What is a growth mindset?

One of the principles of our approach to education at Churchill is the development of a growth mindset. But what exactly is it?

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Growth mindset is an idea developed by Professor Carol Dweck at Stanford University in the USA. Your mindset is what you believe about yourself and your abilities. Dweck’s research into this idea – what she originally called “self-theories” – revealed that some people have what she calls a “fixed mindset.” In the fixed mindset, you believe that your qualities are carved in stone. You are born with a certain amount of ability, and that is all there is to it. Some people are better than you. Other people are not as good as you. But your abilities are fixed, and there is nothing you can do about it.

Other people, Dweck discovered, have a “growth mindset.” In a growth mindset, you believe that the abilities and qualities you are born with can be developed and cultivated through effort, application, experience and practice. With the growth mindset in place, we see challenging situations as opportunities to learn and grow. When we make a mistake in our reading or writing, we learn from it and improve the next time we come across that word or that expression. When the teacher asks a question, we think about it, and we are happy to explore it together with our classmates to help refine and develop our thinking, leading to greater and deeper understanding. The process helps us to improve. To grow. And even if we don’t know the answer right now, if we work at it, listen carefully, and apply ourselves, we will know it soon. In the growth mindset, Dweck suggests, the priority is “learn at all times and at all costs.”

The best way to understand the ideas behind mindsets is to listen to Carol Dweck herself. This video is an illustrated version of a talk she gave to the RSA in 2015, explaining some of her research and what it means for learning. Take ten minutes to have a watch – it could change your life!

 

Churchill’s Vision: to set no limits on what we can achieve

Vision and Values

Churchill Academy & Sixth Form’s Vision and Values

Last month I wrote about Churchill’s new values of kindness, curiosity and determination. These values underpin our vision: to set no limits on what we can achieve. Our intention is to unleash that unknown potential that sits within each and every one of our students. We try to ensure that there is always a next step, always an extra challenge, always that encouragement to push yourself further. But we also take time to build confidence, because often the biggest barrier to students’ achievement is not the grown-ups around them telling them they can’t but that nagging voice inside their own mind which says “I can’t do it.” Or “I’ll never be as good as them.” Or “it’s too difficult.” Our whole ethos and approach here at Churchill is to equip students with an inner voice to talk back to themselves, so “I can’t do it” becomes “I can’t do it…yet.” “I’ll never be as good as them,” becomes “I’m going to learn how they do it so I can do it too.” And “it’s too hard” becomes “this is going to take time and effort, but I’m going to learn how.”

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This approach underpins our guiding purpose, to inspire and enable young people to make a positive difference both whilst they are here at the Academy but, perhaps more importantly, after they leave us. An education at Churchill Academy & Sixth Form provides young people with the knowledge, skills, character and confidence to make their own positive contribution. If we do our job right, the world our children will build will be better than the one we live in now.

The vision and purpose lead us to our end result. We have the highest expectations of achievement and progress within the curriculum, because achieving the best possible qualifications brings with it the benefit of choice. But achievement is more than that – it’s about young people finding their identity, their voice, and the self-confidence and determination to take the next step and make their mark.

These principles, underpinned by our values, guide our work at Churchill. We thank all our staff, students and families for supporting us in working towards these ambitious goals.

The new Science and Technology Building

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Science and Catering students Hannah, Caitlin, Jasmine and Shannon joined me, along with Laurence Wright and Ashley Mutch from H. Mealing & Sons, on Monday for the official “cutting the ground” ceremony for the new Science and Technology building.

This has been a really exciting week! We found out back in April that we had been awarded £3.9 million as part of the Education and Skills Funding Agency’s Condition Improvement Fund to replace the ageing facilities in Tudor with a brand new building. Since then Mr Branch has been working flat out in collaboration with our architects, Quattro, the legal team, building contractors, the planners and the Science and Technology staff to finalise the plans, schedules and designs for the building. Finally, on Monday, work began with the first diggers starting the excavations.

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I got to sit in a JCB!

A bigger project

We already have experience in developing a new build with the Alan Turing Building, but this is almost twice the size. At almost 14,000 square metres, the new build will contain twelve new Science laboratories and two new catering classrooms, along with the necessary prep rooms and offices for staff. A Science block brings with it all kinds of challenges that “normal” buildings don’t have, including fume cupboards and gas taps, but also facilities for the safe storage of nuclear materials and hazardous chemicals. And we are determined that the catering facilities will be state-of-the-art too, with all-new equipment for our students to cook up a storm with!

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Shannon, Caitlin, Hannah and Jasmine wanted a go too!

A look at the plans

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One of the highlights of our visit to the site compound on Monday was a chance to look through the plans. From the landscaping that is going to take place around the building, to the plans for the pathway to get access around the Sports Centre, and particularly to the room plans, it was amazing to see the drawings of how the building will look. The contractors have also marked out the footprint of the building on the ground this week – it’s going to be huge.

What’s next?

Later this year we’re going to be running a competition with our students to choose the name for the new Science and Technology block. Students will research famous female scientists, and present to Senior Leaders and Governors their pitches for why they think our building should be named after their chosen individual. The most persuasive presentation will win! We hope that this will provide inspiration for students using the building over the next sixty years to pursue innovation and excellence in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) and overcome the inequality which is currently a big issue in that sector.

The third and final phase of our Tudor block project will be the demolition of the existing building, and the redevelopment of the site where the building has stood for over 60 years. We had the first planning meeting about phase three this week, as we prepare our next bid. By the end of 2019, the whole Academy site will look very different indeed!

Behaviour for learning

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Churchill Academy & Sixth Form’s Attitude to Learning Scale

This year at Churchill we have made behaviour our number one priority. We wanted to build on our already high standards to ensure the very best behaviour and conduct from all our students, all the time.

In March this year the government published an independent review of behaviour in schools. The report’s author, Tom Bennett, says:

“A student’s experience in school remains one of the most insightful indicators of later life success in any one of a number of metrics. For many it is the best chance they will ever have to flourish. How they conduct themselves at school is crucial to that experience. Helping them develop good behaviour is therefore one of the most important tasks a school faces…

…Whatever one believes the aims of education to be, all of [them] are best realised in schools where good behaviour is the norm, and antisocial, selfish, or self-destructive behaviour is minimised.”

It’s hard to argue with Bennett’s conclusions. Here at Churchill we believe that good behaviour is the foundation upon which a successful education is built. It’s a minimum expectation that students at Churchill will be polite, well-mannered, and tolerant, but we expect not just compliance but active participation in learning and taking responsibility for the choices they make. That’s why we use the Attitude to Learning Scale (pictured above) alongside the Code of Conduct (below) to help our students understand our expectations of them.

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Churchill Academy Code of Conduct

The Code of Conduct lays out our expectations of student behaviour in, around and beyond the Academy; the Attitude to Learning Scale helps students understand the things they need to do in lessons to ensure they are making the most of their opportunities to learn and make progress.

Each subject reports on Attitude to Learning in every progress check, but teachers can now reward students for demonstrating “Highly Motivated” attitudes in lessons at any time through our new rewards system. Similarly, whilst students may receive concerns for breaking the Code of Conduct, we are now placing an increased emphasis on giving rewards to those who consistently meet or exceed our expectations. Our aim is to use this positive reinforcement to ensure that those students who behave well consistently are recognised for their part in building a culture where exemplary behaviour and attitude to learning is the norm. It is this interplay between behaviour and attitude to learning that ensures the best chance of success in school.

Our staff and students have responded brilliantly to this new focus. Since the start of the term, our 1481 students have been awarded a staggering 8335 reward points for attitude to learning alone, alongside over 2000 for excellent classwork and homework and 1148 for demonstrating our values of kindness, curiosity and determination or making a contribution to Academy life. In total, across all categories, our students have been awarded 12,794 reward points in three weeks!

It’s safe to say it’s been a good start to the year.

The Opening of Churchill School

At 2:30 p.m. on Friday, 20th September, 1957, Churchill Secondary Modern School was officially opened by the Rt. Hon. J. Chuter Ede, C.H., D.L., M.P., President of the County Councils Association. We still have the programme from that event  in our archive, which you can view below:

The first Headmaster, Mr R. J. Dennis, recorded the occasion in the School Log Book:

Log Book Opening September 1957

At that time, Churchill County Secondary School had 402 students on roll, distributed as follows:

  • V – 24
  • IVa – 28
  • Upper IVb – 25
  • Lower IVb – 24
  • Lower Remove – 14
  • IIIa – 30
  • Upper IIIb – 26
  • Lower IIIb – 19
  • IIa – 35
  • Upper IIb – 32
  • Lower IIb – 26
  • Lower Remove – 20
  • I S – 30
  • I L – 32
  • I K – 37

The school has gone through many changes since then, firstly becoming a comprehensive in 1969. It then became Churchill Community School in 1996, before becoming a foundation school in 2007 (when it became known as Churchill Community Foundation School and Sixth Form Centre). Finally, on 1st August 2011, the school became Churchill Academy & Sixth Form.

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The original school logo, as awarded to the school’s first Head Boy in 1957.

As of September 2017, 1,481 students attend Churchill Academy & Sixth Form: 733 boys, 748 girls, 264 sixth formers and 1,217 in the main school. Even as we work towards the decommissioning and eventual demolition of the original 1957 building, the school which was opened sixty years ago in Churchill is going strong.

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Churchill’s Values: Kindness, Curiosity, Determination

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Our values are what we judge to be important in life; they are the principles and standards that govern our behaviour. We spent the summer term thinking long and hard about what we valued, and what we should value, as a school. A group of sixteen staff volunteers worked together to develop our ideas, before representatives from each of the main school tutor groups and the Sixth Form council offered their views.  The Governing Body formally adopted Churchill Academy & Sixth Form’s new values in July 2017.

The values are designed to guide our behaviour and decision-making in everything we do at the Academy. Our three values are kindness, curiosity, and determination.

Kindness

At Churchill, we are kind to one another. This means that we are considerate and generous every day, caring for one another and doing everything we can to make sure everybody else has a good day at school. Kindness reinforces our shared sense of community; it builds trust and respect; and it ensures that we take our social responsibilities seriously.

A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.” (Amelia Earhart)

Curiosity

At Churchill, we are constantly curious and hungry for new learning. We value enquiring minds and a spirit of exploration. The desire to know or learn something new motivates us to try our hardest in everything we do.

The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled” (Plutarch)

Determination

At Churchill, we are persistent and relentless in the pursuit of our goals – both academic and personal. This determination to keep going when learning is difficult, and to come back and try again when we struggle, helps us to succeed.

Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” (Thomas Edison)

 

Thank you to all the staff, students and Governors who contributed to the work on our vision and values.

 

 

How families can support learning

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Welcome back to another new school year! Our students have made an excellent start and they are ready to learn and raring to go. This year we are taking our next steps in developing the learning culture at the Academy, focusing on students taking responsibility for their own learning, progress, attitude and behaviour. As part of this, there are three key strategies families can use to support students’ learning at home.

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  1. Praise the process, not the product

Research shows that praising children for their intelligence – “you’re so clever!”, “wow, you’re so great at Maths!” – can actually harm their motivation by making them believe that they should find the work easy. Instead, when your children get great results or do well, try something like: “that’s great – can you tell me how you did it?” This is more helpful as it will provoke a conversation around strategies, techniques and approaches, showing that your interest is not so much in the product as the process. Instead of saying “you’re so good at English/Art/Science” and so on, try “you’ve really pushed yourself on this project – it’s great to see you working so hard at it.” Instead of “you’re so clever/brilliant/wonderful,” try “I’m so proud of the way you’ve put your time and energy into this,” or “we’re so happy to see that you persevered with this – it was worth all that effort, wasn’t it?”

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  1. Embrace struggle

We have an instinct to rush to praise when children “get” something quickly or produce perfect work first time. However, if students find something quick and easy to grasp, the likelihood is that they either knew it (or something very like it) already, or that the level of challenge was too low. Try asking your children after they get home: “what did you find difficult today?” Praise children when they struggle, because that shows that they’re trying, pushing themselves to do something difficult. That’s the attitude we encourage. Seek out challenging tasks for your children to do, and challenging texts for them to read, to reinforce the message that we give in school: if you’re finding it easy, you’re not learning anything. If you’re struggling, you’re learning.

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  1. Use the power of “yet”

“Yet” can help when students fail, or when they are in the midst of the struggle to master a new and challenging concept. “I can’t do it,” or “I’ll never get it,” or “I’ve never been able to do this,” can be turned around with “…yet.” Learning is a process, and students are always on an upward curve. If they can’t do it today, they’ll have to try again tomorrow, perhaps coming at it from a different angle or using a different strategy. As Thomas Edison famously said: “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” If you struggled with Maths or languages or spelling at school, by all means share that struggle with your children, but share it with the determination that they will be able to conquer it if they apply themselves and get the help and support they need – giving up is not an option.

I’d like to thank our families for all the support you give to Churchill’s students and to the Academy as a whole. We couldn’t do it without you!

Looking forward, looking back

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Janus: the Roman god of transitions, beginnings and endings

This week, at the end of the academic year, I have been conducting my assemblies with students and talking about the Roman god Janus. Janus was always depicted with two faces: one, looking forward into the future; the other, looking back into the past. I have been doing some Janus-like reflection as we reach the end of this year and look forward to the next.

Olympic lessons

I started this year on the Headteacher’s blog with Lessons from the Olympics. Inspired by Rio 2016, I looked back on the inspiration of Ruby Harrold, a Churchill alumnus who represented Team GB in gymnastics. This week it was my pleasure to meet Ruby, who passed on her inspiration to some stars of the future.

Churchill at 60

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We have all been looking back this year on the history of Churchill Academy & Sixth Form, both on this blog and on the dedicated page on our website. This week, I had the great privilege of meeting Ivan Devereux, our first ever Head Boy, who joined the brand new secondary school in 1957 from the old V.C. Church of England school which used to stand by the crossroads. He remembered starting in the very first classes, including the names of the teachers listed in the School Log Book! He was given a tour of the Academy by our new Tudor House Captains, and showed us the dictionary he was given as Head Boy with a signed bookplate from the first Headmaster, Reginald Dennis. I was fascinated by the old school badge: like our current one, it reflects the four houses of Windsor, Stuart, Hanover and Tudor, but using symbols instead of colours. House pride has been part of the school for as long as there has been a school here! It was fitting, therefore that this week I have officially welcomed our new House Captains with their embroidered polo shirts at our Celebration of Success events.

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Looking ahead, we have our 60th Anniversary Gala Evening to mark 60 years since the official opening of the school taking place on 23rd September. You can buy your tickets here for what promises to be an incredible night to celebrate the history and the future of Churchill.

The Academy Site

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Looking back over the course of this year it’s hard to believe that the Alan Turing Building was an empty patch of earth in September, and is now a fully operational facility for our students with brand-new computer rooms and classrooms. Looking ahead, work is due to start in August on our fourteen-classroom Science and Technology building, which will transform the opportunities for students in those subjects and lead to the decommissioning of the original 1956 Tudor building.

Over the summer there are lots of other works going on across the Academy to redevelop our learning environment, including the new Student Services facility above the Library and brand new study facilities for our Sixth Formers.

Rest, relax, recharge

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The students and the staff have worked really hard this year, pushing themselves to go that extra mile every single day. At this week’s Celebration of Success events, it has been a privilege to recognise some of those hardworking, dedicated students and present them with their certificates. I wish everyone in the Churchill Academy & Sixth Form community a restful and relaxing summer break, and look forward to seeing you in September refreshed, recharged and ready for the next challenge!

Activities Week 2017

Activities Week is a great opportunity for students to learn something new, beyond their “normal” curriculum. I am really proud that Churchill continues to run such a diverse, engaging and exciting Activities Week programme, which this year has included (to name a few) animation, archery, art, beauty, bushcraft, cake decorating, candle making, chess, circus skills, cookery, computing, crafts, cycling, dancing, driving, film studies, first aid, football, frisbee, golf, horse riding, illustration, jewellery, journalism, sailing, shooting, skiing, snowboarding, surfing, textiles and a trip to the zoo! We’ve also given students experiences abroad, with trips to France, Belgium and Italy as well as the popular Surf Trip to Cornwall.

Activities week shows that learning isn’t just about what goes on in the classroom, but stretches far beyond. As well as learning to surf, or ride a horse, or make a scented candle, students are learning about collaborating with others who they may not usually get the chance to work with. And, of course, to enjoy themselves in the process!

Ten things I loved about Sports Day 2017

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30th June 2017 was Sports Day. For the full results – including the fifteen house records broken on the day – please see the Academy website. Here are ten things I loved about the day.

1. The taking part

It was great to see the winners, but what was even better was to see those students mopping up points for their house by taking part. Even if they walked the 1500m, they still got a point for finishing, and this kind of commitment is fantastic to lift the spirits of the houses.

2. The sporting spirit

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In the high jump, competitors who were out of the competition stayed on to cheer their opponents on as the bar was raised. In the track events, when one competitor stumbled their rival in the next lane stopped to help them up. When athletes were struggling to finish, friends  would step up to run alongside them. Sports Day was about kindness alongside competition.

3. The video

Will Maitland-Round (aka Boris) was wandering round all day with a camera, loading a GoPro onto Jack Panicucci for the sprint, and interviewing competitors and supporters alike. The end product, as the video says, is EPIC.

4. The music

Mr Smith is never happier than when he’s behind the wheels of steel, providing the tunes to soundtrack Sports Day. There was an impromptu outbreak of disco at one point, and One Direction and Carly Rae Jepsen were unexpected hits. Naturally, my personal highlight was not one but two Taylor Swift tracks – although Mr Hart interrupted Love Story so the competitors could hear the gun to start a race. I must speak to Team PE about their priorities… A special mention also to the fantastic Sports day band who put together some brilliant music.

5. The Sixth Form Council

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The Council always do a great job with their Sports Day refreshment stand, but this year they expanded their role, deputising for Mr Smith to DJ (loved the Stevie Wonder!) and throw some shapes of their own. They showed great initiative and teamwork, and were every bit the role models for our younger students to look up to.

6. The House Pride

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It’s a big tradition to deck yourself out in house colours for Sports Day, and as the day went on the extravagance of the face-paint increased. I love the creativity in some of them – and the house pride!

7. The organisation

I love a well-organised event, and Team PE run a very tight ship on Sports Day. Everyone has a job to do, everything runs to time, and everyone pitches in. It’s because every detail has been planned for – and is executed so well – that the day is such a success.

8. The barbecue

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Our catering team put on a fantastic barbecue every year, and this year’s was absolutely delicious – and very popular!

9. The community

More families than ever came along to enjoy Sports Day with us this year, and it was great to bring the Academy community together to celebrate the successes and cheer on the competitors. We were also joined by several of our Academy Governors – our Chair of Governors, Mr Poole, even treated me to an ice-cream!

10. The atmosphere

No photograph or video can truly capture the wonderful atmosphere of a Churchill Academy Sports Day. The warmth and respect in the relationships between staff and students, the teamwork and trust between the staff, and the kindness, sportsmanship and friendly rivalry between the students themselves shone through. It’s one of those rare occasions when the whole student body gathers together, and looking out at everyone as I announced the results it was quite awe-inspiring. Team PE are already planning Sports Day 2018 and they have promised it will be even bigger and even better. I can’t wait!