Headteacher BlogPosted on: 20th Nov
I would like to begin by congratulating Year 8 student Christian F who has been announced as the winner of the Quentin Blake Short Story competition in the 12-15 age category. The competition, which was run by The Base in Greenham Business Park, encouraged young people to get creative and to write a story on any subject of their choosing, inspired by the works of Quentin Blake. The competition was run alongside an exhibition at The Base showcasing the illustrations and writings of Blake and his partnership with author John Yeoman.
You can listen to Christian’s fantastic story which is called ‘A Flight gone wrong’ via the link below. The story is read by local author and poet Toni Kent who was also part of the judging panel.
The story will be sent to award winning author and illustrator Quentin Blake and published in the Newbury Weekly News. Christian also wins tickets to the exhibition. Well done Christian.
I take a great deal of pleasure in hearing about our students’ successes in their enrichment activities, and we have a wealth of talent across our student body in a wide variety of different disciplines including but not limited to sport and music. It is important to me to have the opportunity to personally congratulate students on their individual successes and one way I do this is through the Head’s Breakfast. Students who have been nominated by their teachers for excellent examples of work or personal achievement are invited to share breakfast in my office. As well as the opportunity to celebrate with them, it also serves as a great insight into different areas of school life like teaching and learning.
In this issue of the blog I want to talk about Student Voice and House Council which both provide opportunities for students who wish to help create change at The Downs School. Becoming a member of Student Voice or House Council is voluntary. Each tutor group elects a male and female student to represent their group at meetings, while those interested in School Council have to write a letter of application explaining why they want to be involved and what they can bring to the group. This year we have 14 students elected to represent their year groups as part of school council, and an additional 73 students across all year groups representing their tutor groups on House Council.
Covid has made us rethink the way in which the groups work, and while we would normally see teams of students across different year groups meeting in small groups to collaborate and share ideas about how we can achieve our goals, we are now conducting these meetings via Teams. However, these remain productive and inspiring sessions, which students enjoy being a part of.
The students have identified two key priorities for Student Voice this year – promoting and celebrating diversity and supporting our students with maintaining positive mental health. House Council led the way in generating ideas for both key goals, such as creating a mural that reflects the diversity of our student body and adapting key projects within our curriculum (such as The Freedom Project in Art) to give students a chance to learn about key figures from other cultures and reflect upon what diversity means to them. They are also working on celebrating food from different cultures within the school canteen. Additionally, the councils have decided to create ‘mood boosters’ which can be used during AM Registration to start the day off on a positive note, and will be working to support the local charity Time To Talk with some fundraising efforts later this year.
Our students say that the reason they get involved is because they are passionate about driving positive change for not only their year group, but for future generations of students. They are keen to develop their leadership skills, teamwork and become more confident in communicating their ideas; all essential life skills. Some of our students are particularly passionate about a specific cause, e.g. ensuring the school is as environmentally friendly as possible and work to identify opportunities to support these causes through various areas of school life. Examples of past initiatives include adapting the packaging used in the Downs Diner to be environmentally friendly and collaborating with the organisers of Hampstead Norrey’s GreenFest to start an eco-bricking club at school.
Having a School Council is incredibly important to make students feel empowered to voice their opinions and for them to know that these are valued and acted upon. Our students come up with inspiring and creative ideas on how we can improve the school, and it is important they have are provided with the opportunity to use these outlets to make a positive impact.
Indeed the benefits are incredible. Not only do the students have an enormous sense of pride when their hard work and ideas come to fruition, but working with a range of students across the different year groups, they consider ideas and issues from a range of different perspectives. Time management and organisation skills are honed and through this their self-confidence increases.
I am proud of the way the both groups have adapted this year to ensure that they can continue to meet and to push their projects forward. I will keep you informed of the progress of their current objectives as the academic year continues and would like to thank all the members, and Miss Jaaqar who runs both groups, for their continued committed and enthusiasm. They really do make a positive impact on the school community.
Finally, a curriculum update for parents. If you would like to know more about what your child will be studying as the year progresses, then I would encourage you to look at key sections on our website. Under the ’Learning’ tab, you will be able to find information about our curriculum and how subjects map learning across the year. These documents are updated on a yearly cycle and will help you understand what your son or daughter will be expected to learn in a ‘normal’ school year. Due to the pandemic, some planning will have been adapted to take account of lockdown, however the overarching aims of coverage will remain the same. If you have any questions about what your child may be studying please contact their subject teacher in the first instance, who will be able to provide you with further information.