Welcome back!

And, just like that, we’re back! It has been fantastic this week to have the Academy full of students again, getting back to learning. The screens are already filling up with extra curricular opportunities, including auditions for the school production. It promises to be spectacular!

As term has begun, I have met with all main school students for their “welcome back” assemblies. In those assemblies I have been through the practical arrangements for the year ahead, but also taken the opportunity to reinforce our vision, values and expectations so that everyone is clear.

Site Development

The interior of Stuart House, August 2021

Over the summer we have completed the second and begun the third and final phase of our redevelopment works in Stuart and Lancaster House, home to Humanities and Languages. The second phase has seen the completion of the middle section of the building, with further new air-conditioned classrooms, staff offices, and facilities. The third phase began with the removal of all the internal walls and classrooms around the Stuart Green Room – as you can see in the picture above, it created a massive space! Contractors are now beginning the process of building new classrooms, offices, student toilets and a social space, all with the latest materials designed to control acoustics within the building – and with air conditioning as standard. We expect this work to be completed by March 2022, when we will be able to move in!

COVID

COVID is still with us, and we are still taking precautions in line with the government guidance. This includes the testing of students on their return to school, and the re-introduction of twice-weekly home testing for COVID-19. In my assemblies, I reiterated the current COVID guidance and procedures, which are explained in detail on the website.

Why are we here?

The start of the year is the ideal time to remind us all of why we are here – why Churchill Academy & Sixth Form exists in the first place. Our purpose is simple:

To inspire and enable young people to make a positive difference

I talked to our students about the positive difference they can make to themselves, every single day they attend the Academy. At the end of each day, I asked them to reflect to themselves: what do I know now that I didn’t know yesterday? What am I better at now than I was twenty four hours ago? How have I improved?

It’s also the case that our students can make a positive difference to the Academy that they belong to. Each of them is unique; each of them brings something special to our community. Their being here – the contribution that they make – makes the Academy better.

And, finally, it is our ambition that our students can go out into the world and – as a result of all they have learned at Churchill – make a positive difference in our society. We hope that they will be able to solve problems, help others, and improve things for all of us and for generations to come. It’s a lofty ambition, but when you look at the potential of our Churchill students this year I genuinely believe that anything is possible.

Inclusion and diversity

I outlined an important focus of our work this year, on inclusion and diversity, but explaining what we mean by it. In simple terms, this priority is about:

Ensuring that everybody is welcome, and every member of the Academy feels that they belong

This is a shared responsibility for us all, and something we will be promoting and developing – with the help of our students – throughout the year. It is essential we get this right so we can continue to build the friendly, welcoming community we are all so proud to be a part of.

Sustainability

Our second area of focus for the year is on our own sustainability. We have an ambition to be a carbon-neutral school by 2030. This is no easy task in a resource-hungry institution like ours! But, again with our students’ help, we are driving down energy usage, driving down waste, and improving recycling, encouraging re-usable resources, and looking after our green spaces and facilities. Lots more to follow on this as the year progresses.

Learning

At the end of my “welcome back” assembly, I turn to our core business: learning. I take every opportunity, including this one, to remind our students of the six habits and dispositions that have been shown through research to have the biggest impact on successful learning. These are the things that we promote through our effort grades, our values, our lesson planning, and our classroom expectations.

Our learning values

These are the things that we expect from our students every minute of every hour of every day. From my visits to classrooms this week, they have taken this message to heart. I saw Year 8 students grappling with the concept of infinity in Maths and exploring the story of Edward Colston in Drama; Year 10 students learning about synecdoche in English; Year 7s exploring the Norman conquest of Britain and responding to medieval Occitan troubadour music; Year 11 learning about the nervous system’s response to stimuli; and Sixth Form students learning from alumni about successfully applying to Oxford and Cambridge University. And that’s just scratching the surface!

The year’s got off to a great start: it’s up to all of us to keep it going!

End of year assembly

In my end-of-year assemblies this week, I have tried to do three things. Firstly, I have tried to look back over the year that we’ve had. Secondly, I have celebrated the successes of our students – including awarding the House Cup! And finally, I have looked ahead to next year.

The year gone by

SARS-CoV-2 virus

The year has, of course, been dominated by the coronavirus. It is a tiny thing, ≈0.1 μm in diameter, yet it has led to more than 5m cases and 128,000 deaths in England, according to government figures. It’s worth remembering: this is not normal. This is not how we are used to living. And we hope that it will change.

It’s easy to characterise the year gone by in terms of what we’ve missed out on. From October, we’ve missed out on our vertical tutor groups, which make our House system so strong. After Christmas we were locked down, with some students joining us in school for Frontline, but most of them set up at home with laptops, tablets or mobile phones to access Google Meets and Zooms. We missed out on face to face teaching, on seeing our friends, and on seeing our families. We’ve missed out on holidays, on trips to the cinema or the theatre, on seeing live music and sporting events.

It has been a hard year. But I don’t want to focus on what we’ve missed out on. What I want to do is to be grateful for the fact that we are here. We are together at the end of this really difficult year with a lot to be grateful for. If we start with where we are as a country, we can see that many, many fewer people are now dying as a result of COVID-19. We should be grateful to the amazing National Health Service for the vaccination programme they have rolled out, as well as the incredible care they have offered during this pandemic.

As a school we are grateful that, thanks to the efforts and focus of our students during lockdown and beyond, we are seeing that the vast majority have remained on track with learning through this year. In other words, our students are not a million miles away from where we would expect them to be in if they hadn’t spend several months learning through a screen.

Celebrating success

I was really pleased that we were able to complete our Activities Week and Sports Day towards the end of term, despite the pandemic. These were great opportunities to celebrate successes, including learning beyond the classroom in different environments. Of course, Tudor House won through on Sports Day, although Lancaster led the way in Year 8, and Hanover in Years 9 and 10 – so next year it’s all up for grabs!

Over this last week of term, alongside holding the finals of our Bake Off, Poetry and Spelling Bee competitions, we have been sending home our Celebration of Success certificates to students whose attitude to learning, academic accomplishments, and personal qualities shine through day after day, week after week, month after month. It has been a great honour to review those awards and see them added to this year’s Roll of Honour. I hope that, next year, we will be able to hand them out in person.

The established end-of-year traditions have also been disrupted this year – and the House Cup competition is no exception. There have been many fewer inter-house events than we would have normally held, and we are really looking forward to coming back full throttle next year! The competition was still held however, with the following winners:

  • Academics: combination of each House’s attendance, conduct points and effort grades – winners STUART HOUSE and LANCASTER HOUSE.
  • Competitions: combined totals from all the inter-house competitions – winners TUDOR HOUSE.
  • Overall House Cup Winners: combined totals from all the inter-house activities – winners TUDOR HOUSE

Congratulations to all our students – and especially to Tudor House!

Looking ahead

The pandemic will still be with us in the year ahead. However the new guidance on contact tracing and isolation outlined in my recent update letter to parents will, we hope, reduce the disruption caused to education. We are looking forward to what we hope will be an uninterrupted year with our students, to get back to what we do best – inspiring and enabling young people to make a positive difference.

We are so grateful to our students for the positive difference they have made to our Academy community by being part of it this year. In our students I see bundles of potential, just waiting to be channelled and unleashed on the world. Even when things have been difficult, they have been a pleasure to work with. We are so proud of the positive difference they have made to themselves this year: the progress they have made in their learning; the confidence, resilience and determination they have built up as they have overcome challenges; and the kindness they have shown to themselves and others in their actions. As we step forward to next year in pursuit of the priorities laid out in our development plan, we look forward to what we can achieve together.

More immediately, of course, we are looking forward to a well-deserved summer break. After the year we’ve had, our students deserve some time to rest, recharge and recover – and our staff desperately need it too! The Headteacher’s Blog will return in September.

Churchill Academy & Sixth Form, summer 2021

Welcome back assembly: kindness

In this week’s “welcome back” assembly, I focused on one of the the Academy’s three core values – and the value for this term – kindness. Before, that I paid tribute to His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, who died over the Easter holidays.

The Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, started by Prince Phillip in 1956 (the same year that our school was founded), has made a significant difference to countless young people at our school and beyond. The scheme’s focus on young people improving themselves by developing a skill, and helping their communities through volunteering, is an excellent match for our own purpose – to inspire and enable young people to make a positive difference. We thank His Royal Highness for founding and promoting the Award Scheme named for him, and we commit to continuing the scheme in his name as part of his legacy.

Kindness

My assembly urged our students to think about kindness in three ways:

  1. Be kind to others
  2. Be kind to the environment
  3. Be kind to yourself

Be kind to others

Being kind to others is a foundation stone of our Academy culture. We expect everyone in our Academy community to treat one another with kindness. We recognise that nobody is perfect, and that sometimes we all make mistakes – but that when this happens, putting things right is an essential part of our learning and growth.

In the assembly, I spoke about how a single act of kindness has a ripple effect, improving life at the Academy for countless others. A kind word, helping somebody out when they are having difficulties, or noticing when somebody else is struggling, can all help make somebody else’s day better. And when they have a better day, they are more likely themselves to offer a kind word to somebody else in turn. By this method, the wave of positivity ripples out across the Academy community – and beyond.

Of course, the opposite is also true. Unkind words and deeds damage the culture of our Academy by making somebody else’s day worse. That person’s negative experience can also ripple out as they may pass the negativity on to others. This is something we are all keen to avoid, and this is why I urged all our students through the assembly to think about the impact of their words and deeds on other people – and to think before they speak or act.

Finally, I spoke about the importance of making sure that everybody felt welcome, felt included, and felt that they belonged at Churchill Academy & Sixth Form. We have seen issues in wider society over this past year with discrimination and prejudice. We are determined that Churchill will remain an inclusive, welcoming community. It is everybody’s responsibility to ensure that we go out of our way to ensure that this happens, and that everyone “belongs” – no matter their background, where they come from, the colour of their skin, their gender or sexual identity or orientation, their family or who they are. These values of tolerance and inclusion are sacred to us at Churchill.

Be kind to the environment

We are lucky at Churchill to have a wide open, rural site, with lots of green spaces. Over the past couple of years we have made a significant investment in continuing to improve this, with our rooves now covered in solar panels, beautiful planting surrounding the central Broadwalk path in the middle of our site, and new trees and saplings planted all around the entire length of the new perimeter fence. Just this week, our students were out working with the Woodland Trust to plant saplings around the site.

It is essential that we all look after the beautiful environment. This includes reducing our waste, caring for our surroundings, and putting all of our litter in the bins. I saw the news coverage of public spaces over Easter as lockdown eased, with many members of the public leaving beautiful green spaces strewn with litter and debris. We will not tolerate that at Churchill – and we hope to instil good habits in our young people so that they will look after the environment beyond our Academy, as well as within it.

Be kind to yourself

Finally, I urged all our students to be kind to themselves. This past year has been tough on everyone, but children and young people especially have seen unprecedented disruption to education and society. They now face an uncertain future as society sets about recovering from the pandemic.

In this context, it is especially important that our students look after themselves. This does not mean lowering our expectations, our our standards – students must continue to push themselves to be the very best that they can be. But it does mean being honest with themselves, with us, and with each other about what is possible at this moment in time, and what is realistic. It means developing and maintaining healthy lifestyles in terms of diet, exercise, work and sleep. It means talking about problems when they arise, and not letting them fester.

It is natural and normal to feel uncertain and frightened, especially when looking around at the world as it is today. But, as Taylor Swift herself said, living a “fearless” life does not mean that we have no fear. It means that we acknowledge what is frightening in the world around us, and we succeed in it anyway.

Year 9 Learning Groups and the Academy Values

Last week’s assembly, coordinated by Mr Davies, explained the people behind the names of this year’s Year 9 learning groups. They are all people with important links to our nearest city, Bristol – and they have all showed the Academy’s values. We hope that these figures from our local history will inspire our current students to similar endeavours of kindness, curiosity, and determination.

Brunel: curiosity and determination

Brunel learning group is named for Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the mechanical and civil engineer who designed the Great Western Railway, Clifton Suspension Bridge, SS Great Britain and numerous significant ships, tunnels and bridges. He was a prominent figure during the Industrial Revolution which began in Britain, and he revolutionised public transport and modern engineering. His endless curiosity led to him finding innovative solutions to engineering problems, and his determination ensured that he overcame the challenges in his way.

Stephenson: kindness and determination

Stephenson learning group is named after the civil rights campaigner Paul Stephenson. He was born in 1937, in Essex. He joined the RAF as the only black cadet in his regiment. Many years later he became a Youth and Community Development Worker in St Pauls, Bristol. It was during this time that he campaigned for a bus boycott as he didn’t accept that the bus company wouldn’t employ black drivers. He decided he was going to do something about this! He fought for black people to be treated fairly in public places in Bristol. With Muhammed Ali, he also set up ‘Muhammed Ali Sports Development Association’ to promote sports development among ethnic minority young people to help develop self-confidence  and social interaction. In 2008 he was given the Freedom of the City of Bristol in recognition of the work he has done to bring the black and white communities together.

Fragapane: determination

Claudia Fragapane is a British artistic gymnast who grew up in Bristol. At the 2014 Commonwealth Games, she was the first English woman to win four gold medals since 1930. In 2015, Fragapane was part of the women’s gymnastics team that won Great Britain’s first-ever team medal, a bronze, at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships. She competed at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, alongside Churchill Academy alumnus Ruby Harrold. She also finished fourth in Strictly Come Dancing!

Park: curiosity and determination

Nick Park is the famous animator, director and writer behind Wallace and Gromit, Creature Comforts, and Shaun the Sheep. He has been nominated for an Academy Award a total of six times and won four with Creature Comforts (1989), The Wrong Trousers (1993), A Close Shave (1995) and The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005). He has also received five BAFTA Awards, including the BAFTA for Best Short Animation for A Matter of Loaf and Death.

He has spent most of his career working for Aardman Animations in the Bristol area. His curiosity has led him to develop a unique and appealing world of claymation animation. Meanwhile, his technique of stop-motion animation – shooting films one frame at a time, moving each model just a fraction between each shot – requires a huge amount of determination!

Blackwell: kindness, determination and curiosity

Elizabeth Blackwell was born in Bristol in 1821, although she moved with her family moved to America when she was 11 years old. She was the first woman to receive a medical degree in the USA in 1847, which required determination and curiosity. As a medical doctor, she showed great kindness when she treated wounded and injured soldiers in the American Civil War, despite strong opposition from male colleagues.

Later, she opened her own medical practices in New York (1852) and in London (1871) where she taught, trained and inspired other female doctors to follow in her footsteps. She retired from medicine in 1877 to work as a social and moral reformer, co-founding the National Health Society.

She showed determination, battled all her life and her successes had been monumental. In 1881, there were only 25 female doctors registered in England and Wales but by 1911 there were 495 registered. Her ambition and success has inspired many generations of female doctors to pursue medical careers and achieve the ‘impossible dream’.

Kenney: determination

Kenney learning group is named after Annie Kenney (1879-1953). Annie Kenney was a key figure in the suffragette movement which campaigned for women to have the vote in the early twentieth century. Kenney was one of the few working class women to rise to prominence in the Suffragette campaign. She became a leading figure in the Women’s Social and Political Union and  spent some years working as an organiser in Bristol. She hit the headlines after being imprisoned for several days for assault and obstruction, after heckling Sir Edward Grey at rally on the issue of votes for women.

Kenney was imprisoned a total of 13 times. She repeatedly went on hunger strike in prison, and underwent brutal force-feeding from the authorities. She remained determined to confront the authorities and highlight the injustice of the treatment of suffragettes by the male-dominated authorities.

When the First World War broke out, Annie Kenney accompanied Emmeline Pankhurst and other suffragettes from the WSPU in ending their activism. Instead, they took on jobs that had previously been done by men, who were now away fighting, in support of the national war effort. Her actions, and those of others in the movement, led to women gaining the vote in 1918.

Dirac: curiosity and determination

Dirac learning group is named after the physicist Paul Dirac, born in Bristol in 1902. Dirac made fundamental contributions to the early development of both quantum mechanics and quantum electrodynamics. Among other discoveries, he formulated the Dirac equation which describes the behaviour of sub-atomic particles called fermions. He also predicted the existence of antimatter. Dirac shared the 1933 Nobel Prize in Physics with Erwin Schrödinger “for the discovery of new productive forms of atomic theory”. He is widely regarded as one of the most significant physicists of the 20th Century.

Brohn: kindness and determination

Diagnosed with breast cancer in 1979, Clifton-born Penny Brohn knew she needed more than just care and treatment for her body: she recognised that she would need support for her “mind, spirit, emotions, heart and soul.” She co-founded a charity centre with her friend Pat Pilkington called the Bristol Cancer Help Centre, which offered patients complementary therapy to support them alongside medical treatment. She showed determination to overcome a great deal of controversy and scepticism to support those living with cancer. Penny Brohn died in 1999, having lived with cancer for 20 years. Her kindness lives on in the work of the charity she co-founded, which provides care to those living with cancer before, during and after treatment.

More: kindness, curiosity and determination

Last but not least, learning group More is named after Hannah More (1745-1833). Hannah More was born in Bristol, where she taught at a school founded by her father and began writing plays. She became known as a poet and playwright, as well as a writer of moral and religious texts, and moved to Wrington in 1802. She campaigned to extend education to the poor, and to girls, who otherwise had no access to schooling. Vitally, More also campaigned against the slave trade. Hannah More is buried beside her sisters at the Church of All Saints in Wrington: you can see a bust of her in the south porch to this day.

Assembly: Anti-racism

The Black Lives Matter movement changed the fabric of Bristol itself in the removal of the statue of Edward Colston (source)

This week I produced a video assembly for students on the theme of anti-racism. Over the course of lockdown, the killing of George Floyd and the subsequent surge of support for the Black Lives Matter movement has caused all of us – myself included – to examine this issue afresh. There is no doubt that racism is a deep and systemic problem in our country and our society. Centuries of discrimination, based on lies, have left us with an enormous legacy of injustice to overturn. It’s a big, difficult problem – there are no easy answers. But I am hopeful and determined that we can be part of the solution, and must start right here in the Academy. Because we know that racism is out there in our country, and in our community – and that is why we need to fight it here in our Academy.

In my assembly, I started by explaining to all students exactly where we stand on this issue, and what is and is not acceptable here at Churchill. What follows here is the script I used for my assembly.

Everyone is welcome

Firstly, everybody is welcome here at Churchill. No matter the colour of our skin, the language we speak at home, where our families come from, our religious beliefs, our cultural background, or where we have lived before: we are all members of this community, students and staff together, and we are all welcome here. Nobody – and I mean nobody – has the right to make anyone feel upset, discriminated against or excluded from this community for any reason. If you make somebody feel upset because of the colour of their skin, the language they speak at home, where their families come from, their religious beliefs, their cultural background, or where they have lived before – that is racist behaviour, pure and simple, and it has no place in our Academy. It simply must not happen.

No excuses

I need to make their completely clear to every single student in the Academy – there are no excuses for racist behaviour in our school.

  • “I didn’t know that word was racist” – doesn’t matter. Don’t use the words if you don’t know what they mean.
  • “But they’re my friend – it was just a bit of banter” – doesn’t matter. Racist behaviour is racist behaviour, whether between the best of friends of the worst of enemies. It has no place here.
  • “I didn’t mean to upset anyone.” – doesn’t matter. Racist behaviour is racist behaviour. It has no place here.
  • “I just wasn’t thinking.” – that’s not good enough. Engage your brain before you engage your mouth. You must take responsibility for your actions.
  • “I was only joking.” – doesn’t matter. The systematic oppression of entire groups is not something you can joke about. Racist behaviour is racist behaviour. It has no place here.
  • “I’m really sorry, I’ll apologise.” – good, I’m glad – that’s the right thing to do. It will help, but it won’t undo what you’ve done and you will still face a serious consequence.

I need to be completely clear – there is never any excuse for racist behaviour in our community. It will not be tolerated.

Be the change you want to see in the world

(Source)

As a community, we must all work together to solve this problem. It is you, the young people in the school, who will go on to build a more inclusive, more tolerant, society. But it is not enough for us all to just not be racist- we must all be actively anti-racist. If your friend is saying or doing something that makes you uncomfortable, if they are expressing opinions which are not okay – call them out on it. Tell them “that’s not okay…you can’t say that.” Tell a member of staff what you have seen or heard – you are not grassing up your friend, you are helping to build a better, more inclusive, more welcoming school. Our first Academy value is kindness. We have to live that value if we are going to solve this problem. And it starts with you – each and every one of you. I know I can rely on you all to do the right thing. So let’s start today.

You can view the assembly below

Practising penalties with Harry Kane

Wembley

Wembley Stadium, Saturday 7th September 2019

Last Saturday, I was lucky enough to head down to Wembley Stadium for England’s European Championship qualifier against Bulgaria. It was my first time at Wembley watching football (although I did go last year to watch Taylor Swift) and I was very excited! Our seats were right at the top of the stadium, just left of the halfway line – we had a great view of the whole pitch.

kanepen

Harry Kane scoring a penalty against Bulgaria, 7th September 2019

The atmosphere was electric. There were over 80,000 people at the match and the noise was incredible! I even managed to capture a video of Harry Kane tucking away his second penalty to complete his hat-trick:

After the match, I was interested to read what Gareth Southgate had to say about Harry Kane’s penalties:

“We stood and watched him take penalties for about 20 minutes yesterday. When you watch the process he goes through, he gives himself every chance of succeeding by that deliberate practice…he’s an incredible example.
“When he gets his moment, he has an outstanding mindset and, technically, he’s a top finisher…but I go back to the fact that’s hours and hours of practice and if you talk to some of the other forwards in the squad, they would talk to you about how big an impression that has had on them.”

In my assemblies this week, I picked up on Southgate’s message: Harry Kane is a talented striker, but his accuracy from the spot is no accident. He prepared and practised so that, when his moment came, he was ready to deliver. It is this which sets such a good example to England’s younger players and, I hope to Churchill Academy & Sixth Form students. No matter what your ability is, careful and deliberate practice is the key to unlocking that ability and ensuring that you are ready to deliver when you get your moment – whether that be a Maths test, a dance performance, a race, your next English lesson, or an international football match. Preparation and practice mean everything.

Footnote

Muric

My assembly message was rather undermined when Kane had a penalty saved by Nottingham Forest’s Aro Muric  in the 5-3 thriller against Kosovo on Tuesday night – but still, he’s a pretty good striker! I guess the goalkeeper had been preparing and practising too…

Assembly: what does a feminist look like?

At Churchill, our vision is “to set no limits on what we can achieve.” Sometimes those limits can come from with ourselves – the nagging self-doubt that says “I’m not clever enough,” or “I’m not brave enough,” or “I can’t.” We work hard with our students to build their confidence so that they can talk back to those limiting voices.

GM Phrases

However, some of those limits can also come from outside, and some of them are invisible. I am a feminist because I can see that gender stereotypes and traditional roles act as limits that can prevent young people – boys and girls – from achieving their true potential.

For me, feminism means believing that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It means believing that nobody – male or female – should be unfairly advantaged or disadvantaged by their gender. I have always been a feminist, but I have been particularly energised by the He For She initiative launched by Emma Watson at the United Nations in 2014. This initiative invites men to commit to gender equality, and provides tools to enable them to do so.

No more advertising stereotypes?

My assembly this week was sparked by the new rule which came into force this month from the Advertising Standards Authority. The ASA will no longer permit any advertising in the the UK which includes “gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence.” That means that offensive stereotypes like these from the 1950s and 1970s will be outlawed altogether:

Although adverts like these are now things of the past, it would be wrong to assume that stereotypes are not passed on to children – often very young children – through the clothes they wear or the toys they play with.

Clothing with messaging like this includes a “drip, drip” effect which says that boys should be tough, heroic, physical, messy, and clever, whilst girls should be sensitive, secondary, pretty, and stupid.

Gendered toys and books are similar. Boys can be “brilliant,” but girls can only be “beautiful.” Girls can do chemistry and build towers of blocks – but only if it’s pink and includes gossip.

These stereotypes trap both boys and girls in limiting gender roles. It can lead to assumptions about which paths are, and are not, open to you in the future, as this video shows:

Girls can’t be heroes?

There is a well-known trope in cinema called “the Smurfette Principle.” This principle is based on the small blue cartoon characters, all of whom were male, except for a single blonde Smurfette. The Smurfette Principle says that, in movies where a group of characters goes on a quest to fix a problem, you are only allowed one female as part of the group – despite the population being 50/50! There are lots of films which follow this sexist principle:

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There has been much progress on this front in more recent times. In my assembly, I talked about the Avengers franchise as an example. In the first Avengers film, Black Widow was the only female hero, a lonely Smurfette. However, in the recent Avengers: Endgame (*spoilers ahead!*), Black Widow was joined by Captain Marvel, Nebula, Okoye, Wasp, Scarlet Witch, Mantis, Shuri, Pepper Potts and Valkyrie  to form an all-female team in the battle against Thanos. Star Wars too has seen progress, with Daisy Ridley’s Rey providing a strong, brave female hero in the franchise. Such representation provides important role models to girls: you can be heroes too.

Boys don’t try?

It’s important to recognise that feminism is about equality for both genders. It’s not just about girls being held back by sexist stereotypes – boys are trapped too. Across England in 2018, 23.7% of girls achieved top grades (7-9) at GCSE, whereas only 17.2% of boys achieved those grades. This 6.5% gap was even larger at GCSE grades 9-4 (the old A*-C): 71.4% of girls achieved this threshold, whereas only 62.3% of boys did the same, a gap of 9.1%. One theory – a persuasive one – suggests that this is the result of traditional, stereotyped gender roles in the classroom. Girls are expected to work hard, complete homework, put their hands up, and behave well. It’s what girls do. For boys to show this behaviour – which we know leads to higher academic achievement – they need to break out of stereotypical “boy” behaviour. This can be hard to do, but if we are going to prevent gender roles from limiting potential, we need to enable both boys and girls to transcend those traditional roles. Boys have to try too.

emma watson

We do not want our girls trapped in a passive, timid cage where they do not have equality and cannot step up to their potential. We do not want our boys trapped in a narrow definition of masculinity where talking about feelings, showing sensitivity or vulnerability are seen as weaknesses. This is a mentally unhealthy situation to be in. Suicide is the biggest killer of men between the ages of 20-49; it kills more men than road accidents, more than cancer, more than heart disease. If we don’t start unpicking this, we will be facing a significant problem. Men are imprisoned by their gender stereotypes too.

What does a feminist look like?

So what does a feminist look like? Well, it looks like anyone who is committed to breaking down the barriers that trap boys and girls, men and women, into outdated gender roles that unfairly advantage or disadvantage one over the other. It looks like Benedict Cumberbatch, Harry Styles, or President Obama, as well as Emma Watson, Caitlin Moran, or Taylor Swift. As Barack Obama said, in a 2016 speech:

“We need to keep changing the attitude that raises our girls to be demure and our boys to be assertive, that criticises our daughters for speaking out and our sons for shedding a tear.”

At Churchill we are committed to being a school where our boys can be strong and sensitive, and our girls can be sensitive and strong, so that we can truly set no limits on what we can achieve.

Assembly: marginal gains and resolutions

CRH Marginal Gains Assembly

In this week’s assembly, I’ve been talking about marginal gains and resolutions. I started with the picture above: many students had a go at guessing what these objects were! The answer is that these are ‘bum warmers’, used to warm the muscles of Olympic cyclists before a race. The extra warmth means the cyclists can start one hundredth of a second faster than their opponents.

These curious devices are one example of the British cycling team’s approach to the “aggregation of marginal gains.” This approach means making tiny improvements in lots of different areas, adding up to a big overall effect. Other examples include the the cyclists always taking their own pillows and bedding with them when they travel, to reduce the chance of picking up an infection which might interfere with their training. The team tweak every aspect of the bikes, the cyclists’ equipment and clothing, their diet, sleep, schedule and training regime to try and eke out an extra 1% of performance.

CRH Marginal Gains Assembly

It’s an approach which seems to have worked. In the four Olympic Games between 1992 and 2004, the cycling team managed to win eight medals; following the adoption of the marginal gains approach, the team won 41 medals across Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016.

Marginal gains in school

I want us all to think about what marginal gains we could make in school. What small changes could we make to our approach which, sustained and added up over time, could result in a big improvement?

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One change could be in making the most of the time we have. Spending five minutes of a lesson off task – daydreaming, chatting to a friend, looking out of the window – doesn’t seem like too much of a problem. But adding it up over a year can result in a lot of lost time…

  • We have five lessons every day for 190 school days in a year
  • That’s 5 x 190 = 950 lessons per year
  • Five minutes wasted in every lesson is 5 x 950 = 4,750 minutes
  • 4,750 minutes is just over 79 hours
  • That’s over THREE WHOLE DAYS of learning lost per year, just from five minutes in each lesson (three days, seven hours and ten minutes, for precision fans).

Ensuring we attend every lesson punctually, and staying focused when we are there, is a marginal gain we can all make that could add up to a big overall effect over time.

Making a resolution

newyearsday

New Year’s resolutions are notoriously hard to keep. This can be because they are too ambitious. But the advantage of resolving to make a marginal gain is that it involves a small change – or perhaps a number of them! Making resolutions to stay focused, to ensure that all equipment for school is prepared the night before, to avoid distractions, or to be more punctual to every lesson…these are not impossible goals to set ourselves, but added up they could make a significant difference.

What will your New Year’s resolution be?

CRH Marginal Gains Assembly

 

Thanks to Keith Neville for the inspiration for this assembly.

Assembly: Value

Slide2

Take a look at the two coins above. They look so different! One, minted in 1988, is tarnished and dull. It’s marked around the edges with the impacts of thousands of other coins in hundreds of pockets, tills, machines and moneyboxes. The 2010 coin is shiny and bright, and the Queen’s profile looks markedly different. Yet both coins have the same value – they are worth exactly the same. The age, condition, and the year they were made makes no difference to what they are worth.

Slide3

These two coins look similar to the pennies. One is old and tarnished, the other shiny and new. But they do not have the same value. Despite the fact that they have the words “one pound” written on the front, the coin on the left is worthless, no longer legal tender, and only the coin on the right is worth £1 now.

Looking at these coins causes me to reflect on how we assign value to things. It seems clear that things are only worth what we agree together they are worth. If we agree, as a society, that one object is worth £1 and another is worthless, then that is the value that these objects have.

In the case of the coins, the condition of the object has no bearing on its value. However, with some other objects this is not the case.

Slide4

In the case of the two guitars above, we have an unusual situation. The brand new guitar on the left is worth much less than the one on the right, despite the fact that the one on the right has been on fire, has a melted scratchplate, and had a broken neck which had to be replaced. That’s because the guitar on the right was set on fire and smashed up by Jimi Hendrix at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival; it’s appalling condition is a testament to its place in the history of rock’n’roll.

This is not normally the case. As shown above, the value of the £120,000 Ferrari is not increased after it has been driven into a lamppost. In fact, more usually, we need to care for and look after the things we value so that they remain in good condition for us to enjoy.

Over the two years of my Headship to date, I have written three times to the Education and Skills Funding Agency to argue that the students of Churchill Academy and Sixth Form deserve a better learning environment. Twice the ESFA have agreed with the arguments we have presented – we are waiting to hear about the third! – and that is why we have the Alan Turing Building, complete with brand new IT facilities, and the new Science and Technology building under construction. That is why we are renovating and refurbishing classroom and improving the computer equipment across the site. These project all have a significant value – not just the financial resource required to put them in place, but the value they add to the learning experience for our students.

Slide10

We are lucky to learn and work in a beautiful, rural school site, with excellent and improving facilities. It is essential that we all work together to look after this place, ensuring that it is litter-free and kept in an excellent condition.

 

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Our values at Churchill determine all of our actions, and there have been many great examples of students demonstrating those values since we launched them in September. Maintaining those excellent habits will ensure that we all continue to contribute positively to the community we are building together.

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Year 7 Learning Groups: Humanities Heroes

There’s a long tradition of naming our Key Stage 3 Learning Groups at Churchill around a particular theme. The current Year 8 groups are named after endangered or at-risk species: Panda, Turtle, Lion, Jaguar, Leopard, Tiger, Gorilla, Rhino, and Polar Bear. There’s a great display in the ground floor Science corridor giving more details about these animals, and the work of the World Wildlife Fund to help protect them.

It’s the turn of the Humanities Faculty this year, so the learning groups in Year 7 have been named after British heroes from the fields of History, Geography, and Philosophy and Ethics. Hence we have 7Brunel, 7Seacole, 7Anscombe, 7Attenborough, 7Fiennes, 7Kingsley, 7Davison, 7Locke and 7Hume being taught right across the Academy! This week Mrs Amer, Director of Humanities, has been telling the students more about these Humanities heroes in assemblies. So here’s a run-down of who the learning groups are named after…

Brunel

IKBrunelChains

Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-1859) was named as one of the greatest Britons in a BBC poll. A famous engineer, he spent much of his life in Bristol where he designed the Great Western Railway, Temple Meads Station, the SS Great Britain, and the Clifton Suspension Bridge amongst many more achievements.

Hume

Allan Ramsay, David Hume, 1711 - 1776. Historian and philosopher

David Hume (1711-1776) was a Scottish philosopher and historian, best known for developing the system known as empiricism. He argued that all human knowledge is based on experiences; he also investigated the concept of miracles and put forward opposing scientific arguments.

Kingsley

Mary_Kingsley_West_African_Studies

Mary Kingsley (1862-1900) was an explorer. At a time when it was unheard of for women travel alone, Kingsley explored central and west Africa. Her work was vital in helping Europeans understand African cultures and the effects of the British Empire. Kingsley also took an important stand against slavery.

Davison

Emily_Wilding_Davison

Emily Wilding Davison (1872-1913) was a suffragette who campaigned for votes for women. She was arrested nine times for her protests, went on hunger strike seven times, and was force-fed in prison forty-five times. She died after being hit by King George V’s horse at the 1913 Epsom Derby when she walked onto the track during the race to protest for votes for women. Women were finally given the vote in 1918.

Locke

JohnLocke

John Locke (1632-1704) was a philosopher who is known as the “Father of Liberalism.” One of the earliest empiricists, he was one of the first thinkers to define the self as a continuity of consciousness. He was also a believer in the importance of proof: for Locke, ideas had to be capable of being tested repeatedly, and nothing was exempt from being disproven. Locke was also born in Wrington!

Fiennes

Ranulph_Fiennes_2014

Sir Ranulph Fiennes (1944- ) is an explorer and writer. He was the first person to visit the North and South Poles by surface means, and the first to cross the continent of Antarctica on foot. In 2009, at the age of 65, he became the oldest person to reach the summit of Mount Everest.

Seacole

Seacole_photo

Mary Seacole (1805-1881) was born in Jamaica. She was born mixed race, to a Scottish father and a free Jamaican mother. She overcame Victorian racial prejudice to serve as an outstanding nurse during the Crimean War and was named as the greatest black Briton in a 2004 BBC poll.

Anscombe

anscombe

Elizabeth Anscombe (1919-2001) was Professor of Philosophy at both Oxford and Cambridge. Her greatest work focused on the ideas of intention, action, and practical reason. Well known for being outspoken and opinionated, when accosted by a mugger in the street she told her attacker that it was ‘no way to treat a stranger’ – they stopped and talked instead.

Attenborough

david-attenborough

Sir David Attenborough (1926- ), the well-known broadcaster and naturalist, has done more perhaps than any living person to raise awareness of animal, plant and marine life on Earth, and the impact of human activity on the environment. Attenborough’s appetite for discovery demonstrated our core value of curiosity; he famously said:

“I just wish the world was twice as big and half of it was still unexplored.”

His most recent project, Blue Planet II, is currently being shown on BBC1.

We hope that naming our learning groups after such significant individuals will help raise awareness of their contribution to History, Geography, and Philosophy and Ethics and broaden our students’ understanding of these figures. What will we name our groups next year? Leave a comment with your suggestions!