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.
In the last week of the term the activities and experiences for staff and students have been wide ranging. On Monday Mr Hale took a group of GCSE students who attend the Astronomy Club to the National Space Centre in Leicestershire. It was an early start, 7.30am, but I gather that it was an enjoyable and interesting trip with some students who are thinking about taking Astronomy GCSE next year in attendance. Mr Hale followed this up on Wednesday, by taking a small group of students to the Royal Aeronautical Society annual Sir George Greenhill lecture, at the Defence Academy.
Mr Winter took our International students, with their buddies on the annual trip to Drayton Manor Park. This is a way of saying ‘thank you’ to the students who have helped with the smooth transition and integration of our international students, who will often only spend a year with us. I’m sure it’s not easy for these young people who not only have a cultural barrier to overcome, but a language one as well.
The Duke of Edinburgh scheme continues to go from strength to strength and it was really pleasing for me to sign off so many of the ‘Volunteering’ certificates this for our year 9 students. The 6th formers are also off on a practice expedition this weekend and I wish them well. They have four nights in Wales, under canvas, and I hope the weather is a bit brighter and warmer than it has been this week.
We always end a big term with celebratory assemblies and during the week I’ve given out over 150 badges to students who have been nominated across all subject areas for their attainment. We try to reach out to students across ability groups and I believe our inclusive awards system has many benefits. Mr Jukes has introduced an additional awards system where students collect points and it was a privilege to award the badges to students who had achieved their Bronze Award.
With the Y11 students being awarded their last lot of badges, it is a reminder that their GCSE’s are getting ever closer. We are putting on revision sessions over the Easter break which are usually well attended to try to build up their confidence levels and give them some extra strategies. I wish all our students who are preparing for exams the very best of luck and would advise them to balance their time between, rest, revision and exercise.
Finally I will mention my A level art students again who have again created some fantastic artwork around the school which has brightened up the area around student services. The artwork includes, scenes from London, New York and more locally, Faringdon, which have all been completed in a different style but all completed to a high standard. I’m very grateful to them for their contribution to improving the school environment, although I’m still not sure they read my blog!!!
Enjoy the holiday!
Our 6th Form boys got the week off to a good start at FCC as they went to Magdalen College School in Oxford and played them at football, winning 4-2. Many thanks to one of our 6th formers, Guy for organising the game. Apparently the evening was rounded off with a delicious lamb curry provided for all the players by the College.
In the middle of the week Mrs Kenyon and Ms Nicholls were at the Corn Exchange with lots of the student voice representatives from Faringdon Community College and our feeder primary schools. By all accounts it was a very successful event with lots of positive contributions from the students. I feel that it is very important that we work closely with our partner schools and I know the students get a lot from these events.
This term has seemed longer mainly due to the OFSTED inspection which took place in the first week of the term. The report has been posted on our website and it is a report which is very positive, picking up on and, identifying the many good things which take place at FCC. Having read it several times it feels more positive than the grade we were awarded. There is evidence which shows that many Outstanding Schools have been downgraded since the start of the year. In January there were 46 schools inspected, all previously outstanding, and all of them were downgraded by at least one category.
Every break and lunchtime when I’m on duty I spend a lot of my time talking to students, sometimes because their uniform is not quite right, no tie, white socks, not wearing plain black footwear, etc. Now they may be with me for an infringement of the school rules but I always use the time to get to know them and what aspirations they may have. On Friday I had one of the Y11 boys with me for not wearing the correct uniform but the 15 minutes I spent with him was just a pleasure. He’s looking to become a pilot and is already planning on how he intends to achieve this. He is currently flying gliders, albeit accompanied at the moment but looking to qualify to fly singlehanded soon. His next step is to take A levels, then join the RAF to fly transport plans. He had a vision and plan which was impressive but I wonder if the RAF will allow him to wear white socks?
This week we had a combined KS3 evening, for Y9 parents and students, the Parents Evening and then an Option Evening. The Parents Evening was held in the Wilson Building and once the appointments were completed there were presentations in the main hall, with parents and students. After the presentations there was then an opportunity to find out what subject areas had to offer and for parents and students to visit and talk to the teaching staff. Understandably this is an important event for our Y9 students as they are choosing their subjects and specialising in a particular area for the next two years. Mr Bettle has tried to arrange the option choices so that students have a good range of subjects to choose from but it should not be underestimated as to how difficult and complex this task is. It’s a combination of available staffing, available rooms and how many students want to take a subject from the 240 students in the year group. It’s a job I’m all too happy to delegate!
On Friday we had the annual Curry and Quiz night, which I believe has now been running for 5 years. This is organised by our wonderful PTA, which is led by Mrs Long, who does a great job and it’s is one of the many fund raising events which they are involved in throughout the year. I always enjoy these evenings acting as the quiz master and compiling the questions, even though some of the answers are ambiguous and can create some controversy. Again it was well attended with some 15 teams taking part. For me the highlight of the evening was the catering provided by the DT department. All day, some Y10 & Y11 students were preparing the food and they did a great job. This however could have not have happened without the guidance and support of the staff who managed this, in between teaching. Many thanks to Mrs Thomas, Mr Scott, Mrs Pawson, Ms Kenyon, Mrs Power and Mrs Darko, who without them it would not have been so successful.
This week has very much been about engaging with our feeder primary schools and looking to the future. We have had two very different events running which have been well attended by staff and students from the primary schools. Mrs Kenyon ran a netball tournament for Year 5 & 6 students which was supported by our very successful sports leaders in Year 9 and although it was a little windy, the students coped well with the conditions. Year 4 students were involved with a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) day and again students from Year 9 were supporting them. Their task was to build a balloon- powered car and having visited a couple of classrooms the students were having a great time. Their enthusiasm and passion for the task was truly inspirational and many thanks to all the staff who were involved, particularly Mr Scott who has been instrumental in developing this project over many years. We also held our annual ‘Festival of Voices’ which was well attended by students of all ages who put in some brilliant performances.
After school on Friday I visited the 70 Year 9 Duke of Edinburgh students who were setting up camp in Lechlade. They were halfway through their practice session, which is in preparation for their expedition later in the year. Earlier in the day they had set off from South Marston and each group had to plan their own route and navigate to Lechlade, with all their equipment. When I arrived they were pitching their tents and cooking on their stoves. It was a windy and fresh afternoon but the students were coping well. One can see the benefits from being involved in the DofE as the students were given responsibility and were working really well together as teams. They were not allowed to take their mobile phones which I know was a struggle for some but it was refreshing to see such a large group of students talking and socialising, without an electronic device in sight. On Saturday they had to plan a route and walk to Badbury Clumps, which I gather, went without a hitch. A big thank you to Mrs Bettle for organising this, supported by Ms Canniford, Mrs Cooper, Mr King, Mr Messenger and Mr Hale who have given up their time to make this a success.
The OFSTED report is in and will be released on our website on Monday afternoon. We’re really pleased with the report as there are so many positive statements about the school!
Two of our teachers, Ms Nichols and Ms Wheeler have done some excellent work in establishing new groups within the school. One is an Equalities group who are looking at lots of different issues across the school and have some really innovative ideas. The other group is an Environmental Group, who have plans to improve the school site and make a contribution to improve areas in the community. It is great that young people want to be involved in these areas, more about these groups in future blogs and newsletters.
On Wednesday our Y7 boys won all their games at the Rugby County Finals, well done to the team and all the staff associated with them.
On Thursday I attended a meeting of the Oxfordshire Secondary Schools Headteachers Association (OSSHTA). Two key areas for discussion were the new OFSTED framework and school funding. Having only just been inspected under the current framework it was encouraging to see that there are some changes being made. School funding continues to be a big issue amongst all headteachers and this week we collectively sent out a letter to all parents explaining some details about this years’ funding picture, which sadly is not a positive one.
Thursday evening saw the second parents’ evening in the Wilson Building. Holding them here is clearly the way forward, as it does help us cope with the large year groups. Although still in its early days, if anyone has any comments to improve the evening, please let us know.
During period five on Friday I visited a couple of lessons and it was good to see so many staff and students on task. One of my visits was to the 6th form Art students, a very talented group. As part of their Art course they have made a significant contribution to the school environment, completing an Art installation earlier in the school year and now they are close to completing another project which will improve the area around student services. The images they’ve produced are impressive and I’m looking forward to them finishing this project and putting their work on display. I did promise that I would mention them in my blog again, to which they replied, ‘what blog’!!!!!
In the first week back after half term we had a visit from OFSTED inspectors, which certainly created an air of excitement in the school. We had lots of messages of support from parents and past teachers which was really pleasing, and much appreciated. The outcome from the OFSTED visit will not be known for two or three weeks, when a report will be issued and made available.
Their visit came at a time when the Drama and Music department were putting the finishing touches to the ‘Popstars’ performance, so it did make for a very busy week. There were three performances, starting on Thursday, running through until Saturday. I was lucky enough to go on Thursday and Friday evening and what a super show it was! This has been in the planning since the beginning of the school year in September and all the hours of rehearsals came together brilliantly. Staff have done such a great job of involving a range of students from Y7 through to Y13. The quality of the music, choreography, singing, sound and lighting, dancing and acting was of the highest standard and the show really put a smile on the face of the school. Congratulations to all those involved!
Mrs Bettle came to see me this week and is really encouraged with the progress the 90 students are making with their Duke of Edinburgh Awards. I signed a lot of certificates on Friday for all those students who have completed several tasks and have logged it on the D of E system. Their expedition is coming soon and there will be more about this in the next few weeks.
In the final week before ½ term we finished by celebrating the successes of our students and rewarding those who have achieved 100% attendance from the start of the school year, way back in September. We do this now as the beginning of February defines the mid-point of the academic year and it is a significant achievement not to miss a day for that length of time. All students with 100% attendance were presented with a badge and nearly three hundred were handed out. The attendance of these students is clearly well above the school attendance target of 96% and they make a significant contribution to the school meeting this target.
Our 6th form drama students really impressed with their performance for their practical exam. Having the new drama and dance studio facilities have certainly made a difference with the dedicated sound and lighting as it enables the staff and students to create a more professional approach.
During this last week, rehearsals for the up and coming school production, ‘Popstars’, took place in the main hall and Drama studio. Staff from the Music and Drama departments are also planning to put in many hours over the ½ term week and I am grateful for their commitment.
When our Y11 students return from the break they will be taking English and Maths mock exams. The results from these mock exams will give us a good indication of their strengths and weaknesses and will help staff support them for their public exams which begin in May. The students however, do need to balance their holiday between revision, rest and exercise.
Over last weekend Jason, our site maintenance worker did a great job in making the site safe for when we returned to the school on Monday, after the snow day on the previous Friday. He had cleared many of the paths and salted large areas of the school. As the thaw continued during the day most of the site was free of snow and ice by the Tuesday morning.
Politicians have again shown an interest in schools this week and are concerning themselves with the use of mobile phones by students. We seem to be getting closer to having a directive from MP’s. We’ve long had a ‘See it-Hear it-Lose it’ policy in school which we feel is about right. Students can bring mobile phones into school at their own risk but are not to use them at any time during the day.
There is however a greater drive to put some guidelines in place for mobile phone use which I think can only be a good thing. Students are often ‘plugged’ into their phones listening to music with their ear pieces, when revising. Research by the Applied Psychology department of Cardiff Metropolitan University came up with some interesting conclusions. The researchers assigned students into one of four groups: the first revised in silence, the second revised while listening to music with lyrics they liked (which included songs from One Direction and Katy Perry), the third group revised to music with lyrics they did not like (which comprised of very heavy metal bands), and the fourth group revised listening to music without lyrics.
The participants then took a test on the passages they had been revising, rating how distracting their environment had been, as well as writing down their predictions for how well they thought they had done, the findings are listed below.
On Thursday evening our Y9 boys played football in the County Cup and they successfully defeated last years’ winners, Oxford Spires. Mr Rees was buzzing after the game as he said the boys played brilliantly against a physical team and with the match level at full time and diminishing light, we won on penalties.
Many thanks to the PTA who provide great support to the school with our many functions and have recently secured £3000 from Tesco to help purchase a new piano for the Music department.
The week started relatively quietly. Our Y10 boys’ football team played in the County Cup competition on Monday evening and scored late in the game to equalise but unfortunately lost on penalties.
On Tuesday we had another Citizenship Day with a range of activities suited to the different year groups. These are important days for staff and students as it gives us an opportunity to address important issues outside the subject areas. We had visiting speakers, Bright Futures in for Y8 and they did some important team building activities. Some Expedition Instructors came in to talk to the 90 plus students in Y9 and Y13 who are taking the Duke of Edinburgh Award and help prepare them for their first expedition. Other relevant activities for the KS4 students were ‘Voting at 16’ and ‘Writing a CV’. The 6th form were involved in the very popular charity activity the ‘Cookie Challenge’ and raised over £100.
On Wednesday Mrs Kenyon took a group of students to Radley College for the County Cross Country competition. In arctic conditions the students did really well on the 6km run. Charlie in Y12 did exceptionally well. Although only 16 years old, Charlie competed in the under 19’s category and finished an excellent 6th and has been selected to run in the England trials.
As school numbers continue to grow we recognise that we need to look at ways of improving parents evening. Mr Winter and Mrs Talbot organised our first evening in the Wilson Building for Y11 students and parents. We feel that it worked well but if there are any comments, please let us know. When we left on Thursday night, weather wise, all appeared fine. Circumstances changed dramatically overnight and in the morning there was a blanket of snow covering the school site and the surrounding area.
Deciding whether to keep a school open or close it, is complex and fraught with challenges.
I never make the decision lightly because I know that there are many negative consequences of doing so - extra pressures for parents to organise childcare, missed teaching time and stock control concerns for the school canteen, etc. However, ultimately I always put the safety of the students and staff at the top of the list of considerations.
I knew I’d made the right decision to close the school as when I left the school site late on Friday morning, my car was stuck in the snow. Many thanks to Mr Winter for giving me a push!
It’s been a busy week for Y11, Y12 and Y13 students. Y11 students have been experiencing a taste of the sixth form and attending some KS5 lessons to give them ideas about post 16 choices and the Y12 & 13 students have been taking mock exams.
During a blizzard at Oxford City’s ground our U16 boys played football in the final of the County Cup on Tuesday afternoon. The conditions were dreadful with very poor visibility and at half time the prospect of the game being called off was high, with the pitch markings difficult to see. Although we played the better football, during the first half we were caught on the break and went in to half time 1-0 down. We continued to play well in the second half and after being awarded a penalty early on, our chance had come. Unfortunately their keeper, who was the man of the match, saved it and the rebound was pushed wide of the post. While continuing to chase the game we conceded two further goals and lost 3-0. The Y11 boys have done brilliantly to get this far and they and Mr Tribbick should be really proud of their achievements.
On Thursday Mr Rees took a group of Y7 students to Southampton as they had qualified for the U12 regional indoor 5 a side finals. Mr Rees was impressed with the boys as they won 5 of their 6 qualifying games and only lost out 4-3 in the semi-final. The boys were disappointed as they missed the chance to play in the national finals in Birmingham but had a great day out.
Many thanks to Mr Winter and all the staff who supported him on the Y8 & Y9 ski trip who returned safely on Saturday evening.
As the 6th form ski trip return Mr Winter is putting on the final preparations for the Y8 & Y9 ski trip which leaves on Saturday, taking 84 students. In light of the tortuously long Brexit debate, planning for future trips is difficult, but may be the politicians will resolve this soon!!!
Behind the scenes the Drama and Music department are working hard on the school production. Not only have they been rehearsing in the evenings and at lunchtimes but have also been in at weekends. When I went to the main hall on Wednesday evening there were over 50 students from across all year groups supported by four staff and 6th formers. I’m looking forward to the production in February as there are clearly some talented students in the school and it will be great to see and hear them perform.
Thursday evening was an important time for our Y11 students as they received their mock exam results. It was well attended by parents and students and there was some excellent advice from Mr Bettle, Mr Bew, Ms Malik and Mr Rutherford on how to improve and prepare for the GCSE exams later in the year. The mocks are only a guide to where the students are and it is important that they reflect on the results and look for ways to improve. For some it will be how to maintain their already excellent effort and for others it will be a time to establish a more robust revision and study timetable.
A theatre group came into school on Friday and performed ‘A Christmas Carol’ for our Y10 GCSE students. It was an energetic and entertaining performance, giving the students a live theatre experience and bringing the characters to life. Many thanks to Ms Kitching and the English department for organising this event.
As school numbers continue to grow we are already planning for September 2019 and this week we have been involved in interviews for Maths, Chemistry and DT. Teacher recruitment and retention is a hot topic in education. We are very lucky at FCC as staff retention is high and if there are vacancies there are usually good quality applicants. Schools however are finding that there is an increasingly small pool of teachers to choose from so the timing of adverts is key. On that note we recently welcomed Mr King to our Computing department and we wish him well in his new role at FCC.
Our under 16 boys football team play in the final of the County Cup on Tuesday evening, more about that next week.
After our recent break the start of the New Year has gone well and although students returned on Tuesday, staff were in on Monday to prepare for their lessons.
On arriving back from a two -week break we always spend some time re-establishing the school rules with the students and they did this by spending the first hour in school with their tutors. We’ve always found this to be useful for the students after a break as they can sometimes find it difficult to adjust to a structured environment, particularly with our approach to the use of mobile phones in school!
Assemblies this week have been on ‘making a fresh start’ and students have been encouraged to reflect on 2018 and think about what they would like to address and change for 2019. Keeping resolutions is always difficult, but as I said to the students the best chance of keeping a resolution is to tell a friend. For me, I’m staying with a familiar one, to try to improve my golf and lower my handicap. This is an annual target for me and one I’ve had limited success with, that’s golf!
At the beginning of the school year we had our annual ‘design a postcard’ competition and we were really pleased with the standard of the entries. This week we had 1000 postcards delivered of each of the four fantastic designs and congratulations to Ice, Gemma, Evie and Molly. The postcards are an important part of our rewards in school and are well liked by staff, students and parents.
Mrs Button has just returned from leading a very successful 6th form ski trip and was really proud of the behaviour of the students. Conditions at times were difficult as they had too much snow, which reduced the amount of skiing they could do. Everyone returned safely, although all credit to Mrs Button who led a good part of the trip, on crutches.
On returning to school there was a publication on my desk from The Economist and in it was an article from one of our students who attends our Burnet News Club, run by Mr Baker. Students were given the title ‘Ten years on: Learning from the financial crisis’ and FCC had one of the four articles printed. The Burnet News Club has been successfully running on Monday evenings for three years and provides an insight into current affairs, supported by the Economist. I must ask them if Brexit has featured much in their activities…………
On Friday some of our girls played in the Oxford Utd football festival with lots of other clubs from the South of England, playing as Oxford Utd. They won through to the final and just lost out to Reading, missing the chance to play at Wembley. Many thanks to Mrs Kenyon for supporting the students, whom she said, performed brilliantly.
As we approached the end of the term the PE department worked hard to keep our students fit before the Xmas break. They arranged form competitions over the last week for our key stage 3 students which were well received. This was in addition to their PE lessons with a range of activities, from fitness sessions to traditional games.
Mr Tribbick was delighted with the performance of our Y11 U16 football team who on Monday played in the semi-final of the County Cup at Wheatley Park School in Oxford. By all accounts it was a well contested match and with Wheatley Park scoring a late goal this then led to a tense penalty shoot out. Mr Tribbick was impressed with the team performance especially with Matt who, under pressure put the final penalty away.
On Wednesday evening our Y13’s returned to school to collect their exam certificates. It was a pleasure to meet the students again and hear of their successes from last year. It was also good to meet so many parents who have been a great support to the school over the years.
As our Year 11 students completed their mock exams the Y12 and 13 students go into the holiday having to revise for their mock exams in January. These mock exams provide a good benchmark for students and enable staff to plan the next two terms work
On Friday we had our whole school Christmas assembly which was organised by our drama and music department. There were some super performances from the students and it never ceases to amaze me when they perform to such a high standard in front of such a large audience.
Staff and students alike, deserve a break and it just leaves me to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year.
In assemblies this week I have been presenting badges to students who have been nominated by staff for their excellent effort during the term. I’ve presented nearly thirty badges to students in each year group and this is always an enjoyable part of my job. We have worked hard in recent years to ensure that we recognise the successes of many students and the awarding of badges goes some way to addressing this. This is the first time Year 7 students have received badges and there were some broad smiles when their names were mentioned.
Our Y11 students have conducted themselves really well during their mock exams. It is a difficult time for them as we expect them to do all their mocks in a two week period. In the summer they will have a seven week period of exams during May and June. The mock exams however be a good measure of where the students are in relation to their target grades and it will help teachers plan for the remainder of the year.
On Wednesday we had our presentation evening for last year’s GCSE students. It was a super evening, celebrating the achievements of students in individual subjects. Dom and Ailsa, Head Boy and Head Girl, took us through many of the major highlights of 2017-18. Their speech was upbeat and typifies the character, energy and enthusiasm of everyone at FCC. Ms Gammon organised some lovely musical pieces, the school choir, Finlay on Piano and Zoe with her wonderful voice. We made some changes to the evening this year. As the school numbers continue to grow we decided to only invite the award winners as we felt that it would make the event more manageable. I know that this would have been disappointing for some students, but I hope that they understand the reasons behind this. We are however proud of the achievements of all our students as they contributed to the best GCSE results we’ve had at FCC for some time. In a school which is growing in popularity like FCC, rising pupil numbers can be a mixed blessing as it becomes more of a challenge to meet everyone’s needs. There are other events which involve the whole school which unfortunately we are also having to reconsider, due to the increase in numbers.
The drama and music department are working hard with students from a range of year groups rehearsing for the new school production. I’ve only heard and seen a few of the performances but it is clear that we have some very talented students in school and I’m looking forward to the show in February. We have our school productions every two years and they are a huge undertaking and I’m lucky to have staff who are so committed to supporting the students and the school.
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.