The class of 2018

The last day of Term 5 is always an emotional one! Year 11 reach the end of their time in main school, whilst Year 13 reach the end of their time at Churchill altogether. We celebrated these milestones with our students today.

The day began for Year 11 with an English Literature GCSE exam, during which time we celebrated with Year 13. This year group have been wonderful ambassadors for the Academy, who have really made their mark on Churchill. We will remember them fondly as they head off to the next stage of their adventures, and look forward to hearing all about them!

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Year 13 Class of 2018

Once Year 11 had got the exam out of the way, it was time for them to celebrate. The students had a well deserved break before the final dance practice for the Ball.

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The final ballroom practice…next time it’ll be in all their finery!

After lunch there was the usual festival of shirt signing and photo-taking, with lots of happiness and just a few tears.

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Year 11 Class of 2018

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Hanover House Class of 2018

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Stuart House Class of 2018

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Tudor House Class of 2018

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Windsor House Class of 2018

We saw the day out with the end of Year 11 assembly, looking back over the students’ time with us. My final message to all our students moving on to their next stage is captured in the following quotation from my Headteacher hero, Albus Dumbledore:

 

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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 students with the knowledge and skills to make the best choices, so you can be what you truly are and deserve to be.

Singin’ in the Rain – Review

At one point in Saturday’s performance of Singin’ in the Rain, the character Cosmo Brown (Cai Williams/Ricky Parsons) delivered the line: “the show must go on. Come rain, some shine, come sleet, come snow, the show must go on.”  He nearly brought the house down.

Because this was no ordinary performance. Storm Emma and the “Beast from the East” had conspired together to shut down not only Churchill Academy & Sixth Form but much of the United Kingdom. Rehearsals were called off. In the midst of a Red Warning from the Met Office, Thursday evening’s performance was cancelled. Friday was also snowed off. But, with the words of Cosmo Brown ringing in their ears, the intrepid team of Mr Buckley, Mrs Lippe, Mrs Rees and Mr Stuart would not give up. The show – for one performance only – was on.

There had been no time for a technical or a dress rehearsal, and the two casts were combined and meshed together to ensure everyone got their chance on the Playhouse stage. But the cast and crew were so well-rehearsed, so professional, and so single-mindedly determined to put on a show that the audience would never have known it. Props and sets arrived on time, films flickered into life, and the rain fell from the sky right on cue. It was simply stunning.

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The actors adapted brilliantly to their shared stage time. Lucy Taylor and Molly Sprouting shone as Kathy Selden, whilst Melissa Harrold and Cara Crozier-Cole were hilariously grating as the none-too-bright megastar Lina Lamont. Jack Baker and Matt Hogg (R.F. Simpson) sparred with Ricky Parsons and Cai Williams (Cosmo Brown) with impeccable comic timing, supported by a cast as impressive in its depth and breadth as it was in the quality of its performance. But the show revolved around James Duby in the lead as silent-film-turned-musical star Don Lockwood. On stage for almost the whole show, James sang, danced and acted as though he was born to do it, holding the entire audience in the palm of his hand and bringing such energy and verve to the production that you couldn’t help but be carried along with it.

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This was a show packed with song and dance. From the chaotic comic choreography of “Make ‘Em Laugh” to the huge production number “Broadway Melody,” the dancing was exceptional. Singing was of the highest quality, whilst the pit band, conducted by Mr Spencer, would have held their own in any professional theatre. The melodramatic silent movies (and, later, the talking pictures) shot and edited by Will Maitland-Round had the audience in stitches for all the right reasons. And the unseen technical crew, running the props, costumes, set, lighting, sound and special effects for the first time ever, made the production look incredible and flow as smoothly as it could possibly have done.

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You might have expected the show to be tinged with disappointment, as it hadn’t turned out the way that everyone would have wanted it to. But actually, inside the theatre, the cast, crew and audience were united in a joyous celebration, as if the show had got onto the stage through the force of sheer willpower alone. We went home through the melting snow, singing the songs, and privileged to have been part of such a special, memorable performance.

Thank you to everyone involved – students, staff, and families – for making Singin’ in the Rain not only possible, but wonderful.

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Read this review on the Academy website here.

All photography by Neil Phillips – visit his website here.

Confidence

I remember the first lesson I ever taught. The thought of standing up in front of thirty children and expecting them to listen and do as they were told made my heart pound and a cold sweat prickle on my brow. I was full of nerves. But I walked into the classroom and I taught that lesson. It wasn’t brilliant – but I did it. And, having done one, the next one was easier – and better. Now, over twenty years into my career, I think nothing of standing up in in front of 270 students in assembly, or a hall full of parents on our Open Evenings, or even (as I did recently) in front of nearly 400 teachers in the conference centre at Old Trafford, Manchester!

This is how confidence in built. It’s not something that you either have or you don’t: it’s something you develop with practice. The first time you speak up in front of a group of people can be terrifying: what if I make a mistake? What if I get it wrong? What if they think I’m stupid? Those feelings never go away, but the next time they will be lessened, and the next time lessened further, until you think nothing of them at all. That’s when you start to come across as confident.

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At Churchill we aim to empower everyone at the Academy to develop knowledge, skills, character and confidence, as we believe these ingredients give young people (and adults!) the best chance of success later in life. We try to create opportunities for our young people to build confidence through practice. One example of this is our Year 8 public speaking competition. Every Year 8 student has the opportunity to give a speech in front of their class. The winners go through to the Year 8 finals, and the winners of that have a chance to compete in the regional Youth Speaks competition organised by the Rotary Club. Each time, the audience is bigger and less familiar, but the staging up allows the students to build their confidence each time.

The same was true at the fantastic Churchill Young Musician of the Year competition, held on Monday evening at St John’s Church in association with Churchill Music! Eight young musicians performed with such self-assurance, commitment and skill that the audience was gripped and enthralled by every one of them.

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The chair of the adjudication panel, violinist Ruth Rogers,  spoke afterwards about nerves, and about how even she gets nervous every time she performs. Her advice was to focus on another musician, rather than the audience, and to enjoy the performance. Our young musicians definitely benefitted from her advice: if they were nervous, they didn’t show it, and this enabled the audience to put their faith in the performers, to trust them, which allowed them to be carried away by the wonderful music making on display.

Over recent weeks I’ve been interviewing Year 11 students for places in our Sixth Form, and they have all presented themselves really well: good eye contact, a firm handshake, and clear, well articulated answers to my questions. Just like the musicians on Monday night, or the Year 8s the week before, they might have been nervous inside, but they came across as confident, self-assured young people. And it’s the impression you give which matters, not what’s happening inside. That impression of confidence gives people faith in you and your abilities, which in turn helps you to feel more confident in yourself.

So, even if you’re not feeling confident, pretend. Act as if you are. Because the next time, it’ll be easier, and the next time easier still, until, eventually, you’ll find that the confidence you were pretending to have has turned into the real thing. As five times Wimbledon champion and four time Olympic gold medallist Venus Williams said:

Believe in yourself. Even if you don’t, pretend that you do, and some day, you will.

USP TENNIS: WIMBLEDON S TEN GBR [E

 

My portrait

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Artist Katie Jackson with my portrait and me, January 2018

In the summer term of 2017, Mr Downing approached me with the idea for an annual Academy portrait painting event. I thought it was a great idea – a long term project to celebrate the teaching staff at Churchill Academy. The aim is that each year students will be able to vote for a member of staff to have their portrait painted by one of our A level Art students, and we would build a gallery of portraits over time. So, would I mind being the first subject, to kick the competition off? I jumped at the chance! Year 13 student Katie Jackson was selected as the first artist and, after a brief photoshoot during Activities week, Katie went off and developed the painting, and brought it in to present to me just before Christmas.

It’s a strange thing, seeing yourself through the eyes of someone else. It’s not like a photograph, or a mirror – Katie has interpreted me and put that interpretation onto canvas. I couldn’t be happier with the outcome – I absolutely love it! I feel like she’s really “got me” and managed to communicate that through the image she’s made. It is a fantastic painting, an exciting beginning to this project.

I’d like to thank Katie for all the time and effort she put into the picture, which is truly remarkable. Katie is now studying Make Up for Media and Performance at Arts University Bournemouth and clearly has a bright future ahead of her! The portrait will be on display in reception this term before going into the gallery.

Who will be the next member of staff, and the next artist? Watch this space!

Christmas at Churchill 2017

The last week of term before Christmas is a magical time at Churchill. We keep our lessons going right up until the end, but on the final day we all get together to celebrate. The Sixth Form lead the way with their annual fancy dress parade, closely followed by the four Houses with their carol services, tutor events and mini-competitions. Enjoy the photos below, and I wish everyone in the Churchill Academy & Sixth Form community (and beyond) a very merry Christmas and a happy new year!

 

 

Looking forward, looking back

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Janus: the Roman god of transitions, beginnings and endings

This week, at the end of the academic year, I have been conducting my assemblies with students and talking about the Roman god Janus. Janus was always depicted with two faces: one, looking forward into the future; the other, looking back into the past. I have been doing some Janus-like reflection as we reach the end of this year and look forward to the next.

Olympic lessons

I started this year on the Headteacher’s blog with Lessons from the Olympics. Inspired by Rio 2016, I looked back on the inspiration of Ruby Harrold, a Churchill alumnus who represented Team GB in gymnastics. This week it was my pleasure to meet Ruby, who passed on her inspiration to some stars of the future.

Churchill at 60

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We have all been looking back this year on the history of Churchill Academy & Sixth Form, both on this blog and on the dedicated page on our website. This week, I had the great privilege of meeting Ivan Devereux, our first ever Head Boy, who joined the brand new secondary school in 1957 from the old V.C. Church of England school which used to stand by the crossroads. He remembered starting in the very first classes, including the names of the teachers listed in the School Log Book! He was given a tour of the Academy by our new Tudor House Captains, and showed us the dictionary he was given as Head Boy with a signed bookplate from the first Headmaster, Reginald Dennis. I was fascinated by the old school badge: like our current one, it reflects the four houses of Windsor, Stuart, Hanover and Tudor, but using symbols instead of colours. House pride has been part of the school for as long as there has been a school here! It was fitting, therefore that this week I have officially welcomed our new House Captains with their embroidered polo shirts at our Celebration of Success events.

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Looking ahead, we have our 60th Anniversary Gala Evening to mark 60 years since the official opening of the school taking place on 23rd September. You can buy your tickets here for what promises to be an incredible night to celebrate the history and the future of Churchill.

The Academy Site

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Looking back over the course of this year it’s hard to believe that the Alan Turing Building was an empty patch of earth in September, and is now a fully operational facility for our students with brand-new computer rooms and classrooms. Looking ahead, work is due to start in August on our fourteen-classroom Science and Technology building, which will transform the opportunities for students in those subjects and lead to the decommissioning of the original 1956 Tudor building.

Over the summer there are lots of other works going on across the Academy to redevelop our learning environment, including the new Student Services facility above the Library and brand new study facilities for our Sixth Formers.

Rest, relax, recharge

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The students and the staff have worked really hard this year, pushing themselves to go that extra mile every single day. At this week’s Celebration of Success events, it has been a privilege to recognise some of those hardworking, dedicated students and present them with their certificates. I wish everyone in the Churchill Academy & Sixth Form community a restful and relaxing summer break, and look forward to seeing you in September refreshed, recharged and ready for the next challenge!

Activities Week 2017

Activities Week is a great opportunity for students to learn something new, beyond their “normal” curriculum. I am really proud that Churchill continues to run such a diverse, engaging and exciting Activities Week programme, which this year has included (to name a few) animation, archery, art, beauty, bushcraft, cake decorating, candle making, chess, circus skills, cookery, computing, crafts, cycling, dancing, driving, film studies, first aid, football, frisbee, golf, horse riding, illustration, jewellery, journalism, sailing, shooting, skiing, snowboarding, surfing, textiles and a trip to the zoo! We’ve also given students experiences abroad, with trips to France, Belgium and Italy as well as the popular Surf Trip to Cornwall.

Activities week shows that learning isn’t just about what goes on in the classroom, but stretches far beyond. As well as learning to surf, or ride a horse, or make a scented candle, students are learning about collaborating with others who they may not usually get the chance to work with. And, of course, to enjoy themselves in the process!

Ten things I loved about Sports Day 2017

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30th June 2017 was Sports Day. For the full results – including the fifteen house records broken on the day – please see the Academy website. Here are ten things I loved about the day.

1. The taking part

It was great to see the winners, but what was even better was to see those students mopping up points for their house by taking part. Even if they walked the 1500m, they still got a point for finishing, and this kind of commitment is fantastic to lift the spirits of the houses.

2. The sporting spirit

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In the high jump, competitors who were out of the competition stayed on to cheer their opponents on as the bar was raised. In the track events, when one competitor stumbled their rival in the next lane stopped to help them up. When athletes were struggling to finish, friends  would step up to run alongside them. Sports Day was about kindness alongside competition.

3. The video

Will Maitland-Round (aka Boris) was wandering round all day with a camera, loading a GoPro onto Jack Panicucci for the sprint, and interviewing competitors and supporters alike. The end product, as the video says, is EPIC.

4. The music

Mr Smith is never happier than when he’s behind the wheels of steel, providing the tunes to soundtrack Sports Day. There was an impromptu outbreak of disco at one point, and One Direction and Carly Rae Jepsen were unexpected hits. Naturally, my personal highlight was not one but two Taylor Swift tracks – although Mr Hart interrupted Love Story so the competitors could hear the gun to start a race. I must speak to Team PE about their priorities… A special mention also to the fantastic Sports day band who put together some brilliant music.

5. The Sixth Form Council

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The Council always do a great job with their Sports Day refreshment stand, but this year they expanded their role, deputising for Mr Smith to DJ (loved the Stevie Wonder!) and throw some shapes of their own. They showed great initiative and teamwork, and were every bit the role models for our younger students to look up to.

6. The House Pride

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It’s a big tradition to deck yourself out in house colours for Sports Day, and as the day went on the extravagance of the face-paint increased. I love the creativity in some of them – and the house pride!

7. The organisation

I love a well-organised event, and Team PE run a very tight ship on Sports Day. Everyone has a job to do, everything runs to time, and everyone pitches in. It’s because every detail has been planned for – and is executed so well – that the day is such a success.

8. The barbecue

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Our catering team put on a fantastic barbecue every year, and this year’s was absolutely delicious – and very popular!

9. The community

More families than ever came along to enjoy Sports Day with us this year, and it was great to bring the Academy community together to celebrate the successes and cheer on the competitors. We were also joined by several of our Academy Governors – our Chair of Governors, Mr Poole, even treated me to an ice-cream!

10. The atmosphere

No photograph or video can truly capture the wonderful atmosphere of a Churchill Academy Sports Day. The warmth and respect in the relationships between staff and students, the teamwork and trust between the staff, and the kindness, sportsmanship and friendly rivalry between the students themselves shone through. It’s one of those rare occasions when the whole student body gathers together, and looking out at everyone as I announced the results it was quite awe-inspiring. Team PE are already planning Sports Day 2018 and they have promised it will be even bigger and even better. I can’t wait!

 

Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme

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We are really proud at Churchill to be an officially licensed organisation to deliver the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme. The DofE gives young people a structure and framework to contribute to the community through voluntary work, whilst improving skills and developing confidence, commitment, resilience and teamwork. As I wrote in last week’s blog, I believe that through taking part and making the most of the opportunities presented to you, you make the most of yourself. The DofE  is a fantastic opportunity and I am glad to say that many of our students grasp the opportunity with both hands!

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Successful Duke of Edinburgh award students in March 2017

 

In 2015-16, 71 students successfully completed their Bronze Award, alongside 9 Silver and 1 Gold. In 2016-17 that figure rose to 97 Bronze Awards, 17 Silver and 3 Gold. This year there are close to 100 students on the Bronze Award register, and almost all of them completed their assessed expedition in the searing heat of the weekend of 16th to 19th June. Their determination to succeed was fantastic, walking ten miles a day over the two days with a full pack in the blazing sun. Equally fantastic was the feedback from the official assessors: “It is probably the best Bronze expedition I have worked on from organisation, information provided to me, structure, fantastic kids, great staff to work with and food!”

Well done to all the students who have taken on the DofE challenge this year. To all those who are thinking about doing it in the future – what are you waiting for? And finally, thank you to all the staff who give up their time and energy to help make DofE run so successfully at Churchill, especially Mr Madeline and our DofE coordinator Mr Tinker.

Grenfell Tower

On Wednesday of this week, took a train into London. I was leading a course called Becoming a growth mindset school for the Association of School and College Leaders, all about the work we are doing at Churchill to develop students’ attitudes to improve the effectiveness of learning. I was up at five to catch an early train, and caught up on some reading as we sped through the morning sunshine. As we entered the urban sprawl of the capital, I put my book down and glanced through the window.

That was when I saw it.

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Grenfell Tower, June 14th 2017

I’d seen on the news on my phone that the Grenfell Tower was ablaze, but I hadn’t realised how close to the tragedy my train would pass. A column of smoke stretched up high into the cloudless sky. A helicopter hovered overhead. The tower itself was a blackened shell. Hoses sprayed water over the smouldering walls. Through the train window it was curiously silent, like a TV on mute – but real. Horribly real.

The survivors – those who made it out of the nightmare – have lost everything. Their clothes, possessions, their money, their documents. They are replaceable, of course, but my thoughts drifted to family photographs, heirlooms, those special things you keep not because of their monetary value but because of what they mean to you. Those things are irreplaceable. But the survivors are the lucky ones. Some – how many we still don’t know – have lost their loved ones, and lost their lives.

The next day, on Thursday, I heard about Ines Alves, a 16-year-old student at Sacred Heart School in Hammersmith. She was revising for her Chemistry GCSE on the 13th floor of Grenfell Tower when her father noticed smoke rising from the fourth floor. She quickly dressed in jeans and a top, grabbed her phone and her revision notes, and ran. She and her family got out of the building safely. “I was trying to revise while we waited downstairs as we thought it was a small fire at first but it was impossible,” she told the Daily Mirror.

Still wearing the clothes she had worn when she fled the tower, Ines went to school in the morning to sit her exam. “Considering what had happened I think the exam went OK. I want to do A-level chemistry and I need an A in science so I was thinking of my future when I decided to sit the exam,” she said. And she wasn’t the only one.

After the exam, Ines went back to rejoin her family and distribute food and water around the community centres as part of the relief work. “I just wanted to do all I could to help,” she said.

Being so close on Wednesday to such a shocking event has deeply affected me. It’s easy to say “my thoughts are with all those affected by this tragedy,” but I haven’t stopped thinking about them. Stories like that of Ines Alves show that, in the midst of tragedy, there are people – especially young people – full of determination, courage, kindness and hope. Even amidst the horror, there is always hope.

UPDATE: August 2017

Ines Alves got an A in her Chemistry GCSE. Congratulations!