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Headteachers' Blog

27th November 2017


Be Careful What You Wish For

Stanley Park High’s annual maths week starts today, coinciding with mathematics being very much in the news after last week’s budget announcement.  This is in contrast to pretty much all other areas of education which barely received a mention, (with the notable exception of funds to train computer science teachers.)  In Wednesday’s budget, Phillip Hammond, the chancellor, informed us that we would be given £600 for every extra student we manage to persuade to study maths A-level in order to ensure that we are able to compete internationally.  Please note the use of the word persuade. 

Last summer, the most popular A-level examination in England was mathematics, with approximately 11.5% of all Post 16 students choosing the subject. This was followed in second and third place by Biology and Psychology. However, the status of mathematics as the most popular subject is under threat, probably because of the changes to the GCSE courses that were examined for the first time last summer. The increased content and difficulty of the new GCSE syllabus is cited by the Mathematical Association as one of the key reasons that number of students intending to take A-level mathematics from September 2017 has fallen by at least 10%. Indeed, the Edexcel Higher Mathematics papers were so demanding the threshold for a standard pass (Grade 4) was lowered to  just 18%.

Students tend to know if they have done well in exams, particularly in maths where getting the answers correct is so black and white. They knew they were unable to understand and answer many of questions, especially those towards the end of the papers. Such a negative  experience does not encourage students to choose mathematics at A-level, a course that has also been made more demanding.

We are not against making a subject more demanding, but asking students and schools to respond to the increased content and difficulty with such incredibly short notice was a mistake. There should have been at least a five year period to introduce this change, allowing schools and students the opportunity to properly acclimatise. Had this happened, we wouldn’t have needed the reactive announcement by Phillip Hammond.

So, Mr Hammond, be careful what you wish for. In making the mathematics GCSE much harder, we may well have made ourselves less competitive, and I am unconvinced an extra six hundred pounds for their school is going to persuade students to take the subject at A-level.

Maths Week

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This is SPH Maths Week, and we are looking forward to a series of activities for students which celebrate the variety and importance of the subject.  Throughout the week we will be raising money for NSPCC. 

Tuesday 28th November – today students take part in a Number Day challenge.  Zoe Griffiths (from ThinkMaths) is also running interactive workshops with our Year 8 students on ‘Magic in Maths’. At lunch student will take on a challenge of becoming an engineer building a paper aeroplane from one sheet of paper and see which one will fly the furthest with most cargo.

Wednesday 29th November - teams of students will be building a structure in the atrium at lunchtime – something so large that it can fit in one of their team members or a teacher!  A code breaking challenge will also take place for Year 7 students during the afternoon. 

Thursday 30th November  - today teams of students will  take an interactive Kahoot Maths Challenge against staff.

Friday 1st December – for some fun, we round off the week with maths bingo in the Atrium. 

Balloons

We are always happy to see students celebrating their birthdays in school, but we would be grateful if family and friends would support us by NOT sending helium balloons into school. If these are let free in the atrium, they drift to the ceiling where it is impossible to retrieve them. Either they descend on their own, inevitably at night, setting off the school’s alarms and necessitating a visit from our site team; or alternatively we are forced to use hired equipment to reach them at a cost of £500 a time. Therefore, please note that helium balloons are banned from the school site. Thanks for your understanding.

Our Beautiful School

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We take pride in our imaginative learning environment and believe that it stimulates curiosity, imagination and creativity. Here, Year 10 students are pictured taking part in a workshop and are making a model for a mobile library. In other areas of the school our artist-in-residence, Sarit Barnard has been busy producing two very different areas for Computer Science and English. A project is being planned for the atrium early in 2018. More in future blogs.

Forthcoming Events

Christmas Carol Concert Tuesday 19th December

Doors open at 6.30pm, event starts at 7.00pm. The venue is the Good Shepherd Church, Carshalton.  Please add the date to your diary, and join us to celebrate the start of the festive season.

End of Term Wednesday 20th December

The last day of term will be Wednesday 20th December and students will be dismissed at 11.40am. Students are expected back in school on Thursday 4 January at the usual time.

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 Benefactor, and the numeracy word of the week is Hexagon

20th November 2017


Young Epilepsy

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We were delighted to welcome Alex Gwilt-Cox from the charity Young Epilepsy to the school last week, to deliver a series of assemblies to each mini school. The theme of the assemblies was to raise awareness of epilepsy and give both students and staff information relating to this condition. Very positive feedback was received from all who attended and we very much look forward to welcoming Alex back to the school in the future.  More information about the work Young Epilepsy do can be found at www.youngepilepsy.org.uk

INSET Days

Monday 27th November

Next Monday will be an INSET Day. Many staff are planning to make progress on their Future Think Tank projects, exploring new ideas which develop theories, technology and practices to make whole-school improvements. Research will be shared with parents during the summer term. In the meanwhile, please note Monday’s school closure in your diary.

Inset Days for spring and summer 2018 fall on Wednesday 3rd January, Friday 9th February and Friday 29th June. Information about these will appear in the Blog nearer the time.

Christmas Carol Concert Tuesday 19th December

We would be delighted to see you at our school Christmas Carol Concert on Tuesday 19th December at 7.00pm. The event will be held at the Good Shepherd Church, Carshalton. Many of our students and some of our staff will present musical items and readings to prepare us for the season ahead. Please add the date to your diary.

End of Term

The last day of term will be Wednesday 20th December and students will be dismissed at 11.40am. Students are expected back in school on Thursday 4 January at the usual time.

Easter Revision Sessions for Year 11 students

Plans are already being made in school to support our students as they prepare for the important public exams next summer.

Easter Revision Sessions will be offered to particular students in Year 11. The sessions depend on staff availability, as some staff are involved in school trips or have other commitments at this time. However, we realise that it is helpful to families to have an indication about when sessions will take place, so for diary purposes please note that sessions will be offered during the week from Tuesday 3rd April (after the Easter Bank Holiday Monday) up to and including Monday 9th April.

The students involved will be those most in need of individual help in specific areas. Students will receive personal invitations near the time. It is impossible at this early stage to predict which students will be involved, and some students may not require this intensive support. However, we are sure that all parents will wish their child to have the best opportunity to succeed, so parents are advised to make every effort to reserve this time while making family plans.

Future Think Tank potential changes to the school year / parent questionnaire

One of the options being explored in Future Think Tanks looks at changes to the structure of the school year. If you would like to contribute your opinion, please read on....

The school year is split into three terms of roughly equal length. There are breaks of roughly two weeks at Easter and Christmas. There is a six week break in the summer. Each term is divided by a one week break in the middle. The pattern of the school year has remained unchanged since the nineteenth century.

This is an opportunity to take a fresh look and set parameters which best suit our teaching and learning, and make sure our students and their families benefit from any changes. It is important to note that no changes will be made to the number of teaching days or contact time between teachers and students.

Below is a link to a survey which explores the advantages of potential changes. It aims to quantify some of the theories below which have driven other schools to take action. These are:

  • Exam boards set the date of public exams early in the summer term, meaning that there are several weeks left in the summer term after exam time.
  • Some schools believe that students forget what they have learned over the summer because the holidays are too long.
  • Some teachers feel that the last three weeks of the summer term in July are less productive than those at the start of the academic year in September.
  • Some families find family holidays expensive at peak holiday times, and would like to book at a cheaper time of year.

Naturally there are different opinions and the above are simply observations about factors that have persuaded other schools to make changes. Any change will centre on the holidays in the first part of the academic year, as the pre-exam times are critical to the success of students in their exams.

Survey Link

It is important to remember that this is a means to gauge broad opinion about the issues involved, not a consultation. If the project results in a proposal to make formal changes a full consultation will take place and parents will be involved. Thank you for taking part.

Guest Blogger

This week we include an article from our guest blogger, Ms Ghodhbani, who writes:

The Power of Poetry

'Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity.'   William Wordswoth (1770-1850)

National Poetry Day has been running since 1994, set up to celebrate, acknowledge and cherish poetry as an art form. This year it fell on 28th September and at Stanley Park, we had a small group of teachers and students who gathered at lunchtime to share poems they had selected on this year’s theme – Freedom. Mr Sheridan - from the Science department- chose to read Invictus, written by William Ernest Henley in 1875 when he was in hospital suffering from tuberculosis. This poem was a favourite of Nelson Mandela’s – one he credits with helping him through his 27 torturous and unjust years in prison. Read it here.

I have always enjoyed exploring poetry – looking at it as a sort of coded message to be unravelled. Writing poetry too can be a very therapeutic exercise and can help us come to terms with a variety of experiences and emotions. The process of writing something down in such a creative and succinct way – producing something from nothing- can help us to remove it from our minds, therefore providing clarity and ‘freedom’.

Each September at the start of the new academic year, I like to start off by asking my classes to reflect on the previous year. I ask them to consider their strengths and weaknesses, their likes and dislikes and to set themselves targets. Unfortunately, it is often the ‘P Word’ which appears most frequently under ‘Dislikes’ and ‘Areas of Difficulty’. As an English teacher, I can’t help but examine my own teaching of poetry. Have I contributed to this blatant dislike? Do we over-analyse and examine it to the extent that we kill off its beauty and obscurity?  Or is it that in the twenty first century, we no longer have the patience to explore something we don’t immediately understand?

One way to persuade teenagers to engage with poetry is to relate it to songs and music. The best songwriters have strong, poetical lyrics and if these songs speak to you, then so can poetry. Bob Dylan, the American singer/songwriter and last year’s controversial winner of the Nobel prize for literature once remarked:

'I consider myself a poet first and a musician second. I live like a poet and I'll die like a poet.'

For GCSE English Literature, students are now required to study an anthology of 15 poems and must be prepared to compare and write about them in exam conditions. Discussing and sharing poems at home with your child is one way to keep poetry current and relevant and may help them develop an enjoyment and interest in it. There are many useful websites such as poemhunter.com and poetryfoundation.org, with a wide selection of poems on a variety of themes.

On National Poetry day with one of my year 9 classes, I set them the task of writing collective group poems on the theme of Freedom, continuing from another person’s line, rotating until they had created a set of poems between them. And for homework, I asked them to come up with their individual response to Freedom. To reflect on what that word – perhaps one of the most powerful in the English language – meant for them. With the student’s permission, I shall end this piece by sharing one of their poems:

Tower of Freedom

My motivation is to speak out to the world,
One that has been abused, neglected and hacked,
My elevation of 546 metres and my spire that had been swirled,
Heals a scar on a nation, whose voice had lacked.

My thick, concrete core acts as a tough and vast hoist,
You stare at my glimmering image, without terror or alarm,
My crystal, polished skin magnifies your choice,
And the demons beneath my sturdy core are jealous of your fearless charm.

My string- like spire is engulfed in a layer of sharp, metal beads,
Making me stand out from 20 miles away,
My towering concrete slabs force the bombers to plead,
Now citizens approach from barricaded homes, away from a land of grey.

My purpose is to create a land complete with freedom,
For united nations to gather and choose,
My robust, iron poles are a structure of wisdom,
So, don’t feel threatened to go out or gather, ‘cause only the terrorists will lose…

By Lily Best

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 Benefactor, and the numeracy word of the week is Hexagon

13th November 2017


Remembrance Day Event Weds 8th November

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Every generation often refers to its youth in negative terms. Phrases like: “We weren’t like that in our day” and ”Whatever has happened to the youngsters nowadays?” are all too common. We do them a considerable disservice. Last week saw the four small schools gather for their assemblies. The theme was, unsurprisingly, remembrance, and we reflected on the Battle of Passchendaele, which was finally taken on the morning of 6th November 1917, after a horrific three months of fighting to the north-east of Ypres. Silence was impeccably observed at the end of each assembly.

Last week also witnessed the culmination of the Year 8 EFC project ‘Remembrance’ and an exhibition about the First World War. We were both proud and pleased to see how many people attended that exhibition last Wednesday. Our students displayed work of the highest quality which portrayed the period, with its huge personal and humanitarian significance, very well. Thanks to several parents and friends who contacted us afterwards to say how moving they found the event, and to commend our students on their achievement.

Among them, ex-serviceman and grandfather Tony Dunn wrote:

“I would just like to thank the whole school for a very moving evening. The young people were inspirational in the care they took of us, and the knowledge they displayed.

I served 24 years in the Paras and knew people who had died in action and were severely wounded in the Falklands and other theatres of war. The way you displayed the horrors was done with feeling and sympathy.

I was immensely proud of our young people especially knowing my granddaughter is among this fine body of students.

Once again many thanks for a wonderful evening”

Tony Dunn
Very proud grandfather

Another parent commented, It was an absolute pleasure to be at such a meaningful event”.

Bernard Jacobs, The Chair of Sutton Writers was among us, and he commented on the quality of the poems students have written. He extended an invitation to our students to join the Sutton Writers at one of their meetings, so that students can share some of their poems with a wider audience.

We look forward to this, and we are delighted that the evening was so successful. It was followed by our Year 8 students’ visit to the battlefields of the First World War in and around Ypres last Friday.

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Year 11 Interim Reports and Study Skills Event

Year 11 Interim Reports were sent to parents last Wednesday via email. If you have a Year 11 child, please note that you should have received their report. If you have not received a copy, please contact your child’s tutor.

Year 11 students will benefit from a study skills session, led by an external provider, this Friday 17th November.

Space and Learning Project

We met recently with Karolina Szynalska, a PhD candidate from the University of Cambridge, who is conducting research into the use of tablets and wifi in schools.  We are delighted that 24 of our students will be assisting with this project starting next week.

We are excited to be involved in developing the use of new technology, and we shall bring you news about the progress of the research in due course.

Reward Points

Students are awarded reward points for outstanding effort, behaviour, attendance and achievement. We are impressed with the totals earned so far this term, which have just passed the 10,000 level.  It’s clear that our students have worked hard to achieve these great totals and we would like to commend all on their effort. The totals are set out below:
 

 

Year  7

Year  8

Year  9

Year 10

Year 11

Year 12

Total

Beeches

606

754

466

460

272

1

2559

Carew

646

853

518

470

270

7

2764

Oaks

704

766

392

433

278

4

2577

Wandle

721

892

458

411

326

4

2812

Total

2677

3265

1834

1774

1146

16

10712


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 Pragmatic, and the numeracy word of the week is Geometrical

6th November 2017


When is the right time to be a teacher? Always!

The TES recently reported that Nick Gibb, Schools Minister, whilst speaking at an event at the Conservative Party conference, had stated that ‘now is a good time to become a teacher’. We wouldn’t disagree with his view, and the associated desire to recruit more adults into the profession, but we have a couple of concerns with the ‘now’.

Firstly, he said that ‘now is a good time’ because “able, ambitious graduates coming into teaching can find themselves in senior leadership positions very swiftly. There are now opportunities to set up and establish a new free school and there are opportunities to run a multi-academy trust after having served as a headteacher for several years”. Undoubtedly, the opportunity to lead a school is an appealing prospect, and I would thoroughly recommend it. And how can I not wax lyrical about being afforded the chance to design a new school?  Without doubt the design of Stanley Park High is one of the most rewarding and exciting things I have done in my life. However, I wouldn’t say that the motives Nick Gibb cites are the major reasons that I or other individuals choose to train to be teachers. It is the classroom that entices us, offering the opportunity to share a passion for a subject, make a difference to the lives of young people, inspire a generation and set them up for life, and promote success and achievement. Indeed, I still absolutely love the four periods of mathematics I teach to my year 8s each week….although I am not sure they would necessarily have the same opinion!

Secondly, I would argue that anytime should be the right time to join the teaching profession. I have the pleasure of walking SPH on a daily basis, often two or three times a day. It is truly inspirational. I am extremely confident that prospective teachers would be equally inspired to join the profession if they accompanied me on one of my walks, at any time - not just at the moment.

Revamping our atrium

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Our building is approaching six years old. Our students and staff, particularly the excellent site team, have looked after it very well, but the atrium, and the seating within it, needs a bit of a spruce up. We have been inspired by the following spaces:

www.nbcs.nsw.edu.au/campus/project-barcelona

www.telegraph.co.uk/education/stem-awards/design/schools-of-the-future

We will be using some of the School Fund, kindly donated by parents, to support this initiative. We will keep you fully informed of developments.

Year 8 Remembrance Exhibition, Wednesday 8 November from 4.00 to 5.00pm

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Our EFC project on remembrance culminates in an exhibition of students’ work, which will be held in the atrium this Wednesday.

Parents and friends are all welcome. We hope you are able to join us for this thought provoking event.

Maths Week, 28 November to 1 December

We are excited about the forthcoming Maths week (28th November to 1st December). Activities planned for students and teachers include Number Day, codebreaking, engineering challenges focusing on structures and flight, and an interactive workshop for Year 8 students with Zoe Griffiths from ThinkMaths on Mathematical Magic. Later, we look forward to an interactive Maths Kahoot challenge in the Atrium, and to Maths Bingo as a light-hearted way to end the week. Throughout the event we will be raising money for NSPCC - The UK's Children Charity.

Please support this event by asking your child about their involvement, and sending donations to our charity.

Plea for Revision Books

Thank you to one of our parents who kindly donated GCSE revision books, no longer needed at home. They have been catalogued into our LRC library and our current year 10 and 11 students are already making full use of them. 

If you are a parent or carer with revision books which are no longer needed at home, please do donate them to us, and we will put them to good use.  They can be dropped off at our reception desk, between 7.45am and 4.00pm.  Thank you.

Post 16 Open Evening Tuesday 7th November

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Our Post 16 Open Evening takes place this Tuesday from 6.00pm to 8.00pm. All students in Year 11 and their parents are strongly encouraged to attend.

Our programmes of study will be described in two presentations during the evening. These will be held in Spotlight, our state-of-the-art performance hall, at 6:30pm and 7:00pm.

The evening includes opportunities to:

  • tour our fantastic facilities
  • absorb the atmosphere of the school
  • meet some of our current Post 16 students
  • talk to subject leaders about the demands of our extensive range of A-Levels and Level 2 and 3 vocational subjects we offer.

You will also discover a range of initiatives, unique to Stanley Park High, which support all our Post 16 students.

Stanley Park High Post 16 is diverse, friendly and welcoming. Each year an increasing number of students choose to join us. We work hard to make sure that all students quickly feel at home, and settle into life at the school. We have recently welcomed our largest ever cohort in Year 12. We hope that you will be able to join us.

If you are unable to attend and would like more information, please see the Post 16 section of the website for more information, or contact Miss Patel, Head of Post 16, by email dpatel28@suttonmail.org

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 Pragmatic, and the numeracy word of the week is Hexagon