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!

You can download my presentation from the evening here. Meanwhile, below are a few photos – and a couple of videos! – from Open Evening.

 

 

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.

  • 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.

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!