Theme of the week is: Individual Liberty
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.
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.