities we provide and the high standards we expect. We are also able to dispel many persistent myths still circulating about the college. So, thank you all for working hard to get the term off to a great start. I received some excellent feedback from parents and children about the Open Evening last week. Tiring to undertake in the middle of the week, but absolutely essential we get a chance to shine to attract the next generation of students. The Government has announced a real-terms cut in school budgets across the rest of this Parliament amounting to 8%. This will be extremely hard to absorb, especially alongside the 0.5% cut dressed up as the ‘apprenticeship levy’ that we will have to find from next year’s meagre financial settlement. There will be some challenging times ahead as we also grapple with our new curriculum and accountability measures. This is why I often talk about finding the ‘joy’ in teaching and learning. Despite the puzzling and fragmented, often ill-thought out, changes that are being imposed on the education system in England and Wales, we still have control over many of the day to day practices that brought us into the job in the first place. We need to hold on to those and remember why we get out of bed every morning to come to work. I will remind you of the slide I used at the end of my presentation on September 2nd: