Happy New Year. Like many people this morning I found myself scraping ice off the car at 6am ahead of driving to work. It seems the deluge of rain we have experienced throughout the winter so far is about to be replaced by a cold spell next week. I had a Year 9 boy ask me in the corridor at break yesterday about “snow days”. He did grin as he finished his question.
We started Monday back after the break straight into a school day and straight on with lessons and learning. I think this is the first time for many years as an educator I have started back in January without an INSET day. I know my daughter’s school had an INSET delaying the inevitable return to a Tuesday and she also has a very short half term to February of only 4 weeks. Not a lot of time compared to the 15 weeks between 1st September and Christmas. This stretch of the academic year is always about consolidating the foundations of the autumn and quietly concentrating on and building ‘learning-knowledge-understanding’ for all classes but especially the exam groups ahead of the summer. We have the Year 9 option process ahead this term and the timetable for 2016-17 is more or less underway following the first release of numbers for projected Year 7s and 12s potentially starting in September 2016.
The Year 11s had their subject consultation evening last night and I am continued to be impressed with this year group especially the way they approach their learning, their post 16 options and the general way they have developed as independent learners. Parents were full of praise for the support the school is giving and there is a lot of praise for how useful GCSEPod has been in learning as well as the improvement in communication through the Wyedean “MySchoolapp”.
I was thrilled this week ahead of the UCAS 15th January deadline to see the range and number of offers Year 13s have been getting from universities including a number of students getting into Oxford following December interviews. The record surge in applications to Year 12 is encouraging and we are still accepting applications for Sixth Form. In Year 7 we have had to create another teaching group mid-way through the academic year to accommodate the request for places and I am pleased to say we have created those places for parents who have contacted us to bring their child here to be educated.
One of the initiatives at Wyedean School now underway in 2016 is the school’s development of Latin in the curriculum. I once attended an international conference where one talk was entitled “Where once we taught Latin we will now teach Coding” – my first question was simple: “why not both?” We are working in partnership with the University of Bristol and the educational charity “Classics for All” to develop Latin as a cross-curricula project between the English and MFL learning areas. Colleagues from both Learning Areas are at Bristol University working later this month. Studies show how Latin can significantly improve literacy and confidence in students and it an example of the innovative way we approach learning at Wyedean School. This year the severe national funding situation restricting schools in the way they develop the curriculum means educators have to be more innovative in ensuring all of our students continue to get a wide range of opportunities that challenge and stretch them as learners. I am extending this as a 2016 learning challenge to parents and the community with the start of free adult Mandarin courses here at Wyedean as part of our very successful adult learning programme and as a centre for the Confucius Institute. We are always learning and all of us are learners.
This week the SW Regional Schools Commissioner, Sir David Carter, has been named as the next National Schools Commissioner. Sir David is a very inspirational educational leader with a total commitment to every individual student getting the best education possible. Although a loss for the SW, nationally this is a very positive start to 2016 for schools and academies in England. I have been thinking of leadership all week especially looking at the news from Westminster regarding the forth coming EU referendum and the Labour re-shuffle. One of the most striking images of the week was President Obama announcing his decision to introduce gun controls with tears streaming down his face. It is hard to believe this is his last year as president and I know friends in the States are anticipating a potential Trump v Clinton vote come November. I read a little over Christmas and can heartily recommend the travel writer Paul Theroux’s book “Deep South” to try and understand modern America. As my American friend once said: “we are you, we just took a different route after 1776”.
If Monday was supposed to be the “worst” day of the year as people returned back to work and school today is supposed to be the day when all the resolutions on getting in shape are thrown out of the window at the end of a busy week first week of 2016. I know some will be thinking of “snow days” next week but personally there is too much to do and February half term is only 4 weeks away.