What’s been happening lately

I thought I’d have a look at what we’ve been up to at school so far this term. Meant to do this earlier – alas life’s been getting in the way – so it’ll be edited highlights from several weeks!

First week back we started with an INSET day –  staff meeting, department meetings and child protection training. Plus, of course, a lot of gossiping and catching up with friends! The big deal on the first day the kids were back was the news about offers or rejections from Oxford and Cambridge – Cambridge arrived Sat 4th Jan and Oxford Weds 8th Jan. What was particularly annoying on the Wednesday was that some of them heard right at the beginning of the day by email, while others were stuck waiting to go home to look for a letter through the post.  I was absolutely delighted by the results – the people who will thrive in that environment had got offers. I always get very irritated by the common tendency to regard an Oxbridge offer as an absolute good, and the number of them as some sort of measure of the worth of the school; there are quite a lot of kids who would be miserable at Oxbridge because they don’t like the feeling of almost always being out of your comfort zone, which is the main characteristic of studying in that environment. Personally I regard helping school leavers get a job or university place which will allow them to flourish, be happy and show themselves to their best advantage is what we should be aiming for, not automatically looking for the most prestigious outcomes.  This is even more true these days, when so many graduate recruitment agencies are having “2:1 or better” as a filter – however prestigious the university, a 2:2 will do you no favours.

On the Saturday of that week, a colleague and I went to the ASE (Association for Science Education) Annual Conference. Nice easy journey – it was at Birmingham Uni, just a few minutes away! But we’ve been going for the last few years when it’s been elsewhere too. We just go for the exhibitions – exam boards, institutions such as the RSC and IoP, publishers, equipment suppliers etc. It’s a great opportunity to see what’s new out there – seeing it on a website or in a catalogue isn’t quite the same. I got some great ideas and resources for Engineering Club, as well as at least a year’s supply of pens, pencils, post-it notes and other goodies! There are also talks, courses etc running, but you have to pay for them.

The following Saturday brought our second Open Morning of the year – we see a mixture of Year 6s and Year 5s (with their parents, of course!) and the odd smattering of younger ones; there’s also a few Year 11s looking around for sixth-form options. Some of them just want to come in, look around and get out again without chatting to staff, whereas others want to have long, in-depth conversations. The kids do a grand job of taking the visitors on tours of the school; it’s one of the things I feel really proud of, the way they are so polite, friendly and confident when talking to our visitors.

One of the biggest things for me was actually something not happening!  January examinations have been a feature of school life ever since modular exams came in (OK, they existed before that but weren’t such a big deal). But they’re gone now!  It obviously simplifies my life as Exams Officer (though I miss not seeing my invigilation team!) but the difference it makes to me as a teacher is far more significant. In the past, it was hard to get much done during January because kids would be out doing first time or resit modules, and even when they were in class, their minds were on their exams – but now, we can actually teach properly without interruption!  Much as it pains me to say it, that’s one decision of Gove’s that I do think is right (no, I’m not going soft on him – it’s about the only one!)

What else? We’ve had some progress reports to complete, a couple of parents’ evenings for Year 8 and Year 9 (fortunately I only had to go to the latter) and of course the normal round of medical, dental and veterinary mock interviews, lesson preparation, marking, kids coming along for extra help/advice etc.  The New Zealand exchange partners of some of our Year 9s were over, so there was a new face in class. Our Senior Production – “A Winter’s Tale” – was on last week, and of the normal excellent standard – I love the way that we have such enthusiastic participation from the back-stage help on lighting, costumes, props, stage management etc as well as those whose talents are displayed on stage. 

Only a couple of weeks to half term now – a lot to get done in the time, though!

Edited to add: I’ve just seen this about our beloved Education Secretary and thought I’d share it: http://paulbernal.wordpress.com/mr-gove/

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