Sunday, 10 November 2013

High Levels of Student Enjoyment, Participation and Intellectual Curiosity

"Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide open………
For the times they are a-changin’”.
Bobby Dylan, “The Times They Are A-Changin'.”

As I sit and reflect on the term so far, it has been a real rollercoaster: with our outstanding results in August; a record enrolment, so that for the first time in our 25 year history, we were full; a really successful induction programme which was planned and delivered by our own staff, and the numerous accolades that we have received about our success as well as our new building beginning to take shape and be ready by the end of this term. 

Well, if this wasn’t enough, we were informed that we would be inspected during the first week in October and we had our first Awards and Open Evenings of the year. I guess the adage about waiting for buses comes to mind.

The Inspection has been completed and I am delighted to inform you that in all of the subject specialist areas that were selected by Ofsted for examination, we were judged to be Outstanding.

“Provision is outstanding in science and mathematics, languages and literature. These areas are characterised by high levels of student enjoyment, participation and intellectual curiosity”.

What is really interesting is that there are at least 18 subjects that the Inspectors looked at and were deemed to be outstanding. Wow!

The Inspectors were also highly positive about our students and the academic culture of success that exists at our College.
"The College provides a harmonious environment in which high aspirations, positive community values and the growth and care of the individual are nurtured and promoted. Intellectual and spiritual enquiry are encouraged and embraced by many. Inspectors were highly impressed with the students' maturity, personal development and high levels of confidence. Students have a very positive attitude to learning".

I believe that what was even more interesting were the "off-the-record" comments that were made to all of us in the Senior Team. Comments such as:
"… It is unusual for Inspectors to be "excited" about being here".
"You should not be content with being in the top 10% of all colleges; you could become one of the best in the country".
"We have never experienced a library where there is such a work ethic".
"The culture of success and achievement is incredible".
"Your students are amazing".
On that last note, I have to agree to feeling so proud of all of you, the way that you conduct yourself and your attitude to learning.

Clearly, as in any Inspection, there are some things that we need to do to become even better and we will be doing so with urgency because we owe it to you to become one of the best colleges in the country.
Our first Awards Evening of the year was extremely enjoyable and amusing, not least because Manjeet Kler (despite being reminded that the Principal’s trophy was made out of glass), proceeded to drop it in the ensuing excitement. Only Manjeet could have done this! It was amazing, however, to be a part of so much success and celebration. Our Guest of Honour, Neal Hodgkinson, the Editor of the Hull Daily Mail, was equally impressed and proceeded to give an amusing and inspiring speech on 'being young' and 'aspiring for greatness'. It was lovely to be a part of this and to have so many parents and students thanking me on behalf of our College. I likened it to 'being the best man at a wedding' when you are actually a 'part' player but everyone is on your side and willing you to do well.

Our Open Evening a week later was also incredible. If only I could measure the ’positivity’, it would be off the scale. The largest number of students and parents that we have ever had, our wonderful 'Student Crew' and student helpers and the general vibe as one walked into the building was amazing. It confirms that whilst our accommodation is really good, what happens inside is truly beautiful!

The second part of the Autumn Term is likely to be equally busy: on Thursday we have 16 visitors from Thailand (from the world of business and education); a planned visit by the Shadow Further Education Minister; next Tuesday evening we have our first ever poetry and piano recital, "Manifesto dream", which is a part of the Humbermouth Hull Literature Festival as well as our second Open Evening.

Life at our College continues to be busy and I am also aware of your successes in the National sports trials and championships: we had 7 of our netballers taking part in the England trials as well the successes for our footballers, badminton players, cross-country runners and for the first time (again), we have a member of the Great Britain Sailing Squad at our College. Auditions have also taken place for our first cross-College production of "Little Shop of Horrors", and I suspect that rehearsals have already started.

Of course, academic life and focus on academic work continues. I am pleased that we have had at least 10 students who have applied to Oxford or Cambridge University and a similar number for medical, veterinary or dentistry courses. I am delighted that many of you are already receiving offers and invitations for interviews. I must urge all second-year students to get their UCAS forms submitted and of course, all of you need to focus on the forthcoming mock examinations in January. These will certainly be as demanding as any module examination that you may have taken in the past.

My problem is that when I start, I cannot stop. I feel guilty that I have not referred to any of the national and international developments: the budgetary stalemate in America; the phone tapping of the French, German and our own, leaders; the price ‘hike’ by the energy companies; schools only being allowed to enter students once for their GCSEs and the (slow but sure) ascendancy of my beloved Leeds United.

Remember, work very hard, play hard and you are really amazing.