Leavers 2017

It’s been an emotional day at Churchill as we’ve said goodbye to our Year 11 and Year 13 cohorts, wishing them well as they head off on study leave for their exams. We look forward to welcoming many of our Year 11 students back into the Sixth Form in September, and we will continue to follow the careers of all our leavers with interest and pride.


Year 13 Class of 2017

The day began with saying goodbye to Year 13. This wonderful group of students have contributed so much to Churchill in their years with us, and they will be sorely missed!

Year 11, having jumped the hurdle of a two-and-a-half-hour English Literature exam this morning, celebrated their time at the Academy in traditional style, with signed shirts, good humour, and a few tears. They did their final practice for the Ball, nailing their tango and salsa moves and managing the processions beautifully.

The farewell assembly is something I look forward to all year, and this year the staff excelled themselves with their Farewell Video, expertly directed and edited by Mr Kingscote.

My final message to all our leavers is captured in the following quotation from my Headteacher hero, Albus Dumbledore:


We are all born with different abilities, different predispositions, different advantages and disadvantages in life. But these are not limiting factors. We are not bound by our circumstances.  We can choose to make the most of the situations we find ourselves in, choose to take chances and opportunities when we have them, choose to take on the difficult challenge or the easy option. It is these choices that define us all. I hope that Churchill has provided all of our leavers with the knowledge and skills to make the best choices, so you can be what you truly are and deserve to be.

Keep in touch!

How to revise #6: concrete examples

This is the sixth and final post in a series looking at the most effective ways to revise, based on the work of The Learning Scientists. The Learning Scientists are cognitive psychologists who want to make scientific research on learning more accessible to students and teachers. Their aim is to motivate students to study and increase the use of effective study and teaching strategies that are backed by research. I’ve met Yana Weinstein PhD at an education conference in Southampton – she’s the real deal!

Read all the revision posts here.

Concrete examples: what is it?

Concrete examples help you to remember abstract or difficult ideas by finding ways in which they can be applied in the real world.

Concrete examples: why?

Ideas on their own are difficult to remember. If you have a good example of how an idea is applied, it is much easier then to remember the idea itself.

Concrete examples: how do I do it?

Keep note of examples of concepts, ideas, and theories provided in class, either by your teacher or in textbooks or other resources. Also, try to think of examples for yourself. For example, if I am trying to remember the idea that repetition is an important rhetorical device used in public speaking, it’s much easier if I think about Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech which repeats “I have a dream” eight times and “let freedom ring” ten times. In this case, the speech is a concrete example of the effective use of repetition in public speaking. If I remember the speech, I remember the idea of repetition as a rhetorical device.

Concrete examples: next steps

Checking that the examples you are using are accurate is really, really important. If you are able to create your own examples it’s a sign that you have fully understood a concept or idea.  And don’t assume that examples you find on the internet are necessarily correct – always double check with a reliable source. Check your examples with your teachers just to make sure.

Concrete examples: watch the video

Student Voice: behaviour in and out of the classroom

Over the course of this year, I am visiting all the tutor groups in the school. In my visits I am asking the students for their views and advice on different aspects of our provision at the Academy. Between January and April I asked students to reflect on two questions:

  1. What makes a good attitude in the classroom?
  2. What makes good behaviour at social time?

Tutor groups responded in lots of different ways. Some groups put together presentations, others worked in small groups on the questions, whilst others involved me in a whole-group discussion. What they all had in common was lots of brilliant ideas about the topic!

At the end of the process I had visited twenty-seven tutor groups and heard  the views of around 600 students. Over Easter, I gathered together all their thoughts and ideas. They had told me what they thought about the best way to ensure they learned effectively, and they had come up with lots of excellent suggestions for how they should behave at social time. Below, you can see the fruits of their labours:

Term 3 and 4 Positive Social Time

Term 3 and 4 Positive Classroom Attitudes

Student Voice Feedback Terms 3 and 4

These posters have been shared with all teachers and tutor groups this week, and many have been discussing it in their tutor time sessions to help everyone improve and maintain the highest standards of behaviour in school.

Over terms 5 and 6 I am getting the views of students about our Academy values of Care, Inspire, Challenge and Achieve – do they represent the Academy? What influence do they have on our day-to-day life at Churchill? And what should we value? I’ll report back when I’ve heard what they have to say!

Election Education Issues

Ballot box 'is key to democracy'

As I am sure you know, the Prime Minister has called a General Election on 8th June. As with any General Election, there will be many issues which will be at stake when the nation votes. I would like to take this opportunity to make you aware of the major education issues of the moment, and their impact on Churchill Academy & Sixth Form. My hope is that you will ask the candidates about these issues, find out where the different parties stand on them, and use what you find out to help you when you decide where to place your “X” on June 8th.

Issue 1: school funding

School Funding

This is the major issue facing schools – including Churchill – at the moment. Schools have been on a “flat cash” funding arrangement for several years. This means that the amount of funding we receive has remained exactly the same with no prospect of any increase. However, from this “flat cash” we have been required to pay out more as cost pressures continue to rise. For example:

  • Pay rises and rising costs due to inflation have been unfunded.
  • Employer contribution on teachers’ pensions rose 2.38% from September 2015 – this has been unfunded.
  • Main band National Insurance employer contributions increased in April 2016 by 3.4% – this has been unfunded.
  • A fund called the Education Support Grant (ESG) which Churchill received as part of academy funding dropped from £140 to £87 per pupil initially, and has now been removed completely.

In simple terms, we have to pay more out but we aren’t getting any more in. The government has repeatedly said that education funding is at record levels, but the only reason they can say this is because there are more pupils in the system; the per pupil amount has not gone up. The government has also consulted on a new National Funding Formula for schools. Churchill actually stands to benefit from that formula if it is introduced as planned next year, but not all schools will do so as the amount of money in this system overall will remain the same. We have also been successful in securing grant funding for new buildings. Whilst that funding is welcome – and necessary – it is ring-fenced to the bricks and mortar and does not supplement our educational costs. Overall, the current situation equates to an 8% real-terms cut in the schools budget by 2020.

The impact of “flat cash” coming in with increased cost pressures means that schools up and down the country have less money to spend on education. Less money means fewer teachers which means class sizes get bigger. Larger classes mean less time available for individual pupil support. Less money means fewer opportunities for young people to engage in enrichment activities or educational visits. And less money means reducing the amount of support that can be given to individual students who need it such as those with special educational needs, behavioural issues, low prior attainment or those requiring support for mental health problems. In fact, the Education Select Committee published a report just this week which said “financial pressures are restricting the provision of mental health services in schools and colleges. The next Government must review the effect of the budget reductions in the education sector.”

This is the hard truth of education funding at the moment. We have continued to work very hard to provide the outstanding education that we know your children are entitled to, but without additional funding that will be difficult to sustain. Please make sure that the candidates for election on June 8th hear the message that proper funding for schools is your priority too.

Questions to ask your local candidates on school funding:

  1. Spending on schools may be at record levels, but that is because we have more children of school age than ever before and costs are rising. How will you ensure that school budgets are protected in real terms for the duration of the next parliament?
  2. The nation’s children should be provided with a broad curriculum, great support and enriching activities. Is your party willing to fund schools properly so our children have the same opportunities as previous generations?
  3. The Education Select Committee noted that half of all cases of mental illness in adult life start before the age of 15, and that one in 10 children aged between five and 16 have had a diagnosed mental disorder. What will your party do to ensure that mental health services for young people are properly funded and able to cope with demand?

Issue 2: evidence-based policy


One of the frustrations of teachers and school leaders is the tendency for government to make policy for education without a firm or robust evidence base. Sometimes, it seems as if their policy decisions are based more on personal experience than on research of what actually works in schools. Therefore, as a minimum, we would ask that any future government provide a clear basis of evidence for any proposals, hold transparent consultation before any policy decisions are finalised, and establish, at the outset, evaluation models that ensure that any proposals will benefit young people from disadvantaged as well as advantaged backgrounds.

The current government’s proposals to allow the the creation of new grammar schools, or Labour’s proposal to provide free school meals for all primary school children, fail this test. There is no evidence that either of these things will help improve the standards of education in Britain. The creation of more grammar schools, along
with, inevitably, hundreds – possibly thousands – of secondary modern schools, will be hugely damaging to the nation’s children. A second class education for the many, particularly, but not exclusively, for those from more disadvantaged backgrounds, is not just educationally unacceptable but morally and economically disastrous.

The current Conservative Government has held a consultation on new grammar schools but refuses to publish the results. Yet the evidence is overwhelming: selection damages the quality of education a nation’s children receives. What we must demand is a high quality education for every child, not selection and privilege for the few. What will make a difference is creating the conditions to ensure that high quality teaching and learning takes place in every classroom in the country, by ensuring a supply of great teachers into a properly funded school system.

Questions to ask your local candidates on evidence-based policy:

  1. What evidence is there that the education policies in your manifesto will make a positive difference to all children, both advantaged and disadvantaged?
  2. New grammar schools mean new secondary moderns. What is your position on creating new grammar schools for the few and, as a result, new secondary moderns for the many?

Issue 3: teacher recruitment and retention

We are very fortunate at Churchill to have a full staffing complement of highly-qualified, expert teachers. However, nationally the teaching profession is facing a significant staffing shortfall: too few graduates are training to be teachers, and too many qualified teachers are leaving the profession.  It is therefore vital that all political parties pledge to celebrate teaching as a great career and improve incentives to encourage more graduates into the profession, by improving career development support and opportunities for teachers in order to retain more great teachers in the profession.

Questions to ask your local candidate: teacher recruitment and retention

  1. Great teachers are at the heart of a great school. What is your party going to do to make teaching a more attractive career to our best graduates?
  2. The current government has missed the targets for teacher recruitment for the past four years. What are you going to do to ensure your party would hit the teacher recruitment targets in the future?

Conclusion: use your vote!


I recognise that we serve a diverse community which will include the full range of political views. It is not my intention, nor is it my place, to influence your vote. What I hope I have done is lay out the key issues in this election which impact on Churchill Academy & Sixth Form and schools across the country, so that you can ask well-informed questions and make your own decisions based on the answers you receive.

The final thing that I would say, however, is that we are incredibly fortunate to live in a democracy where every citizen has the right to help choose representatives to govern us in parliament. I would urge every member of our school community who is eligible to vote to register by 22nd May and to exercise their democratic right and responsibility to vote on June 8th.

Thank you.

With thanks to the ASCL 2017 Election Manifesto, and the HTRT Doorstep Manifesto, for materials used in this blog.  

Update: 19th May

Now that the political parties have published their manifestos, the SSAT (Schools, Students and Teachers’ Network) has collated their education policies into a side-by-side comparison document – read the comparison here: SSAT Guide to the 2017 Manifestos and Education Policy