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Principal’s update 20.6.16

Dear Parents/Carers, 

The examination season is drawing to a close and the nail biting wait for results is about to begin! We have no time, however, to stop and reflect as we are now gearing up for; Sports Day on Friday, the Year 11 Prom, Year 6 induction and Enrichment week. This week we are also hosting the ‘Parent Learning Forum’ on Wednesday at 6pm in Bright Beginnings. All parents and carers are welcome to attend this meeting where the agenda will cover updates on; website development, changes to A/S and A Levels and the Multi Academy Trust merger. If you do have time on Wednesday please come along. Another opportunity for parents and carers to come into school exists every Tuesday morning, members of the Leadership Team are available to take tours of the College to see lessons in action and to discuss any topic desired.

On the learning front we have just had a visit from Graham Powell who is a leading educational consultant. The feedback from his visit was very pleasing and I have copied it below for your information.

On the sports field our cricketers have been busy and ,in the 12 competitions entered this year so far, we have; two teams who are South West  Region runners-up, six teams becoming county champions and one team who are county runners up. Added to this we still have three South West Regional finals to come! Our first XI play the MCC on July the 1st. This is a huge honour for the College and recognition of the success we have had on the cricket field. This is an all-day game beginning at 11am. Spectators are very welcome and as it is an INSET day students may come to watch!

The new dining hall, ‘The Judith Morgan Building’ is proving a real boon and is providing a much improved environment for eating lunch. The upper storey has also provided an excellent examination venue which has allowed us to keep our sports facilities in full use. We are in dialogue with Dartmoor National Park in order that we can re-erect a portion of the old ‘tents’ as a covered area for when students are awaiting buses.

We have our ‘Dance Gala’ on Thursday of this week and our ‘Music Gala’ next week, I look forward to seeing many of you at these events but if you cannot get into College then do look at the You Tube clip of the opera ‘The Bartered Bride’ on our website for a glimpse of what our students can do! 

The Bartered Bride-YouTube

Yours faithfully,

Hugh Bellamy

 

 

 Note of visit: 15th June 2016 Graham Powell

Observations of lessons as part of the College’s Capture fortnight were most instructive and indicative of the coherent strides that have been taken to continuously improve classroom practice, teacher interactions with students and the professional development of all teachers. Opportunities for teachers to learn from and with each other at the point of delivery are extremely powerful and support fresh approaches and consistent values and behaviours across the College. In addition to teachers learning from their colleagues, it is extremely valuable for students to see their teachers as learners in their classrooms. The openness of teachers to others in their classrooms is powerful and validating for all partners. 

The Learning Enrichment lesson around the Fire Pit was exemplary and provided many learning opportunities for both vulnerable learners and those teachers who were observing - and invited into the lesson as participants. The learning positive features were legion and may be summarised as follows:

  • Students were treated with maturity and respect and responded likewise to each other and their teacher
  • The development of all aspects of emotional intelligence was carefully nurtured by the teacher
  • The teacher modelled highly sophisticated techniques by
    1. Being inclusive of all students’ contributions
    2. Validating all efforts whilst challenging misconceptions in a mature and constructive way
    3. Modelling a calm and purposeful approach
    4. Providing relevant and illuminating information to supplement the experience of learning in the outdoors
    5. Allowing students to adopt roles and responsibilities and act autonomously
    6. Ensuring that the process of learning involved trying things out and learning from mistakes
    7. Recognising that’s it’s OK not to succeed provided that the process is reviewed and future plans are established
    8. Being open and honest about herself and her fallibility
    9. Building in reflective moments when individuals could give constructive feedback on their own and other’s performance
    10. Allowing time for students to uncouple from the urgency of the day to day and enable their senses to respond to the environment and each other
  • The lesson was built around clear and coherent criteria that were used flexibly in response to the situation and students’ attitudes
  • A progressive sense of what mindfulness means and how this can impact productively on vulnerable students’ learning was extremely impressive and cutting edge. There are huge opportunities for this to be adopted across the age and ability range for the benefit of more students - and teachers.
  • It was clear that students are making consolidated and transferable progress across lessons and over time - in the four domains of learning - the emotional, the cognitive, the social and the reflective. This lesson was inspirational; taught by a consummate professional who understands the principles of Building Learning Power in the very fibre of her being.
  • The practical controlled assessment in Catering showed students working autonomously to a tight deadline over an extended period of time. Learning positive features in this lessons were as follows:
  • Calm and purposeful - focused - action by all individuals, some of whom present behavioural challenges in other contexts.
  • Productive autonomous use of resources with students exercising choice and discernment over materials, techniques, sequencing and time.
  • Prior planning and preparation leading to flexible and assured action and progress.*The department has developed extremely coherent approaches that build the capacity of students to be linguists in their own right. The configuration of the room around group tables on which there are resource packs to support autonomous problem solving is exemplary. The innovative approach to teaching that scaffolds learning by providing students with auditory, visual and kinesthetic clues and cues aids understanding. The lesson proceeds constructively with excellent pace and variety. The level of challenge ensures that students are stretched and have opportunities to work on their own and with others. The teacher is extremely adept at gauging levels of understanding in the course of the lesson, rewards students accordingly and supplements this in her marking that requires student - and parent - engagement. At the lesson’s close, it is made clear where the learning has got to and the direction of travel towards greater progress and understanding in the lesson that follows. It may be desirable for the teacher to slow down at times and give students  opportunities to reflect, explore uncertainties and consolidate what they know and understand before moving on with their learning.
  • The use of a lesson starter to hook students and build curiosity in History was managed purposefully by a NQT who is working hard to espouse the values and principles of Building Learning Power. Given two contrasting picture from the early twentieth century, students were required to notice details and draw comparisons between the two presentations of women. The teacher was inclusive of all suggestions and drew many observations from the students who were encouraged to go beneath the surface and extend their initial impressions. Notwithstanding these positive features, there were a few missed opportunities that would be helpful for this teacher to consider at this early stage in his career:
  • Building Learning Habits in a Modern Foreign Languages French lesson demonstrated effective and dynamic teaching by a teacher whose planning and confidence engaged students and led them through a sequence of cumulative activities that assured progress in the acquisition of knowledge, skills and understanding.
  • A student from Learning Enrichment, who had completed this three hour task on a previous day, was eager to share her successful outcome with another member of staff later in the morning.
  • Link students’ ability to notice details to their capacity to pose questions and become more forensic in their reading of visual stimuli and therefore make more marked progress as historians - through the use of well-chosen visible thinking routines, for example, I’m noticing…and asking myself… and I thought…but now I think…
  • Stimulate empathetic involvement by asking students to consider open questions about the people in the picture, for example, do you think that they work, if so, what do they do?...how comfortable do they find their clothes to wear?...how do you imagine they would sound if they were to speak to you?...Which person would you find it easier to talk with?...What words would you use to describe the impression that they give of themselves?
  • Develop their ability to act as historians by requiring them to pose questions for further enquiry.
  • Set a challenge by asking them to consider the dates of the two pictures and what may have happened in society to make them so different.The teacher did well to encourage a no hands up approach - the better to draw out individuals and gauge levels of skill, knowledge and understanding.
  • All of these notions were implicit in the lesson but not planned for as overtly as they might have been. The lesson’s starter might have benefitted from a Driving Question to open up the learning, stimulate curiosity and get to the heart of the lesson’s purpose, for example, What does it mean to be an independent woman?

The presentation on the development of a Growth Mindset in students was intriguing and suggests a way of moving these ideas forward across the school. It is important for all schools to go farther than the basic principles of Dweck’s research. Most teachers will be aware of the advisability of developing students so that they do not have a fixed mindset that limits their potential. Some have gone further to know how best to praise students - their effort and strategies. Few have thought about the ways in which teaching can help build capacity and autonomy so that students are learning how to take responsibility for themselves, learn from their mistakes and own up to their own deficiencies. The examples that were given for providing remote feedback and information that puts the onus on the student to respond and take responsible action were interesting and a useful start to a whole school approach to teaching for a growth mindset. This is intimately related to coaching and the role of the teacher as coach. The College would be well advised to consider how well advanced coaching is - not just as a tool for professional development - as the focus of classroom teaching - and not just on a one to one basis. How well do teachers and LSAs work with students as their coaches - is this in need of further development?

There is so much to like about the coherent approach taken over learning and teaching at SDCC over the last two years by a team that are completer-finishers who ensure that the impact of plans are assured in practice.

 

Graham Powell

June 16th 2016