Theme of the week is: Celebration
Welcome to my blog page. Here you can find a bit more information about what is happening behind the scenes at FCC, and get a flavour of what we are about!
My blogs from 2016-2017 are available here.
My blogs from 2017-2018 are available here.
This week our receptionist, Lisa, brought some cheer to the school by decorating the Christmas Tree in the main entrance with two of our students. With the rather grim weather picture at the moment her efforts were welcomed by all.
Our Y8 rugby players could give us a more detailed description of the weather as they played in some tough conditions on Wednesday evening in a tournament over at Banbury Rugby Club. It was a long journey for Mr Rees and he was grateful for the support of one of our 6th form students Euan and some parents. I spoke to one of the Y8 boys, Freddie, on Thursday morning when I was on duty and he clearly loved the tournament, although he came back with his rugby boots but not his school shoes!
Mrs Kenyon organised a swimming gala and a sports leader course which involved children from our feeder primary schools and the Vale primary schools with Year 9 students from FCC acting as sports leaders. These events provide some wonderful opportunities for our students in helping them develop as young people.
On Wednesday evening we had our second governors meeting this school year and we welcomed three new members, which is encouraging as some schools do struggle for governors. I’m grateful for their contribution, especially as they are all volunteers. Could we have three more followers of my blog?
On Friday I met with my head boy and head girl, Dom and Ailsa and we talked about the final two weeks of term and the part they play. Their homework this weekend was to prepare a speech for next week’s GCSE presentation evening . Ailsa has had a busy week as she has presented to all our students in assembly on equality and with the support of some of her peers she did a fantastic job.
Staff have been busy preparing our Y11 students for their mock exams which start on Monday 10th December and continue until the end of term. On Friday we had an assembly for our Y11 students and I presented badges to students who have excelled with their effort in subjects since September. We have been looking closely at student effort grades and exam outcomes for some time now and we know that students with the best effort grades achieve the best results. We recently had a data progress check and collectively our Year 11 students’ average effort grades were very good. We’re really pleased with the way they’ve started their final GCSE year and wish them well in their mock exams.
Since becoming Headteacher I’ve encouraged students to be actively involved in the day to day running of the school. A good example is a student either singing or playing a musical instrument at the beginning of assembly. It is a great opportunity for students to develop their performing skills and many thanks to Ms Gammon for organising this. One of the students, Hannah, in Year 9 performed recently and she has been doing this since Year 7. It is amazing at how much progress she has made over the years and the contribution these students make to FCC is never underestimated.
On Tuesday Mrs Ikeda took four of our Year 8 students to the annual Lit Quiz at Cokethorpe School, Kaitlyn, Siena, Jasmine and Charlie who all had a really enjoyable time. Although they didn’t win, they gained a lot from the experience and were thrilled to meet three authors, Teri Terry, Jo Cotterill and Matt Brown.
The PE department had another resounding victory with our Year 7 football team this week as they were victorious in the Vale Five a Side competition and go forward to represent the Vale in January in the South of England finals. Their sporting success continued with our Year 11 football team who beat Marlborough School 3-1 on Wednesday and they now progress into the semi-finals of the County Cup.
I am very lucky in that I’m invited to lots of different events throughout the year and this Saturday I was invited to the International Day at the Defence Academy. I have been going to this for a few years now and it is a fantastic occasion where many different countries are represented. Each country had its own stand and the adults and children were dressed in their traditional dress and looked spectacular. It was good to see so many of our international students representing their countries. The favourite part of the day however is tasting the many dishes from around the world. Rarely do you have the opportunity to sample food from Thailand, UAE, Uganda, Germany and many more countries under one roof. We’ve been working with the Defence Academy for over 17 years now and we have a strong partnership. I would like to thank Angie Curtis for the invitation and I’m already looking forward to next year.
On Wednesday we had our annual Careers Fair organised by Tina Belcher who was supported by Kate Berwick and Sam Bright. There were over 30 stands from Business, Further Ed. establishments and Universities. The fair catered for the needs of many of our students, whether they were thinking of staying in education to attend university or seeking an apprenticeship. It was a busy and well planned event with all the Y9, Y10, Y11, Y12 & Y13 students attending during the morning, which amounted to nearly 800 students. The exhibitors were very complimentary about our students, which is always nice to hear.
I mentioned last week that three of our lower 6th form students, Jasmine, Jamie and Emma have been involved in the designing and making of an art installation. It has certainly improved an area of the school and has drawn many positive comments from staff, students and visitors. As I previously mentioned this has been part of a research project and you’ll be pleased to know that their presentation to some of the academics at Green Templeton College, Oxford, went really well. I’d like to thank staff at Medesthai who involved us in the project.
I’m pleased to announce the winners of our postcard design competition. Evie, Ice, Gemma and Molly’s designs have been chosen by all the students in the school as the best ones. We have placed our order with the printers and there will be 1000 postcards of each design produced to be used as part of rewards policy in the near future. Well done to Evie, Ice, Gemma and Molly but a big thank you to everyone who took the time and trouble to enter the competition.
Thursday night was busy in school. Firstly with Mr Winter holding the ski meeting for staff, students and parents. This is an important meeting and was well attended, giving him the opportunity to talk about the itinerary and expectations. While this was going on in the main hall some of our A*, A students from across Y11, Y12 and Y13 were in the Wilson Building with Ms Dickenson who has a team of staff who are looking at developing the skills of our more able students. This was a launch event and they were involved in some team building exercises which provided them with some physical and mental challenges. On speaking with the students the following day, they were very positive about the evening and looking forward to similar events and activities.
The start of the week was very different for me as I attended the two day Oxfordshire Secondary Schools Head Teachers Association (OSSHTA) Conference. It was good to meet up with other head teachers from across the county and it was no surprise that the two things which we all have on our minds are teacher recruitment and school funding. It would appear that like me, many of the head teachers have been watching the BBC 2 documentary ‘School’. At times it has been difficult viewing and there is no doubt that the school funding problems have come sooner to some schools in Gloucestershire than many others in the country. We had a guest speaker Anton Florek at our conference and sadly from what he was saying, improved funding for schools doesn’t look like being resolved in the near future. Fortunately at FCC we are in a strong financial position and have managed our money well over a period of time but unless there is some recognition from the government and more money is found there may be difficult times ahead.
It was good to return to school mid-week and get back into a routine and see how Ms Robins and three of our lower 6th form students have been progressing with an art project they have been involved in. Over the last five weeks they have been part of a research project where they have been researching artists like Bridget Riley and developing their own art work to improve an area of the school .They’ve done a fantastic job in improving the school environment and when they displayed their work on Thursday it generated a lot of interest from staff and students. As a follow up they are going to present to some academics at Green Templeton College, Oxford and I wish them luck with this. Look out for pictures of their work in next week’s newsletter.
Every year we run a postcard competition where students create a design and the best ones are used in our rewards system. We have narrowed the choice down to 12 designs and all the students are currently voting for the best designs. The successful students will have 1000 postcards printed of their design and the winners will be announced soon.
The week ended with a two day school review which was conducted with staff from the academy team. Many of you will be aware that we have not had an OFSTED inspection since May 2008 so we feel that it is important to test out how standards are at FCC. The review involved speaking with students and staff, alongside lesson observations. The two days went well and initial feedback is very positive, which is encouraging.
From the beginning of last week staff and students from the 6th Form spent time preparing for out 6th Form Open Evening. The event was well attended and the speakers gave a great insight in to life in the 6th Form. There were a range of views from the upper and lower 6th Form Students, who all spoke so positively about their experiences and I was really impressed with their enthusiasm and energy.
All week, our Head of History, Mr Fletcher took the main school assemblies on Remembrance and highlighted to the students the enormous contribution made by the people in the Commonwealth countries and how many died in the line of duty both during and since the First World War. This linked in well with events on Friday at 11.00 am, we had nearly 1400 staff and students on the tennis courts where we observed two minutes silence. Nearly 20 students who are involved in the Service Cadets' programme wore their uniforms and laid wreaths. Being involved in this event made me feel proud to be associated with FCC. The students behaved impeccably and were very respectful throughout their time on the courts.
On Friday I met with the PTA who continue to be of great support to me, the staff and students at FCC. They have raised a considerable amount of money for the school and are always looking to be creative in finding new ways to do this. The recent documentary on BBC 2 on a school in Gloucestershire gives a rather depressing but true reflection on how poor school funding is, so any extra help and support from the PTA is welcome. For those of you who shop at Tesco's you may have noticed that we are one of the charities who could benefit from their token scheme and any money raised will go towards a piano for the Music Department. I would like to thank the PTA for setting this up and I know that Ms Gammon also appreciates the initiative.
I really enjoy my job, but like many professions it is not without its highs and lows. The lows are often when I have to respond to external pressures like reduced finances but the highs come mainly from the students. Every lunchtime when I walk past the Music block, Megan, Lilian and Kia from Year 9 always approach me to give their verdict on my choice of tie! This has become a regular thing and they have been very generous in their assessments and there is no doubt it brightens up the day.
I hope you all had an enjoyable break and feel refreshed after the holiday. Coming back after a break is very much about re-establishing routines for staff and students, an important part of running a large secondary school.
On returning back there were 6 new picnic benches for students in place by The Wilson Building which has given us some much needed outdoor seating space.
On Wednesday our Y11 boys’ football team travelled to Witney and beat Henry Box School 4-0 in the County Cup and they move into the next round. Mr Tribbick was impressed with the great team effort from the boys, with goals from Jamie, Oscar and two from Kieran. Mr Tribbick was also impressed with Jacob’s energy and work rate.
On Wednesday evening we had the official opening of The Wilson Building. This was attended by representatives from Kier Construction, Oxfordshire County Council, Staff, Prefects and Governors from FCC, Staff and Governors from our Academy Team and finally Dave Wilson and his family. Opening new buildings is not an everyday occurrence but a proud moment for all those associated with the school and the project. There were six of my Y11 Prefects involved in the evening, meeting and greeting the guests and they did a great job. Particular thanks to Millie and Lucy who gave a lovely descriptive account of how the new building has impacted on them and improved their learning environment.
The ‘Strategies for Success Evening’ for Year 11 students was well attended and it was an opportunity to communicate to students and parents some key messages about preparing for GCSE’s. 6th formers Alfie and Manon gave excellent accounts of how they prepared for their exams and what helped them.
Friday was the second of two Y11 Geography field trips to Bristol. The Geography staff were pleased with both trips and they are sure that the information gained will benefit the students in their exams later in the year.
As we approach the end of a busy first term it always nice to finish on a positive note with celebration assemblies across all year groups. Passing on positive news from staff about tutor groups, classes and individuals is one of the enjoyable sides to my job.
It’s been another great week for the PE department and Mr Rees was rightly proud of our Year 9 boys who had a successful Rugby Tournament on Wednesday evening where they comfortably beat John Mason, Fitzharrys and King Alfred’s school, with Freddie excelling as captain.
The Drama Department have been busy on different fronts, firstly making the difficult decision on casting for the school production ‘Popstars’ and secondly with the Year 11 students who are preparing for their own GCSE performances in November.
It was a fantastic week for thirteen of our students who were taken to Brize Norton and given a tour of the air base, then spoke with one of the pilots and had a chance to look inside one of the planes, including the cockpit. This was all part of work done by The Jon Egging Trust. This trust was set up in memory of Red Arrows pilot Jon Egging who tragically lost his life at the Bournemouth Air Festival. The aim of the trust is to support young people by improving their confidence and encouraging team building. Mrs Power and Mrs Kenyon were full of praise for the way the students conducted themselves and for the wonderful experience offered to them by the staff at Brize Norton.
WEEK 6 - College In Action
Choosing a secondary school is very much in the minds of Y6 students and their parents. Over the last few weeks we’ve invited the Y6 students in to experience some lessons at FCC, then we had our ‘Open Evening’ last week. Our support in this process culminated this week with ‘College in Action’. During the week we had nearly 100 prospective parents and students visit the school. Each day started in the new Wilson Building Café at 9.30am with students from 7AML answering any questions from our visitors. Once the year 7’s had returned to their lessons I showed the parents around the school, accompanied by Mr Winter. With the addition of the new building, taking a tour of the school and visiting all subject areas is not easy in an hour. Teaching staff however, as always are very accommodating and wherever we went parents could freely walk into classrooms and I’m confident they enjoyed themselves as much as I did. As headteacher it makes me hugely proud when I walk around with prospective parents as they are able to share in all the positive activities which take place at FCC. The parents were really impressed with the year 7 students who spoke enthusiastically with them and they were great ambassadors for the school. What’s amazing is that the students have only been in the school for 6 weeks yet they give the impression they’ve been with us much longer. Ms Wheeler and her tutors play a big part in helping the students settle into to secondary school life and from the evidence this week, they’ve done a great job.
Earlier in the week I invited the local residents in to inspect the new building. They’ve had to tolerate a lot of noise, dust and general disruption in the last year during the construction work so it was an opportunity for them to have a look around. Some of our prefects met with them and talked about their studies and the residents were very complimentary about them. Neil Thompson, the Project Manager accompanied me to answer any questions, at times I felt like David Dimbleby. Although some questions were about the building, many were about the traffic along Fernham Road and how could things be made easier. There’s not a ready solution to this, with 600 students bused in every day, nearly 1250 students and 150 staff. Parents who drop and collect their children from school have been asked to use Marlborough Gardens and Folly View Road and I’m grateful to them for doing this as I do believe it has made a difference.
When we walked around the new building the residents were impressed with the classrooms and were keen to see how close the building was to the neighbouring gardens and whether they were overlooked. They were pleased they had the opportunity to look around and since the visit I’ve had some lovely feedback from the residents.
This is an important time of the year for parents of Year 6 students as they think about choosing a secondary school for their children. Over the last three weeks Mr Winter and Mrs Talbot have done a great job with the Year 6 students from our partnership schools who have had a tour of the school and experienced a range of different lessons.
Like many schools we open our doors and classrooms and it gives us a chance to showcase our facilities. Thursday was our Open evening and understandably there was a lot of interest in what we have to offer young people at FCC. Staff and students have been working hard in the build up to the evening and I’m hugely grateful for their efforts in making the evening a success. Firstly there were over 150 students helping out, from the 6th formers managing the car park, Y7 and Y11 giving guided tours, to students supporting departments across all subject areas. The students were smartly dressed and their energy and enthusiasm was a joy to see. Our students are really loyal to the school and want to be involved in its success. I had a chance to meet with some parents, who I taught as students over 20 years ago and it’s reassuring that they are very positive about sending their children to FCC. When a school has the trust and support of parents in a small community it goes a long way to help make it successful.
We’ve also had some lovely feedback about the evening and the following comment is just an example;
‘Erin Y11 and Megan Y7, our tour guides were an absolute credit to the school. They were friendly, informative and had endless patience as the children I attended with were enjoying lots of the activities. All in all they spent about 2.5 hours with us, showing us the school, the activities and engaging with us throughout the whole time. I was hugely impressed with their attitudes and maturity’.
On Thursday and Friday, students from Faringdon Community College represented Oxfordshire in the Regional U13 boys and girls and the U15 boys Tennis finals against Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Hampshire. What an achievement for those children, particularly as we were the only state school represented at this stage of the tournament.
This week I spent some time with our Head Boy and Head Girl, Dom and Ailsa and we discussed the start of the year in the 6th form. With their senior team they have done well in organising activities which help integrate the new Y12 students into key stage 5. They’ve established, football and volleyball lunchtime sessions and a table football competition. They were also pleased with the 4-3 victory against KA’s at football, with a team which had a good balance of upper and lower 6th form students. Many thanks to Mr Marcucci for refereeing the game.
On Thursday we had our Y10 parents’ update evening which gave us an opportunity to give parents and students information on the year ahead. Mrs Belcher spoke about our work experience programme and talked of the successes this year. Most schools now operate a one week work experience in Y10 but we still feel that there are more benefits in students being in local businesses and industry for two weeks. We are very lucky as although we are only in a small market town many employers are very supportive of our students and the work experience scheme.
The Y10 students have just started on their two year GCSE courses and it was appropriate that one of our most successful students, Alfie, who has just finished his GCSE’s, spoke to them. Alfie gave an excellent speech on his recent two year GCSE experience with sound advice for the Y10 students. It was interesting to hear him talk of the importance of having a routine, hard work, supportive parents, revising early in the course but also having a hobby or interest.
All week Ms Nichols and Ms Wheeler have taken different Y7 groups overnight to Court Hill, a local outdoor centre near Wantage. It’s the first residential for the Y7’s and it is used for team building exercises and developing positive relationships among the year group. They have been well supported all week by the Y7 tutors and support staff who have helped make it such a successful time. I went on Friday and was impressed with the creativity of the groups of students who were tasked with building a shelter with limited resources. It wasn’t all about the construction as when we judged them the students also gave a presentation. Some presentations were based on Location, Location, Location others broke into song to describe their shelters. They were very amusing and it was a great way to end the week.
We have now been in school long enough for all students to have been through their two week timetable and they should be familiar with their new groups, classrooms and the school routines. From my experiences of walking around the school it’s clear that our new assessment and marking policy is being used well by staff and students. Touring the site and visiting classrooms is always an enjoyable part of my job but the new Wilson Building has certainly added on a few extra minutes.
Staff recruitment is becoming increasingly difficult in schools and we welcome the appointment of Mrs Drayton who has strengthened the Business Studies and ICT departments. She also plays and coaches netball to a high standard and she has quickly settled in at FCC. On Wednesday she ran a netball club with the Y9,10 and 11 girls which was well attended. Wednesday was a busy evening with over 180 students in a packed main hall, auditioning for the new school performance, ‘Popstars’. The drama and music departments were supported by some of our sixth form students with these auditions. Over 100 of those students also wanted to be considered for a main part. It’s really encouraging that there is such a lot of interest in this production and the drama and music staff have a difficult task in selecting the cast.
Mr Rees, Head of PE has changed the approach taken for Y10 & Y11 students in core PE in that they can now opt for group fitness sessions. This has been negotiated with the leisure centre and has proved popular with many students. These are small but important changes as they can make a significant difference with student wellbeing, which is something we are always looking to improve.
On Thursday we welcomed the parents of our Y7 students for an update evening. The Y7 students have made a great start and I know they are in good hands with their year co-ordinator Ms Wheeler. Part of the evening was an opportunity for Ms Nicholls to talk about the impending Court Hill trip which I’ll have more to say about next week as she has invited me to join her and the students next Friday.
The evening didn’t go without a hitch. Because of the popularity of the school and the size of the year group we had to split the parents evening into two sessions. This unfortunately caused traffic problems along Fernham Road, which was not helped when our Business Studies trip came back as cars were arriving and leaving, it was the perfect storm. We can only apologise to our neighbours and parents for the inconvenience caused. With Open Evening coming up on October 4th we will try to avoid a repeat of this.
Although we are only into our second week back we have already had our first parents evening where we welcomed the parents of our new Y12 students. It was an opportunity for Mrs Button and Ms Armstrong to outline the expectations for the students and give an idea of what the next two years entails. This was a well- attended, and informative evening.
We are still getting used to the new Wilson Building with staff and students really enjoying the new facilities. My popularity went up with the Y11, Y12 & Y13 students when, for a trial period they have been given access the new cafeteria. The area has been modelled on some of the high street chains by selling coffees and paninis and this has been well received.
In July Mr Winter issued a parent questionnaire which was completed by 133 parents which has been a mostly enjoyable read. Of the 16 questions the outcomes were all positive which was really pleasing. When asked about FCC there were some lovely comments and this one summarises well the many positive statements; “My child has blossomed since starting at FCC, gaining confidence in all aspects of school life, academically, in practical skills, in sports and socially. I’m really pleased with the way he has settled in and all the aspects of the atmosphere and the environment”.
There was also a question beginning, ‘Faringdon Community College would be even better if…’. The responses from parents have been helpful and there were three areas which I feel that we could improve in. Two were; concerns about the inconsistent use of SMHW and our implementation of our Behaviour for Learning Policy. Another was ‘why do the students do so many GCSE’s?’ Parents’ views are important and I will be sharing the results from the survey at the next staff meeting later this month. On the issue of the number of GCSE’s students take we are looking closely at our curriculum offer for all key stages and there will be changes for September 2019, but this review is in its early stages.
We’ve had some really good news on the sporting front. In the last academic year the boys’ tennis teams (Year 7/8, Year 9/10) both won their County league and will now be representing Oxfordshire on the 5th October in the Regional finals, against Hampshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire. The PE department have got off to a great start as through their hard work we also been awarded the Silver School Games Mark again this year.
September 2018 - Week 1 - Welcome Back
Firstly, my congratulations to all the students who have received their GCSE and A level results recently. I was lucky enough to be with the students when they opened their envelopes in August and there was a sense of relief and in many cases huge smiles and jubilation. At A level an overwhelming majority of our students secured places at their university of choice, with others entering employment, and many beginning an apprenticeship. There were some super individual performances with Tom at A Level and Charlie at GCSE our highest achievers.
Staff have been in school since Monday and it has been a really busy time. Mr Bettle has analysed the GCSE results and after all the changes to examinations which have taken place recently we believe these are the best GCSE results we've had at FCC for some time. We think there are several contributing factors to our success this year; the staff delivered excellent lessons for the new linear exams, the students were really committed to doing well, with the average student effort grade being significantly better than in previous years. Another factor was the change to the end of Y11 and the removal of 'study leave'. Initially this proved a little unpopular with students and some parents but I think the results would suggest that it was a good move.
This week we welcomed 240 new Y7 students and they are a joy to have on site. They are full of enthusiasm and energy and look really smart. As I said to them in assembly they are part of the school's history as they are the first Y7 students to move into the new building. The move has gone well mainly due to all the staff who have worked tirelessly in moving boxes, books and equipment to their new classrooms. We have named the new block 'The Wilson Building' after Dave Wilson the previous headteacher. The facilities are amazing and we are extremely lucky to have such a wonderful resource. I'm sure that it will be quite an attraction on our Open Evening on Thursday 4th October.
Away from exam results and new buildings, Mr Hale and Mrs Bettle are starting the Duke of Edinburgh Award in Y9 and I am pleased to report that already 49 students have signed up for the Bronze Award and we are also looking to involve the 6th form students in the Gold Award.