We’ve reached the end of term 1 of the 2021-22 academic year. Whilst he summer holidays seem like an age ago, the term has gone by in a flash!
We began the term at the end of August with on-site testing for students beginning the academic year. The amazing team of staff completed 2664 lateral flow tests over seven days, including 649 tests in one day. This process allowed us to get the term underway as safely as possible.
Our new Year 7 and Year 12 students were the first to start back, getting to grips with their new surroundings, new expectations and new curriculum with great energy and enthusiasm. Before long, they were joined by the returning students in other years, keen to be back and ready to learn. The Academy now has the largest number of students on roll in over a decade, with 1668 students currently attending!
I began the year with my “welcome back” assemblies, outlining our expectations and highlighting the Academy’s priorities for the year ahead. Since that point we have seen excellent progress across all our priorities. I have been particularly impressed this year by our student leaders, including the inclusion and diversity group who prepared a thought-provoking assembly for students over recent weeks. Staff have also had some really powerful training in this area, as well as teachers working in small professional development groups to explore ideas around metacognition and self-regulated learning, which we are all putting into practice in our classrooms. This work accompanies the launch of our new curriculum, and I have seen some really fantastic innovative and interesting lessons being taught across the Academy throughout this term. Our fifth priority this year is sustainability – and I have a blog post planned to coincide with the COP26 summit in November to tell you what we have been up to, and what we have planned, as we work towards a greener future.
I spent an enjoyable hour with a panel of our youngest students towards the end of September, finding out about their experiences of starting at Churchill Academy & Sixth Form in 2021. This was soon followed by the return of our Open Evening – the first in-person event since the pandemic began. We were inundated with interest and it was so lovely to show off our school to so many curious families!
We are also continuing the redevelopment of our learning environment, with work ongoing in Stuart House to create climate-controlled, sound-insulated, 21st century classrooms for the teaching of History, Geography and RE. Stuart House tutors and Humanities teachers and classes have been really flexible this term as their home base has been completely gutted, but there are positive signs already as the walls are put back in place. We are still on track to reopen these facilities in March 2022!
One of the real pleasures this term has been the return of our extra-curricular programme. Chess Club was one of the first to get started, and it was soon joined by many more. Our Duke of Edinburgh expeditions have been out and returned safely, and students have finally been able to go back to the theatre! After the end of the school day, the Academy echoes with the sounds of music, dance and drama from Performing Arts, including this year’s production of Rock of Ages which is already sounding terrific. And, of course, extra-curricular PE is back, with training and fixtures most days. You can see our full extra-curricular programme on the Academy website.
Sadly COVID has continued to cause disruption. This term has seen many students and staff self-isolating with infections, and as a result face coverings were re-introduced for main school students indoors. We are grateful to everyone for doing their bit to help, including staff covering for absent colleagues, families offering support and words of encouragement, and students for adapting to the protective measures without a fuss. Although it has been difficult, we have not been as badly hit as some other schools where lessons have been suspended for entire year groups, and some have been forced to close altogether. Nonetheless, we all need the half term to recover, before we see what November and December have in store for us!
Term 2 is certainly packed. As the nights draw in, we have concerts and celebrations to look forward to. Year 11 will be taking their mock exams, which this year are especially significant in light of the latest announcements around exams in 2022. Before we know it, I will be breaking out the festive knitwear and looking forward to Christmas!
I’d like to thank all the staff, students and families in our Academy community for making this term such a pleasure. A school full of children is a joyous place to be – and Churchill students are simply the best. Enjoy your half term everyone – I will see you in November.