• Headteacher 1

Headteachers' Blog

Week commencing 31st October 2016

Changing Schools – It’s all about relationships

Parents of children in Year 6 have until today to fill in their admissions form showing the secondary school that they would like their child/children to attend. We are delighted with the unprecedented number of applications we have received this year.

Moving schools is not easy. I attended four in the south of Surrey - Merstham Infants, Furzefield Middle, Albury Manor secondary and Reigate Sixth Form College - all of which involved a re-location. My memory is starting to fade, but I do not have nightmares about moving schools. However, just like most people, it is likely that I suffered some nervousness and anxiety. Change is difficult and we underestimate how traumatic transition can be for some children.

Before half term I read an article about the Royal Greenwich UTC. University Technical Colleges (UTCs) have been in existence for a few years having been pioneered by Lord Baker, the former Education Secretary who introduced the National Curriculum in the late 1980s. UTCs are schools for 14–19 year olds and there are currently 48 doted around the country. Their website states that they deliver an innovative, high-quality education by inspiring young people through the integration of three types of learning – technical, practical and academic. UTCs operate in carefully designed schools where all students can find their strengths and specialise in subjects that interest and engage them. As part of their study, students participate in projects with the UTC’s employer partners in real working environments, where they can apply their technical skills and creative thinking. In doing so, they offer students more than the traditional GCSE and A Level curriculum.

Reading over the last paragraph there is much that is in common with Stanley Park High – breadth of learning, students following their passions, projects with external partners, an offer beyond just preparation for exams and state-of-the-art buildings and facilities – but unlike Stanley Park High they have not proved popular. Consequently, Royal Greenwich, like some other UTCs, will close its doors for the final time next summer. The college, which has a capacity for 600 students, only has 257 students on roll and isn’t financially viable.

One can speculate as to the reasons why the UTC hasn’t attracted sufficient numbers, but for me the key factor is that most students, supported by their parents, are very reluctant to switch schools at 14 years of age. Relationships have been formed and breaking them is incredibly difficult. It undoubtedly has an impact on the continuity of learning.

Whilst there is some argument for a small minority of students to transfer schools in order that their needs are met, we strongly adhere to the belief that schools should meet the passions, interests and needs of all, and that we should all see each other doing them in the same location.

We feature in the TES

blog1-Small
Please click on the image for a enlarged version

The last issue of the TES before half term carried a feature on the school, explaining our journey and the persuasive factors which led to our recent success as TES Secondary School of the Year. Written by Nick Morrison following a fact-finding visit earlier last month, the article accurately reflected SPH ideas and philosophy. We are proud of the ethos and vision we have created, and we believe passionately that our approach ensures that students are stretched and supported.

SPH is a thriving community, and we do our best to develop a sense of belonging. It was especially rewarding that one of our Year 8 students shared her thoughts with the journalist on transition from primary school, saying “I know it sounds weird, but I feel as if I’m in a family.”

We couldn’t have expressed it any better!

Visitors from Brazil

blog2

Another entry was made in our international visitor book on Friday 21st October, when we were delighted to welcome four guests from Brazil, all of whom are involved with strategic decision making about school planning and design in their country. We were able to share ideas and information with them about the importance of good school design, especially regarding curriculum, the use of technology, infrastructure and ambience, and cultural transformation. Our visitors will use this experience to help them advise government and other institutions in planning and building exciting schools for the 21st century in Rio de Janeiro.

Changemaker Schools Conference

We were honoured to be invited to attend the conference in the west of Ireland just before the half term break. Ms Thomas, Director of SPIRA (Stanley Park Innovation and Research Academy), represented us during the three days in Killarney and she was joined by 150 other delegates from innovative schools across the world. More details about the outcomes of the conference will be made available on the Changemaker Schools website uk.ashoka.org/changemaker-schools in the near future. In the meantime, we provide a link through to an article that was published in the Irish Times just before the conference

www.irishtimes.com/news/education/meet-the-changemaker-schools

Our students out and about...

We received a call on the Friday before half term from a local resident, reporting an incident she witnessed in Wallington High Street. Two girls from Stanley Park High saw an elderly lady crossing the road, and noticed that the lights changed as the elderly lady was half way across. The two girls held up the traffic to allow the lady to finish crossing the road.

The resident wanted to report that it was so lovely to see such exemplary behaviour from our students. We are always happy to receive compliments about our students and we would like to thank our caller for taking the time to pass this on.

If your child is one of the girls, please do let us know because we would like to praise and reward her for supporting a member of the local community.

Year 7 Tea Party

blog3

It is always rewarding to see how well our Year 7 students have settled into school. Now that they feel at home, they are looking forward to inviting parents for our annual Tea Party on Thursday 10th November at 4.00pm. This will be a chance to welcome their parents and carers into school for tea and cakes, and for the judging of the final of the Stanley Park “Bake Off” competition.

The annual Tea Party is always a happy occasion and an opportunity to enjoy refreshments and a chat. We hope parents will be able to join us. The event finishes at 5.30pm.

Advance Exam Timetable for Summer 2017

The provisional summer exam timetable can now be found on the website.

We hope that this will help parents and carers with planning ahead.

Friends’ Quiz Night Friday 25th November - 7.00pm to 10.00pm

blog4

The Friends of Stanley Park High would like to invite parents and carers to their Quiz Night on Friday 25th November from 7pm – 10pm.  Doors open at 6.30pm. Tickets are priced at £5.00 per person via Parent Pay. 

Information has been sent by email and appears on the website. We hope you are able to join us. Please note this event is for 18s and over.

Panto

Congratulations to Savannah Ouzoun and Nell Damen, who have been successful in auditioning for parts in Sleeping Beauty at the Richmond Theatre this Christmas. Well done to both girls! We hope they enjoy taking part in the shows and we wish them well as they prepare to start their rehearsals.

Words of the Week

Every two weeks, the school focuses on new words which broaden the vocabulary. This week…

The literacy word of the week is Seldom
The numeracy word of the week is Divisibility


Week commencing 17th October 2016

blog1

Progress 8 – progress or the same old flaws remodelled?

In the first Blog of the academic year we said that we would return to the issue of Progress 8, so here we are. Progress 8 is a new secondary school accountability measure aimed at measuring the progress of students between key stage 2 and key stage 4 across a selected set of 8 subjects.  It shows whether schools have performed to expectation. It is a type of value added measure, meaning that students’ results are compared to the actual achievements of other pupils with the same prior attainment.

Until the last academic year, the quality of schools was almost solely judged on the percentage of students achieving 5+ A*- C grades including English and Maths. Given the high stakes associated with league tables and Ofsted inspections it is not surprising that many secondary schools focused on the borderline students, i.e. those that were likely to get a C or a D. They became known as the C3s or D1s. One organisation even identified such students by using the dreadful term ‘the key marginals’ and they generated a raft of ‘interventions’ to ensure that the student, and the school, achieved the higher grade.  The focus on such students led to the Government removing the 5+ A* - C measure for the results in summer 2016. There were basically two reasons for this:

  1. To ensure that schools focus on the achievements of all students and not just those on the C/D grade borderline.
  2. To ensure that more than five subjects contribute to the judgement

We do not disagree with either of these reasons, and like most of the profession we gave a cautious welcome to Progress 8 because all students count and 8 subjects contribute, but how does it work?

This year Progress 8 scores for mainstream schools run from -2.5 to 1.5, with approximately 97% of all schools' scores falling between -1.0 and +0.7. Our Progress 8 score is -0.05, which is considered average i.e. our students achieved as expected. Do we think this is a fair outcome? Well, not really and we will attempt to explain the main reasons why:

  1. Many schools have changed their curriculum offer to ensure they maximise their school’s Progress 8 score. Typically this has involved ensuring that more students, if not all, study subjects favoured by the Government, including those that make up the English Baccalaureate. Stanley Park High has not encouraged, cajoled or forced students into making such choices. We put the students before the school.
  2. We enter students for qualifications that allow them to follow their passions, are GCSE equivalent, but bizarrely do not count towards a school’s Progress 8 score. This includes both BTEC Horticulture and BTEC Motor Vehicle Engineering. Again, in continuing to offer these popular courses we put the students before the school.
  3. We refuse to enter students for qualifications which appear to be heavily geared towards increasing a school’s Progress 8 score rather than the interests, passions and needs of its students. Recently Schools Week wrote an article in which it stated that the number of students studying the European Computer Driving Licence – an ICT qualification - had increased by 2000%. One can speculate as to the reasons why, but the same organisation referred to earlier is very clear that schools should be considering the qualification for students they are concerned about because: it can be completed online in ‘three or four intensive days’, it is possible to get the equivalent of an A* and it boosts a school’s Progress 8. Ofsted are that concerned they will be looking at it when they inspect schools this term. All of our courses are two years long. We do not support short cuts.
  4. Finally, our school community includes a number with Special Education Needs. This is not dissimilar to other schools; however, we have two Opportunity Bases for students with Autistic Spectrum Condition, a provision that is unique in England. We are immensely proud of the achievements of these students, but many do not take eight subjects and, yet, all of them contribute to our Progress 8 score.

We have been honest and transparent in presenting our beliefs; we hope that you appreciate this, and support the school’s approach. Has it helped our Progress 8 score? No, but as we have said many times, at Stanley Park High, the students always come first.  You can find out more about Progress 8 by clicking on the following link: www.compare-school-performance.service.gov.uk

Working together – volunteers in school

The pace of modern life means that it feels like there are never enough hours in the day to do everything. This certainly applies in schools. Consequently, we are making a request for any parents that have a spare few hours to come into school on a voluntary basis. This is very common in primary schools, but less so in secondary schools. The support of parents and grandparents would be very much appreciated in a wide variety of areas including:

  1. Working with our artist-in-residence to continue to improve the quality of displays around the school.
  2. Supporting our horticulture students in maintaining the school grounds.
  3. Providing technical support for some of our other vocational areas.
  4. Supporting students with their reading, writing or arithmetic.

If there is a possibility that you can help, please contact Debbie Stocks, PA to the Headteachers, dstocks@suttonmail.org. We would be delighted to hear from you.

A successful first ‘Learning Review Week’

Last week we introduced Learning Review Weeks, providing an opportunity for parents of students in Year 7, 8 and 9 to share their child’s work. Thanks to all parents who supported this initiative and signed their child’s books to evidence their involvement. We were delighted with the response and we look forward to building on this excellent start.  We believe – and professional opinion agrees – that the parent/school partnership is one of the most effective ways to boost student achievement.

Parent Governor Election

The Parent Governor election closed on Friday last week. We are delighted to welcome Andrew Roper and Sue Spenceley-Burch as our two new Parent Governors.

Thanks to all five candidates who put themselves forward. We are privileged to have such supportive parents who are willing to contribute their time and effort to work for the success of our students and our school.

Year 9 Photos

This Tuesday the school photographer will be in school to photograph Year 9 students. Our students display a high standard of uniform every day, but parents are advised that on this day all should make a special effort to be correctly and smartly dressed. Information about the purchase of photographs will be available shortly.

Post 16 Open Evening on Tuesday 8th November, 6.00pm – 8.00pm

blog3

We have had a number of enquiries from parents about our Post 16 Open Evening. We look forward to presenting our Post 16 offer, and explaining the range of opportunities available to both our Year 11 students staying on at SPH, and those who are considering joining us in Year 12. We are delighted that our sixth form is growing in popularity and size. Further information is available on the website.

Reward Points

We award points for excellent behaviour, effort and achievement, and we are delighted to announce that the total collected by all students since the start of term amounts to over five and a half thousand! Well done to all students who have contributed to this amazing total. Keep up the good work!

  Year  7 Year  8 Year  9 Year 10 Year 11 Total
Beeches 415 357 290 131 202 1395
Carew 423 404 239 158 184 1408
Oaks 330 346 197 110 167 1150
Wandle 557 417 226 132 240 1572
Total 1725 1524 952 531 793 5525


Half Term

School finishes for the break on Friday 21st October. We wish all students and their families a pleasant half term break, and we look forward to seeing students again at the normal time on Monday 31st October.

Words of the Week

Every two weeks, the school focuses on new words which broaden the vocabulary. This week…

The literacy word of the week is Dignity
The numeracy word of the week is Coefficient


Week commencing 10th October 2016

According to an article on tes.com last week, Professor Robert Coe, Durham University’s Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring, has claimed that a quarter of a billion pounds is spent on examination entries - GCSEs/AS Levels/A Levels - each year. With all schools struggling to manage increasingly tighter budgets, two hundred and fifty million is a truly staggering amount. In revealing this, Coe questioned whether schools could get something better from this money. We think they can.

We have often questioned the over-reliance of examinations as the sole arbiter of students’ acquisition of skills, knowledge and understanding. They continue to have their place, but they need to sit alongside other forms of affirmation including portfolios, exhibitions, performances and, dare we say, Stanley Park Student Conferences. In our view, this range of assessment methods enables the achievements of all children to be recognised, and they provide employers, apprenticeship providers and university admissions staff with a much broader range of information about each individual’s strengths and areas for development. But is it likely to happen?

It is possible that the powers that be might see sense, but cost savings are more likely to come from another route. The raising of the school leaving age to 18 has led to some educationalists suggesting the removal of GCSEs at 16. This is likely to remove over half of the current costs. What would we do with this half? A couple of options:

  1. It would roughly be enough money to provide an extra 5,000 teachers, and this at a time when we are desperately short of teachers in our schools.
  2. At a time when the school population is rapidly growing - 12% in secondary schools by 2020 - and we are desperately short of school places, it could build four new schools, and not just any old schools, but Stanley Park High build-quality schools.

Many argue that you can don’t need such buildings and facilities for children to learn effectively. This is true, but it is equally true that inspired environments that adhere to the values, principles and practice of a school can only add considerable value, which is exactly the point made in a recent case study in the TES – ‘Building a solid case for better premises’, a copy of which appears below.

blog1

Parent Governor Election

This is the final week for votes to be cast in our Parent Governor election. Full information can be found on the website. The deadline for the return of ballot papers is this Friday, 14th October. Please post these in the Ballot Box which can be found at Student Services Reception.  

Parents’ Learning Review Week for Year 7, 8 and 9 students

Monday 10th to Friday 14th October

Last week we wrote about preparations for our Parents’ Learning Review Week. Information has been sent home together with a leaflet explaining how we can work in partnership with the family to support your child in reaching their full potential.

The week has arrived, and we would actively encourage all parents and carers to ask their child to show their work and share their thoughts. Please add your signature to show that you have reviewed your child’s work. Thanks to all parents and carers for your support.

Intensive Day on Thursday 20th October

We would like to give parents advance warning about our next Intensive Day, which will be on Thursday 20th October. On this day, students will be dismissed at 12.10pm. Lunch will be available for those students that wish to have it. We will be providing staffed rooms for those parents who have concerns regarding their child leaving early. These rooms will be staffed until the normal dismissal time of 3.15pm. Please email the Heads’ PA, Mrs D Stocks dstocks@suttonlea.org if you wish for your child to be supervised within school during this time.

The arrangements also apply to Aqua and Ignis students.

Words of the Week

Every two weeks, the school focuses on new words which broaden the vocabulary. This week…

The literacy word of the week is Dignity
The numeracy word of the week is Coefficient


Week commencing 3rd October 2016

 

Homework in the Headlines

Last week the Daily Telegraph wrote about the Philip Morant School and College, in Colchester, Essex, and the latest of a growing number of schools to drop homework. Unlike many of the previous schools which had cited reducing pressure on students and allowing them more time to play, it stated that providing more time for teachers to plan was the underlying reason.

Few things polarise opinion in education more than homework. In a poll in response to the school’s decision (2470 responses) 66% wanted homework abolished and 34% wanted it set in all schools. Of course, there is no way of knowing the make-up of those that voted. Like many things in schools, it is something that has been around a long time so schools continue to do what they do. But is homework of value?

Research is mixed with some saying it is of benefit, but others saying that it doesn’t make a difference, particularly in primary schools and the lower secondary years. We currently believe that it has its place in the lower secondary years, if for no other reason that it gets students into the study habits that will be increasingly required in the upper secondary years and Post 16.

About this time last year we had our very successful Ofsted. We discussed many issues with the Lead Inspector, homework being one of them. She singled out the idea that homework shouldn’t be set in the lower secondary years, and suggested that SPH, being an innovative school willing to take risks for the benefit of our students, should consider phasing it out. We haven’t and we have no plans to do so, but we will continue to monitor research, as well as undertake our own.

Since September we have a new homework platform, Firefly. This has already had a successful start. Parents will be able to access Firefly too, and we hope this will help parents see the amount and depth of homework set. Information on access to Firefly for parents and carers will be made available shortly.

Academy Status – end of the consultation period

Last Friday we reached the end of our consultation period on the school’s potential conversion to a Multi-Academy Trust on 1st December 2016. Once we have looked at the range of responses we will inform you about our next steps.

Parents’ Learning Review Week Monday 10th to Friday 14th October

We recognise the impact that is made when parents and carers are actively engaged in children’s learning. Working together, we can boost each child’s opportunity for success. To develop this partnership, we plan to assign special weeks for parents and carers to be involved in reviewing the work of their child/children in a structured way.

The first Parent Learning Review Week will take place next week. This pilot programme will include Years 7, 8 and 9. The process will be developed over the course of this academic year, with the aim to include Years 10 and 11 at a later stage.

Detailed information will be sent by email to all parents of Year 7, 8 and 9 students this week.

The value of this process is widely recognised, and we would like to establish it as a pattern, bringing the home/school relationship closer. We hope that parents and carers will find this is a route to open conversations at home about learning, and a valuable way to support your child/children as they build their knowledge and skills.

Post 16 Evening

blog3

We warmly invite all prospective Post 16 students and their families to our Post 16 Open Evening on Tuesday 8th November at 6.00pm. This is an opportunity to find out about the variety of courses offered for 2017-18. A presentation will explain the A Level reforms and there will be the opportunity to ask questions. The evening will finish at 8.00pm.

We hope that you will be able to join us. For further information please contact Miss D Patel, Head of Post 16. 

Year 7 Parents’ Information Evening last Thursday

Most Year 7 parents were able to attend our Information Evening last Thursday, at which we shared news about how their child is settling in to the school. This provided a reassuring insight into their child’s school life and helped parents understand and navigate the path ahead.

Feedback questionnaires reflected the positive nature of the evening, and parents’ satisfaction with the transition and induction process. The summary is published below.

 

Strongly agree

Agree

Disagree

Strongly Disagree

Total

I have had all the information I need

15

10

1

 

26

My child is happy to come to school

23

3

 

 

26

My child has settled well

21

5

 

 

26

My child has made good friends

16

9

1

 

26

My child feels safe in school

17

9

 

 

26

My child is enjoying his/her lessons

14

12

 

 

26


Cycling Safety

We have been amazed at the new popularity of cycling, with the school cycle racks being full of student bikes in recent weeks. It is good news that cycling to school is enjoying a new renaissance, but we would like to draw parents’ attention to safety issues. Several students have been reported cycling with little regard for their own safety.

Please, if your child cycles to school, take the time to remind them about the dangers involved and ask them to take extra care, especially as the evenings will soon be growing dark earlier.

School assemblies led by our Police Liaison officer will focus specifically on the safety aspects of cycling next week. In the meanwhile, thank you for your support.

Parent Governor Election

blog1

Five able candidates have been nominated for this vital role.  Full information about our Parent Governor Election, including their supporting statements, can be found on the website. The deadline for the return of ballot papers is Friday 14th October. Please post these in the Ballot Box which can be found at Student Services Reception.  

Intensive Day on Thursday 20th October

We would like to give parents advance warning about our next Intensive Day, which will be on Thursday 20th October. We will follow a condensed timetable and students will be dismissed at 12.10pm. This is to enable staff to meet and collaboratively plan schemes of work for later in the academic year.

blog2

Word of the Week

Every two weeks, the school focuses on new words which broaden the vocabulary. This week…

The literacy word of the week is Pithy
The numeracy word of the week is Bisect