Celebrating success

This Wednesday was our annual Presentation Evening. This fantastic event is the partner to our end-of-year Celebration of Success evenings, with the focus on those students who have excelled in their GCSE and A-level exam results over the summer. However, we recognise that school is about more than just the examination results that young people achieve, so it is also vital that we award prizes for service to the community, for progress and improvement, for compassion, for resilience, and above all for excellent and improved attitudes to learning over the course of the last year.

This year’s guest of honour was the wonderful Stefanie Martini. Stefanie was a student at Churchill from 2002 to 2009, leaving us to pursue an Art Foundation course, before applying to RADA to pursue acting. From there, Stefanie landed a role as Mary Thorne in Julian Fellowes’ Doctor Thorne for ITV, as well as the mysterious Lady Ev in the NBC fantasy series Emerald City, set in the world of the Wizard of Oz. She is perhaps best known for playing the role of a young Jane Tennison in Prime Suspect 1973, showing us the origins as a probationary police officer of the iconic Detective Inspector Tennison that Dame Helen Mirren brought to ITV in the 1990s. Her latest film, Hurricane, tells the story of Squadron 303, a group of Polish airmen who fought with the RAF in the Battle of Britain, fighting both prejudice on the ground as well as the Luftwaffe in the air. It is in cinemas now!

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Prize winners with Stefanie Martini, 12th September 2018

Stefanie spoke about her time at Churchill, and how it shaped the character that she has become. She explained how, when she fell behind with school work, she was supported and pushed to get back on track, and how failing to get the part she wanted in the school musical made her a better actress. There was a thread of steely determination running through her speech: despite being rejected seven times in one year from drama schools, she kept going – and in the next year, she was accepted to four different drama schools at once. Her message of self-belief, strength of character and the importance of pushing yourself out of your comfort zone in order to move forward was hugely inspiring to the young people (and the adults!) at the event.

It’s great to have alumni back at Churchill to speak to this year’s prize-winners. Not only does it show our current and only-just-left students what is possible with a Churchill education, but it is also a great opportunity to celebrate the success of students who – although they have left – always remain part of our school community.

Of course, a prize-giving ceremony can only have one prize winner in each category. Even though we gave out 139 prizes at this year’s Presentation Evening, there are hundreds, even thousands, of achievements, triumphs and successes that we don’t have a prize for, that don’t get their picture in the paper or their name in the newsletter. What I hope, however, is that we do recognise and celebrate those successes, however small, whenever and wherever we find them – because nobody ever tires of being told “well done.”

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!

Summer Time

We certainly know how to finish on a high here at Churchill! This week has seen four excellent Celebration of Success events held at the Academy. These events are a great way to finish the year, recognising the achievements of students who have excelled in particular subjects or as members of their tutor groups throughout the year. At each event, I read out the following quotation:

“If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little things. Excellence is not an exception – it’s an attitude.”

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This is the key to sustaining success. The students who received certificates as part of Celebration of Success – 1080 of them! – all demonstrated this. They were getting the little things right, day in day out, all the time. Turning up for school, on time, in the correct uniform. Listening carefully. Applying themselves. Working hard. Doing their best. Looking out for others. Caring. Smiling. Helping. Not just occasionally – but all the time. These “little things” build up an attitude and approach which contributes to bigger things, recognised in the awards handed out at Celebration of Success: the formation of an attitude which will contribute to excellence not just at school, but beyond.

Of course, not everyone wins awards at Celebration of Success, and not everyone has these habits of excellence. But they can be learned – and they can be deliberate acts. I was particularly struck by one tutor’s citation for their Tutee of the Year. The tutor said that, in the first few years of school, the student and the tutor hadn’t “clicked” and they hadn’t particularly impressed one another. But the tutee developed these habits of excellence, getting the little things right all the time, and the tutor saw this build up and recognised that this was someone deserving of recognition. It was one of the most gratifying handshakes of the week – celebrating the success of someone who had changed – and done so consciously – to ensure success.

In the midst of this celebration of success, it was serendipitous that our rescheduled Sports Day  also took place. And what a day! It was great that families were able to join us on the field to celebrate success in the sporting arena. The atmosphere was full of fun and enjoyment, and the Houses as fiercely competitive as ever. Despite a strong surge from Stuart, especially in the lower years, Tudor romped home as comfortable victors. I loved the whole day! There is a gallery of photos on the school website and on Facebook, and a few of my favourites are included below.

Before we break up for the summer, we say goodbye to some excellent colleagues who are leaving the Academy this year. In particular, I would like to pay tribute to Chris George, who has been at Churchill for over 20 years. I have personally found his wise counsel and listening ear invaluable since I started in January, and I know many colleagues who have been here a lot longer than me will say the same. I wish him well in his well-earned retirement.

Sports Day Selection (14)

Chris George: Chief Timekeeper

I wish all of you a restful, happy summer holiday!

See you in September!