Don't get too over-excited just yet, but I think I detect 'green shoots of recovery' in a recently neglected area of TPS...For example: In Music, we have a new Head of Department, the talented Mrs Joyce, who arrived at the start of this term and positively fizzes with enthusiasm! She made her first public appearance at the lovely Summer Music Concert in St Peter's Church last Wednesday evening, when I was also able to confirm that the Academy's Governors have committed a considerable sum to upgrading the Music Department - buildings and equipment.I have also sourced three practice room pianos which will arrive shortly. Mrs Joyce is currently compiling her own pretty large 'shopping list' and our plan is that the upgrade will be completed next calendar year - hopefully to be properly in place by this time in 2014...Throughout our regular periods of 'turbulence', there has been one constant: Mrs Voller, who has had to step in to caretake the Department on several occasions. She has always done it with enthusiasm and commitment and continues to give freely of her time at weekends - taking kids off to play at summer fetes, for example. I am very grateful for all her work.I know it's very early days, but I have high hopes that, this year, Music can really begin to take off and outdo Dance & Drama within the specialism....
It's Y11 Leavers' Day today. A day that we all dread and they all love. Teenagers do make me laugh: today they will weep and hug and slap backs and sign books and draw parts of the anatomy on each other's shirts like they'll never see them again in their lives - yet on Monday they're all back here doing GCSEs or Exam preparation - go figure!I don't know where this ritual came from - I blame 'Glee' for the increasing Americanisation of our teenagers - next we'll be 'graduating high school' and throwing our mortar boards in the air - yuk! It's just not British!I must be getting old - I find it increasingly exhausting patrolling the corridors and scowling at the not so little darlings. In actual fact this is the quietest Leavers' Day I have ever encountered, because this Year Group is just delightful.They have been witty and inventive in their pranks with none of the malice that can sometimes mar these events. Their assembly is well-planned and showcases our talents and reflects our continuing ethos.It's all a far cry from days of yore - I remember being a Deputy Headteacher in Gloucestershire in the 1990s: at the very middle class comprehensive up the road from my school, things used to get so bad that the Head hired Group 4 to police the event in school!Thank goodness our lot are so well-behaved. So Goodbye Y11 & Good Luck. Can't wait for a little lie down after midday once I've got you all safely off site!.........and Hello again on Monday!
A lovely tribute to Mr Ramshaw in last week's Petersfield Herald, having been named Teacher of the Year in the Life in Petersfield Magazine Awards. Well done!That event and the conclusion of the Leveson Report got me reflecting upon a Head's relationship with the media and so-called 'celebrity'. I, too, have been through the tabloid wringer - and it wasn't pleasant. The Y11s were reminding me of it the other day, with a twinkle in their eye! I haven't forgotten the day I walked into school to be confronted with hundreds of copies of The Sun!We have an excellent relationship with our local papers, for whose staff I have the utmost respect. On the other hand, the tabloid journalists I encountered were dishonest, unscrupulous and utterly ruthless. It was a real eye-opener. For a couple of days I was clearly easy meat to the tabloids, radio and daytime TV.I had my photo plastered all over the redtops (used without my permission). I was lied to by a reporter from the best-selling tabloid who assured me that "no-one would be interested in the story", then promptly published it two days later; was decribed as 'bumbling' and 'incompetent' in The Sun and Daily Mail, was invited onto the Phil & Holly show where I would have looked like a right 'nana', and even became the butt of a Frankie Boyle joke!We get many requests to feature in the media. I turn them all down. We were invited to participate in some Channel 4 Sex Education programme - I gave that one a wide berth . We were even sounded out to do 'Educating Hampshire' rather than 'Educating Essex': I said no thanks. As it happens, that's not a bad programme and I rather regret we turned it down, now, since it managed to show comprehensive education in a really positive light.I have every sympathy with those ordinary families who suddenly find themselves in the eye of a tabloid storm. I got a tiny inkling of it and never want to experience it again, which is why I shout: "I'm NOT a Celebrity - get me outta here!"
I haven't had the opportunity to mention last week's brilliant Rock Challenge performance: TPS entered the open heats at the Portsmouth Guildhall last Wednesday evening.We had a superb piece about the abuse of young Aboriginal children in Australia in the last century. Ethnic Australians were removed from their families and 'Westernised' and our Rock Challenge entry powerfully conveyed the trauma and heartbreak of that period. I thought it was superb and we won awards on the night for aspects of our work. But we didn't qualify for the Premier League finals in June, which was very disappointing (and quite mystifying) for everyone.Once again, we had fantastic support from our loyal parents and the many staff involved gave their all on the long day and in the months beforehand. The kids were tremendous - I was immensly proud of them all. As ever, they were all immaculately behaved, courteous and supportive of all the schools - and they danced brilliantly!My thanks to everyone involved and here's to next year!
So Mr Gove says that English schools are handicapped in the 'global race' because we work too short daily hours and too long school holidays...Hmm.He made these observations at a conference at The Spectator magazine. He seems to have rather conveniently glossed over the fact that many English schools (i.e. a lot of the private ones) actually have far longer holidays - a quick scan of some nearby independent schools reveals that they usually have about 16 weeks holiday a year, whilst we have 12 . Ah, but they work longer days and Saturday mornings to compensate - er not really - not these days. Not many private day schools do the Saturday morning thing anymore. Work longer? They may have longer school days, but a quick scan of their timings suggests that they also have longer breaks and lunchtimes. In fact one nearby private school has its kids in actual lessons for slightly less time than TPS, whilst another has just a little more. Mr Gove is strangely silent on whether these schools should do more hours and more term! Funny That!And now let's look at the evidence of these Far Eastern schools: according to the OECD, English schools teach for 7250 hours per year. Japanese schools teach 6,300, Korean 6000, whilst the education system in Hong Kong mirrors the English in taught time and school holidays, as does Singapore. Only Shanghai, of the world's 'top' education systems, teaches more. In fact Mr Gove might do better to damn us for teaching so much more than the Far East and yet still underperform, according to his selective yardsticks! Funnily enough, Finland, which tops the achievement charts, teaches only 5,750 hours and, apparently, has a 15 minute break in each hour where kids have to go outside and chill (literally?!)...Thus it appears that England's state schools already do teach for longer than most of the Far East and than many of our independent schools. Which leaves you kinda wondering if there's another motive lurking here in Mr Gove's thinking - or am I just getting too suspicious in my old age?Oh well, mustn't grumble...
This week I am interviewing Y8s about their Learning Pathways. In the olden days we used to call this Options, but things change. It's an absolute delight to meet these young people and learn of their plans - a real perk of my job.The Government has tried to crowbar in so much change during this parliament that parents cannot be blamed for being totally confused about what's now 'in' and what's 'out'. Indeed I went to a conference in London in March and only one thing was clear: that nothing is actually clear!Mr Gove is firmly of the opinion that all young people should study a language and the history and geography of this country until they are 16, but he hasn't actually made it compulsory. That's why he created the 'English Baccalaureate' or EBACC, as it's popularly known. To try to lever this into our very crowded curriculum, he's made the EBACC an 'accountability measure' i.e. the school gets judged on how many students 'pass' the EBACC.It may come as a bit of a shock, but I do partially agree with Mr Gove! I have always advised students to opt for a Language and a Humanity if they intend to apply to a top University - it makes absolute sense. Universities and employers like to see evidence of broad academic study at GCSE and it would be unwise not to be able to show this when applying. That is why we have compromised on Mr Gove's EBACC by stipulating that students in top sets for English/Maths should take EBACC subjects in their Learning Pathways choices. However, I include Sociology and RPE within my definition of a Humanity and regard them as equally valid - even if Mr Gove doesn't quite seem to.What matters most at Options time is that kids choose what they like doing and enjoy - everything else is secondary to this. So here's to a good fortnight of meeting lovely Y8s with clear ideas for the future and no conflicts with their parents about subject choices - if only!
Taxpayers of Great Britain, I've been fairly busy recently, you'll be reassured to hear, hence limited blogs.As they are so fond of saying on the TV Talent shows, in no particular order we've had:Winter Sports Day: a terrific day of varied sports to tie in with Red Nose Day. The weather wasn't good but it was just brilliant to see so many kids getting out and doing stuff in the wind and rain, including the many mudlarks who got plastered and had no change of clothes! This is the stuff of schoolday memories and long may it continue.At the end of the day I was lucky enough to hand out certificates to the various House winners. It was refreshing and heartening to see a hall full of kids taking sport and competition seriously, in the right spirit and with not an ounce of cynicism in the room. Brilliant!Marvellous Maths: This was a terrific evening hosted by the Mathematics Department, supported by the Performing Arts. Who knew that Maths could be such fun? It was so good to see so many parents, children and staff joining together to participate in zany activities linked to Mathematics: well done everyone!Teacher interviews: Yesterday we were interviewing for the Design Technology Department. One of my standard questions is "What are your impressions of TPS?". All the candidates said the same thing: they just loved the atmosphere - finding it quite different to their own schools. It is different here: the sense of vibrancy, confidence and fun amongst the children and staff is palpable and I love it!The Harlem Shake: We have just filmed a version of this which may find its way onto You Tube. As Miranda's mother says in the TV show: "Such Fun!"
Yesterday I accompanied Mrs West and 20 Y11 students on a trip to Oxford University ( an improvement on Neasden?!). In our Fast Track History/Geography group, we have been looking at University entry and personal statements, as well as examining media columnists' writing on whether Oxbridge really does want state school kids. Yesterday was an opportunity for one College to convince some of our students that they are genuinely wanted.We spent the day at St. Edmund Hall, one of the 38 separate colleges which make up the whole of Oxford University. I think it was quite an eye-opener and we were fortunate to hit it in lovely weather. The College Liaison Officer Matt, himself a graduate of the College in PPE and an ex-comprehensive schoolboy, was excellent and made us very welcome.It was encouraging to hear the egalitarian methods now adopted by the Colleges to select, interview and admit all students. There is a certain sleight of hand when the great institutions talk about their proportion of 'state school kids' - a much better indicator would be how many are actually from comprehensive schools, which are non-selective by nature. For example, my own eldest is currently at Oxford doing an English degree: there are 10 on his course - he's the only one who went to a 'bog-standard comp'...hence 90% of his course peers are actually from selective schools...Nevertheless, it was a useful day in raising aspirations. In the afternoon we attempted some typical Oxbridge interview questions and it was very encouraging that our kids answered them really well...It's a start - all they have to do now is get a fistful of A*s at GCSE, at least 1xA* + 2 xA at A-Level and then they might be in with a shout - simples!
Today anxious parents receive their secondary school place offers. It's a potentially nerve-wracking moment. We had over 300 applications for our initial Admission Number of 260. It loooks like the maths won't work, but it will, in the end. Although Y7 looks oversubscribed, we do have the capacity to take more children this year because we have fewer kids in some of the other year groups, so we can make an exception in an exceptional year.Parents just have to hold their nerve. Hampshire can only offer out 260 spaces because that's our PAN. They offer out numbers 1-260 on the published admission criteria - by the time they reach numbers 200 onwards this will simply be on distance from the school. So the people who accept their offer swiftly are 'in'.However, I know that there will be people in that first 260 who probably had no intention of actually sending their child to TPS - they really want to go private but were hedging their bets. So that shakes a few of the original 260 out, freeing up spaces for numbers 261-303.Then, the Governors Admission Committtee will meet very soon to consider anyone who has not been offered a place on March 1st. They will look at the Waiting List and decide how many additional offers they can make.So if you didn't get offered a place by Hampshire on March 1st, contact us and ask to put your child on the waiting list. We'll sort this out by the end of March, hopefully.Remember what was said:1) Anyone who really wants to get into TPS will get in.2) Governors are not in the business of turning anyone away this year....
Everyone else is talking about horsemeat, so I've got the bit between my teeth, too!I note that there have been concerns raised in many areas of the country that school catering is being affected by the horsemeat scandal. In Blog 55 I talked about our catering company: Pride Caterers ; about how I'd left a large multi-national company in order to work with a smaller, local business which uses local produce. I am delighted to report confidently that we source all our meat from our very prestigious local butcher here in Petersfield and there are no issues surrounding horsemeat in our canteen. In fact I note that the very same multi-national company we chose not to go with, has now found itself embroiled in the scandal. I am having to be reined in from feeling quite smug at the moment!I notice that the coalition Government's advisers on school food have actually recommended that school meals are not now the issue in childhood health matters, but packed lunches often are, because they can be filled with unsuitable stuff. It would be good if more kids ate a proper, cooked school lunch. At least if they do eat our school dinner you can be assured that we are not saddling them with anything dodgy!Incidentally, I am sure there must be something equally witty to say about the meatballs at a well-known Swedish furniture company, but I'm struggling to put it together...
We're half-way through the school year and I am trying to get a feel for the impact of one of our positive changes this year, which is the move to more frequent opportunities for Parents' Consultation.This year we replaced the wholly unsatisfactory annual parents evening and we've trialled a completely new system: you get to book appointments online, at your convenience, during a booking 'window'. Appointments take place in the teacher's classroom where you can get a feel for the learning environment , as well as a bit of peace.Most importantly, we have pasted in 7 of these opportunities into the annual school calendar, which makes them virtually monthly during a school year, so that if you miss one 'window', you never have more than 4 school weeks until the next opportunity to book an appointment. If you are 'savvy' that means you could book in to see each of your child's teachers seven!! times during the schoool year i.e. 6 opportunities more than you used to get. Of course if you want to do this, you do have to , in the words of the immortal Fred Pontin: 'Book Early' - but, in theory, it would be possible.Because we have a little flexibility in the new system, we've been trying something new this month by limiting the 28th February session to just Y10/11 and offering double time slots to allow for a little more dialogue in the run up to GCSE. On a 'global' scale that equates to over 600 available appointments on the night. I always envisaged this being an opportunity for someone to 'pop in' and see the one or two teachers where you might want a quick chat about GCSE - not a full night of seeing everyone - it was never envisaged in that way. As is often the case, the problem lies not in the idea, which is sound, but in our comunication, which hasn't been!It still strikes me as a terrific 'deal' for parents and one that I was very pleased to be able to secure on your behalf. You have to bear in mind that teachers' contracts only allow for so many hours per year & our teachers already offer, voluntarily, so many more than their contracted hours - for which I am lways very grateful.This is our first year so we shall continue to refine it, with your feedback, so please let me know your views...
I write this whilst double checking the BBC Weather Forecast. There was just a hint that we might have had more snow overnight, but it looks unlikely now..(Famous last words!)The most recent snow closure was regrettable, but I was surprised by the national furore. Indeed so moved was I, that I made the mistake of replying to the green ink brigade who commented on an article in the Times Online. We had all the usual stuff: health and safety, everyone's a wimp these days, wasn't like this in 1947/1963; one of the correspondents blamed it on: "communist headteachers" - I kid you not! It was mildly amusing to note that the first commentator had messaged from Corfu! Nice work if you can get it, clearly.I concluded my own reasoned, factual account by suggesting that the commentators were in serious danger of sounding like Monty Python's Four Yorkshiremen!The problem with snow closures is not principally one of Health and Safety - heck, a couple of years ago I rather irresponsibly led a mass snowball fight on the school field - something those kids will never forget! We do have to take a little care, obviously, but I keep it in perspective.The real problem for us is simply getting the staff and students in & out safely and on time. In the snow two winters ago when the A3(M) closed, I had several staff trapped on the road who had to trudge to find shelter and couldn't reclaim their cars for days. This time around, the A3(M) got so bad near Butser that it was virtually impassable just as we were due to open.Bear in mind that very few of my teachers actually live in Petersfield- so if I can't get them in, we can't teach the scheduled lessons. It becomes impossible to run a meaningful day.I heard several comments on the TV that this inconvenienced parents, because they didn't get their childcare. Well, sorry to upset you all folks, but we're not actually free childcarers - we're educators!And we do take getting into school seriously: on the last day of the Autumn term, we had serious local flooding and a car crash which closed the A3(M) at rush hour. I managed to head off the main road just near Mr McDougall's turn-off and he then promptly led a procession of TPS staffers up hill, down dale and through ford trying to get us in via the country back roads. We all managed it, but a journey that usually takes me 45 minutes actually took 2 hrs. Nevertheless, none of us gave up: we made the effort.So the next time we are threatened with snow, you can be reassured that I shall have been assiduously trying to plan for it, will be tuned into Radio Solent from about 5.00 a.m. to assess the situation; have my laptop on the Petersfield Square webcam to look at the state of the town and my fingers poised over my mobile to send the dreaded message of closure. And it doesn't end with the decision: I then spend the morning checking all is well and that I haven't done anything different to other schools...Snow closures: damned if I do and damned if I don't! It's snow joke, I can tell you.
I was in interview 'lockdown' all last week and unable to comment on my experience of our production of 'Evita' at the Kings Theatre, Southsea.I told the staff that it was the best school production I had ever seen in 30 years - and it clearly was. I spent last night watching the Madonna movie for the first time and still felt that many of our bits were actually much better than in the filmed version - seriously.The whole company was superb, especially when you consider that many of the kids are in Y8 or Y7, but our principals: Tallulah and Peter, were exceptional. The most heartwarming aspect was the sheer range of personalities on and off stage. We had several children in the cast and backstage team with quite a spread of Special Eductional Needs & who needed very particular handling, but you would not have known it, because they all performed so brilliantly.People questioned why we took it to the Kings rather than stage it here: if you saw it, you will now know the answer. The production was so large that it merited a grand, professional context. My thanks go especially to our 3 co-directors Miss Stubbington, Miss Baker and Mr Woods.We played to over 1250 people which is a superb figure when you consider we were playing an 'away' fixture. This included several 'walk ups' who had no connection to TPS - we've had some lovely letters from them. We also went global on the last night when a party of visiting Chinese students came to watch it!Our biggest challenge is how to top that! We can't manage something like that each year because it demands too much from everyone, so the aim will be to offer something even bigger and better in early 2015...watch this space...
I'm an old-fashioned book man. I love books. I love to look at them, read them, collect old ones, shelve them, line them up, classify them, re-classify them; I even sniff them!Mr McDougall tells me that when e-readers first emerged I was a vociferous opponent. I have a very selective memory and claim that I've always loved them. And I do: my Kindle* is fab and goes everywhere with me. I think there has to be potential in using them more in schools - it's just working out how best to do it...I grew up in a house with no books, but was fortunate to be turned on to reading at school. It is so difficult if you can't/won't read in school. I sometimes feel that schools spend far too much time doing esoteric stuff, yet still happily pack too many kids off at 16 barely able to read. This is the national scandal of our education system - it has been ever since I started teaching in 1980.Mr Gove keeps quoting from a book about "Reading habits of the Working Classes in the 1920s". It shows that so-called working class children in that period read, on average, 70 challenging books per year i.e more than one per week. That may be true, though I doubt it was wholly widespread. Let's face it: what else were they going to do other than read? There was no telly, no Xbox, no Facebook, no shopping malls, and a Great Depression to cope with and everything was in black and whiteMr Gove wants all children to read at least a 'good' book a week. He believes that literacy is a universal right for all. It's a laudable aim. But is it realistic in the digital age? What's a 'good' book anyway? Who is to judge what's good and what's not? Do Graphic Novels count? Where do poems feature in all this? And so on..It's a huge challenge and one which successive Governments have completely failed to grasp.* Here's what's on my Kindle at the moment: the Inspector Montalbano detective stories, "Just Boris" - he is such a little rascal!, Simon Armitage's version of "Sir Gawain & The Green Knight", Bobby Womack's autobiography, a book about the global financial crisis, "Life of Pi", "Longy": the autobiography of Sean Long, 101 songs to discover from the 70s... the list goes on. Now if only Kindle could produce these in 'smellovision', my life would be complete!
They made me teach this week! Y11s: a whole classroom full of 'em - I'm shattered! I have to do it every week now, apparently.It's one of the greatest ironies of schooling that, if you are pretty good at teaching, you tend to get promoted and the more the you get promoted the less time you have to actually teach until you get to my point, where you're called the head teacher but you have no time left to teach. Instead, you go round telling everyone else how to teach...As a very young teacher in Cornwall, I remember an old Head of Art's leaving speech where he said that all teachers should start as Headteachers and work their way up to the classroom! He was an amusing and rebellious old cove who was obviously having a go at the esteemed headmaster. However, you can sort of see what he was getting at.Good teaching is a real craft. I've been watching a short film online about an American teacher called Jeffery Wright - a hugely inspirational teacher in Louisville - highly moving. I urge you to track it down and challenge you not to shed a tear.Having broken out in sweats, become breathless and lost my voice in the course of just one lesson, (whilst various cheeky senior staff colleagues spied on me through the classroom door, I might add..) imagine delivering 43 of those crackers a fortnight! Not easy. That's why my admiration for great teachers - here, and across the world, continues to grow - they are wonderful people.And my Y11s' verdict on their first lesson with me:"It was interesting"...Gee thanks guys - can't wait for next Tuesday!
The excitement is mounting! Our fab new production is only a fortnight away...We are presenting Andrew Lloyd-Webber's "Evita" at the Kings Theatre in Southsea on 23rd-25th January. Forget Les Mis at the pictures, this is gonna be massive!If you're wondering what all the fuss is about: we wanted to reaffirm our status as the pre-eminent performing arts academy in the region, so we decided to 'go large' and put on something incredibly ambitious.We have a very talented and incredibly young cast attempting what is a pretty adult show in terms of performance demands, but from the previews I've seen, they're going to pull it off in grand style.Why the Kings Theatre? Part of our aim with the specialism has been to offer children 'real world' opportunities in performance - so what better than the pretty unique opportunity to perform in a proper professional theatre in our nearest 'big city'.The cast and production team have worked incredibly hard and have still got plenty of work to do prior to opening night. Please get your tickets and support these terrific kids - it's all on the main website.In a former life I used to do these things in school and I am extremely envious of the children and staff involved in this one - it's their Wembley, Lords, or Twickenham!I'm going to be there every night and the sporting analogy is not so far-fetched: just as every football coach kicks every ball from the touchline, I cannot sit still when watching a production - I want to get in there and coach it... so if you see me wandering around looking distracted at the theatre, it's not because something's wrong - I'm just working on my half-time team talk!
Happy New Year!Right now, I'm not at my most popular, having dragged us all back to work so soon after New Year, but I actually think there's something rather noble about being here when all and sundry remain on holiday.To set the record straight: we publish our term dates well in advance - so no-one had any excuse not to know when we were starting up again - it may not have suited everyone, but you really can't please all of the people all of the time...There were compelling educational reasons for starting back today. Schools are often left looking quizzically at Hampshire's published term dates because they can sometimes seem a little 'random' - that is they're not always educationally 'tidy'.For that reason I tend to the view that we do what's right for our students and everything else flows from that. By starting now, we tidy up July, where Hampshire had us returning for a Monday and Tuesday, whereas we've now worked a neater Friday finish. That cuts out two 'dead' days at the end of the school year, where learning would more likely be a little lacklustre.By the way, this really has nothing to do with being an Academy - we used to deviate from the Hampshire calendar when we weren't an Academy, too.This early start also gives us two 'extra' days of Y11 teaching & learning time that we wouldn't have got under the Hampshire calendar. Indeed there are GCSE exams looming in Science and English/Eng Lit within the next few days, so this time is vital. At least this way we ensure that next week has a very smooth flow to it.Furthermore, it's a personal view, but based on years of experience as a parent and a teacher, kids tend not to be very bothered about New Year - it's Christmas that they focus on - so I reckon most of them are ready to come back, even if we aren't!
I have a phrase I use quite a lot nowadays: "Let TPS work its magic on...". It's a fascinating phenomenon, and one of which I am extremely proud, but we do have an incredible success rate in turning kids round.I was reminded of this during the recent Prizegiving season when I looked at the winners, speakers and performers.Amongst them were a child who, last year, was so terrified of being at school that she had to be dragged in and left keening in the foyer (& who now adores it here)...a chap who came from another school where he had been made unhappy by other kids and is now a confident, popular role model...a girl who left her previous school to join us because she wanted to get on better in lessons and who has since proved to be a one-woman recruitment agent for many of her mates (I've now put her on commission)... a girl who rejoined having tried a fee-paying school and then realised how much she missed us ... a chap who joined us from his previous school, then left us because he wasn't convinced, then came back to us within weeks when he realised that TPS was, actually, better for him than his previous place...a chap who joined us from another school where the teachers happily waved him goodbye, but who hasn't been a minute's trouble here...the list goes on!Of course I acknowledge that this cannot always be the case when one is dealing with over a thousand young people each year, but I think it's indicative of the way the ethos, atmosphere and quality of relationships makes its mark on everyone who works here - child or adult.Which is a pretty good note on which to end: Happy Christmas everyone!NC Poole
This Term's Blog Titles pop-pickers:From September: The Beach Boys, The Jam, Billy Joel, Spencer Davis Group, John Sebastian, Dream Academy, George Michael, Beastie Boys, Chris Rea, The Beatles, U2, Barry Manilow (sorry!)... & with a soupcon of Slade - obviously!Hope you got them all?
An auspicious dateline apparently - the last one in our lifetime like this - presumably this is what got the Mayans all worked up a while back?This week I want to pay tribute to a group of frequently unsung heroes and heroines: the dinner ladies (and gentlemen). Yesterday I had the privilege of being chief sprout (4 per plate!) server at the kids' Christmas lunch, working alongside our fabulous canteen staff from Pride Catering. My favourite moment was the tremulous child who asked nervously: do I have to have custard with my Christmas Pudding?!A true story: a few years ago our catering contract was coming to an end. We invited several firms, including large multi-nationals, to tender for the contract. A couple of sharp-suited young guys from one of these very well-known companies came in and gave their pitch. At one point they showed an A menu and a C menu. When I pressed them on the difference they became a little dismissive and said: "Well the A menu's really for the private schools...you would get the C menu..." As you can imagine, I was not impressed and sent them away with a rather large flea in their ear - how appalling that even school food for children should become enmeshed in matters of class.Little wonder that Jamie Oliver, whom I firmly regard as a latter-day saint, should take the brilliant stance he did on school food. His work on shaming previous Governments and companies into offering better food for all was excellent..and sadly is now in danger of being undermined...I would love to do more to improve the dining experience for our students: it's a source of great irritation to me that we've never had the funding to really do something about it, but I do applaud the work of Mark and his team in the kitchens. Mark works tirelessly on behalf of the TPS students, as do his staff and they deserve all our thanks in what can sometimes be a thankless job.
I thought you'd like to get an insight into how a typical day in my working life goes:Arrive TPS 7.55 a.m. in good time to get my favourite parking spot so I can get past Pompey footie parents at other end of day - car reversing not being one of my strong points...Caffe Mocha and Pain au Choc from the Fair Trade Cafe ( am supposedly on diet so please don't let on!).Senior Staff meeting 8.15 a.m. We decide that Stepford Teachers are the only way forward. Staff Briefing at 8.25 a.m - all those who have grown 'taches (just the men, sadly) are to have their photo taken.Academy Leadership Team meeting 8.35 a.m.: On the Agenda: Behaviour, Department Reviews, next week's Assemblies. I use a big word (vituperative) and am accused of making it up. I haven't: I'm just clever...P.2 check e-mails (I do, honestly!), finish my speech for Prizegiving, confirm the fixed term exclusion for a student, work on the Pupil Premium,Break: wander round smiling at children - seems to work. One girl tells me she's not well but that her History teacher is 'incredible' and 'amazing' .. I tell the teacher...she is chuffed.P3. Write script for HB & HG at Prizegiving on Monday night. Put educational world to rights with Mr McDougall. Sign passport application for delightful ex-student who wants to become a British citizen - and we'd be lucky to have her in this country...P.4 Exams review with Head of PE - they're very good scores.Lunchtime: Consider Southampton's chances v Liverpool tomorrow. Brief HB & HG about Prizegiving...P.5 Listen to J & C's woes with all my teachers as they make unscheduled visit to my office having exhausted other senior staff patience..., give them pep talk about not getting into more trouble.. suspect it goes right over their heads! Meet new head of Pupil Referral Unit to discuss how our children at risk of exclusion can best be supported.3. 20: Supervise Senior Staff detention - reserved for the very naughtiest ( although this afternoon's mob are pretty mild)4.10: Dismiss grateful DetaineesRest of afternoon: work on various stuffIncluding writing this drivel!6.40 head off in search of scran prior to Save The Children concert at Churchers - drive triumphantly past Pompey footie parents who failed to block me in...7.30: Concert at ChurchersArrival Time home : not yet known, but if you see me sneaking out at half-time, please don't grass me up!Never a dull moment...
We're getting to that business end of the term when it becomes non-stop. There looms up the various productions, 2 parents consultations, Y11 Music Evening, Carol Concert, Prizegiving Ceremonies, Save the Children concert, Y11 Mock Exams - all within the next month.The first of those productions is the Y11 Music Evening this Thursday, which I hope people will support, whilst next week we have "After Juliet" of which I caught a sneak preview recently. It's a fascinating play about what happens in Verona after Juliet dies. The performance features a cast of students from Y8 & Y9 and they looked terrific in rehearsal: go see!Having got my grumps out of my system last week, I really am driving on till Christmas: I love this time of year in schools - it's still fun - and fun matters. We want children to have had memorable experiences in schools - for the right reasons.I'm delighted that we have finally secured a fantastic guest of honour for our Prizegiving in the Festival Hall: Paul Kenyon, investigative journalist, currently featuring on programmes such as Panorama. It's great to have someone of Paul's stature coming down from the BBC to meet us; I'm looking forward to it immensely.
At the risk of sounding even more cantankerous, I loathe and detest non-uniform days with a passion! Just who is "Paul" anyway and what's so good about his flipping "Boutique"?!However, I know it's all for a good cause and we've probably raised over £1500 for Children in Need today.When I trained as a teacher in 1981, my tutor told me she'd got just the right sort of school for me: a brand new purpose built comp which was very go-ahead: no school uniform, carpets on the floor, no bells, no walls between teaching spaces, all the teachers called by their first names ( I was 'Oi, Nige' !!) , no separate staffroom - we all had to muck in together. The buildings were even designed to avoid the 'hierarchical concept of a front or back door'...It sounded fabulous to my brilliantly idealistic younger self...I went to work there and had a whale of a time, with never a dull moment, but it was all a far cry from the very ordered and hugely reassuring daily diet TPS kids enjoy.Unfortunately the state school world of 1981 was not ready for such a progressive educational concept and it all ended in tears. How very different might our modern educational system have been if this showcase school had succeeded.We must look quite comical to those European sophisticates who go to their Lycees and High Schools in jeans, but I don't care: I like school uniform!Which means that, for now, I shall continue with my pantomime grimace and scowl through each non-uniform day, whilst occasionally going mad myself and actually removing my tie!
An interesting time yesterday at a regional conference of Headteachers. There was unanimous dismay at the pace of change being pushed through by the current Government - not because we are against change, but because a) much of it is hurried, untested and based on questionable evidence and b) we tend to disagree with the general direction that this Government is taking - regardless of individual political views - I once saw a supposedly talented Labour Secretary of State virtually laughed out of the conference hall by my usually very polite and civilised Headteacher colleagues. So we can be very even handed in our criticism!Yesterday I felt that the mood was not one of indignation but punch-drunk resignation. Experienced, talented Heads have just had enough. I know Headteachers who are choosing to retire early because they are so fed up. I'm not, by the way!The Secretary of State, who does seem a genuinely polite, intelligent and committed man, now has ranged in oppostion to him: the teachers who are taking industrial action, his civil servants, apparently, who are unconvinced his changes are workable, the Primary Schools which won't go Academy, the Headteachers who are in despair, the Independent school heads who have refused to support his Academy & Free School plans, the Northern Irish and Welsh who haven't embraced his reforms, the CBI who are about to release a critical report, and the Universities who want nothing to do with his A-Levels: surely we can't all be "Trotskyite enemies of progress"?Still, as I always say: mustn't grumble!
As a schoolboy I was immensely lucky: I had parents who, having left school at 14 with no formal qualifications, actually did know the true value of education. Hence they pushed for me to cross borders from Westmoreland into a very good northern grammar school. There, in class, I sat next to boys whose Dads (& even Mums - it was the 1970s!!) did dead clever things like be Lecturers at the recently-built University. I was a little in awe of these strange beings who did weird things like have intellectual discussions about life, politics, literature around their dinner table. This is in no way intended to denigrate my own comfortable home life, but I came from a world where no-one like us really went to university.At that school it was the norm for people to go on to Uni - the 'dropouts' were thought to be quite odd - and usually were! So I got to Uni and moved on from there. I was lucky - it was still free in those days and we perhaps rather took our student days for granted.I was reminded of this last week when I visited Havant College to meet some of our finest ex-students to ask them about their positive experiences at the College,and their plans for the future. They were a truly impressive bunch of young men, who all had sound plans for a university future, despite very diverse backgrounds and all the modern financial challenges of a university education.It reinforced for me the good things about a comprehensive education: that we can 'spread the word' and genuinely raise aspirations. We still have a long way to go. Too many children from less privileged backgrounds just don't even contemplate University - it's not for 'the likes of them'. I see this each year when I conduct Options interviews with Year 8s: many of them are staggered when I say a) You're a very clever young person and b) You should aim to go to a Good university.I know Uni is not the be all and end all for everyone, but we must continue to push for anyone to be enabled to go - by continuing to raise our students' aspirations alongside their achievement. So that university is considered to be for the likes of everybody and not just the privileged few.
I had the pleasure recently of considering which Y11 students to recommend to the selection panel for the Bedales Scholarship.This is the brilliant agreement between TPS and Bedales that, each year, they will offer a genuine 6th Form Scholarship to a TPS student. Said student has to be talented and gifted academically. Without getting back into the politics of such an agreement, I think this is potentially a fabulous opportunity for the right sort of youngster.18 of our current Y11s obviously agreed because they all applied and last week I finished off the interviews. We do have some amazingly talented children!At the other end of the the school spectrum, I'm off to the Y7 Premier Performance tonight. I'm told that last night was the best one ever - in the past 8 years - and that there wasn't a dry eye in the house. I have seen plenty of rehearsals when I have been touring parents around - and heard the Blues Brothers Medley (ad nauseam!).The younger generation do still occasionally get a bad press: in the past fortnight I've had two letters from the public explicitly praising children's actions and behaviour in town. They rarely deserve any criticism and should be duly praised when they 'do good'.I do hope that you're still sticking with the Blog titles which all reference popular song from a range of well known performers and hip beat combos. I thought today's song title was a twee little number about the generation gap...until I listened more carefully to the lyrics! I leave you to find them. At the end of the year I will offer a prize to the reader who can name all the songs referenced in the titles.
Sorry about the delay in blogging - I've had 'manflu' leaving me desperately weak and helpless for many days!We've had a terrific run of events in school just recently:I attended the Art and Design Technology Departement Exhibitions. I was struck at both of these shows by the sheer variety of students' work on display, as well as its quality. It's all a far cry from my days of woodwork and pencil drawing!On the same evening Mrs Asbridge held an event called 'After TPS', for Y11 families. This was excellent. So many careers and post-16 providers turned up to talk to students and parents about life after 'big school' and I know it has opened many students' eyes to a range of opportunities they might not otherwise have considered.The evening was somewhat marred by my putting my IPhone on the roof of my car, driving off & it being crushed under the wheels! Many thanks to the Dad who rescued it for me...you know who you are!This afternoon marks our first new-style Parents' Consultation, where parents pre-book online. It looks like it's going well and I'm sure that over the next 6 events during the year - some afternoons and some twilights - it will pick up in 'trade'. It's certainly far more civilised and much less of a 'bunfight' than the old-style Parents' Evenings.Still busy on the run-up to half-term: TPS Appeal Trust Quiz night on Friday, followed by three nights of the Y7 Premier Performance next week - it's all go!
So, we've done our Open Week and our Open Morning - last Saturday. We were incredibly busy - more so than ever before - and gained great feedback. We had parents from all over the region who are clearly agonising over this important decision: just who do you entrust your child to?I'd have thought, frankly, that nearly all of our local schools are actually pretty good places where you could send your precious one and be content, because we're in a fantastic area with great schools.I've found this round of Opens to be both fascinating and a little disquieting, if this is the shape of things to come. We've heard stories of other schools leafleting in 'our' town, of schools in fancy dress offering hog roasts & jugglers! I have characterised this as the increasing 'Disneyfication' of this rather serious process. I hear tell of schools publishing data that shows their own results and other schools' results - that one didn't go down too well, apparently; of schools which send buses into other areas to bring children to them. To which TPS has not yet resorted.I fear for our schools if this becomes the 'norm' - as we all become mini theme parks for the night, desperately dreaming up more ingenious stunts to get familes to apply to us - and diverting us away from our core purpose - delivering first-rate schooling. Where does all that end? Is that really what Michael Gove envisaged when he began to dismantle local education authority control of all schools? Not very dignified, this business, I can assure you.When I do my July speech to Y6 parents who have selected TPS as the destination for their child, I always start by saying, "Thank You for entrusting us with your child" - because that's what parents do.And in the end it's not about jugglers or hog roasts or buses or even comparative data: it's about relationships, values and Trust.
I love September! I love the shiny new Year Sevens in their extra-large uniforms, the optimism of everyone that this is going to be a great year, the improvements to school facilities, the inevitably beautiful weather and the enduring hope that this may actually be the year when Ken Bates finally, gracefully, relinquishes control of Leeds United.It is encouraging to hear of how our good reputation is spreading. September always features schools' Open Weeks and Open Evenings, when we sell ourselves to primary school parents. It's important because all schools need to fill their places. We decided to run an Open Morning on a Saturday instead and it's proved hugely successful over the past two years.In Petersfield we usually have about 150 'local' children who apply to join us each year ( a few incredibly misguided souls occasionally still make a lesser choice...) and yet the school was built to house 260 children in each year group. This leaves over 110 'spare' places to be filled - which we do from 40+ Primary and Prep Schools in Hampshire and West Sussex.We are increasingly popular outside Petersfield these days and I make no apology for advertising the school as widely as possible. The principle of parental choice means that every parent has the right to choose whatever school they really want for their child, and my Governors intend to continue to admit children from as many schools as want to come.So, I'm looking forward to another 'season' of showing parents what we do. We are all immensely proud of this school and what we can offer the children who join us.
Typically, as the kids get back to school, the sun begins to shine mercilessly upon us all! It has been an endless summer of media focus on schools- school sport, dodgy exam standards and so on.There was a clear fiasco over this summer's GCSE English results. In a nutshell, the Examination Board obviously told its markers to mark candidates harder - so that it became tougher to get a Grade C/B/A/A*.We entered all our students for GCSE English in January and they got excellent results. We have entered students early for several years - not to 'sneak' better scores for our kids, but to release the pressure on them in midsummer when they have to take a pile of other exams, too. A handful of our students did re-take their English in the summer, so we are looking into their individual results to see if they have been marked down unfairly. We suspect that the same tough line was taken with GCSE English Literature, too, but that isn't making the headlines.What has wound headteachers up is not so much the Board's actual decision to make it tougher to get a C, but the underhand method of applying it at the very last minute - and the subsequent refusal to acknowledge that they've botched it. It really isn't fair on those students affected or their schools.It all made for a cheery assembly with our new Y11 yesterday, when I told them that it was obviously now going to be much tougher for them to get their grades and that the only consolation is that all schools will at least be in the same boat next summer...we hope.Still, mustn't grumble!
So everyone else has had their tenpennorth on the Olympics: now it's my turn! First up: Respect to Yorkshire - 11th in the International Medals Table, no doubt all Yorkies might be persuaded to eschew their habitual modesty and natural humility in order to sing their own praises just a smidgen...if only this could rub off a little magic at Elland Road...I enjoyed greatly being lectured by two Old Etonians on school sport: the one wanted to force us all to do as much sport as he did - Wall Game anybody? Whilst the other wasn't keen on Indian Dance and still persists with the myth that state schools don't believe in competitive sport - what utter nonsense!I haven't found a state school yet which believes that competition in sport is bad, but what we also try to do is encourage everybody to participate - and in a wide range of activities too - after all, not everyone can be in the First Fifteen for Rugger, Boris!The Olympics were superb and hats off to every participant and all the fabulous coaches and PE teachers who trained them, encouraged them and inspired them - whatever school they went to.Now on to the next media frenzy: the GCSE results, which come out tomorrow...fingers crossed!
Perfect Timing! I just drove in from Winchester (no traffic), came round to school the back way, parked in the empty car park, strolled onto The Causeway to watch a Torchbearer pass the Olympic torch on to the next runner.I'm cross I couldn't get the whole school out to support the Relay, but the advice I received last minute suggested it would be impossible to marshal them on The Causeway, so I had to abandon plans very late on. A great shame. My senior staff and I have spent hours in the preceding months planning for this day - only to have to give it up as a very damp squib. Maybe next time!I pay tribute to Sebastian Coe and LOCOG - this Torch Relay is incredibly well-planned and run. I managed to 'bump into' the torch in Southampton as well - at the Red Funnel terminal on Saturday evening. Both times it's been "persisting it" down with rain.Our kids and some staff are down in The Square gamely performing in the rain as part of the Torch 'fun'. They are absolute troupers and I am very grateful.This weather has simply ruined the school summer term - how we got away with the Prom I'll never know. We've lost cricket fixtures, Y7 campers had to build the second Ark in the New Forest to survive, the ALC trip to Hindlip Warren was conducted underwater and now Sports Day's off. I do hope it's not now going to be like this every summer term.I've missed a lot of 'stuff' I should have blogged recently - I hope to get a little time this week.
A fabulous evening at the Tithe Barn last night: the Y11 Leavers Ball. Over 200 of our departing Y11 students turned up looking mighty fine to enjoy the Ball. The Tithe Barn provides a very classy setting for this great event, which seems to be growing in popularity. The crowds of onlookers get larger every year. Being an entrepeneurial headteacher I can't help thinking that we're missing a trick here in not charging people a couple of quid to watch the arrivals - could go towards subsidising the following year's Ball...The students were highly imaginative in their modes of tranport from the usual array of sports cars to horsedrawn carriages and 'Harley's Angels'. Their behaviour once inside the barn was impeccable and they all had a lovely time.I am immensely grateful to Mrs Davie: each year she leads the preparation of the event and then manages the night (with tireless support from Mr D!). It takes an awful lot of effort and a very late night of packing up and yet she manages to breeze in full of beans the next morning!Thanks also to all the parents who supported their children, shelling out for limos and dresses etc - it can't be cheap, I'm sure! That's why I admired the guys who turned up on their 'pimped up' bicycles - cost them very little but they still looked razor sharp and made an impact.I look forward to next year.
Apologies Blogophiles for my late response - I've been a little busy!Half-term didn't exactly go as planned: instead of traipsing around London for two days looking at boats and listening to septuagenarian pop singers, I was in school supporting staff and students who were over in Canada, whilst simultaneously chasing away the print media - national and local.As some of you may know, on the second evening of their trip to Toronto, our staff and students got closely caught up in the most horrific gangland killing in a shopping centre in downtown Toronto. It was a traumatic few days for students, staff and parents.Fortunately, all our children and staff are now home and physically unharmed, as I found when I went up to Gatwick on Tuesday to meet them.I cannot stress highly enough how superb they have all been in the most trying of circumstances. It is a teacher's worst nightmare to be caught up in something like that. We are now offering support and counselling to anyone who was in any way affected by the events and I am grateful for all the support we have received including from Hamsphire Children's Services.
"What did you do in school today - nothin?"Another incredibly busy week in the life of TPS. If you want to see the sheer range of 'stuff' we offer our students, please look at our newsletter which you can access from the school's website. It's amazing!This week has already seen a fantastic English department evening on Tuesday in The STUDIO, followed by a lovely summer music concert in St Peter's Church yesterday evening; with the Y8 Performing Arts students in The STUDIO tonight. We've also been working on the opening ceremony for MY2012.We've also had cricket fixtures and athletics comeptitions. Today we waved Au Revoir to the French Exchange; tomorrow the students going on the 2012 Rugby/Soccer tour to Canada fly off for the trip of a lifetime. I might add just how delighted I am that the Canada tour is now for Boys and Girls (who are playing the football). Oh, and there is some teaching & learning still going on in the midst of all this!It's a remarkably busy time - and all this in a humble state school, too! I pay tribute to all the fantastic staff who put all these events together, to our wonderful students who participate and to our incredibly supportive parents who turn up, dig deep and support the kids. Thank you all.After all this I shall be ready for my Jubilee picnic after school tomorrow.Have a lovely half-term!
I received a beautifully produced facsimile of the King James Bible today. It looks superb and is a 'gift' from the Secretary of State for Education - I know that because it says so on the Bible's spine...Some headteachers are sending it back, which is somewhat churlish, I feel. We shall display our copy in the Library. It rather makes me feel like Anchorman Ron Burgundy - he, too, has many leather bound books.I recently viewed a presentation from some designers who have some exciting plans to revamp our Library, which is a bit tired and out of date, despite the sterling efforts of our student librarians. The Petersfield School Appeal Trust (the parents 'Association') is going to make this area a focus for their fundraising, and I hope many people will feel able to contribute.It's not going to happen overnight because we simply don't have the funds, but it's certainly got to be a high priority. If anyone knows of a lovely benefactor out there who'd like to have a Library named after them, I'd be happy to meet them...Mr Burgundy, perhaps?
The Government's long-anticipated Special Needs review is now complete. There is great merit in streamlining the process for parents and children with severe special needs - parents shouldn't have to feel that it's a constant battle to get the support their child needs, and yet it often feels like that, I know.It's encouraging that the focus is on improving things for children with SEN(D) - we'd all echo that desire. However, there is clearly a further implication: schools' SEN budgets are going to be cut. With fewer children on our books labelled as SEN(D), we won't need as much money: simples!Even before the General Election of 2010, questions were being asked why this country appears to have such a high proportion of children with SEN - over 20% - compared with other developed countries where the proportion is in single figures. Presumably, either this country is much more sophisticated at identifying special needs, whilst kids in other countries just get missed - or we have slipped into labelling too many kids SEN when they're not. I suspect that the truth lies somewhere in the middle.What irks me (as usual!) is that the poor teachers seem to be getting the blame for the growth in our SEN Registers - we're accused of "poor teaching", and "bumping up the numbers to improve our League Table position" and "inflating the proportion to gain extra funding". All of which is absolute rubbish at TPS.I've always maintained an open mind about some conditions children are labelled with. The most recent one I have encountered is Oppositional Defiance Disorder, which I gather essentially means saying No to everything! My old Mum would have a simpler name for that: 'bolshy'! She frequently accused me of that - still does. It's not the teachers who dish out the labels (or the medication...). When my staff are presented with new children with incredibly demanding needs, they are fantastic at looking how they can best help them learn.We have a superb SEN department who do great work with our most vulnerable students. I just hope that these new proposals don't undermine that excellent work. I fear that they might because it will, as it always does, come down to money in the end.
Oh dear! They're at it again! State school bashing by our Secretary of State and new Chief Inspector. They've been at a conference on the South Coast today and had a right go!Mr Gove praised independent schools and implied that all state schools should strive to be as good as them. I agree with him. I'm glad he's come round to my way of thinking at last!At my interview In 2001, the Governors asked me what I intended to do about the local private schools. I told them then that my intention was that we should offer our kids an education that was at least as good as they could get in a private school. That's been our mantra ever since. And we succeed here at TPS - day in day out.I have a very simple national solution for Mr Gove and Sir Michael: give us a level 'tool box' so that we have the same 'tools' as the private schools, which include:
- The ability to select kids by Test, Interview, Wealth or Stealth...
- and the ability to quietly 'let them go' when they don't 'fit in' later on
- Class sizes considerably smaller than we have
- Fabulous buildings and resources as standard, preferably in acres of gorgeous grounds that I don't have to sell off chunk by chunk to compensate for not having those facilities in the first place
- A much higher level of per-pupil funding
- A political elite that uses the same schools as the rest of us
- An inspection that I can book in and then steer in the direction I wish
- An end to an overweening set of dubious accountability measures
- Children who all have a reading age at least commensurate with their actual age
- Longer holidays and shorter terms!But those tools are not in state school tool boxes and I knew this when became headteacher. Nor is it what I actually believe in. I believe in free education for all children regardless of background, 'intelligence' or wealth. I saw the damage done to society by selecting (and thus rejecting other) children at age 11. I believe everyone can succeed and be valued wherever they come from. I believe in the concept of a great local school attended by every local child. I believe a school should welcome any child who wants to come and then do its damnedest to keep him/her - whatever the challenges presented to us. I believe that we can find suitable educational pathways for every child and not just a one-size-fits all traditional route.So I guess that's why I'm a comprehensive school headteacher - and I'm out and I'm proud!
It's the Year 11 Photograph this morning. In this damnable weather we are dodging torrential downpours to get it done. The students are immaculately dressed and impeccably behaved. There is a family looking around the school, as we take the photo, who cannot help but be impressed that over 250 hulking gurt 16 yr olds from a comprehensive school can act in such a delightful manner. I have always maintained that our kids are the school's best advert - and so they prove, yet again.The examination season is now upon us and the students are under real pressure - I can sense their underlying tension. Thank goodness I managed to get myself 'centred' by a healing trip to Glastonbury this weekend - what an interesting and wacky place. Unfortunately, being an old square with a 'proper job', driving past the entrance to Worthy Farm is the closest I'm ever going to get to doing the actual festival! It's better on the telly anyway - less mud.
I am between shifts at the moment on this, our Y7 Parents Consultation Day. It's lovely to see these bright young, shining faces around the school this evening and it's nice that they brought their kids along too!I reckon in 31 years of teaching I've attended approximately 160+ of these events and seen over 5,150 children and their parents, and I've yet to see it go perfectly! The basic problem is that we try to squeeze so much into so little because time is always our enemy. I have to say, TPS Parents Evenings are way better than many I've attended as a Dad myself - although I was always under strict instructions to 'keep your mouth shut and do NOT let on to ANYONE what you do for a living'! Funnily enough that never stopped me from making every possible attempt to embarrass my children - and usually succeeding...I digress. I know that many parents come away from these evenings with a warm glow about their kids, whilst seething at what they've just experienced. Like me, you must think that there has to be a better way. Well, I'm working on it and, hopefully, next year there'll be a sigificant improvement.As with so many things in life, the world moves on and, although we bemoan the passing of the traditional end of year, hand-crafted, inky school report - they were actually a bit bland and pretty useless. Likewise, I reckon the traditional 'annual cram it into two hours bearpit' has had its day, too. Technology and 24/7 access to information means we need to look again at school reports, parental consultation etc - and harness it.Watch this space and, in the meantime, sharpen those elbows to get your slot in the queue...
I had a great 24 hours at the end of last term: on the Friday night I watched the Rock Challenge 2011 team gain the award from Life In Petersfield Magazine for 'Arts Event of the Year'. That was a terrific and well deserved accolade. We also performed beautifully (that's a rather loose 'we' since I would not have shown the requisite terpsichorean grace had I actually taken to the stage myself - just picture Eric Pickles dancing - you'll get the idea..)On the Saturday afternoon I joined members of the Rock Challenge 2012 team in bag packing at Petersfield Waitrose, to help raise funds for their performance at this year's competition. We had a fabulous time. The volunteer students were such a credit to the school and I met so many people including some real 'blasts from the past'! Apparently we raised upwards of £1600 on the day - marvellous.Tonight we showcase our new Rock Challenge piece, "El Sistema", at Portsmouth Guildhall. Because we're the reigning champions, we don't have to fight our way out of the heats this year, so tonight is our first tilt before the Grand Final later this season. I'm going to sneak into the Guildhall later this evening to have a look at our performance. I had a sneak preview at yesterday's dress rehearsal and then gave my customary pep talk which I know makes all the difference to their performance...I have to say that I think this year's piece is another absolute cracker - watch this space.And for the unititiated amongst you who wonder just what is all this fuss about - our students take this incredibly seriously - for many of them it is the highlight of their year and you can tell that, for the year 11s taking part, it's definitely their swansong and it means everything to them - and boy - are they superb!So come on TPS - let's do it again!
Not sure how much longer I can drag these avian-themed blog titles on for....These are the times I love school: it's 5.30 on a Friday afternoon and there's no kids here! Last blog of the term (although my duties are not yet at an end - Life in Petersfield Awards tonight, Waitrose bag packing tomorrow).We've copped a little flak this week from a few parents over our approach to lost property. I tell you, dear readers- you would have wept to see the amount of stuff we laid out for students to reclaim - including a coat and handbag which I'm told go for a hundred quid in the shops! Most of it was more manky - including a collectors' item Rock Challenge T Shirt from 2005 - that's how long we've held onto it in the forlorn hope someone might reclaim it. Needless to say, the remainder has now gone off to clothes banks. Frankly I'm appalled at the sheer wastefulness of our kids. I blame our throwaway culture and the easy availability of cheap clothes from certain well-known retailers - and lazy kids, of course...Speaking of clothes: I've had enough! We're already seeing ridiculously short skirts from so many girls in the hot weather. When asked why they do it, one girl apparently told her Form Teacher: 'school's the only place where we can get away with it'! Well no longer. I have tasked my senior female staff to source a TPS school skirt. (Hopefully at least ankle length with accompanying bustle). The TPS skirt will be all that September's Y7 will be allowed to wear. Girls in other years who persist in wearing too short skirts will then also be 'encouraged' to buy the new school skirt. That's it - no deviation from this. Enough is enough.Eddie update: still no seagulls but apparently a sparrowhawk and at least four buzzards seem to have taken a liking to him ...
Eddie Update:Eddie the Eagle (who is actually a hawk) is now soaring majestically above the school and we have been seagull-free for the past 4 days - so it works. I consider that 140 quid well spent!Another busy week last week, including important meetings with local headteachers, the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme Evening and rounded off by the ASCL conference in Birmingham over the weekend.TPS hosted the East Hants Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme Presentation Evening last Wednesday night. All medal winners from the region were invited to pick up their certificates and so we had invitees from 20 different organisations including state and private schools, as well as local scout groups. It was great to see so many current and ex-TPS (over 40) students step up to collect their awards . My thanks to Mr Bourton and Mrs Dibble for their excellent organisation. Congratulations to all the Award winners and well done to all the current TPS students who managed the evening, particularly Lucy and Andew who hosted the event with great skill.I rounded the week off by attending the ASCL conference in Birmingham on the Saturday - even the Bullring looked attractive in that sunshine! I was able to listen to the Secretary of State make his impassioned speech for further reform, as well as the ASCL General Secretary's impassioned response to the welter of unwarranted media criticism of schools - often by people who should know better. Let's hope Mr Gove does take note and reins in his team, who occasionally tar all schools with the same brush.Don't forget to follow us on Twitter on @TPSPetersfield
I enjoyed judging the final of the Inter-House Arts Competition. There were some terrific individual entries which reflected genuine talent - particularly in painting & drawing. There were also the more quirky entries which captured all the judges' imaginations, resulting in our first-ever tie for top spot. So congratulations to Joseph for their terrific Smurf Song and to Redgrave for their dramatic reconstruction of the battle between Harry Potter and Voldemort using only spoons as actors - I'm sure your House 'sponsors', Vanessa Redgrave and Julian Joseph would have been truly moved by these amazing performances!We are currently giggling (unfairly) at our own forlorn attempt to scare away the increasingly fearless seagulls which descend upon us , often leaving little thank you messages on our clothes, after every break and lunchtime. He is Eddie, our very own TPS eagle. Apparently it's a very successful method used at Gunwharf Quays, for example. Eddie was established about ten minutes ago and already he's got trapped in a tree. I fear he's not very scary at all...I love this job!
Wearing two hats, I had a terrific evening at the Opening of the My 2012 Art Exhibition at Treloars College the other evening. Schools in the East Hampshire Education Improvement Partnership were invited to display artwork commissioned for the Cultural Olympiad of the EIP. Many of our local schools, including TPS, rose to the challenge by creating some fantastic work including wall hangings, drawings, sculpture, T Shirts etc.At the exhibition you can also see the original Olympic Torch from the previous London Games, which is usually displayed at Winchester College. Quite moving to have a hold (as I managed) of it, even for a dreadful couch potato like me.I also got to meet some of Treloars' wonderful students and staff including a GB Paralympics coach and a student who hopes to be selected for the London games. The College, which also now houses Treloars School, is a truly inspiring place doing great work. They put on great food, too!My thanks to Mr Leeson who helped set the exhibition up and to Mr Woods for masterminding it. who needs Danny Boyle anyway!
We're on Twitter now! Follow us and get updates via our Twitter feed @TPSPetersfield...On Monday evening we held our first Revision Session for Grown Ups, when we invited parents of current Y11s in to pick up some easily applicable revision techniques to support their children. It was done in a light-hearted, informal way and seems to have been very well received. We had great feedback such as "Fantastic evening " & "I want to bump my kid off the exam and take it myself now!." I had the demanding task of ringing the bell. My thanks to all our terrific staff who turned out - and to the 52 parents who put themselves through this ordeal. I hope that even more parents will take up the challenge the next time that we offer something like this.I spent yesterday chairing a conference for the East Hampshire Education Improvement Partnership in Alton. TPS made an excellent contribution with great presentations by Mr Woods who is leading our excting Olympics project and Mr Lodge, who reported back on our excellent work with the Kings Arms. Mr Lodge had two 'secret weapons': Alex and Rachel - students who had written speeches and presented them to a large audience of adults - well done to them, especially.And well done to Glynn V, Elliott V and Michael H who have just delivered an ASDAN presentation to me. I was very impressed. (ASDAN, by the way, is not the Lion from the Narnia stories, but an excellent lifeskills course run by the ALC...)OK, off to an evening Exhibition of Art at Treloars College as part of the Cultural Olypmpics and thence to press my skinny jeans and get my quilted jacket (what is that all about!) ready for tomorrow's Non-Uniform Day....I am just such a dude.
I was so busy last week that I failed to blog. On Monday, Tuesday and Friday I was heavily involved in interviewing new staff. We held interviews for Science, Special Needs and Geography. Spring and early summer terms are usually particularly pressured in schools because this is when we tend to recruit our new teachers.Teacher recruitment is quite different from most walks of life - after 31 years I still haven't worked out if it's a work of genius or a very strange way of doing things! Whichever, we seem to be stuck with it. We see all the candidates, do all the interviews and make an offer on the day, in person. It gets it done but it is rather frenetic. We are also, of course, hamstrung by what we're allowed to ask: for example we're not allowed to ask people's age on application forms, yet they're expected to put their O-Levels/GCSEs on the form with the date they took them. Doesn't take a genius to work out they were probably 16 in that year. Not that age matters, of course.Interesting too, that the Pupil Panels we often employ as part of the process (and whose views we take seriously) usually select the same candidates as the formal interview panels - albeit that their opinions can occasionally be swayed by a candidate's deceptive good looks - a cross I've had to bear personally throughout my own career.Anyway, suffice it to say that we did well last week and managed to appoint talented, highly-qualified people who will make a terrific impact when they take up their posts - and I even managed to throw in a Mathematician for good measure, which was a nice bonus, because they are incredibly hard to find.
Having seen the mighty Whites get absolutely mugged by those cash-rich southern softies the previous evening, I was in need of a fillip on the Sunday. Speaking of football (which only one side was playing at Elland Rd) - congratulations to our Y8s who won an important cup-tie on Friday afternoon 4-3 in a penalty shoot-out.I got my own morale boost when I drove over to TPS on the Sunday morning, through the driving rain, to see if the Young Farmers had actually turned out in such horrendous conditions to work on the allotment. They had - and in great numbers. I was staggered and humbled to find intrepid, drenched children and adults digging, hammering, wheeling, raking, tree planting and sowing in the dreadful weather (in the midst of our Hampshire drought, mark you!)I cannot express highly enough my admiration for all those who came and gave their time up on Sunday morning - absolute troupers one and all, ably led by Dr Archibald, who had arranged the session. Thank you to all of you!
Have you ever been to Neasden? There's three important landmarks: Ikea, Wembley and the amazing Hindu Temple. I was lucky to be invited on the RE department's trip there yesterday (the Temple - not Ikea). Two coachloads of Y9 & Y10 TPS students attended as a supplement to their study of Hinduism.They were superbly led by Miss Freeborn, whom I thank for organising it and trusting me to be their token male on the coach. It almost goes without saying these days, but our students were an absolute delight: immaculately behaved, polite, patient and good company.What an amazing place the Temple is. It's so incongruous to find this exotic piece of India in the middle of a slightly grotty part of North London. We attended a presentation and a prayer ceremony; alongside other school groups and visiting Hindu worshippers. The staff at the Temple are a delightful group of people who were incredibly helpful.It was equally fascinating to watch our kids' reactions- from the ones really gripped, to those wondering what they had let themselves in for! And I sat on the floor, shoeless, unlike some of my younger colleagues - I did struggle to get back up, however...This sort of, albeit brief, exposure to another culture and faith is particularly important in a small town like Petersfield. For some of our kids, they may never encounter anything like this again, but they now have a better understanding of another way of living and worshipping. That can only be a good thing.Once I had pointed out Wembley stadium to the Pompey fans on the bus and encouraged them to look forward to the Johnstons Paint Trophy & FA Vase in future, it was back on the bus and time for my Principal's 'power nap' . It's a tough job some days....
Hello again. Normal blog service is renewed following half-term break.We have all returned to be confronted by hoardings on the school field, signalling Tesco's long-overdue expansion of their store - which was a part of the original plan when we gained permission to build the artificial pitch. I'm told they will be finished in time for Christmas shopping...In the meantime we have to live with the inconvenience. There is still a 'Tesco Path & Gate' and will still be once they've fully finished. Students should still exit school that way because it is infinitely safer than walking down Cranford Road. We'll then have to assess the full implications for what sports we can play on the lower field in future. We can't really complain - we knew it was inevitable. I'd just privately hoped that the powers that be at Tesco Towers might have forgotten about us!Being a hopless old romantic, I went to see a brilliant production of 'Romeo and Juliet' on Valentine's Day. It's at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford this week - well worth a visit even for those of you not normally grabbed by the Bard.
To The STUDIO last night to support the Y10 GCSE Drama students, who were showcasing their work thus far. They were performing "Two" - a challenging play set in a back-street Yorkshire pub. This really is the Drama department's equivalent to opening up a student's exercise book - not a full-blown school show - so the performers reflect all the students who opted for Drama. It was great to see so many different children working together on stage - from the seasoned 'pros' who moonlight in local amateur and professional theatres - to those for whom doing even this is a major achievement. Everyone did really well but I particuarly enjoyed the performances of Lucy, Ross, Layla, Edward and Tallulah. My thanks to the Drama Department for their work.I'm often asked by parents: but why do they always do such depressing stuff? I know what they mean: my own son did "Equus" for his GCSE performance which features nudity, naughties and horse blinding! I was greatly amused to go through his lines with him - to see all the crossings out his conscientious teacher had made - once she'd cut out all those shenanigans, it didn't leave poor Tom with much to say or do, frankly!Drama teachers do take these responsibilities very seriously and there is a place for exploring the darker sides of life - in a secure, caring context. Teenagers are often very serious, intense young people, but they're also able to separate the play from 'real life'. However it does tend to make for evenings of relentless, unremitting doom and gloom when you watch your kids do GCSE Drama, I'm afraid! Trust me - I've had years of it as a teacher and a parent!On a lighter note, it's great to see our Junior Leadership Group dishing out plenty of Valentine's Roses today (& dodging the odd snowball!) as part of our charity fundraising. Mystifyingly, I seem to have been missed out, yet again...Have a good half-term.
A busy day yesterday for Y11. It was 'Mock Interview' day, when we offer our students the opportunity to experience a simulation of going for a job interview, complete with compiling a CV beforehand and wearing interview clothes for the day. It's always interesting to see what the current generation considers 'workplace dress"!I have to say, many of them looked terrifically smart and clearly made a good impression. A range of employers offer their services, take over our offices and then give each youngster a thorough going over . It's an invaluable life lesson. I hear one young chap was stunned to be turned away from his interview because he meandered over 10 minutes late - good - a lesson learned, one hopes!I'm very grateful to our friends for coming in and taking the exercise very seriously. I was mightily impressed to 'earwig' on two interviewers working on their feedback for one young TPS 'victim' - it was really constructive, high-order material and a world away from the patronising, trite stuff many of my generation got at school. (My Careers Master suggested that I join the Diplomatic Service! As the kids say: "yeah right..")Prizes and awards are subsequently made to the 'best' candidates and it is always rewarding to see that these plaudits are not the preserve of the super-confident, uber-swotty high flyers. (You can see why I was never going to be right for the Diplomatic Service...)My thanks to all the contributors to the day and especially to Mrs Asbridge, our brilliant Careers and Vocational Education Co-ordinator, who organised it. In recent Parents' Surveys, Careers Education was one of the few aspects of our work that parents wished to see improve: because of Mrs Asbridge's excellent work, it certainly has.
An interesting week. The national media focused on the culling of many vocational courses. We pride ourselves on the brilliant curriculum we offer to our students. It caters for every interest and strikes an excellent balance between the traditonal academic subjects and more practical courses available here and though our terrific 14-19 Consortium. Mr McDougall is a curriculum genius in the way he offers so much choice to our lucky students.A lot of media interest featured a dig at the horse care, fisheries and nail technology courses in a very sneery manner, I thought. We have offered students courses in Equine Care, Animal Husbandry and Hair & Beauty for several years. They are popular and definitely fill a need - especially in a semi-rural area like ours. Girls who have taken the Hair & Beauty course frequently get jobs or long-lasting links with local salons as a consequence. Many of the students on the 'country' courses go on to Agricultural Colleges and thence to meaningful work.The mistake made was never the schools' fault - it was the Exam Boards who created them and made grandiose claims for their relative 'weight' i.e. how many GCSEs they equalled - and went completely overboard. We were recently offering a terrifc course here which the supervising exam board at one point said was worth 7 GCSEs!! Seven! That was clearly ridiculous, but the course itself is not - it motivates, captures interest and teaches relevant skills.This is what is so galling about the Government and media focus. At TPS we offer these courses as a genuine part of a balanced currlculum - not to gain dubious benefit in the league tables - we've never needed these results to bolster our position.Some of these courses, thank goodness, are not to be lost altogether, just rebalanced in terms of being only worth one GCSE, which makes sense. However, there's a real snobbery in the air when Latin and Biblical Hebrew is promoted as part of an English Baccalaureate, whilst downgrading courses that might actually lead to real jobs for real young people....Hmmm...
Firstly: a big thank you to Hugh Bonneville for giving us such a lovely plug in this month's Reader's Digest, where there's a great picture of Hugh with Joel and Abi Knee. We can now rest easy knowing that dental patients across the land will read of our exploits for many years to come!It's League Table time - an annual media-fest when everyone from politicians to journalists becomes an expert and comments on the dreaded school league tables. I pored over them myself yesterday - with the expert help of Mr McDougall - he loves nothing more than a juicy chart to analyse & convert into pretty colours on an Excel spreadsheet.Frankly, the Tables are interesting to we 'insiders' but goodness knows how any parent makes sense of the welter of stuff the Government churns out. In fact, they're a five minute wonder to schools like TPS. We look at how we're doing; we can't help sneaking a peek at how our neighbours are doing, then we go back to the real job in hand - actually educating our kids well.Since we have League Tables, I have likened TPS to a mythical football club - since 2001 we have been promoted to the Premiership, the crowds have gone up significantly; we consolidated our place in the top division and are now regular Europa League standard - and nibbling away at those Champions League places. We also have made ourselves known for our excellent Rock Challenge cup runs, including winning it a few times. We even have scouts come from Hampshire's Champions League schools to watch us in training to see how we're doing it. In fact, the more I think about it, Mr McDougall and I are the Peter Taylor & Brian Clough of school management! (Without the loud suits, drinking and cigars, obviously...)
Can you hear me ok? I've lost my voice and I blame Dr Archibald and her Y7 Science class. They were 'doing Sound' and wanted to know how loud I could shout, so I went to the Science Labs and gave it a good go. By my third and final attempt I'd reached 117 decibels - of which I was quite proud. This could catch on and become our own version of Top Gear's "Star in a Car" feature. However, the kids quickly pointed out that I'd be down the leaderboard already - Dr A had managed a staggering 128dbs - although, as the kids said, she did "scream like a girl!"It's ironic that we were actually trying to make noise - TPS seems so quiet these days. I met a prospective parent on Monday whose child is in a very small, select school at the moment - the lady was completely amazed at how quiet we seemed , given that our school is over five times larger... I'm very proud of our calm, orderly atmosphere - it's testament to the excellent behaviour of the students and the fact that they're all absorbed fully in their work by our terrific teachers!It's been a day for praise. I've just said Well Done to a succession of very nervous-looking Y7 students who came to my office to get their 50 Merit Certificates. They have done brilliantly and so congratulations to: Mia, Beth, Allanah, Ben, Polly, Sophie, Zoe, Elizabeth, Kit, Phoebe, Rosella and Chloe. So polite, too... Keep it up!Also Well Done to: Kingsley and Mirren House for their joint charity fundraising for Help for Heroes: £500,and to Bourne House for raising £540 for the Wessex Children's Hospice. That's an awful lot of cakes sold!Right, I'm off to find some kids to shout at - I obviously need to practice...
TPS is in the enviable positon of not waiting for the dreaded call from Ofsted to say they are coming - as an Oustanding School/Academy we will be subject to what is known as a 'desk audit', whereby an Inspector will gauge our current situation from looking at a range of data such as our exam results, attendance records, any adverse comments on the parents' website etc. This doesn't mean that we will never see an Inspector again - we will still expect them to visit individual subject departments, for example.I only mention this because the big changes in Inspection and elsewhere are now beginning to 'kick in' : from today we can give any child a detention after school without giving parents 24 hours notice. At the moment we often give way more notice than 24 hrs (and still many children claim they know nothing about the detention - strange that! ), and I have advised teachers to stick to that policy. However, everyone knows that a punishment linked as closely to the crime as possible is more effective and, in very occasional circumstances we might say " right: you need to stay behind today". If we do this, we will make every effort to contact parents to let them know.The new 'Big Cheese' also started at Ofsted last week - a man who has run one of the most successful schools in inner London, and who has the highest standards and expectations - which can only be good for us all. One of his first pronouncements was that inspectors should comment on teachers' dress as well as their teaching...I have already warned the staff to abandon their Primani for Armani or we shall no longer deserve our Outstanding status!
A slightly different blog today: I learnt rather belatedly of the death of Miss Margaret Chandler before Christmas. She was a founding teacher at TPS, having started here when the Secondary School opened on this site in 1958. I think she taught what would have been known then as Domestic Science.By coincidence our paths crossed for a few years when we went to the same church. She must have been in her 80s then. She lived alone but remained an intrepid traveller and managed to rope my entire family into helping at Romsey's Blind Club, where she ran things highly efficiently. She'd had a varied life in teaching and then in the Prison service here and abroad. She was clearly a hugely talented person who belied her appearance in later life as just another little old lady in church!I was delighted to bring her over to the TPS Golden Jubilee in 2008 when we got together the class of 1958 for the day with the surviving teachers we could track down - it was a lovely day and the tree we planted still survives despite its proximity to the football trainers' car park!In an era when the concept of working in the public services seems to be routinely 'dissed' , we should think of the people like Margaret, who dedicated their entire lives to helping others for far less reward than us, and be thankful for their service - however scary she might have been as a teacher here in 1958!
Happy New Year and especially to my South Korean reader! I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas and is looking forward to an exciting 2012. I certainly am: it's going to be a cracker.There are so many exciting events and projects planned for this year that I have no doubt it will be a highly successful one for everyone associated with TPS. Not least is the impact of Olympic 'fever'. TPS has been leading the way in deriving much curricular and extra-curricular benefit from the Olympics and our programme of events is very exciting - as is the progression of the Olympic Torch through Petersfield.We've already had some (unwelcome) excitement this week with the arrival of the Air Ambulance Helicopter. A student had a severe allergic reaction because someone had unwittingly set her off by unwrapping an innoccous Snickers bar nearby. Thanks to the excellent work of our wonderful school nurse, Beki Dunn, the affected student was quickly stabilised and then air-lifted to hospital for a little extra help. She's fine now, but it does throw into sharp relief the issue of allergies. We currently have 12 students in school who are prone to severe allergic reactions and we need to be very mindful of what can prompt them. We do remind kids to be careful - nuts and aerosols are the worst for sending children into anaphylactic shock and we need to remain constantly vigilant.Incidentally, our last non-uniform half-day - at the end of last term, raised over £500 and I thought it appropriate at the time to allocate the proceeeds to a local Bereavement Counselling Charity which can specifically offer tailored help to young people and a Mental Health charity for Teens...
I've been preoccupied with issues surrounding technology since I got myself an Ipad and began Tweeting! Indulge me:Yesterday I saw the most peculiar and disturbing sight whilst at my local hostelry availing myself of its excellent Sunday lunch. A very well dressed family of Ma & Pa plus 3 children were sat nearby. During the course of an hour, nary a word was spoke amongst them whilst all children played on individual Nintendos and adults read newspapers in silence. This can't be right. It certainly doesn't stimulate conversation and foster relationships. As usual my abiding thought was: "and some poor teacher's got to teach those 3 tomorrow..."Meantime we teachers spend wasted hours attempting to decipher the lurid and oftentimes appalling things that kids say about each other on Facebook. This is such a minefield, because a lot of this is done from the comforts of bedrooms late at night and really should be parents' concern - not ours - although increasingly kids are insulting each other by daytime messaging on smartphones.It's a difficult one and is only going to get more complex after Christmas, no doubt, when Santa brings more tablets and smartphones.We are wrestling with this, like every other school, but we don't have an answer yet.I do know I don't want a future where kids are glued to screens not talking or being talked to, nor do I think it a teacher's job to police Facebook...Happy days!
We had a great night last Wednesday with our Annual Prizegiving Evening. We took the radical step of moving the ceremony down to the Festival Hall and it seemed to work really well: it was more spacious, the sightlines were better and the parking easier. We'll do it again next year.Our Guest of Honour was actor Hugh Bonneville, currently starring in the immensely popular "Downton Abbey". He was a terrific guest with an entertaining speech and very generous with his time before and after the ceremony. He also then Tweeted some very nice things about us and even took the time to go online and watch our World Champion Rock Challenge presentation. I cannot thank him enough - he's obviously much in demand and it was really decent of him to keep this date free for us.It was an absolute delight to see so many of our returning students. They were such a lovely, courteous bunch - something which Hugh B commented upon. There were stories of great achievement and great courage amongst the students who returned - everyone one of them a 'world champ' in their own right.My thanks to everyone who made the event 'work', especially my indefatigable PA, Mrs Harvey.My perennial problem is always to secure the next Guest of Honour ...if any of my many readers has any connection however tenuous to someone who would make a good guest, please let me know if you are prepared to shamelessly exploit that connection for the sake of our current Y11s!
I promised them a mention: last Thursday I had the great pleasure to fulfill one of my many duties - as President of The TPS Young Farmers Club. This is a very serious affair as the protocols have to be followed to the letter. Thus we had reports on the YFC at Open Morning and on their visit to the New Forest Show, then elections of new Officers and votes of thanks to the person who really makes it all happen: Dr Archibald.Considering my minimal contribution to the YFC this year, I was fortunate to be re-elected unopposed as President for another year. I promise to do better and put those wellies you painted for me to better use. I did take them to the Cornbury Rock Festival last summer but the sun shone non-stop so they stayed forlornly in the boot of my car.The YFC is a great club for our students who've had some brilliant experiences out of it including sausage making, turkey plucking and more...Thank you to Dr A for all her efforts and well doen to all the members of TPS YFC
This is the most tremendous news: TPS has been awarded the Raw World Rock Challenge Prize! (Raw means without a stage set)This means that little old TPS in 'sleepy' Petersfield has seen off every other school across the world from Adelaide to Belfast to Portsmouth, Sydney and Yokohama to become the actual global winners of the Global Rock Challenge. What an amazing achievement. Well done to everyone involved , especially Miss Baker and Miss Hunnam - the masterminds behind it all. We won the International Choreography Award, too.In case you didn't see it - you can catch "Through The Eyes of a Child" via our school website. It is a most moving dance/drama interpretation of "The Boy in The Striped Pyjamas". I have a DVD copy which I show proudly to everyone who visits my home - no matter how sceptical they may be about me showing off home movies of my school, they end up in stunned silence - so powerful is this performance. I still can't watch it without crying!Our new School Aim is "to become a World Class Academy" - well we've certainly gone global in this respect.I am so proud of all those involved in this enterprise. Just looking forward to going to collect the award in person in Australia ( the home of Rock Challenge) in the near future...
I apologise to my loyal reader for the recent blog silence - I've been off on my travels during the past week. I have been to so many meetings & conferences that they are beginning to blur into one.Amongst the highlights have been:A meeting of the splendid 'PISH' (Petersfield Independent/State School Headteachers). Between us, TPS, Bedales, Churchers & Ditcham probably educate close to 3000 young people in this area - a powerful number. We initially came together a few years ago over a joint concern that not enough action was being taken to combat drug issues in the town - and as a combined group we had some success. So we now talk about items of mutual interest to our youngsters and attempt to plan joint ventures. It's really a sign of how far we've come that we meet on equal terms in an atmosphere of mutual respect. Long may it continue. ( And yes, I did invent the name - couldn't resist it!)I then took our TPS senior staff out on an important planning day - leaving a slightly nervous Mr Clewley in charge of the school. We needed the day to work on our new Academy Development Plan which we shall publish in January. It's looking really exciting, with some very demanding targets and should help every single child to excel over the next few years. I was also pleased to come in the next day to find that Mr Clewley hadn't broken the school while I was away....Yesterday I was at a national conference of the Association of School & College Leaders, getting vital updates on the latest Government initiatives, the pensions negotiations and the new Ofsted Inspection process. I liked the new nickname for all the latest Government education statistics: "Gove Compare". Lots (too many) of new Government plans - not all of which suggest themselves as surefire winners up and down the land, I suspect. Never mind.So it's a delight to be back in school seeing our students and staff working so brilliantly together. However, these events do often keep me away from 'Poole Towers' in the evening and, in the words of the immortal Cliff, these Miss You Nights are the longest...
I had one of those 'surprise' evenings last night. I attended the Y10 Creative & Media Diploma students' exhibition in The STUDIO. The students had designed and made chairs which symbolised something or told their own story. We had cupcake chairs, a TOWIE chair, a time machine, a festival chair and many more. The students had to present to the visitors and they were superb: passionate, articulate and confident.Ironically it's this sort of course which has come under severe scrutiny by the 'powers that be' and yet this was clearly evidence of young people learning transferable 21st century work skills and being hugely motivated by it. A lesson to be learned, Minister... Fortunately, as an Academy, we can protect our outstanding curriculum, which provides a sensible balance between 'traditional' and 'modern' subjects & courses.There are random children wandering around in silver moustaches today - the great thing about TPS is that none of us bat an eyelid! Apparently it's Movember and we chaps are exhorted to grow a 'tache. The last time I grew one was in Leeds in 1977 and it looked like a ginger Chris Kamara job, so I don't think I will inflict one on everybody this time round...It's actually very difficult to meet all the requests for 'Days' or months - if we did, we'd probably never get any work done, so we have to be very selective. This year, for example, we're not going overboard on Children in Need day. However, I have a helpful calendar which tells me all the significant dates and I may find it hard to resist the upcoming 'day' on Nov 19th, which is "World Toilet Day"...I'll certainly be looking into that!NC Poole
Interesting half-term. I visited a world-renowned financial institution in the City on the Tuesday - weaving my way through the (empty?!) protesters' tents to gain access. For a man who thinks he's lucky to get a free sarnie on Parents Evenings it was quite an eye-opener looking at their set up - including the capacious free non-stop buffet available for employees - needless to say I filled my pockets with biccies (old habits die hard..). There is a point to this ramble...In the week before half-term I had the pleasure to observe three of TPS's most recently qualified teachers - all in only their second year of teaching. They were amazing! The skill, knowledge and preparation they put into those lessons was terrific and I know that they do this not just when I descend on them - but every day. Our TPS students are very lucky to have such talented young people teaching them.Coincidentally ( and perhaps rather sadly, I know) I watched the National Teaching Awards on TV last Sunday (inexplicably missed out on an award again!) and was inspired by the terrific and very amusing young guy teaching History.It's clear that there are some brilliant young teachers entering our still noble profession, which is so enxouraging - particularly when I met some of their peers in the City who were the same age and could expect not only non-stop free coffee and biscuits, but starting salaries that our young teachers can only attain after 12 years teaching and only then if they get promoted to a Head of Department.Welcome, by the way, to Mr Mike Lovell - our new Head of Music, who started on November 1st. I know students will really respond well to him.It's a funny old world. Still, mustn't grumble...Nigel Poole
Where did the last few days go? It's been non-stop here this week.I'm typing this whilst listening to Y7s rehearsing "We Will Rock You" for the umpteenth time in the Dining Room - must be Premier Performance coming up next week! They do sound brilliant actually. Hope all you Y7 parents have got your tickets...?Meetings galore - with parents, colleagues, other schools, governors - you name it - I've met it this week!We had some great news from a meeting with Bedales which means that we have entered into a partnership with Bedales to enable one outstanding Y11 student from TPS to join Bedales 6th Form on a full scholarship basis each year.This is a unique and exciting opportunity for someone at TPS and I am very pleased and proud that we have entered into this agreement - I see nothing wrong in working with the private education sector to provide something of benefit to TPS kids. There will be more details on how to apply coming soon.I went to an exciting (no, really!) meeting of innovative schools near Brighton yesterday where I saw some great stuff including students using netbooks and IPads in school throughout - all in a brand new purpose built school. Although I was immensely envious, I reflected that buildings and equipment don't make a school - the people do - adults and kids and we have fantastic specimens of both and so, although we will continue to innovate here and try to update the buildings, I wouldn't swop TPS for any other shiny new toy!Enjoy your weekend. Come on Wales!NCP
Our new website went live for the first time this week: I hope you approve of the changes we’ve made. We aim to make it more user-friendly and less full of outdated information! I would appreciate your views and suggestions as you try it out...we intend to tweak it as we learn how to use it better.
This week I have been embroiled in reviews with our Heads of Department, where we look in detail at their summer exam results. This is the session where we look behind the headlines and really drill down into individual children’s results and how the various classes performed. It enables me to listen to the HoDs (as they are known) as they evaluate what went well and how they intend to improve results further next year.
With overall results as good as ours, this is usually a very positive process, but we can always do better – in every subject and for every child. Over the past two days I have met Miss Morgan to discuss Media Studies, Mr Newnham for Design Technology and Mr Timmons for Art/Photography. There have been some great results in these subjects – it was Mr Timmons’ first set of results – with a tough act to follow Miss Martin, but the Visual Arts Department smashed the previous record by getting 93% in Art (best ever) and 100% in Photography, which are amazing scores!
People sometimes presume that this fixation on statistics is all about the dreaded League Tables and nothing else, but can forget that, actually, behind every statistic there lies a TPS student and his/her individual result – and this remains at the heart of what every teacher is about here....
N C Poole
As our new website goes live, I hope to update you on aspects of Academy life and what I've been up to. Hopefully it will inform and entertain in equal measure.
I feel I ought to start with a disclaimer in case I upset someone!
This is a busy week at the Academy: as we move into October, the students really begin to settle into routines, they know their timetables, home learning should be in full swing and extra-curricular activities have all started.
We had an amazing treat last Tuesday evening when The Pearl of Africa Children's Choir visited. 14 children, all orphaned, from Uganda came and performing with their headteachers. It was a genuinely humbling experience and one from which we should all learn - primary school average class sizes of 70 anyone?!
You can catch up with them on YouTube - just search "Pearl of Africa".
More next week!
N C Poole
Whoopee! Half-term! Hope everyone has a good one. I have one more official duty to perform and that is to participate in this evening's Appeal Trust Quiz. Normally my team, the SLG (senior staff) wins this - or at least is the highest place staff team - it's a matter of honour. However, this evening we lack our not-so-secret weapon, Mr McDougall. So: fill your boots other teams, we're out of contention!I spent Tuesday evening at the Y7 Premier Performance, whilst my senior colleagues attended the Monday & Wednesday shows. This year's PPs were, by common consent, the best ever. It was an absolute delight to watch the Y7s perform. At this stage it's not about finish and gloss but confidence and teamwork. I spoke to a couple of likely lads at lunchtime today - they both said they were nervous beforehand but enjoyed the experience immensely - and this is what it's all about.It was great to be able to hand over two bicycle tokens worth over £100 each to Y7s who'd 'won' the Cycle to Success competition - their faces were an absolute picture as it dawned on them that they had actually won a bike each! I even got a lovely thank you letter - which was so thoughtful and reflects how lovely this year's Y7s are in general - we are all really taken with them here.Many staff, ably led by Miss Baker, spent all three nights working on the Premier Performance and are back tonight assisting at the Quiz - as are some of our brilliant Prefects. I am immensely grateful to all of them.It may be half term but work at school will be ongoing: we're having some complicated ICT upgrading which means that our computer systems will be out of action until we return on Monday 31st October - how will we all survive?Ok - better swot up on my flags of the world & countries in South America - they always come up!By the way, Pearl of Africa received just under £1500 from their day at TPS, which is highly encouraging, whilst today's Think Pink has raised about £500 for Breast Cancer Awareness so: thank you and well done.Enjoy your week.Nigel Poole