Headteacher Blog - 20 July

Posted on: 20th Jul

And breathe!  We have reached the end of another challenging, yet rewarding year. Even with all the restrictions, we have together achieved a great deal and we should be proud of our successes. The highlights for me have been:

  • Ensuring the safe return of our students last September with our robust protective measures. It was very impressive the way that both students and staff adapted to these measures and stuck to them all year;
  • The incredible efforts of my staff during the second lockdown, to ensure that the impact on learning was minimised by delivering all lessons remotely;
  • The mass testing in March, with over 3750 students and staff tested at school;
  • The success of the CAG (Centre Assessed Grades) processes this year, with students and staff once rolling up their sleeves and adapting to the very different way of assessing Yr11 and Yr13 students.

I am also very impressed with how the students quickly adapted to the changes in school, from the move to home learning, to the wearing of masks and the changes to how they navigate around school buildings. It has been a really difficult time, but their maturity and their ability to adjust has made the process much easier; our students have been a credit to us all.

Last week, we held an online Prize Giving for our KS3 students. This celebration of achievement would normally form part of our annual Presentation Evening, which takes place in December, but as with all events, we have had to modify it. There was a range of prizes awarded from across the different subjects, as well as prizes for Attainment, Progress and Attitude and this year a new prize for Independence & Endeavour to acknowledge how resilient and committed students have been during the pandemic. Students who are nominated for prizes are given a voucher to spend on a book of their choosing prior to the event, with the books then presented to them by a member of our Senior Leadership Team.  It is always interesting to see the huge variety in the books the students have chosen, from fiction and non-fiction titles to biographies and cookery books. Thank you also to our Chair of Governors, Craig Norford who attended the event and congratulated the winners on their achievements and also to our FoDs for donating the prizes.

At the weekend, our Silver Duke of Edinburgh students completed their expedition practice. Walking in the Yattendon and Ashampstead areas, covering between 12-15km on Friday in groups of between four and six, before setting up their tents for the night and cooking dinner. This was repeated on Saturday and Sunday, with the students walking the pre-planned routes for a minimum of six hours a day. Alongside the expedition, there are three further sections the students must complete comprising of physical, skills, and volunteering element. The students have had to spend between 3 -6 months completing these sections for an hour a week in order to gain their award.

Our Year 12 Geography students had a successful fieldtrip to Nettlecombe, to collect data for the non-examined component of their A Level. Students were allocated a tutor, who spent time explaining to them different fieldwork methods and techniques, before they were taken into Minehead and Porlock Bay to collect field data. The weather conditions were as expected for any Geography trip,  pouring with rain! Students who chose to conduct a physical fieldwork enquiry on the beach, showed real grit when they had to collect their data in the deluge. They were a credit to the school and did a really good job to collect the data and not let the sideways rain dampen their spirits. Those in the town worked hard too and collected useful data, but were able to take shelter (and sip a latte!). Members of the public who encountered our sixth formers, commented on how polite and courteous they were. The trip was not all work however, watching the football together, was a real highlight and bonded the groups together. 

There is currently a competition organised by the Geographical Association, where students are being asked to take pictures of ‘Physical Geography in Process’. For more information and details on how to enter, please visit https://www.geography.org.uk/2021-physical-geography-photo-competition

Our Year 7s, have recently taken part in a competition to design a children’s cereal box in their Computer Studies lessons, learning about internet research, creating questionnaires, analysing data, evaluation, and presentation skills. The winners were chosen by Head of Department, Mr Sharpe and were presented with a chocolate treat and a book from Mrs Morgan. Congratulations to Henry S, Nancy W, Elliot G, Oscar M, William O’B, Ava S, Celeste W, Lucas W, Polly A and Holly B. All the nominees’ entries are now proudly displayed on the wall of the GT24 classroom, looking very colourful. I would also like to invite you to view the coursework of our talented GCSE and A Level Fine Art students. The portfolio of work showcases the diversity of artistic talent and the creativity of our students, and I know you will be impressed with their work. Please click here to view.

We welcomed our new rising Year 7 students to our induction days at the beginning of July. Students from 13 different primary schools visited us, and in their primary group bubbles had a tour of the school, a snack or light lunch depending on their arrival times and had a sample lesson. When picking their children up, the feedback from parents was that it had been a great opportunity for their children to be able to come into school ahead of their arrival in September, and the students’ said that they had really enjoyed the experience. Thanks to all those staff who were involved over the two days.

Our Sports Day was hugely successful this year, thanks to the fantastic organisational skills of our PE team to run the event in year group bubbles. There were many incredible individual and team performances, and congratulations to Ilsley, the Junior Cup - Years 7 and 8 - winners who in a close fought battle beat Chiltern to the title by just seven points. The Senior Cup - Years 9 and 10 - winners were Aldworth, with Lowbury second and Ridgeway third. Congratulations also to Lowbury, who were winners of this year’s swimming gala.

I was also delighted to hear about the success of Year 7 student Joe J, who has recently returned from Italy where he took part in the World Optimist Sailing competition. Competing against the top sailors from 50+ countries around the world, Joe ended the first three day qualifying series in 79th place, which put him into the Silver fleet. He then sailed in this fleet, finishing in 16th place which put him 82nd/259 overall, making him the 2nd placed British sailor. Well done Joe, what a fantastic achievement.

After an intensive interview process, we have now appointed our Year 11 Head Boy and Head Girl and their Deputies. These are: Tom L – Head Boy, Francesca R – Head Girl, Rosa P and Evie-Grace M - Deputy Head Girls and Gusti T and George M-L - Deputy Head Boys. Congratulations to all of those who put themselves forwards for the positions, and I look forward to working with you next year.

Thank you to those of you who have already signed up to take part in the first ever ‘Downs Open’ Golf event at Donnington Valley Hotel and Spa in September. This event will be a key fundraiser for us and promises to be a lot of fun. For more information, please visit the Letters page of our website.

Finally, I would like to wish you and your families a very happy and safe summer holiday. Your young people have worked hard this year under difficult circumstances and deserve a well-earned rest. We will of course be preparing over the summer for the return of mass testing in September and will keep you updated with the relevant information. We do hope in September we can return to some sort of normal, but we have done mass testing before, and as always, we will get through it together. Until then, have a good break and thank you for your continued support this year.

Mr Prosser











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