Welcome back – September 2022

Term has started really smoothly at Churchill. Our staff training day on Thursday 1st September focused on expectations and priorities for the year ahead – with the same messages emphasised to students through the start of term assemblies in the first full week back. Our new Year 7 and Year 12 students had the school to themselves on Friday 2nd September, to acclimatise to their new surroundings and prepare for their “step up.”

Priorities for the year ahead

As a school we are focused on three priorities for this academic year:

  1. Challenge: to ensure that the highest expectations of behaviour, learning and progress are evident in every experience that students have at Churchill
  2. The role of the tutor: to ensure that tutoring engages students in the values, ethos and purpose of the Academy, developing the inclusion, diversity and sustainability agendas and providing exemplary pastoral and academic support and guidance
  3. Assessment: to ensure that assessment provides valuable and accurate formative and summative information which accurately reflects students’ learning and progress, to inform next steps

There is more detail on these in the Academy Priorities and Development Plan on our website. The three priorities have been identified to ensure that our students continue to make the best possible progress through the curriculum at the Academy, with the right balance of challenge and support around them.

Expectations

In the start of year house assemblies, we introduced the Senior Leadership Team to the students and laid out our expectations. These included the six learning values which underpin our systems at Churchill Academy & Sixth Form. We believe in the value of:

  • Determined and consistent effort
  • A hunger to learn new things
  • Challenging ourselves to go beyond what is comfortable
  • Viewing setbacks and mistakes as opportunities to learn and grow
  • Seeking and responding to feedback
  • Encouraging others to succeed

These values – especially the first – inform the effort grades we include on each student’s progress report, so we took the opportunity to run through the criteria teachers use to award “Good” or “Excellent” effort grades. We emphasised the fact that any student, no matter their ability, can meet the criteria for “Good” or “Excellent” effort – and it is effort that will ensure the best possible progress and attainment.

We also took the opportunity to run through the Top 5 Classroom Behaviour expectations that we established last year, to ensure that students know what is expected of them – every lesson, every time.

  1. Strong start: We arrive on time, line up and enter the classroom calmly
  2. Full attention: We are immediately silent and face the speaker when called to attention 
  3. Full effort: We apply ourselves with our full effort to the learning tasks set
  4. Full focus: We focus all our attention on the learning tasks set
  5. Calm finish: At the end of the lesson we wait in silence for the member of staff to dismiss us

We also reminded students of the Code of Conduct and the Academy’s mobile phone policy. It has been fantastic to see students stepping up to these expectations in this first week, starting the term in just the right frame of mind. But a school year is a marathon, not a sprint – and we expect our students to maintain their high standards consistently throughout the year.

Sustaining Sustainability

This week Mrs Franklin (the Academy’s Sustainability and Marketing Manager) joined me to present to a national conference of School Business Leaders. We were asked to present our work on reducing the Academy’s carbon footprint towards our goal of net-zero by 2030, and we also took the opportunity to look more broadly at our sustainability priority.

Many of the things we spoke about in our presentation are captured in the blog post I wrote around the #COP26 summit in Glasgow last November – Going Green: Churchill and #COP26. We emphasised how important it is to us that sustainability is one of the five priorities in the Academy’s five-year strategic plan, and that sustainability is driven by our students – as we owe it to them to protect the planet they will grow up on. In fact, I will be judging the students’ Seeking Sustainability competition entries next week!

Solar PV array on the roof of the Athene Donald Building

Mrs Franklin was able to update the conference delegates on the impact of some of our carbon reduction work:

  • Reviewing our controls and boiler optimisation so that boilers are only on when they are absolutely needed has saved 22,000 kWh of energy
  • The replacement of our lighting with LED units has saved 150,000 kWh on electricity
  • The solar panels (or photovoltaic cells as they’re more properly called) which cover much of our roof space across the site can deliver up to 40% of the Academy’s electricity needs in peak summer weather
  • The introduction of point-of-use hot water heaters mean that our boilers can be completely switched off for long periods of time in warm weather, saving 300,000 kWh in gas

Finally, Mrs Franklin was able to present an updated carbon emissions chart which shows we have reduced our carbon footprint by 70% since 2015 – a further 20% reduction since the 2020 figures.

This presentation wasn’t all celebration however. As a school, we have picked almost all of the “low hanging fruit” in our battle to reduce our carbon footprint. The next stage of our journey to net zero involves the bigger challenge: reducing or removing our dependence on natural gas completely. As we look at heating and cooling solutions across the Academy’s estate, to replace our ageing gas boilers, we really want to find low-carbon solutions. Our Trustees last week commissioned work to explore how best to achieve this.

What we already know is that we will need additional funding to enable this work. We also know that the Department for Education is facing an estimated £11.4 billion bill just to bring the school building estate up to standard across the UK – and that’s before they begin to think about decarbonising that estate. And so, whilst we are grateful for the existence of the DfE’s Sustainability and climate change: a strategy for the education and children’s services systems – we feel that it doesn’t go far enough. If we are serious about net zero, we need to tackle the big ticket items which contribute to our carbon footprint: gas-fired heating systems, and emissions from transport. Whilst we can make progress on these issues ourselves, we’re going to need help if we’re going to solve them for good – and that means investment to back up the sentiments.

We know our students are ambitious for a greener future – and we owe it to them to deliver it.

What makes a home? Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History month

Every June since 2008, people from across the UK have celebrated Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month (GRTHM). With celebration, education and efforts to raise awareness of the histories and experiences of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people, GRTHM helps to tackle prejudice, challenge myths and to amplify the voices of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people.

At Churchill we are proud to have students from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities and heritage as part of our Academy. We work hard to ensure that our school is inclusive to students of all backgrounds, and this means understanding the context and history of their communities. I found the video “Roads From The Past” informative and useful in helping me to understand more about the history of the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.

I also found this timeline poster fascinating, tracing the history of the communities from 998AD to the present day. I was struck but the long history of persecution and discrimination faced by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people, including in the holocaust of the Second World War and right up to the present day.

Under our Academy value of “curiosity,” we expect our students to be hungry to learn and to seek to fill in gaps in their knowledge. We can all do more to help ensure that everybody – no matter their background, identity or culture – is welcome at Churchill, but making sure we understand each other better. I found the materials around Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller history month really interesting, as they helped me close gaps in my understanding of this often misunderstood culture. I hope that you find the same.

To find out more visit the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month 2022 website here.

The Maths Challenge

Guest post by Mr Thomas, Maths teacher

One of the most rewarding parts of my job as a maths teacher is watching students prepare for and participate in the various Maths Challenges that take place throughout the academic year.

At Churchill Academy & Sixth Form, there is a proud and long-standing tradition of entering students to sit these extra-curricular mathematics competitions, and participation numbers are on the up!

Having coordinated the Maths Challenge competitions at Churchill for the last two years, I felt it was time to write this blog. Why? Mainly – to celebrate the successes of our fantastic mathematicians, but also to share the Maths Challenge experience with students who may not have competed in one (yet), as well as parents, carers, grandparents and other members of the Academy community…. there’s even a chance for you to put your maths skills to the test with some questions from the latest Maths Challenges.

So, what is a Maths Challenge?

Each year, we enter students to sit the UKMT Mathematics Challenges. The UKMT (United Kingdom Mathematics Trust) is a national charitable organisation that was founded in 1996. Their headline aim is to “to advance the education of young people in mathematics” by organising and promoting enrichment events involving problem solving and team work. Papers are completed with no calculator, no measuring equipment – just a pencil, some paper and 5 possible answers to choose from.

There is no doubt that the Maths Challenges are aimed at high-attaining mathematicians – the competitions are designed to stretch the most able mathematicians across the country. But in our opinion – a good work ethic, willingness to take on a challenge and a positive bond with mathematics are equally important attributes.

There are 3 main Maths Challenges throughout an academic year are:

  • Senior Maths Challenge (SMC) – aimed at Sixth Formers and selected high attaining students in Years 10 and 11.
  • Intermediate Maths Challenge (IMC) – aimed at students in Years 9, 10 and 11.
  • Junior Maths Challenge (JMC) – aimed at students in Years 7 and 8.


As I have already mentioned, one of the most satisfying parts of my jobs is seeing the sheer number of students putting themselves forward to take part in these optional competitions, which are designed to challenge them on problem solving mathematics that is often far beyond the scope of their studies within lessons in school.

So far this year, students have taken part in the senior and intermediate challenges in November and February, respectively. I am proud to say that we have had more participants in these two competitions than ever before, with 178 entries across both challenges. This is purely down to our current cohort of students showing huge levels of determination and perseverance, and these stats are a credit to them!

The Junior Maths Challenge takes place later this year on 27th and 28th of April.

How do the results work?

In each Maths Challenge, students are competing to obtain a Gold, Silver or Bronze certificate.

It is worth stressing that at Churchill, we are not solely focussed on ‘who did the best’ – it is an achievement in itself to take part. In our eyes, a successful challenge is one where a group of determined and enthusiastic students push themselves with some challenging mathematics. We were thrilled this year when students outside of our top sets put themselves forward to take part in the IMC. Two-thirds of the students who took part from Miss Morris and Miss Piper’s set 2 classes went on to achieve a certificate – a fantastic feat, and proof that maths challenges at Churchill Academy are not solely for our top set students.

In our eyes, a successful challenge is one where a group of determined and enthusiastic students push themselves with some challenging mathematics.

In the most recent competition (the Intermediate Maths Challenge) 74% of students that participated scored high enough to receive a gold, silver or bronze certificate – another record-breaking figure for Churchill students in this event! When you consider that the national ‘certificate rate’ is 50%, you can see why we as a Maths Department are so impressed with our students and so keen to celebrate their outstanding results.

On Tuesday 15th March, students met for an assembly where I was able to share some of these statistics with them. Students received their gold, silver and bronze certificates from Mr Hildrew and had their photos taken, as you can see.

What happens after a Maths Challenge?

For students that perform exceptionally well, follow-on rounds await. Several thousand students across the UK are invited by the UKMT to sit the ‘Kangaroo’ paper, following each of the three challenges during the year. Invitations and the paper sat depends on each students’ year group.

At Churchill, 11 pupils qualified for this year’s Kangaroo paper following the IMC. You guessed it – another Churchill record!

Going one better is Bruce Butson, a Year 11 student who has qualified for an Olympiad follow-on round – the UKMT’s most prestigious challenge. Bruce is one of only around 600 pupils across the country to have qualified this year, based on his outstanding score in the IMC.

Bruce has agreed to share his thoughts and experiences of sitting various maths challenges during his five years at Churchill:

I have really enjoyed participating in the maths challenge each year. The challenge gives you the opportunity to push yourself and build upon your classroom learning, in a different style to traditional exams. The problem solving aspect means you have to apply yourself to each question and really focus when you get to the later questions. Having done this each year and competed in all of the different challenges (junior, intermediate and senior), I have always been able to find some interest and entertainment whether that be through the added difficulty or new understanding to answer tough questions I couldn’t answer before. In addition to this, I was able to see how I did against the rest of the country which was really motivating.

How would you get on?

Each Maths Challenge consists of 25 questions. Multiply that by 3 and that means 75 different questions across the Senior, Intermediate and Junior competitions in one academic year (no surprise that the maths involved in each competition is slightly trickier!). I have chosen 5 of them.  

Take a look at the questions below and see if you can work out the correct answer (remember – pen and pencil only!). Just a reminder that the JMC is aimed at 11-13 year olds, the IMC aimed at 13-16 year olds and SMC sat by students aged 15-18.

Maths challenge try-at-home questions

At the bottom of the blog, you will find the solutions, along with an explanation as to why each particular answer is correct. No peeking!

If you’ve got this far, hopefully you now know a little more about the Maths Challenges at Churchill than you did at the beginning of this post. You have seen our fantastic gold, silver and bronze mathematicians, you have heard from one of our best also had a little taste as to what it is like to sit a Maths Challenge yourself.

This is completely optional, but we would love to know how you did on the five questions above. If you’re happy to tell us how many you got correct, please fill in an extremely short questionnaire by clicking here (you can do this anonymously if you like!).

If you ever have any queries about the Maths Challenges sat here at Churchill Academy & Sixth Form, please feel free to get in touch. We hope these upward trends continue over the months and years to come!

Mr Thomas (DAT@churchill-academy.org)

Maths Challenge try-at-home solutions

When students lead

One of the central planks of our long term plan at Churchill is to “develop leadership which helps create the leaders of the future.” We know that students benefit from developing their leadership skills, both in terms of their confidence and character, their success in learning, and their long-term prospects. This is why we have been working hard since 2020 to improve and enhance our student leadership programme, to give students the opportunity to lead within and beyond the classroom.

This past week it has been evident just how successful these innovations have become. Since half term, I have seen:

  • Students leading house assemblies to launch the whole-school sustainability competition
  • The student-led inclusion and diversity group making a presentation to the Academy Trust Board on their priorities for tackling micro-aggressions by improving education and understanding of diversity and the power of language
  • Student ambassadors giving tours of the Academy to candidates for jobs at Churchill, and students applying from other schools to join our Sixth Form
  • A student panel from Years 7 to 11 interviewing candidates for Deputy Headteacher at the Academy, and providing insightful and perceptive feedback which helped the selection committee make a decision about the successful candidate
  • Sixth Form leaders assisting with the setup and organisation of Wednesday’s Careers Convention
  • The Green Team offering Duke of Edinburgh volunteering placements as part of their environmental initiatives
  • The Student Receptionist programme offering Year 8 students the opportunity to build responsibility, initiative and confidence during their day’s experience
  • Students leading learning through presentations and peer assessment and feedback
  • Performing Arts Captains leading rehearsals and performances in music, dance and drama
  • Students showing leadership on the sports fields and courts, as captains and competitors
  • The Sixth Form Council proposing an integrated fundraising programme to support the whole-school non-uniform day on 18th March

And this is just what I have seen, and just in the past two weeks!

We know that every student can demonstrate leadership skills, and It feels like the programme has taken root and is flourishing. They are also logging their evidence on the Unifrog system, so that they can track their skills over time and use them when preparing CVs and working towards careers over the coming years. The leaders of the future are right here in our student community – and the future is bright.