Head Teacher’s Blog 4th June 2019
As we get into the final half term of this academic year, I will start by highlighting this year’s Summer Festival which will take place on Thursday 27th June from 5pm until 7.30. We moved our Summer Festival from Saturday morning to Thursday evening a couple of years ago, combining it with our annual exhibition of Art Work produced by our GCSE and A Level students and the Summer Showcase, where students who are involved in the many Music and Drama groups in school perform for us.
The change in format has been a real success making the event into a celebration of our talented students and all that goes on in our school. Our Food and Nutrition Students will be providing some catering for the Art exhibition and over the last couple of years we have also had activities run by a number of our other extra-curricular clubs, including some of our Sports teams, mountain biking club, CAFOD group and Eco Group.
We will have the book stall, a uniform stall, games and activities including wet the teacher, the bungee run and bucking bronco and the Greedy Greek Deli will once again be on site for you to buy food.
All the money raised on the evening goes back into supporting the various extra-curricular clubs and enrichment activities in school through the work of Friends of Notre Dame. It is a really good way to spend a summer evening and support the school community. I hope to see you there.
Taking us back into school, this half term we are introducing a few updates to our behaviour system. We explained these to students on Monday and will be reviewing how they go over the half term. These minor changes have been introduced as part of our normal annual review of school systems.
Until now, if a student received two negative events then this would automatically generate a detention. We have changed this for a number of the events that members of staff can log. These events, which we will now call ‘concerns’ will still appear on e-portal and will be monitored by form tutors, heads of year and pastoral managers. They will not lead to automatic detentions. We know that in the vast majority of cases, students rarely fall below our expectations and if they do, they usually learn from it and it does not happen again. As a result, no other action or support is needed from staff. However, if we see that a student is picking up a number of concerns, this will alert members of staff to take some action to help that student re-set whatever habit they may have got into.
For example, we know that in the majority of cases if a student is late with a piece of homework, they learn from their mistake and it doesn’t happen again, so they do not need any further support or action from staff in school. However, if we see that a student is beginning to show a pattern of missing homework, then staff will take action designed to help that student to get on top of that problem and change the pattern.
Some behaviour events will still be logged as ‘negatives’ and they will trigger a detention. These are cases where a student’s behaviour has affected other people. In these cases it is important that quickly after the event the student takes some time to reflect on their behaviour and the effect it had on others. In detention a Head of Year or senior manager will work with them to think about the way that they could make better choices if they find themselves in a similar situation in future.
These changes won’t make much difference for students most of the time. Our expectations of them haven’t changed at all, nor has the fact that our students live up to them so well as was highlighted in the recent section 48 report. We hope that the only changes students see is that in the majority of cases where they have made one or two mistakes in a year, they are able to show that they have learned from them on their own without further action from staff. We hope too that in the rare cases where students have got into a pattern of poor behaviour or have made more serious poor choices, the actions of staff will be best designed to help them to change that behaviour and make up for any hurt they may have caused.
Students aren’t the only ones who learn at school
Mrs Woodward, who is our Assistant Head Teacher with responsibility for teaching practice and pedagogy has put together the following summary of the work that teachers are doing in school to develop our knowledge and expertise. I hope it is interesting to you and that you may recognise some of the ways that teachers are working with students from the things that your children tell you.
It is not just our students who have been busy learning lots of new knowledge and skills this year. Our teachers are always committed to reflecting on their practice and investing in their own professional development. One of the ways we do this in school is through our teaching and learning groups, where teachers come together to share ideas and to receive further training. This year these groups have been informed by evidence-based practice, where we have used educational research to help us explore those teaching strategies that will have the greatest impact on student learning. Lots of fantastic work has been going on across three groups which I would like to take the opportunity to tell you about.
In one group, teachers have been focussing on metacognition and self-regulated learning. We have been exploring the seven recommendations in the guidance report from the Education Endowment Foundation (an organisation that provides evidence-based resources designed to boost learning). The recommendations are centred on approaches that encourage students to be more aware of their strengths and weaknesses, and of the strategies they use to learn. We have looked at how teachers can help students to plan, monitor and evaluate their own learning. Teachers have developed their own resources based around the sessions to use in their lessons. Listening to their conversations as they have shared their ideas and reflections has been very encouraging and, as always, the commitment that teachers show to developing their practice has been impressive.
Our second group has helped teachers to explore the different ways we can teach vocabulary. This has been an important focus because the new academic curriculum has increased the reading comprehension demand, with more complex vocabulary across all subject areas. Teachers have worked on planning activities that support students with the step up from every day talk to academic talk. They have thought carefully about how to help students understand the real meaning of words. Teachers have shared their ideas in ‘show and tell’ sessions, never failing to impress with their enthusiasm and creativity in developing new resources for their classes.
Our final teaching and learning group has a focus on ‘Disciplined Inquiry’. Teachers joined this group if they wanted to gain more guidance on how to reflect on, and evaluate, the impact of their work in a more disciplined way. They have worked carefully to construct a research question and undertake wider reading around this, linked to an area of their classroom practice that they would like to explore. Teachers are currently delivering the new initiative to their classes, and are also gathering data to help them evaluate the impact that this has had on student learning. There are a range of things being investigated from the role of structured group work in lessons, to how homework can help students with remembering key knowledge. Teachers will present their findings to each other in the last group meeting in June, which I am sure will make for an interesting evening!
Elsewhere, we have spent training time refreshing our knowledge about the ways in which students learn and build memory. Reviewing the evidence about the best ways to revise has helped us to support students with their final preparation for GCSE and A-level exams. The approach to this has focussed on developing strategies to aid retrieval practice for students, so that they have regular opportunities to recall what they know and understand. The research tells us that the most effective way to learn is for students to ‘self-test’ themselves during revision. This includes planning activities for ‘low stakes testing’ such as quizzes, knowledge tests and multiple choice questions. It has been a privilege to speak to students in lessons and to hear how they have been using these techniques to help them remember knowledge from across their subjects, so that they are well prepared for their exams.
I thank Mrs Cleary, Mr Coats, Mr Gittner and Mrs Ray for all of their hard work in planning and leading our teaching and learning groups this year, and indeed all of our teachers who show such great dedication to delivering the high standards of teaching and learning in our school each day.
I would add my thanks to Mrs Woodward for all she does to lead us by example, with such a great commitment to every student experience the best teaching and every teacher having the best support and development.
Dates for your diary
- Centenary Summer Festival Thursday 27th June
- Y6 Parents’ Evening (for parents of students joining Y7 in September) Wednesday 3rd July
- Sports Presentation Evening Thursday 4th July
- Last day of summer term for students Friday 19th July
*Note that there are some exams in some subjects prior to these dates, but this is when the main exam sessions start and when we suspend the normal timetable for these year groups
Things happening in school over the coming weeks
- Y13 Leavers’ Mass 17th May
- 19th June - Mass in Liverpool for 50th Anniversary of St Julie becoming a Saint. Some of our students, staff and governors will be representing us at the mass.
- Enrichment Days; Monday and Tuesday 8th & 9th July
- Sports Day; Friday 12th July
- End of year assemblies, week beginning Monday 15th July
Technology Department Blog – June 2019
Key Stage 4 lessons:
The Y9 GCSE classes have all been completing different practical work; Electronics were programming their circuit boards for the MP3 amplifiers that they’re making, the Textile students were finishing their tote bags, the Resistant Material students are making portable stools, using the hand tools in the workshop and the Food & Nutrition students have been making gluten free cakes and learning about food intolerances.
The Y10 D&T classes are all working on the mock NEA’s (practice project work) as well as preparing for their upcoming mock exams and the Y10 Food and preparation students are planning for their mock 3 hour practical exam, where they have to cook 3 dishes in 3 hours. The exams are taking place next week and I am really looking forward to see the dishes that are made as we have some very unusual and tasty dishes planned – well done guys!
The Year 11 Design Technology students sat their exam before the half term holidays and the GCSE Food & Nutrition exam and the A’Level Product Design exam is next week – good luck to all the students sitting exams with us this year.
Key Stage 3 lessons:
The Y7 technology classes all moved to their new area last week and were busy starting on the different projects that they complete; Food students were making flapjack, Textile students were tie-dying the fabric for their tote bags, Electronic students were making the circuit boards for their light up Frisbees and the Resistant Material students were making the wood frames for their gumball machines.
The practical work continued with the Y8 groups, who have also just moved into their new materials areas and were busy starting on their practical work, Electronic students were once again programming circuit boards, Textiles students were making the patchwork for their zipped up cases, the Resistant Material students were working with metal to make the stands for their clocks and the Food students were making either Chicken Faijtas or Cheese & Onion Pastries.