It’s hard to believe that we are approaching the last three weeks of term already. If you fancy a break from all the sporting doom and gloom, then read through this week’s Bulletin about some of the great things that have been happening in the school over the last few weeks.

I was lucky enough to drop in on the borough Maths Challenge that we designed alongside Highgate School this week. It was fantastic. A hall full of the most inspiring and talented Mathematicians in Haringey pitched against a really diverse group of students. This was a great opportunity and brilliantly organised by Highgate School and our own Mr Matthews.

One of the keys to success in a secondary school is independence. In the tail end of this term and into the next academic year, we are trying to build the independence and resilience of our students to succeed at secondary school. Part of this success is having the right tools to learn with during the school day. Next week we will be clamping down on, and reasserting, our expectations that students should have with them the right equipment to learn. This is the first basic step in independence. Taking responsibility for our own learning and coming prepared. The second most important quality is resilience. When we talk about resilience in young people, we refer to their ability to keep going even when they find problems hard and challenging. Our inspiring Mathematicians are an inspiration in this respect. It isn’t just they are talented at Maths, it is also that they relish the challenge. They enjoy the feeling of being faced with insurmountable problems and overcoming them. This is a quality that we would like all of our students to share.

Of course, to get that independence and resilience they need the right tools to succeed. We only ask that they come prepared to face those challenges and to enjoy them. That is what learning is about and the sense of satisfactions that they will get, is when they have made progress. I am pretty sure that is why most of us became teachers in the first place and it’s a pleasure to watch students grow as they become more independent in their learning.

Finally, we are really looking forward to meeting our new cohort of Year 7 students next week. I am sure that they already come with some of these skills and I cant wait to see them succeed in the school.

 

 

— Head’s blog Friday 27th June

It suddenly feels like summer is in the air at the moment.

Students and staff have had a brilliant start to this final half-term and with the focus and concentration in lessons you could never guess that there are only five weeks to go.

We are busy making preparations for next year, which is the last year of significant growth in terms of staffing.  There will plenty of new staff joining us before September, but we will give you an update on that nearer the time.

Duke of Edinburgh, trips to Paris, Rand Farm and ski trips have all been topics of conversation this week and I’m delighted to see that the experiences we are able to offer students are now so rich and varied. We have continued our successes at Athletics and it’s great to see our Running club lead by Mr Kikwera, setting out bright and early in the morning.

Finally, now that GCSE examinations are over we have just a few assessments in Years 7, 8 and 9 to take place. We are driving a commitment to learning in the school and while it is fantastic to see students involved in so many other activities, it is also essential that they do well in all their subjects. The government is changing the way that it measures school performance so that students are encouraged to do better in 8 of their subjects. They are calling it ‘best 8’ and it is likely to have an impact upon entry requirements of Sixth Forms and colleges.

Now, more than ever, our children need to be prepared to do well across the board. Our focus is on helping them to achieve.

 

Simon Garrill

 

 

— Head’s blog Friday 13th June

Last night I went off to vote in the local elections. It always seems like a privilege to be able to vote in a democracy. Whatever side of the party political divide you fall into, at least in this country we have a chance to vote for local, national and European governance.

At Heartlands, we want our students to take their responsibilities in this really seriously, and I hope when they leave school they see the importance of voting and taking an active part in democracy.

This half-term sees the Citizenship side of SEARCH come to an end as we move into High Aspirations Week.  This week,  many of our students have been involved in activities as part of High Aspirations Week.  There is always a huge amount going on.  The purpose of the week is to expose students to as many different opportunities as possible. Not least, the visit to Alexandra Palace to take part in a workshop with Sir Kenneth Branagh. How exciting for them and for him!

This week, there has been a real buzz around the school. I felt immensely proud of our Year 10 students as they sat their first real GCSE. Whatever the outcome, they have displayed a maturity beyond their years in their approach to the exams and their teachers have commented upon how seriously they have taken their studies. It is a brilliant experience to be a part of their success and I wish them the best of luck.

Like all our students, they now deserve a good rest-unless of course they are in school over Half Term. Thank you to staff and students for all of their hard work in the last half-term.

 

Simon Garrill

 

 

— Head’s Blog 23rd May

This Saturday, like the Saturdays before, our English teachers give up their weekend to support our students in doing their best for their GCSE exams. This week, I would like to thank those teachers for all their hard work and for their ‘commitment to learning’.

Attendance at these Saturday sessions from our Year 10s has been absolutely amazing and it has been great to see their focus on their future increase, as they get closer to the end game.

There is no mystery to doing well at GCSE. When it comes down to it, while talent and natural ability can take you a long way, the greatest gains are made through hard work, resilience and commitment. Nothing makes the job of teaching more worthwhile than when young people see the value of this, and suddenly school and learning click. In my experience these are generally the students who wear smiles on their faces in August, when they open their brown envelopes with their results inside.

Good luck to all of our students taking their first GCSE this Summer.  With the right support at home and at school I am sure they will do brilliantly.

 

Simon Garrill

 

— Head’s Blog 9th May 2014

Only 15% of students go on to study Mathematics after the age of 16. This Government commissioned Carol Vorderman to write a research paper on the teaching of Mathematics. It makes interesting reading. One of the concerns that it raises is, that while standards in this country are better than ever they were, as a country, we are still falling behind others, particularly in relation to Mathematics. Why is this?

Perhaps it has something to do with the messages that we send our young people. Instead of encouraging them to enjoy the challenge of solving the problem, do we sometimes reinforce the problem when we blurt out, “Oh, I wasn’t very good at Algebra,” or, “ Maths wasn’t really my subject when I was at school”. I’m certainly guilty of that, but I’m changing my ways.

We are looking around for lots of ways to ensure that our young people leave school with a passion for Mathematics and some outcomes that suggest that they have found strategies to solve problems that they find hard. 

I’ve heard our system compared a lot recently to China or Singapore. Of course, there are differences in our cultures, but I’m interested to see what lessons we can learn; particularly in the teaching of Mathematics. 

As adults though, we can make an immediate difference. We can reinforce the idea that Maths is a subject in which all of our young people can succeed. Some positive reinforcement and sharing the enjoyment of solving problems with our children, won’t do any harm.

— Head’s Blog 28th March 2014, Simon Garrill

It’s a great chance to practice my very rusty French and to witness a Search day trip first hand. I hardly ever get to go on trips with students so this is a great treat.

Let’s see if I feel like that at 8pm, after spending hours on a coach!

We have really tried to make trips a part of the school. They are one of the best ways for young people to take themselves outside of their normal environment. This is where they really grow and develop. 

I really appreciate the efforts that teachers and staff put into making these trips work. Without them it doesn’t happen.

— Head’s Blog 14th March 2014, Simon Garrill

The key is to realise that these choices represent the start of a journey and in order to succeed in the future, students should look to keep as many doors open as possible. This is why we encourage as many students as possible to pick from subjects that allow them scope to change in the future.

At last night’s Options Evening, It was great to see so many students and parents there and I’m looking forward to seeing the current Year 9s achieve great things at GCSE.

Also this week, our Year 10 students have started having one-to-one sessions with Career Advisors from ‘Inspiring Futures’. 

Ms Clay has created a really interesting programme of intervention in Careers that seeks to give students access to a wide range of advice. So far, the quality of advice that students have been getting seems to be high. This is an area that we are looking to do really well in over the coming years, as we encourage as many students as possible to aim high and work hard.

The current landscape means that students leaving secondary schools will need to ensure excellent achievement in the subjects that they have chosen. The breadth of the core with English, Maths, Science, Languages and a Humanities subject, allows students the scope to keep the doors open for them in the future. Their other choices should be ones that they enjoy. 

Good luck to our Year 9 s with their options.

— Head’s Blog 28th February 2014, Simon Garrill

Public Speaking and the ability to talk in formal English, with confidence and to an audience, is a skill that I really value and it sets our students up brilliantly for the future.  Our students who won, did much more than that though. They mixed confidence, formality and good presentation with humour and rhetorical devices that would match even the best Public Speakers. This is something that is great for the students, great for the school and a reflection of the good work that is happening all around. It is events and success such as this, that distinguish our students and I am delighted for them that they have done so well.

Next week sees Year 10 Parents’ Evening, which is obviously an important time for parents and students. We would very much like 100% attendance this time round. Inevitably, students are under more stress as the intensity of GCSE exams increases and we want to do our best to support them. Part of this support is recognising that sometimes stress works for students as well as against them. The trick is to get the balance right.

With your support and a clear understanding of where strengths and weaknesses lie we can make a big difference to the quality of work that students are doing.

— Head’s Blog 7th February 2014, Simon Garrill

Our scheme aims to ensure that the books that we steer our students to read will be much more targeted at their reading age, so that there is always the right amount of challenge. I regularly read with my own children and I completely understand the challenge. Trying to inspire young people while making sure that the levels of the vocabulary are appropriate, is the key challenge. We want to keep our young people interested, but at the same time we want to make sure that they are exposed to words, sentence structures and ideas that are new to them.
No reading scheme is perfect and the reason we are investing so much in getting it right, is to ensure that as a school we work properly with parents and students in support, but also in intervention in improving reading skills. The quality of the report and the information that you receive on students’ reading skills will improve drastically when the pilot goes through. 

However, we will also be asking for your support in developing the programme. Some of our students are already avid readers and they may not notice much of a difference. However, for those young people that have been neglecting their reading, it might come as a bit of a shock when we increase our expectation.

The rationale for the change is clear though. We still get a high percentage of students from primary schools for whom reading is a challenge. If a young person’s reading comprehension is below the average of their peers, then often that is the root cause of underachievement in school. There aren’t any subjects in the school that don’t require good levels of literacy and driving up the skills of our students to be successful readers, will have a significant impact on their overall achievement and enjoyment in school.

— Head’s Blog 24th January 2014, Simon Garrill