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,‚ÄĚ 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! 

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.

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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:

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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 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!

Sharing a book

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Jim Hildrew at Grasmere School (date unknown)

This photograph hangs on my office wall. It’s a photograph of my grandfather, Jim Hildrew, when he was Headteacher of Grasmere primary school. Although it’s undated, we think it was taken at some point in the early 1960s.

I love this photograph for lots of reasons. Firstly, my grandad was a huge inspiration for me. He taught at Percy Main School in North Shields in the 1930s, before serving in the Royal Navy in the Second World War on minesweepers and as part of the D-Day landings. He came back to teaching after the war, settling into the school house in Grasmere that came as part of the job of Headteacher. His passion for teaching and learning was clearly infectious as his eldest son became a teacher and Head of House at Sedbergh School, and his youngest Рmy father Рa Headteacher himself. As the third generation Headteacher in my family, this photograph reminds me of the legacy that I try to uphold every day.

Secondly, I love the story the photograph tells. The mobile library wound its way through the Lake District lanes, visiting schools so that children could feed their appetite for reading. The girl on the left of the picture is already lost in her latest story, whilst the children leaning against the side of the van are so excited to share the books they’ve chosen. I especially like the young lad who has just realised there is a camera watching him!

But above all, I love the fact that this photograph captures my grandfather sharing in the children’s joy and love of reading. The girl he is talking to can’t wait to show him her book, and he’s frozen there in the moment of discovery with her. She knows that he loves books too, and sharing that love has brought them together in a common purpose. The relationships you can forge in sharing a story is one of the main reasons I got into teaching, and teaching English in particular, in the first place, and it’s still one of the most unalloyed pleasures that teaching brings.

Reading a book – getting lost in a story, involved in the characters, thrilled by twists and turns – is joyous. But¬†sharing¬†a book is even better. Seeing someone’s eyes light up when you ask them: “have you got to the bit when…” or “just you wait till you get to the end!” is one of the real privileges of teaching. Whenever I see a student stuck in a book around the site, I’ll always ask them what they’re reading, and how they’re finding it, because sharing your reading is often even better than the reading itself. It’s clear that my grandad knew that all those years ago, and I’m proud to carry on that tradition today.

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My first year at Churchill

 

I started at Churchill a year ago – and what a year it’s been! One of the first things I wanted to do as Headteacher was develop communication between home and school. To help with this, we relaunched the newsletter, redesigned the website, and I started this blog. Here are some of the highlights that have been captured in the Headteacher’s Blog over this first year in charge…

Taking stock and planning

I spent the first few months at Churchill looking, listening and learning around and about the Academy. In March, I gathered my thoughts in What have I learned?. This process led to the planning of the Strategic Priorities for Churchill – our blueprint for the way ahead over the coming years.

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How we learn

I have published a series of posts on learning and on developing a growth mindset, including You Can Learn Anything and How to Grow Your Brain. I also showed this really interesting video to families on my meet the Headteacher evenings. It describes some really interesting findings from research into the way in which praise can change students’ attitudes to learning and achievement. Take another look:

How to revise

I’ve also used this blog to help students preparing for exams. I started with How to revise: techniques that work, and I’m now part way through a series of How to revise posts on the six most effective revision techniques from cognitive science research. So far, I’ve outlined retrieval practice, spaced practice and elaboration. Make sure you follow the blog this year for the final three posts in this series!

Performing Arts

In January, I attended the Churchill Music! Young Musician of the Year competition, prompting me to write about The Power of Music  This year’s event is just around the corner, and I’m looking forward to it very much! It was also a production year and I had the chance to review West Side Story – I’m still  in awe of the brilliant show that the students and staff put on. The year was rounded off by the fantastic Christmas Concert which inspired me to write about how much I love the Junior Choir!

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The amazing West Side Story cast on the Playhouse stage

Assemblies

I’ve taken a few assemblies during the year! I love stitching together quite diverse examples into topics for my assemblies. For example, my assembly on Concentration featured coloured balls, an optical illusion, a cat gif and the dog from the Disney/Pixar film Up; my assembly on being Different featured metronomes, coke cans, Barack Obama and DNA. In Think Before You Speak I used a YouTuber, a tube of toothpaste, some ridiculous safety equipment and a poem by Emily Dickinson. I was relatively restrained before Christmas in discussing The 1960s as I talked about President Kennedy, the moon landings and an incredible mathematician called Katherine Johnson.

Fun

 

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A rowing sprint competition against the GB champion wasn’t in the job description…

There has been so much to enjoy this year! From Activities Week, through Sports Day, the Year 11 and Year 13 Balls, right up to Christmas at Churchill – and it’s all still to come again this year! I even got to go to a day out at Buckingham Palace

I can honestly say I’ve looked forward to coming into work every single day of the year. It’s a privilege to work with such polite and hardworking young people and such dedicated and expert staff. Here’s to many more years – and weekly blogs! – to come.

Christmas at Churchill

I’ve had a fantastic time enjoying my first Christmas at Churchill, witnessing all the traditions I’ve heard so much about first hand! We’ve got into the Christmas spirit with an array of spectacular festive knitwear on Wednesday and Thursday as lessons continued – it’s quite a sight to see a teacher dressed as an elf explaining the details of an exam mark scheme to a student wearing a fluffy reindeer jumper with a light-up red nose…

We also had a delicious Christmas lunch prepared on Wednesday and Thursday, with the main hall transformed into an elegant family dining room with crackers, streamers and squeaky blowouts!

Today, Friday, saw us celebrate Christmas proper. The day began early with the senior team in from 6:30am to cook and serve breakfast for all the staff of the Academy, to say thank you for all their hard work this year. I managed to grab some leftovers – it was delicious!

 

The day continued with our carol services at the Methodist and St John the Baptist Churches, alongside our in-school activities for students in the four houses. The Sixth Form did not let us down with their spectacular fancy dress parade around the Academy site at break time! See the website for some more photos of their amazingly creative costumes. They also put on a brilliant Revue performance in which I was honoured to play a small part.

As is traditional , the Sixth Form team had been busy putting on a little entertainment of their own. See if you can spot the teachers taking on Queen in our very own Bohemian Rhapsody:

I was also lucky enough to get a treat in the English Department’s Secret Santa draw which has set me up nicely for 2017…

A merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all!