Theme of the week is: Celebration
We were very honoured to have Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell in school on Monday talking to some of our students about women in science. She was credited with one of the most significant scientific achievements of the 20th century as she was the first person to observe radio pulsars. It was by all accounts a fascinating talk but sadly missed by a couple of students who were delayed in their return from Geneva.
As this is the last week of term assemblies have been all about celebration. It is this time of the school year, the mid-point, when attendance badges are awarded to students who have not missed a session since September. I was pleased to hand out 200 attendance badges and as I said to the students, punctuality and attendance are a really important part of being successful at school and in life generally.
After school on Wednesday there was a music concert organised by some of our GCSE students who worked with over twenty of our Year 7 musicians and performers. The purpose of the evening was to develop the students’ confidence, giving them a chance to perform and create an opportunity for the older students to develop their leadership skills. Unfortunately I was unable to attend, but it has been videoed and by all accounts it was a fabulous evening, with many parents in attendance. Mrs Henderson and Ms Gammon were really pleased with the performances and with the maturity and organisational skills of our GCSE students.
The blog doesn’t really capture all the many positive activities and events which take place in a school week but what I do try to do is represent a broad picture of life at Faringdon Community College. Since my decision to retire later this year, I suspect I’ve picked up a couple of extra followers to my blog, welcome and enjoy the half term break.
While writing my blog on Sunday afternoon my attention was drawn to the extremely blustery conditions. There was no respite from Storm Ciara and for several hours I had a whistling howling noise from the fireplace. My thoughts then turned to school and I’m just hoping that we’ve not experienced any damage to the buildings. Fortunately, I know that our site manager is in very early every day and will survey the site and inform me of any problems. Then I had a text from Mr Winter to say that the school trip to Geneva we had out this weekend would not be returning back until Monday because of the adverse weather conditions. Mr Hale, Ms Copley and Mrs Goulton have taken a group of 6th form students to see the Large Hadron Collider and I’m grateful for the time the staff have given to this, although an extra night in a hotel was not part of the plan. Taking school trips out is a huge responsibility and you have to be prepared for anything. I wish them a safe journey back and we will look forward to seeing them in school on Tuesday.
On Friday I met with parents from our PTA and we agreed the annual quiz (my last) will be on Friday March 20th, more details will follow in the school newsletter. The next storm will be named Dennis, so any one reading this blog may just benefit on quiz night!!!
Firstly can I thank all the staff, parents, governors and students for their kind words after I made the decision to stand down as Headteacher later this year. I’m taking the opportunity to retire and as yet have no particular plans but I will give this more thought over the coming months.
As I said in last week’s blog our Y11 boys reached the final of the U16 County Cup and played Henry Box (not Carterton as stated previously) on Thursday. It was a well contested game and honours were even at half time with the score at 1-1. We went behind to two quick goals at the start of the second half which made it difficult for us and despite putting Henry Box under a lot of pressure we lost 3-1. I felt so sorry for the boys as at the start of the game they were filled with hope, optimism and belief but at the end of the match, initially they were understandably dejected. I’m sure they were cheered by the fact that on the evening of this match they had their last Y11 parents meeting. This was a very well attended parents evening and a lot was gained from it, for the parents and the students. I was quite taken back by the generosity of the comments from the parents who acknowledged my recent announcement, some of them I taught just a few years ago!!
This has been a week of mixed emotions and it started on a real high. Our under 16 boys played football against Cherwell School in the County Cup semi-final and won convincingly defeating them 5-0. They will now play in the final at Oxford City’s ground on Thursday 30th January at 11.30am against Carterton. This is the second time in two years we’ve made the final and let’s hope we can come away with the trophy this year which would be a great result for Mr McHenry and Mr Rees who have put in so much work with the team.
On Tuesday I spent a double period with Mrs Darko and her Y10 catering group making vol au vents. This was a fun and interesting time and the students enjoyed it, probably a little more than me. Being in the shoes of students enabled me to experience what is expected of them, and I coped, making 6 vol au vent cases and filling them, all in two hours. The work surfaces could be a little higher as I ended up with a bad back!!!!
On Friday morning I announced to staff that this would be my last year at FCC, a decision which has not been an easy one and a tougher one to make than I first expected. I started at FCC in November 1987 and I’m now in my 33rd year, having been a Teacher, Head of Year, Assistant Headteacher, Deputy Headteacher and Headteacher, at what I consider to be an excellent secondary school which provides many wonderful opportunities for the students. Since I’ve announced my retirement I would like to thank all the staff and parents who have been so generous in their support of me. I’m sure over the next few months I will say more about this.
A big ‘well done’ to three Y8 students who won through to the next round of the Youth Speaks competition debating the issue of lowering the voting age to 16. They’ve been really well prepared by Mr Baker who meets them every week and supported by two Rotarians who volunteer their time.
Our Y10 boys played football in the County Cup on Wednesday evening and I thought it would be a good idea to show my support. It was an excellent match, 2-2 after full time so it went to penalties which we won really easily. The opponents, St Gregory the Great’s team from Oxford were the defending champions so it was an impressive victory. Walking to the far pitch was not straightforward as conditions underfoot were very wet and not wearing wellingtons was a mistake!!!!
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 Bew, Mr Jhoti, 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.
Many thanks to the staff who supported Mr Winter and Mr Cooper on the ski trip as the party of 80 had a great time and arrived back safely on Saturday.
After our recent break the start of the New Year has gone well and although the 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 this was done by them 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!
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. We’ve had 1000 postcards delivered of each of the three winning designs and congratulations to the year 9 students, Molly, Lexie and Gemma. The postcards are an important part of our rewards in school and are well liked by staff, students and parents.
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 ‘Space Exploration is it worth the cost?’ and FCC had one of the four articles printed. The Burnet News Club has been successfully running on Monday evenings for four years and provides an insight into current affairs, supported by the Economist.
I also received a lovely letter from the Salvation Army in recognition for the shoe boxes we donated full of gifts for residents at Booth House Swindon over the Christmas period. Many thanks to everyone who contributed to this worthy cause.
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 Wednesday evening our Y13’s from last year 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.
On Thursday we had our whole school Christmas assembly which was organised by our Drama and Music department. In previous years we’ve had our final assembly in the leisure centre with all the staff and students in one sitting. Due to the increased school numbers we had to take a different approach this year by having two assemblies, back to back. This went well and a great atmosphere was created by our sound and lighting team. There were also some super performances from the students, and this year they had to perform twice!
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.
Our Y11 students have been in the middle of their mock exams and they have conducted themselves well during this process. The students don’t have an easy time, in the summer their exams are over a 4 week period but during their mocks they are compressed into two weeks. It does however give them the opportunity to experience exam routines and an exam setting, which is important.
On Wednesday we had our annual presentation evening for some of our past Y11 students to celebrate their achievements in individual subjects at GCSE. As the school numbers have continued to rise we have had to look at making some changes to our presentation evenings. To make the Y11 presentation evening more manageable, this year, for the second year running we only invited the award winners. I know that this was disappointing for some students but I hope that they understand the reasons behind the decision. We did however award and acknowledge 10% of the year group for various achievements across subject areas. The musical pieces organised and arranged by Ms Gammon were delightful and helped create a really celebratory atmosphere.
Many thanks to Mr Fletcher and his 6th form politics students, who ran a mock election in school on Thursday. The outcome was not dissimilar to the national picture with the Conservatives gaining the highest percentage of the vote. The turnout was just over 60%, the main difference from the national election being the popularity of the Liberal Democrats, who were in second place.
We had our second Citizenship Day on Tuesday. At key stage 3 & Key stage 4 there was a range of really invaluable topics experienced by the students, ranging from cyber safety, relationships, GCSE options, how to revise, to how to write a CV. I think our Y13 students really enjoyed their practical sessions on ‘how to cook on a budget’, which proves popular every year.
On Wednesday I was lucky enough to watch our Y10 boys play in the U15 Vase County Cup rugby final at Cokethorpe school where they played Blessed George Napier (BGN). We had comfortably beaten King Alfred’s in the semi-final, so hopes were high. It was a great match which was hard fought and I think the opposition thought they were going to have an easy time, which they didn’t. In the first half it was a very closely contested game with a try and conversion each, with Sylas making a powerful run to score our try but late on in the first half BGN got another try. The second half saw BGN score two more tries with Faringdon replying with a brilliant run by Will. The score finished 24-12 and these are clearly a promising group of individuals who I’m hoping will go one better next year.
Mr Hale and Mrs Messenger took 12 budding Astronomers on the 6 hour journey to Kielder Forest for the weekend on Friday. They were there for the star-studded skies above Kielder Water & Forest Park as the skies are the darkest in England. At nearly 580sq miles, they have a dark sky zone, known as Northumberland International Dark Sky Park, the first of its kind in England. It is also the largest Dark Sky Park area of protected night sky in Europe and the fourth largest in the world. Let’s hope that their weekend was free from too much cloud cover!
At Faringdon Community College we encourage staff and students to be involved in charitable events and these occur throughout the year. They range from the sponsored walk and cake sales to non-uniform days which raise considerable amounts of money for different worthy causes. One event which we have been running for some time is the shoe box appeal. This is where staff and students bring in shoe boxes and donate a range of items, consisting of toiletries, hats, gloves, scarves and food, including tins, sweets, chocolates and biscuits. The shoe boxes are packed and distributed in and around the community. The shoe boxes have been wrapped and packed mainly by Megan from Student Support and two of our 6th formers Imogen and Karen, with support from some Y8 students and Mrs Bettle.
On Thursday 28th the completed boxes were delivered to the Salvation Army at Booth House in Swindon, who were really grateful for the contribution. Booth House is a place which provides rooms for homeless people. We are still making more boxes and also packing socks with lots of treats, hats & gloves etc. for homeless people, who won’t be able to access a bed. With the winter now getting really cold we felt their need was the greatest and they will be delivered in the last week of term.
On a different note, some of our 6th formers joined other students from local schools and colleges where they learned about the devastating impact of being involved in a car crash. Safe Drive Stay Alive is an annual event organised by the Road Safety team in Oxfordshire County Council’s Fire and Rescue Service and has been running for 14 years. This event gets across an important message, as statistics show that Oxfordshire drivers between the ages of 17 and 24 make up around one in eight drivers on the road, but they are twice as likely to be involved in road traffic incidents that result in death or injury. Some of our students were also interviewed by the media, and they handled themselves really well, as being interviewed is never easy.
Many thanks to our PTA, supported by several staff who helped make the Y7 & Y8 disco a success on Friday night, where over £600 was raised.
It’s been a week full of diverse activities with some real success stories. Ms Whenray and the staff from the drama department have been working with twenty seven of our able and ambitious students, which culminated in three performances of Hamlet in two days. The audiences were very different. On Tuesday their first performance was at the Didcot Cornerstone Arts Centre, where the organisers were really complimentary about the students. On Wednesday there were back to back performances to pupils from four of our local primary schools in the afternoon and to 250 parents in the evening. The energy and enthusiasm shown by the students and staff is quite remarkable and a big thank you from me for their contribution.
Also on Wednesday Mrs Belcher organised our annual careers fair which was well attended by a range of local businesses, national companies and educational providers. It was an opportunity for students from Y9 through to Y13 to explore the many career paths available to them and help them plan for the future.
On the sporting front our PE department have done a great job again as our Y10 boys have reached the final of the rugby county cup and will play at Cokethorpe School in December.
It is always good to hear from former students of FCC and when Tom left in 2009 we had no idea that he would go on to become part of the Olympic team in Japan in 2020. Tom is the number 1 wind surfer in England and he is in the top ten in the world. He clearly has a very realistic chance of gaining a medal and we wish him well in the build up to the games.
I started the week at the Oxfordshire Secondary Head Teachers Association (OSHTA) conference in the company of 25 other head teachers. We shared concerns about the continued lack of investment in education and wondered if the impending election would resolve the funding problem. We were also united on the shortage of available teachers and the importance of government leadership in putting in place a strategy which will begin to address this issue. Although we only had an OFSTED inspection in February we are beginning to prepare for our next one in less than 4 years’ time. In preparation for this we have to be mindful of the new OFSTED framework and the conference looked closely at how there is a big change of emphasis on the curriculum and what the implications are in the long term for schools.
It was good to see that our Y11 boys U16 football team kept up their winning ways and defeated Marlborough School in the quarter final of the County Cup. As I was at the conference I was unable to watch the game but apparently it was closely fought, 1-1 after full time, 2-2 after extra time but they held their nerve and won their second game on penalties in this competition. The semi-final will be played away from home but it will be a great opportunity for us to reach the final again, for the second year running.
Although only just back from our Autumn break the week was spent preparing for our 6th Form Open Evening. The evening was well attended and the 6th Form students who spoke gave a great insight into life in the 6th form. There were a range of views from the upper and lower 6th Form students, they all spoke so positively about their experience and I was really impressed with their enthusiasm and energy. Staff put in a lot of time in displaying and setting up the stands. The evening generated a lot of interest from the Y11 students and their parents and it was really well attended.
While on holiday last week I read an interesting book called ‘Teenagers Translated’ by Janey Downshire and Naella Grew. Being a parent can be tough at times and provides a range of challenges, none more so than when your children are going through their teenage years. It’s an easy read and has some great observations about teenagers and gives some sound advice. Although I’ve been teaching for some time there’s still lots to learn about young people and this book goes some way into explaining their journey through adolescence.
As we approach the autumn break school continues to be busy. This week has been assessment week for our 6th form students and this gives us the chance to benchmark where they are after the first term. The Y13 students who are in Uganda will obviously have a bit of catching up to do on their return. Our Y11 students had a great time on the battlefields trip, returning safely on Monday. As soon as one group returns, other trips are scheduled after the break to Paris and Barcelona. Managing the administration of the trips is a big task and I’m grateful for Mrs Heath’s hard work and meticulous planning.
Tuesday evening after school was really busy, especially on the sporting front. There were over 100 students taking part in Rugby, Football and Netball. The PE department do a great job in organising so many of the fixtures and providing opportunities for the students. Last year our under 16’s made the county cup final so I decided to watch this year’s U16’s against the European School. Despite the bumpy pitch they performed brilliantly winning 8-0. This was an excellent team performance with some sharp finishing from Ronan, who had several assists and scored two goals. Congratulations to Zac who had his shooting boots on the right feet, scoring four goals, with a spectacular bicycle kick which was admired by everyone.
The theme for this week has been humour and we’ve needed a sense of humour to cope with the weather, particularly at the beginning of the week.
Two different groups of students have travelled abroad as part of our rich programme of residential trips. Ms Dickenson, supported by Ms Whenray has taken 22 Y13 students to Uganda to work with our partner school there, Kazo Hill College. Ms Armstrong, supported by several staff has taken 62 Y11 students as part of their History curriculum on the ‘Battlefields trip’ to France and Belgium. Both of these trips have been running for some time and provide the students with some amazing experiences and memories. There will be more about these trips in the newsletter.
Friday was an important day in the school calendar with the first of four citizenship days. These days provide an opportunity to offer a range of topics which address many issues on which young people may need advice and guidance. Each year group have a slightly different focus and the topics will be relevant to where they are in their school journey. On this citizenship day an example of the topics were, role of the media, anti-bullying, political parties, human rights and civil liberties, consent, strategies for success, plus many more. Having looked at the list though, I noticed that there wasn’t one on ‘Brexit’!!!!!!!!!!!!
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 and this week we had our ‘School in Action’. During the week we had well over 100 prospective parents and students visiting the school. Each day started in the new Wilson Building Café at 9.30am with students from 7MBa answering any questions from our visitors. The parents were really impressed with the Year 7 students who spoke enthusiastically with them and were great ambassadors for the school. What’s amazing is that the students have only been in the school for 5 weeks yet they give the impression they’ve been with us much longer. Ms Nichols 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.
Once the Year 7’s had returned to their lessons I took the parents around the school, accompanied by Mr Winter and Mr Bettle. Teaching staff, as always are very accommodating and wherever we went parents could freely walk into classrooms. As head teacher 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. Each day was different and with no particular planned route I feel that the parents gained a lot from the visit. The highlight for me was on Wednesday when we visited Ms Whenray’s Y11 GCSE dance students. They had just finished a routine they were rehearsing so were taking a break, but when asked, they performed again, in front of the visiting parents and were brilliant.
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 children from our partnership schools who have had a tour of the school and experienced a day at FCC.
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 nearly 200 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. There were a wide range of activities across all departments and some Y11 students even came in for revision sessions, which is impressive. Head Boy and Head Girl, Alfie and Ella delivered an excellent speech and it was difficult not to be impressed with them as they spoke about their last six years at FCC and the many experiences they’d had. I also 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.
What struck me this year were the many positive comments I received from parents as they left the school and their acknowledgement that the staff had worked hard and how that had made a great impression on them. It capped a great evening.
This week all our Y7 students have been enjoying an overnight stay at Court Hill with some team building activities during the day. I think it’s fair to say that the weather has been mixed but the students have been great and fully embraced the tasks set. Ms Nichols and her team have worked really hard all week and their contribution to the success of the week has been amazing.
On Wednesday Mrs Bettle organised our first Duke of Edinburgh presentation evening where some of our Y9 students were presented with their Bronze Awards. This was a well-attended evening with the Deputy Mayor, Julie Farmer and DofE Operations Manager Annie Robinson presenting the awards. It has been some time since the DofE ran in school and the reasons we started again are due largely to the Town Council providing funding for the licence, and to Mrs Bettle, our school organiser. She has done such a great job in her first year with over 90 students taking the Bronze or Gold Award. Her enthusiasm and commitment has been matched by the students’ efforts and she is already looking to increase the numbers this year.
The PE department has had a successful week with a wide range of games and activities taking place. In a rugby match on Thursday, our Y10 boys put in a good performance against a strong Burford team. Although they didn’t win Mr Rees was impressed with all the students involved. On Tuesday our U16 boys football team won at Larkmead after the game finished 2-2. They were disappointed not to win it in normal time but thanks to some excellent penalty saves from Charlie Lawrence they progressed through to the next round after extra time. And finally, although it’s late in the season, for the second year running our U16 boys represented Oxfordshire in the regional tennis finals at Abingdon. There were some individual successes and excellent performances with the boys finishing in fourth place.
This week we welcomed the parents of our new Y7 students for an information evening. It gave us an opportunity to thank them for their support as their children have made a great start at FCC. Ms Nichols also spoke about the annual residential visit to Court Hill. This trip has been running for some time and it gives the students the opportunity to work in teams and develop strong relationships. Look out for pictures and articles in the school newsletter in the coming weeks.
We are always looking for ways to improve at FCC and just before the summer break our environmental group spoke to me of their concerns about the use of plastics in school. In response to this we are planning to make some changes. I’ve met with our catering manager and when our stocks of bottled water have run out, they will no longer be on sale. The students have had some forewarning about this in an assembly at the start of the year when they were encouraged to bring in a reusable water container, as there are now four watering stations in school. I’m also looking at bringing in a recycling vending machine which will collect and crush cans and plastic bottles.
Also after ½ term, for a trial period, we are having a day where we only sell vegetarian food on a Thursday. More details will follow on the products being served but we are hoping that this initiative will be well received.
When starting any school year there is always lots of information which needs updating and I never under estimate the importance of keeping parents informed. One aspect which we are in the process of changing are the details in our Extra-Curricular Activities Booklet for 2019-20 which will be ready in the next couple of weeks. Clubs are however already running, with many promoted through form tutors or the school newsletter. We also recognise that our website needs improving and many thanks to Lisa on reception who is currently making changes to the information presented and the design of it. We are hoping that this upgrade will be in place before our Open Evening on October 3rd.
We have just finished our first complete week and the school is in full flow. Our group of 270 Year 7 students is the largest single year group we have had in the school’s history and I have been impressed with how quickly they have adapted to their new environment and how well they have settled in. We have also welcomed over 30 international students to FCC whose parents are based at the Defence Academy. These students will be with us for one year and in this time we endeavour to include them as much as we can into our school community. We’ve been working closely with the Defence Academy for nearly 20 years now and this partnership is very important to us.
In a school with student numbers rising it is important that we make sure we can cope with the extra capacity, particularly at break and lunchtimes. We’ve done this by introducing an extra catering facility, a small building attached to the Wilson Building. This has been well received by the students and enables the catering team to serve more students. There is currently a competition running for students to name the building and create a design which will be professionally applied to the building. I’m looking forward to judging the competition entries over the next few weeks.
WEEK 1 - Welcome back to the FCC blog after a 6 week break.
Firstly, my congratulations to all the students who have received their GCSE and A level results. 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. At A level an overwhelming majority of our students secured places at their university of choice with 45% getting in at a ‘Russell Group’’ university, with others entering employment, and many beginning an apprenticeship. A big well done to Ceci who is studying Political Sciences at Cambridge. There were some super individual performances with Imogen at A level and Molly at GCSE our highest achievers. I was also hugely impressed with Imogen who made more progress over 5 years than any other student in Y11.
Staff have been in school since Monday and it has been a really busy time. Mr Bettle has analysed the GCSE results and it is clear that we have built on the success of last year with staff continuing to deliver excellent lessons and students who were really committed to doing well. Another factor was the change to the end of Y11 and the removal of ‘study leave’. This was the second year of exam revision sessions right up to the exams and there is no doubt that it works. It makes life hard for my staff but their commitment is key to our success and I’m really grateful for their dedication.
Mrs Button is also delighted with the A level results, particularly as there was a significant increase in students gaining A*/A’s at A level.
This week we welcomed 270 new Y7 students and they are a joy to have on site. This is the largest year group we’ve ever had in school and I’m really pleased that parents have made FCC their first choice.