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 post shared 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!