Open Evening 2016

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Open Evening is a key event in our school calendar. It’s when we get a chance to showcase our wonderful school to children and their families who are interested in coming to Churchill in Year 7. This year was my first open evening as Headteacher, and as I walked around the site I couldn’t have been prouder of the staff and students! There was a fantastic “buzz” in every part of the school, from the twinkling fairy lights outside the Design and Technology grotto to the Duke of Edinburgh fire pit, from the tarantulas, rats and tortoises in Biology to the magic in Mathematics, and from the Shakespearean photobooth in English to the crumble-making in Catering…and everything in between!

I was especially proud of Elliot, Anna and Stephen from Year 13, and James, Emma and Drew from Year 7, who spoke confidently and so warmly about their time at Churchill to the packed houses in the Academy Hall. Our student tour guides were also excellent ambassadors for the school, answering questions and making sure that no stone was left unturned. I even found myself clapping along to the Youthful Spirit Gospel Choir at one point! Thanks to everyone from the Academy who came out to help.

Next week we have our Open Mornings when we will showcase the Academy on a normal working day. We can’t wait!

Here are a few photos – and a couple of videos! – from Open Evening.

Four reasons to come to #churchillacademy. 1. MUSIC #lovemusic #performingarts #agreatbigworld

A video posted by Performing Arts Churchill (@performingartschurchill) on

Reasons to come to #churchillacademy 2. DRAMA #shakespeareschoolsfestival #theeggbath #shakespeare #lovedrama

A video posted by Performing Arts Churchill (@performingartschurchill) on

Reasons to come to #churchillacademy 3. DANCE #lovedance #matildathemusical #performingarts #btecperformingarts

A video posted by Performing Arts Churchill (@performingartschurchill) on

Reasons to come to #churchillacademy 4. EXTRA CURRICULAR PROGRAMME #lovemusic #youthfulspirit #gospelchoir #performingarts

A video posted by Performing Arts Churchill (@performingartschurchill) on

 

 

Bright Spots September 2016

Every day I walk the corridors of the Academy and pop into classrooms and lessons as I go. This week I thought I would share with you some of the things I’ve seen on my travels!

  • In Art, students practising single-line drawing and honing their observational drawing by creating panoramic sketches
  • In Business Studies Year 9 were exploring the factors of production, needs and wants, and e-commerce solutions
  • In Catering, there was some delicious tomato soup on the boil – the smell was fantastic!
  • In Dance, BTEC students working with professional dancer Emma Duffill from the TidalWave Dance company to develop their work in a contemporary style, adding their own choreography to a planned sequence
  • In Drama, students working on the concept of metamorphosis and presenting devised pieces showing transformations, whilst other Year 8 students were beginning preparations for their mask work.

#Repost @performingartschurchill with @repostapp ・・・ Some of the Year 8s doing some training towards Mask work #mask #performing arts

A photo posted by Churchill Academy & Sixth Form (@churchillacademy) on

  • In Geography one class of students were securing their knowledge of key features in glaciated landscapes – striations, cirques, glacial horns, arêtes, trim lines, U-shaped valleys, roches moutonnées, overdeepenings and hanging valleys – whilst another was exploring the human geography of Jamaica in their case study work. There was even time to model coastal features!

  • In Health and Social Care Year 10 were starting their unit on verbal communication, analysing the impact of volume, tone, pace, formality, and jargon
  • In History students were looking at the impact of the industrial revolution on child workers, including some horrific eyewitness testimony of Victorian industrial accidents
  • In Languages students were developing their description skills by creating character profiles – only French and Spanish were spoken by staff and students. No English allowed!
  • The LRC have put together a great new display of “dangerous” books

  • In Maths, Year 11 were sharpening up their understanding of indices whilst Year 13 were developing their advanced calculus by using the chain rule to differentiate functions of functions
  • In Music, GCSE students were teaching Year 7 the elements of music theory to secure their own knowledge of pitch, tempo, harmony and notation whilst introducing Year 7 to key concepts. This was amazing!
  • In PE, I saw Year 9 developing their teamwork and netball technique, Year 10 pushing themselves hard in an exercise class, and in a Year 9 theory lesson students were locating muscles and bones which were vulnerable to injury for Olympic athletes. In extra-curricular this week, girls’ football kicked off with a great turnout on Thursday.

  • In RE, Year 10 were exploring the concept of marriage, whilst Year 7 were looking at historical conceptions of God – starting with Ancient Egypt!
  • In Science, Year 12 were working on a calibration practical to analyse the concentration of glucose in urine samples
  • In Technology Year 9 were putting great work into their bug towers, working with tools and crafting their wooden structures with great skill

Nearly 2000 lessons take place every week at the Academy. This is just the tip of the iceberg! But what all these lessons had in common was the purposeful learning taking place. In every room I visited students were focused and engaged, pushing themselves to improve. It’s a privilege to witness.

For October’s Bright Spots I’ll try to take more pictures myself- but make sure you follow our social media to stay up to date!

New Faces

We’re into the swing of the new school year now – the summer holidays seem like a long time ago! – and the new faces of our Year 7 students are already familiar as they approach their lessons with confidence and enthusiasm. But our Year 7s aren’t the only new faces at Churchill this September: we also welcome a fantastic group of new staff!

When I was training to be a Headteacher, I was given a lot of advice about how to improve and maintain high standards in schools. In one particularly memorable document, the following piece of advice was number one:

“The most important thing the Headteacher does is to find, recruit, develop and retain great teachers. You can’t play like Barcelona if you’ve got players from Brentwood.”

I’m sure that no disrespect was meant to Brentwood in that Headteacher’s advice, but it stuck with me! For Churchill to continue to be a great school, and to continue to go from strength to strength, the quality of the teaching needs to be the best it can be in every classroom, every day. That teaching needs to be underpinned by exceptional support staff in every role across the Academy. I am very fortunate to have inherited a school already packed with dedicated, highly skilled professionals doing a fantastic job with the students, and I am thrilled that this year’s new recruits have added to that strength.

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Some of our new staff at the “meet the Governors” event this week

It is especially gratifying to have such fantastic staff joining us at a time when teacher recruitment around the country is very challenging. I know of many schools – including some locally – with unfilled vacancies in key teaching posts being covered by non-specialists or temporary staff. Our reputation and the quality of our offer here at Churchill has meant that we have filled every teaching post with subject specialists, experts in their field, and fantastic teachers to boot! And our support staff has been strengthened by the recruitment of experienced, dedicated staff who have added to our capacity to ensure our students are able to learn to the best of their ability.

This year we are joined by:

  • Jon Bevan (Teacher of Geography)
  • Harry Church (Teacher of History and Politics)
  • Owen Davis (Teacher of Psychology and Sociology)
  • Joanne Dignum (Teaching Assistant)
  • Eric Evans (Teacher of Physics)
  • Chloe Harvey (Teacher of PE)
  • Lizzie Hudson (School Administrator)
  • Alison Innalls (Head of RE)
  • Maire McNeil (Stuart House Mentor)
  • James McWilliam Woods (Teacher of Maths)
  • Victoria Piper (Head of Maths)
  • Jacqueline Sims (Teacher of Modern Languages)
  • Jeff Spencer (Teacher of Music)
  • Adam Taylor (Teaching Assistant)
  • James White (Performance Technician)

After the Governors met with the new staff this week, the chair of our Finance Committee sought me out to tell me how impressed he was by their energy, positivity and enthusiasm, and he remarked on how lucky our students were to have these people working with them. I couldn’t agree more! So welcome to all the new staff joining us this September. We’re thrilled to have you here, and we’re very excited about all that you have to offer the students. I hope you enjoy your time at Churchill as much as me!

Lessons from the Olympics

Welcome back everyone to a new year at Churchill! I hope you all had a great summer. I certainly did, enjoying several trips away with the family and lots of rest and relaxation time. I even got a fair bit of reading done!

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Some of my summer reading! 

I also spent a lot of my summer glued to the coverage of the Rio Olympics, tracking Team GB’s incredible success and binge-watching track cycling, diving and gymnastics amongst many others! It was hugely inspiring, and in this week’s blog I want to share a few of my highlights which I think captured the values we hold to at Churchill.

Care

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Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand comes to Team USA’s Abbey D’Agostino’s aid in the 5,000 metres heats

Athletes train for years for the Olympics, and it can all be over in a heartbeat. In the women’s 5,000 metres heats, New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin stumbled and fell, taking out the athlete immediately behind her – Abbey D’Agostino from the USA. In the fall, D’Agostino tore her cruciate knee ligament, and in that instant, through no fault of her own, her Olympics was over. Hamblin was distraught at the injury caused to her fellow athlete and stopped to help her up and aid her, limping, around the remaining mile so that they both finished the race. Olympic organisers reinstated both runners to the final, but D’Agostino’s injury meant that she could not take part. However, their sportsmanship and care was recognised in the award of the Pierre de Coubertin medal to both athletes – an honour that has only been handed out 17 times in the history of the games. I found the story really moving: even in the heat of competition, and in the moment that all their hopes were evaporating, their first reaction was not anger or recrimination but care and support for another human being.

Nikki Hamblin And Abbey D'Agostino Portrait Session

Nikki Hamblin and Abbey D’Agostino have been commended for their sportsmanship after they helped each other up to finish the race. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Inspire

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Ruby Harrold representing Team GB in Gymnastics

I wasn’t fortunate enough to be working at Churchill when Ruby Harrold was a student here, but I felt the rush of support for her from the community through our posts on InstagramFacebook and Twitter.  By the time the Artistic Gymnastics Team Final came round I was bouncing with excitement! To see an ex-Churchill student, who walked our grounds and sat in our classrooms, on the biggest sporting stage of all was a true inspiration. It shows that, with enough hard work and dedication, you can achieve anything.

Inspirational quote from Lilleshall, Kent Hall, room 12C

A photo posted by Ruby Harrold (@rubyharrold) on

Ruby is now heading off to the NCAA in America to compete with Louisiana State – we wish her well!

Challenge

There were many amazing moments which showed athletes overcoming huge challenges. There was this moment from the track cycling:

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Laurine van Riessen (Netherlands) rides up the advertising hoardings to avoid a crash in the women’s keirin qualifying

There was the moment Mo Farah fell over in his qualifying race, then got up to win both his heat and double gold medals:

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Mo Farah: overcoming any challenge!

But for me, the story that encapsulated “challenge” the most was Nick Skelton.

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Nick Skelton: gold medallist at 58 years old

Nick Skelton broke his neck in 2000. He had a hip replacement in 2011. His horse, Big Star, tore his lower suspensory in 2014. Careful, meticulous rehabilitation for both horse and rider saw them come back to win showjumping gold in a tense six-way medal jump-off. The tears in his eyes as he stood on the podium told the story of the challenges he and Big Star had overcome to get there: nobody deserved it more.

Achieve

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Team GB medal tally: 27 gold, 23 silver, 17 bronze

I didn’t think anything could match London 2012, but in Rio Team GB won medal after medal after medal. It soon became clear that the team had got their careful preparations absolutely right: attention to detail, team unity, and investment of lottery funding was paying off. I got completely caught up in a spirit of national euphoria! And, after the games, I reflected on the lessons we could learn as an Academy from the incredible success of Team GB in Rio.

  1. Small changes can make a big difference

The so-called “marginal gains” philosophy has long underpinned British Cycling’s success, and seems to have spread! We should all look for the small changes we can make to help us improve and do better every day.

2. Working together maximises the chance of success

When Laura Trott won her Omnium gold medal, she thanked her nutritionist, her power data analyst, her coach, and the “people at home, the people that you don’t see.” There was a massive team behind her, helping her be the best that she could be. Each of our students should be a Laura Trott, with all the staff at school, family and friends supporting them to achieve their very best.

3. There is no success without effort

The hours, days, weeks, months and years of dedicated training that elite athletes put in to achieve their medals shows us what it takes to be successful on the biggest stage. We may not all be the best in the world at what we do, but we need to dedicate ourselves to hard work, perseverance and determination  if we are to achieve success on our own terms. And, at Churchill, we have plenty of examples of just that approach:

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We are celebrating the great achievements of our students in their A-level and GCSE exams this year – achievements that are only possible because of the hours, days, weeks, months and years of dedicated hard work and effort that the students have put in to deserve them. Well done to all of you!

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Jesse Owens won 4 gold medals in the Berlin Olympics in 1936 – and it’s as true today as it was then!

I wish all of our Academy community every success this year!

 

 

Summer Time

We certainly know how to finish on a high here at Churchill! This week has seen four excellent Celebration of Success events held at the Academy. These events are a great way to finish the year, recognising the achievements of students who have excelled in particular subjects or as members of their tutor groups throughout the year. At each event, I read out the following quotation:

“If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little things. Excellence is not an exception – it’s an attitude.”

Colin Powell

This is the key to sustaining success. The students who received certificates as part of Celebration of Success – 1080 of them! – all demonstrated this. They were getting the little things right, day in day out, all the time. Turning up for school, on time, in the correct uniform. Listening carefully. Applying themselves. Working hard. Doing their best. Looking out for others. Caring. Smiling. Helping. Not just occasionally – but all the time. These “little things” build up an attitude and approach which contributes to bigger things, recognised in the awards handed out at Celebration of Success: the formation of an attitude which will contribute to excellence not just at school, but beyond.

Of course, not everyone wins awards at Celebration of Success, and not everyone has these habits of excellence. But they can be learned – and they can be deliberate acts. I was particularly struck by one tutor’s citation for their Tutee of the Year. The tutor said that, in the first few years of school, the student and the tutor hadn’t “clicked” and they hadn’t particularly impressed one another. But the tutee developed these habits of excellence, getting the little things right all the time, and the tutor saw this build up and recognised that this was someone deserving of recognition. It was one of the most gratifying handshakes of the week – celebrating the success of someone who had changed – and done so consciously – to ensure success.

In the midst of this celebration of success, it was serendipitous that our rescheduled Sports Day  also took place. And what a day! It was great that families were able to join us on the field to celebrate success in the sporting arena. The atmosphere was full of fun and enjoyment, and the Houses as fiercely competitive as ever. Despite a strong surge from Stuart, especially in the lower years, Tudor romped home as comfortable victors. I loved the whole day! There is a gallery of photos on the school website and on Facebook, and a few of my favourites are included below.

Before we break up for the summer, we say goodbye to some excellent colleagues who are leaving the Academy this year. In particular, I would like to pay tribute to Chris George, who has been at Churchill for over 20 years. I have personally found his wise counsel and listening ear invaluable since I started in January, and I know many colleagues who have been here a lot longer than me will say the same. I wish him well in his well-earned retirement.

Sports Day Selection (14)

Chris George: Chief Timekeeper

I wish all of you a restful, happy summer holiday!

See you in September!

Activities Week 2016

What a week! It’s been my absolute pleasure (and privilege!) this week to get out and about visiting as many activities as possible. Over the week I’ve popped into Age of Mythology, Be a Film Critic, Candle Making, Magic – the gathering, Crazy Crafters, Cupcake Creations, Day of Sports, Decoupage, Got to Dance, Jewellery Making, Stop-Motion Lego Animation, Fireworks Animation, Music For All, Photoshop Masterclass, Project Catwalk, Paintball, Go Karting, Golf, Bristol City Tour and Coaching, Skiing and Snowboarding, Bag and Wallet Making, Journalist for a day, Book Making, FIFA tournament, and more..and I’ve missed several because there are only so many hours in the day! I even managed to visit some of our Year 10 students on work experience. Whilst my travel budget didn’t extend to Iceland, Austria, Belgium, France, Cornwall, Cardiff, the Forest of Dean or the Harry Potter Studio Tour, I’ve enjoyed the photographs that have been sent back and Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have been buzzing throughout the week.

Activities Week is a great chance for students to try something different. I have seen them learning practical skills like jam making, product design or putting. I’ve seen them gaining cultural knowledge from visiting galleries, museums and our European neighbours. I’ve seen them broadening their curriculum knowledge from History in Belgium, Geography in Iceland, Art and Science in Bristol. I’ve seen their teamwork and resilience improve from problem-solving, and as they push themselves out of their comfort zones into new environments. I’ve seen students taking the opportunity to spend a whole day in the specialism they love – dance, textiles, programming, sport and so on – to get the maximum enjoyment out of their passions. And I’ve seen the working relationships between students and staff continue to strengthen and grow as they experience learning in a different context.

Many schools have stopped offering Activities Weeks. They are time-consuming to organise as the Academy has to risk assess all of the activities, arrange the options, sort transport, and liaise with all the providers. The week requires a lot from staff, with a huge commitment of time and energy to take students on these amazing experiences at the end of a long and tiring year. But having seen the enjoyment and the benefits that everyone gains from it, I’m very glad that Churchill still has its Activities Week – memories have been made! Now to start planning 2017…

I will finish this week’s blog with a heartfelt thanks  to all the staff who organised and ran activities both directly and behind the scenes. Thanks especially to Marilyn Cadman, who is the glue that holds the week together! And thanks of course to our wonderful students for their excellent behaviour and enthusiastic participation throughout the week. Here are a few of those memories – find more on the website and via the social media channels!

Balls

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Year 11 letting their hair down

I hope you will forgive the title of this week’s blog. If you’ve found it in your heart to forgive that, then I hope you’ll also forgive this next sentence.

I’ve been to two fantastic balls in the past fortnight.

Sun's out – we're ready! #bollywoodball

A photo posted by Churchill Academy & Sixth Form (@churchillacademy) on

Of course, I am talking about the Year 11 Ball here at the Academy, and the Year 13 Ball in Bristol the following week. These great events have got me thinking about the spirit of celebration and what I’ve learnt about Churchill over the past fortnight.

Firstly, I’ve heard some people bemoaning the “Americanisation” of our culture as proms have taken hold across the land. I’m not one of them: I love them! And, it has to be said, Churchill’s are something special. In particular, I love the fact that the Year 11 Ball is held here at the Academy, transformed this year into an Aladdin’s Cave of Bollywood-inspired delights. I love the fact that the whole community turns out to watch the arrivals, cheering and applauding as each new spectacular mode of transport rolls around the coach loop. And I love the fact that our Year 11 demonstrate all the creativity and originality that are the hallmarks of this school in their choices of vehicle, from sports cars to scooters, tractors to trailers, motorbikes, golf buggies, wheelbarrows, camper vans and Land Rovers… And I love the fact that the students waltz, tango, and salsa together under the expert direction of our dance teachers before unleashing their own moves on the dancefloor!

What I loved more than that last week, though, was the joy on their faces and the mood of the celebration. There was genuine happiness that the exams they’d worked so hard towards were finally over, and the summer was opening up invitingly ahead of them. But there was also real warmth and affection for the school and its teachers who had helped them along the way. There were hugs and thank yous, and I think in each of them a sense that, even though many of them would be returning to us in the Sixth Form, their time as a full year group was over and that, from September, a new chapter was beginning.

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Table prepared for the Sixth Form Ball

What, then, of the celebrations for the students two years older? Well, the glamour was still very much in evidence and, if anything, turned up a notch in our Year 13 Ball…and I can certainly vouch for the enthusiasm and energy with which they celebrated! These students too are stepping into a new chapter, beyond the Academy for good. I wished them well as they prepared for that next vital step. It also struck me how many teachers came to celebrate with them, showing the real affection and respect between the staff and students at the Academy. Or the fact that the teachers were in need of a good night out too!

So should schools – places of learning and education – really be expending time and energy in organising parties? Absolutely. They celebrate the warmth of the relationships between students and staff, they bring people together to mark these mileposts on our journey together, and they give us all the chance to relax and let our hair down after all that hard work. And the students deserve it!

Strategic Priorities for Churchill

When I took up post as Headteacher, the Governors gave me 100 days to look at, listen to and learn about the Academy in order to plan the next steps. As part of that process I met students, staff, Governors, families, and representatives from the local community. I summarised all this in my post What Have I Learned? at the end of March.

Since then I have been working hard with my colleagues to plan for the future of the Academy. We already have an outstanding Ofsted report, a track record of success, skilful and dedicated staff, and hardworking and motivated students. What next?

The answer was to get down to the basics of what we need to do to ensure that the Churchill formula is sustainable, and that being a truly great school runs deep into every aspect of our practice. So, first of all, what is it all for?

The Aims of Churchill Academy & Sixth Form

The aims of the Academy are laid out by the Governors, and they are linked to our four core values. They are:

  • Care: To provide outstanding care to safeguard all members of the Academy and secure their well-being
  • Inspire: To provide outstanding teaching and opportunities for development for all members of the Academy
  • Challenge: To set ambitious goals for achievement, progress and behaviour for all members of the Academy
  • Achieve: To secure outstanding academic results and celebrate the wider achievements of all members of the Academy

Everything we do at the Academy is dedicated to achieving those aims. Underneath them, I wanted to put some detail into the priorities we now have as we move beyond our Outstanding status to become a truly great school.

The Priorities of Churchill Academy & Sixth Form

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The Strategic Priorities for the Academy

Each of these four priorities will govern our planning over the coming years. Achieving these priorities will unlock the potential of students at the Academy to achieve the very best outcomes from their learning. You can find the details of the plan in our Strategic Priorities document, and I have summarised the key points below.

Care: to promote the welfare of students and staff

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Care

This priority is fundamental to the success of learning at Churchill. Students are only prepared to take risks with their learning and push themselves forward if they feel safe, secure and cared for. Staff who are similarly cared for, nurtured and given the opportunities to grow will continue to give of their best, day in, day out.

Within the priority of Care, we aim to provide access to personalised pathways through the curriculum, and access to appropriate support, whilst promoting welfare. This means building on the strong foundation of the House system to provide first-rate pastoral care, and combining that with access to tailored academic support. It also means ensuring that the Academy continues to feel like a family, with a sense of belonging and enjoyment which comes from celebrating success in all its forms. Above all, it means remembering that every member of the Academy, student or staff, is an individual, and that we must, in the words of Daniel Pink, “treat people as people” in everything we do.

Read more about Care in our Strategic Priorities document.

Inspire: to develop the very best practice in teaching, learning and leadership

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Inspire

Teaching and learning is our core business. We already have exceptional practice across the Academy, so my priority is to ensure that exceptional becomes the norm. This involves learning from others, sharing our own best practice, and developing a culture of innovation in teaching and learning. Above all, though, it means empowering students to lead their own learning. Our teachers will always teach well, but only the students themselves can learn. Ensuring that they understand how to learn effectively, that they have a hunger for learning, and that they take responsibility for their own progress and development, is vital.

Read more about Inspire in our Strategic Priorities document.

Challenge: to develop a growth mindset across the Academy, so that learners embrace challenges, persist in the face of setbacks, and see effort as the path to success

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Challenge

“Learners” in this priority refers equally to students and staff, and the growth mindset approach means that we all share a belief that intelligence and ability are not fixed, but can grow and develop with effort, practice and determination. I have outlined growth mindset ideas on this blog before, in How to grow your brainYou can learn anything, and The power of praise (amongst others!). What it means in practice is that learners focus on the process of learning, over and above the final product. They see each lesson, each task, each event, as an opportunity to learn, and continue to seek challenges to help them grow. You can hear and see some of the research behind growth mindset, and the implications for schools, in the video below:

Committing to this approach will ensure that attending Churchill Academy will embed positive learning behaviours for life. It won’t be easy – but that’s why we hold “Challenge” as one of our core values!

Read more about Challenge in our Strategic Priorities document.

Achieve: to set consistently high expectations so that all learners achieve exceptional personal and academic outcomes.

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Achieve

This priority came out of the discussion: what is school for? Is it just about exam results? Or is it about more than that? I felt very strongly from my discussions with staff, students, families and governors that Churchill’s strength lies in the balance it strikes between academic outcomes – exam results – and the broader personal outcomes that ensure our students become good citizens with character, resilience and a set of skills valued by employers.

Academically, our aim is simple: year on year we want students at Churchill to do better here than they would have done in any other school. We want them to make more progress and achieve more than similar students do elsewhere. When families choose to send their children to Churchill I want them to know they are getting the best possible chance of success.

More broadly, it is about balancing that academic success with opportunities in the performing arts, sports, outdoor education, student leadership, community activities, volunteering and participation  which will broaden and deepen students’ skills, understanding of citizenship, and sense of belonging. Within all these activities, curricular and extra-curricular, we expect consistently excellent attitudes and behaviour for learning, to embed those approaches in everything we do.

Read more about Achieve in our Strategic Priorities document.

Sustainability: the Academy will ensure sustainability in achieving these priorities.

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Sustainability – investing in the future

These are challenging times for all public services. Demands on our limited resources continue to increase. Our final priority is based on prudent and effective deployment of those resources so they have the maximum impact on learning, reducing waste, and ensuring that whatever we do is sustainable over the longer term. It means valuing the work/life balance of our staff and ensuring that they have the time, energy, expertise and resources they need to do the best job they possibly can. It means exploring collaborations with other schools to share resources where we can. It means redeveloping our site, buildings and grounds so that they are environmentally friendly, efficient, and fit for 21st century learning. And it means building an approach which is not a flash-in-the-pan but which can be sustained over the years to come.

Read more about Sustainability in our Strategic Priorities document.

Achieving our priorities

These priorities are the aspirations of our Academy over the years to come. We are already planning what we are going to do to change, develop and improve our work to move ourselves towards achieving them. It’s an exciting time! We can’t wait to get started…

What happens on an Inset Day?

Inset stands for “in-service training”, and all schools have had five inset days each year since they were introduced in 1988. Schools close to students on inset days, but staff attend. Sometimes they can seem a bit mysterious to families and to students, so I thought in my blog this week I’d try to explain what actually happens on these days when the students are away!

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Inset days are designed to provide compulsory training time for teaching staff so that we can continue to improve our practice, keep up to date with changes in education, and ensure that we have appropriate training to deal with the challenges of our job. Here at Churchill, we often involve our support staff in training too, so that all staff have the knowledge and skills they need to do their job to the best of their ability. We supplement our inset days with on-the-job training and provide a range of opportunities throughout the year for all staff to learn, develop and improve, but the inset days give us a real opportunity to get everyone together and spend an extended period of time working on priority issues for the Academy.

Let’s take this coming Monday (27th June) for example. There are five different strands of training happening on the day.

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Whole staff briefing: Strategic Planning

As a new Headteacher I’ve been busy working on the long-term plan for Churchill following the outstanding Ofsted achieved last summer. I’ll be sharing the plan on this blog towards the end of term, but I’ll start the day by briefing staff about our priorities and how we can all work together to achieve them first thing in the morning.

Safeguarding Training

All staff have to be trained to keep children safe in education – it’s the most fundamentally important part of our job. Because it’s so important, we “refresh” this training at least every two years to ensure that all our staff have the latest guidelines and procedures clearly in mind, and know exactly what to do if there are any concerns about children’s safety. This “refresher” training will be taking place for staff who are due to have this additional training.

Workshop to Raise Awareness of Prevent (WRAP) Training

Prevent Strategy

Prevent is the Government’s strategy to counteract the threat of extremism in our society. As a school we have a duty to uphold and enact the Prevent strategy and ensure that all staff are aware of what to look out for and what to do to ensure that we respond to the ideological challenge of terrorism and the threat we face from those who promote it, and to prevent people from being drawn into extremism and terrorism. All staff are required to undertake training in these aspects of the Prevent strategy and we will be providing opportunities on our inset day for this to happen at Churchill.

Pastoral development

Staff will meet in their House teams on this inset day to review and plan the work that needs to be done over the rest of this term, and in preparation for September. This includes planning the Celebration of Success events, ensuring that everything is in place to provide a smooth transition for our new Year 7 students and their families, to look at mentoring for students within the Houses, and to take time to work on particular priorities within each House. At the same time, the Sixth Form pastoral team will be meeting to plan the specialist tutor programme for next year, and ensure that the best opportunities are in place for our new Sixth Form cohort starting in September.

Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) Training

We are extending our provision of the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) in Year 12 next year, so we are using our inset day to work in partnership with Backwell School to make sure that all staff involved in delivering the EPQ are properly trained by the exam board. We’re really looking forward to the opportunities that EPQ will give our Sixth Formers and we want to make sure we get it right!

Transition Drama Day

At the same time as all this training, our performing arts students and staff will be working hard with our new Year 7 intake on the famous “drama day” ahead of the transition day on Tuesday. There will be lots of fun, learning and confidence building going on! Watch the website for a full report…

Phew!

As you can see, it’s going to be a busy day! It’s a great opportunity to make sure that all our staff have the best and most up-to-date training to care for and deliver the best possible education to the students at the Academy. And, for our staff at least, it’s definitely not a day off!

Practice makes perfect

I love a good trick shot, and these trick shots captured by five-year-old Riley Dashwoood are very cool. The over-the-shoulder-DVD-into-the-tray is particularly impressive! What I love about the video description, however, is that it outlines how the shots were achieved. “Trick shot kid = persistence,” it says, followed by the attempts: 

How to get a trick shot (source)

When edited together into a cute 30 second montage, the trick shots look amazing! But below the line, we see that it took a long long time to get that montage together. Throwing a toothbrush over your shoulder 136 times? No wonder she looks happy when it finally goes in! 

Needless to say, Riley has spawned many imitators. This week I enjoyed this viral video as it popped up on my Twitter feed. Niall Brady was attempting to do a trick shot where he throws a spoon over his shoulder into a mug on the kitchen side. He made one attempt every day. It took him nearly a year:

There was certainly a big grin on my face as Niall enjoyed his moment of triumph, but I couldn’t help wondering – how many attempts would it take him to do it again? And how much practice would it take until he could do it consistently, time after time, almost without fail?

The fact is, if we want to get really good at something it’s not useful just to do it over and over again. Simple repetition does not necessarily help us to become experts. Take a tennis serve, a golf swing, or musical scales: if you’re using bad technique, practising them over and over again will only embed the bad habits and make them harder to break. What matters is the focus of that practice – the focus on developing the technique, on improving it, on making it better and better each time; the focus on what is called “high leverage practice” which makes an impact on performance. 

There are some great examples of this in sport. Take David Beckham, practising free kicks again and again on the training ground so he can deliver when it counts on the pitch: 

Although, watching that back, it’s amazing how many free kicks England got in that game – and how many he missed! 

Alternatively, take this incredible catch in the NFL in America from another Beckham – Odell Beckham Jr: 

The commentator says “you have to be kidding me! That is impossible. That is impossible.” And it does seem superhuman – until you realise that Odell Beckham Jr., like his English namesake, spends hours on the training pitch perfecting exactly that kind of catch, so he can do it seemingly with ease when it counts on the pitch. 

What we see here it that it isn’t about a one-off fluke, but careful deliberate practice which enables talent to shine when the moment arises. If you asked Niall Brady to throw a spoon over his shoulder into a cup on demand, he’d probably fail. Throw an American football at Odell Beckham Jr., however, and he’d probably catch it, even with one hand tied behind his back. 

The same principle is applied to the inspiring GiveIt100 site, which invites people to share a short video every day as they practice a new skill for 100 days. There are some great examples on the site, including this one of a guitarist: 

My final “practice makes perfect” video shows Jonny Wilkinson practising “stress kicks” in the south of France. “It’s very important,” Jonny says, “to make it more difficult…in training than it ever could be in a game.” That way, he’s ready in stressful situations, in the heat of the moment, to deliver crucial kicks – because he’s trained for it. 

We can apply the same principle to all of our learning. If we’re going to get really good at things, it’s not enough just to turn up to school every day and sit in the classroom, going through the motions, coasting along. That’s the equivalent of throwing a spoon over your shoulder every day for a year. You might get lucky once or twice, but you haven’t really mastered anything. But if you apply yourself every day, focus your practice, push and challenge yourself to do better…when the whistle blows for the big game, you’ll be ready. 

Happy practising!
In case you were wondering: