Oct
12

Get into it!

Thank you to everyone who contacted me last week regarding my blog on extracurricular activities. A few parents have asked me to briefly highlight some of the activities that we run that their children may like to participate in.

 

Firstly, I would like to highlight the excellent work of our PE department who offer a fantastic range of activities. Football, rugby, netball, cricket, tennis, badminton, basketball and athletics are some of the main sports that we offer. You may remember from blogs last year that we enjoy a huge amount of sporting success and high levels of participation in extracurricular clubs are where it all starts.

 

Music is another area of excellence in the Academy. The music department runs choirs, ensembles and orchestras which are showcased at various times of the year, such as our winter and summer concerts. In addition we have a number of music tutors that are available through the Academy to support the development of a large range of instruments, the loudest of which would be drums! Additional Performing Arts activities are also present in Drama who hold various productions throughout the year and there have also been recent collaborations within the March community at the St George’s Day Parade and they have also teamed up with TwentyTwenty Productions to build our wonderful team of Community Ambassadors in Year 8 and 9.

 

Press Club and Book Review competitions are enjoyed by our students who wish to show off their journalistic skills. Students have worked with the BBC reporting on a variety of global and local issues. Maybe one day another Neale-Wade student will follow in the footsteps of Dominic Mohan, ex-editor of The Sun and former Neale-Wade student.

 

Trips abroad are also available in some subject areas. The Geography department has recently returned from a field trip to Iceland where they studied volcanic activity and plate tectonics. After a couple of years break, the History department is returning to the Battlefields in Belgium where they will experience the aftermath of European conflicts from the last century.

 

Finally, we encourage students to lead their own activities. Frequently throughout an academic year I will talk to students running various clubs in our Learning Resource Centre ranging from chess to card games and model making. We are always happy to provide a place for young people to gather and participate in a wholesome activity that they are interested in.

 

Please contact us if you would like any further information. Enjoy your weekend.

Oct
05

The Benefits of Extracurricular Activities

A healthy teenager is involved in their community as well as the world around them. Our world is full of information and distractions that, at face value, seem harmless. However, they can cause a feeling of dissatisfaction in young people. I am not prepared to write a blog blaming the world’s ills on too much television & video games as that is too simplistic. Much better to look at solutions and put them out there for consideration and action.

 

Teenagers are experiencing the transition from childhood to adulthood. They try to make sense of the world beyond their home whilst building their own identity. Teenagers today can face unprecedented pressures and can be forced to grow up too fast. On the positive side, teenagers who are psychologically prepared are capable of handling this transition with minimal difficulty.

 

Extracurricular activities are an excellent way to improve a young person’s quality of life. They can be used to provide opportunities for community involvement, as well as develop strong behavioural health skills. Such activities are ones that students engage in outside of the usual remit of the school day. They generally require a consistent time commitment and an element of organisation.

 

I have documented a wide variety of extracurricular activities in this very blog over the last academic year including:

  • Sports
  • Music
  • Drama
  • Charity Events
  • Community Events
  • Duke of Edinburgh Award
  • Gardening
  • Cooking

These are a few of the examples of extracurricular activities that we offer at the Academy. They are beneficial in building self-esteem and self-worth. Involvement with other young people teaches the value in working towards a common goal. This in turn develops strong behavioural health and plays a vital role in the physical and emotional development of a young person.

 

Overall, the benefits include

  • Better Grades – due to promoting passion and excitement and an ability to effectively manage time and prioritise tasks
  • Skill Development – music develops both sides of the brain / sport develops the application of both physical and mental energy
  • Increased Self-Esteem – learning new skills, even through failure, builds confidence
  • Improved Social Skills – by working with others with similar positive interests which help young people stay away from the wrong crowd
  • Change of Pace and Diversity – School work is important, but so are other fun activities out of the classroom
  • Healthy and Productive – they promote mental, emotional and physical health

 

Finally, check out what is on offer not just at the Academy but also in your local area. Feel good about yourself – you are a special person.

Sep
28

Encouraging teenagers with mathematics

As promised last week, I will explore the help and support that parents and carers can give to teenage children with regard to mathematics. I will focus on aspects of mathematics that all parents will be skilled in helping with, even if you think that mathematics is not your natural area of expertise. You will be better than you imagine!

 

Environment

Your love and support is the most important influence on your child’s life. Make sure they have a good work/life balance, get plenty of sleep and eat a healthy diet. Whilst cooking with your children using fresh ingredients you will even encounter problems that have to be solved such as portion sizes for the number of people that will eat the meal. Halving or doubling ingredient amounts is an important functional skill.

 

Practical Support

Using their own scientific calculator at home provides a form of familiarity and comfort when used during a maths exam. The calculator could be used in lessons too, but the benefit of being familiar with a calculator that you own has a stabilising effect on individuals in exams. Make a note of the days that your child has maths lessons and the dates of important exams so that you can check your child is well prepared.

 

Problem Solving

Problem solving has become increasingly important in the new GCSE specifications. Many of the questions will require the student to read a question about a “real life” situation. I discussed last week that students reading for pleasure helps with questions of this nature. Strategies available to parents could be including their children in conversations about various DIY jobs. For example, how many tiles are needed to complete the bathroom redecoration, how many boxes of tiles will be needed and what is the cheapest way to do this. Pricing up jobs and managing small projects that will be completed in the house.

 

NWA extra sessions

As ever, we will be running a wide range of extra sessions in the morning (with free breakfast) and after school to pinpoint areas of mathematics that can be improved in a supportive and confidence building fashion. Thanks to the maths department for all of the extra time they put in to supporting our students.

 

Have a great weekend.

Sep
21

Follow up questions on reading

I would like to thank all parents who responded to my blog last week about encouraging teenagers to read for pleasure. A couple of interesting questions that were raised were:

 

  • “What can I do to support my child in maths?”
  • “Is it ok if my child reads books on an ipad/phone/tablet?”

 

In answer to the first question, there is actually a very strong link between reading and success in maths. Research conducted by the Institute of Education found that children aged between 10 and 16 who had regular access to books not only improved their vocabulary and spelling but also increased standards in maths. More specifically, the study continued to highlight those students who continued to read for pleasure make more progress than those who only rely upon parental encouragement. Therefore, as we saw in last week’s blog, it is vital for parents to stimulate a love of reading for pleasure in their children. I will cover more specific strategies that parents can use to promote mathematic curiosity with their children in a future blog. As maths exams require increasing amounts of problem solving skills, reading is a more essential skill than ever.

 

The clear answer to the second question is “Yes!” There are concerns that the number of children reading for pleasure has declined and new technologies can be employed to stimulate interest in reading. E-readers of any kind can open up easy access to all manner of books and newspapers. Indeed, the comfort of using modern technology can make reading seem “cooler” and part of modern life. The ability to have a whole library of books at your fingertips on your phone or tablet is an incredibly powerful tool to be able to access. The only issue to be aware of for parents is to ensure that the e-reader (such as a phone) is being used to access a relevant book or newspaper at that time. As modern day parents I am sure that you deal with this situation on a regular basis and are well versed in providing an adequate solution.

 

Enjoy your weekend.

Sep
14

We Love Reading

It has been an exciting week at the Academy as we see the return of our students for their first full week after the summer break. It have enjoyed welcoming both staff and students back and have been impressed with the enthusiasm displayed by all involved. I would like to focus this week on the critical aspect of reading.

 

The strategies used to encourage teenage children remain the same as from ages 8 to 11. However, a whole world of exciting fiction opens up to them allowing the exploration of complex feelings in a safe environment. In turn, this is the age where some children can become reluctant readers and it is vital for parents to find out why this is the case for their own child. Reading may be regarded as not being “cool” so try to encourage reading based on hobbies and interests which could include movies and videogames. Investigate whether there are books based upon the storylines of the films and stories that they have enjoyed. Biographies of film and sports stars are other possibilities.

 

Another strategy is to make reading a habit in the household. Reading material such as magazines are excellent to get people in the habit of picking up something to read and can establish interest in more formal reading opportunities. We should remember that reading is an enjoyable activity and should not be an activity that is forced upon the reader. Ideally, let your children see yourself reading as this lets them see that reading is enjoyable and that you find it worthwhile. If you’re reading a sporting biography, then leave it lying around if you think your child may find it interesting. It may pique their curiosity.

 

Finally, be patient as you find the book that is suitable for your teenage child. Whether, it’s a fantasy adventure or a gritty, realistic novel covering adult issues we all have our own tastes and moods that can fluctuate over time. Be persistent and encourage their love of reading.

 

Enjoy your weekend.

Jul
13

Sports Day success

To continue our fine Primary Transition work this week we welcomed students from various Primary School year groups to participate in our Primary Music Festival on Tuesday. It was wonderful to talk to both staff and students who had an excellent day and commented positively upon the importance of exposure to musical opportunities at an early age.  Both peripatetic and traditional music teachers joined forces to provide a splendid experience and it was a pleasure to see so many happy students enjoying their day.  Well done to everyone involved.

 

I am delighted to let you know that the Academy U13 boys cricket team, representing Cambridgeshire, won the 6 counties “Chance to Compete” tournament on Tuesday beating schools from Essex, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Suffolk and Norfolk. This is genuinely a fantastic achievement and one that we are very proud of. Congratulations to everyone who has been involved with the team.  You have not only performed exceptionally well but have conducted yourselves with integrity throughout the season and I look forward to following your progress next year.

 

Six students represented the Academy at the Swavesey science challenge on Wednesday. The challenge is made up of tasks that test not only scientific understanding and the ability to apply this to unfamiliar situations and also the ability to work as a team. The students excelled and were great ambassadors for the Academy.

 

On Friday, sixty Year 9 students participated in a Science Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM) day. The students had to design and build water storage devices and water level sensors. In addition to this, they had to market their design and deliver a presentation to the rest of the group. The enthusiasm of the students was fantastic and it was encouraging to see them complete activities that bring together the different STEM subjects into one task.

 

There were sporting opportunities for all students in Years 7, 8 & 9 throughout the day on Wednesday during our Sports Day. There was a large array of traditional sporting and athletic disciplines to take participate in which included track events, shot putt and long jump.  To ensure that all students had an opportunity to compete there were alternatives such as speed stacking and boccia.  To further encourage the “Olympic Spirit” facilities in Archery and Triathon enabled students to access sports that are often difficult to access.  Alongside the sporting achievements I was particularly pleased to witness staff running sessions full of enthusiasm and encouragement.  As a result students displayed passion and commitment towards their specific event and on numerous occasions I observed staff and students working in collaboration and celebrating what they had achieved.  All students competed to the best of their ability on the day and I was exceptionally proud of how they conducted themselves.

 

I would like to thank all staff who helped to run the events on the day. You were an inspiration to students and your kindness and support was greatly appreciated.  A special thank you goes to the PE department for taking on such a massive event, your organisation and support of those around you was first class.

Feb
09

URockets

As this is the final week before half term, I would like to take this opportunity to thank our Academy community for all their hard over the last few weeks.  Teaching in lessons has been sharp and productive, students have been positive and determined and our parents responsive and supportive.  Thank you all so much and I hope you all get to enjoy some well-deserved relaxation and/or family time over the break.

On Wednesday, we had 22 year 8 students taking part in our 3 day arts event this week. They were working on a project about the Internet with UROCK, a professional theatre group, who came in to help them create and develop this performance piece. The pupils were absolutely amazing, developing and demonstrating many life skills including team work, creativity, trust, leadership and communication skills. During the 3 days, the group of students used many different performance skills  that they had already learnt in school, like still images, musicality and  body language, but were also taught new skills like recording soundscapes to enhance their performance. The end piece was a real showcase of how many different artistic skills can be used in one creative piece and how working as a team can be both enjoyable and productive. Well done to all the students involved.

Also on Wednesday, Robin Mobbs visited the Academy to deliver an all-day Physics Master Class on behalf of the National Space Academy. The focus of the day was Astrophysics and, given that the Space X launch was only hours before, we had plenty to discuss. The day started with a session on the effects of space on an astronaut including what happens to substances under low pressure. Robin who has worked with astronauts from America, Europe and Russia was able to bring in materials that are used in space flight to give hands on demonstrations to students.  Later, students looked at forces and motion and were able to calculate the speed of objects in the solar system including the Space X launch. Students were able to make links from the formulae they complete in class to the calculations needed to launch a rocket.  Another highlight was looking at the efficiency of rocket fuel. This included the lighting of fuel within a confined space. Needless to say it startled a few students!  To finish the day, students built and tested rockets and it was encouraging to see the students engage in the challenges that the National Space Academy placed upon us.  It was great to have an expert work with potential rocket scientists of the future.

Finally, a huge thank you to staff who will be running over twenty revision and booster sessions for year 11 students over the half term week. It will be good to see large numbers of year 11 students in over the week catching up with work that may have been missed or boosting knowledge for revision purposes.  Additionally, the Neale-Wade Academy ski trip departs this evening.  I’d like to wish everyone taking part a safe journey and I look forward to hearing about the trip upon your return.

Feb
02

What being a Neale-Wade student is all about

For the first blog in February I would like to thank all staff and students for their hard work so far this term. January can be a tough month. Travelling to work/school in the dark and travelling home in the dark can lead to a general malaise in some, but I am glad to say that this has certainly not been the case at the Academy.  This week we have seen a hearty variety of events and initiatives to encourage students learning alongside their regular lessons.

 

Sporting success continues in football as the year 7 girls travelled to Carlton le Willows Academy near Nottingham in the 3rd round of the National Cup. The girls started well taking control of the game and had several chances on goal. Amy Hunt worked hard up front being a constant thorn in the side to the opposition. Eventually, our breakthrough came with a well taken goal by Kiera Swanson. The girls continued to press and were rewarded with a goal by Amy. The midfield worked well together limiting the chances created. At half time the score was 2-0 to Neale-Wade. The second half was a much tighter affair as Neale-Wade pushed for more goals, Carlton Le Willow pushed to get back into the game. The defence worked well with Amy Halls and Lois Lane keeping their attacking threat at bay. Amy Hunt scored another goal in the 2nd half making the game safe for the final 10 minutes.  It was an excellent team performance with every member of the squad playing their part.  The girls are now in the last 32 of the National Competition and continue to impress.

 

On Wednesday, 120 students from year 9 and 10 participated in the Intermediate Maths Challenge. This is a national competition that challenges the most able mathematicians across 25 searching questions.  Students who display exceptional performance and finish in the top 10% nationally will qualify for the next round.  I had the pleasure of talking to several students before they took part on Wednesday morning and I was encouraged by the air of confidence that permeated through the group who had been asked to gather in our atrium.  I am sure that everyone did their best and we await the results in the near future.  Well done to all involved.

 

On Thursday around 30 students from Years 8 and 10 attended a music workshop with professional musician, Connor Adams. The workshop provided students with the opportunity to compose their own musical item, taking students through exercises involving elements including chords and melodies.  Once the song writing task had been completed students then had the opportunity to perform their piece in front of their peers.  Although this was the first time that some had given a performance of this nature it was conducted admirably and was well received by their audience.  There are some very talented musicians at the Academy, as have been mentioned in previous blogs, and I look forward to many of the Year 8 students continuing to study music next year.  I’d like to thank the Year 10 students who were excellent role models on the day, your kind and caring support of the younger students has provided a fine dose of inspiration this week and highlights what being a Neale-Wade student is all about.

Jan
26

Aspire

Already we are in the final full week of January.  I am impressed each morning that, despite the uninspiring weather our students arrive each morning with a smile on their face and are bright and cheery.  I think that it’s important to start each day in a positive frame of mind and I can tell by the way that I am greeted each morning that our students think so too.  A special mention goes to all of our Year 11 students who are arriving to revision lessons early each morning.  It’s tough to force yourself out of bed early, especially when it’s miserable outside, but it’s going to be worthwhile.  The progress that students make, who attend the sessions, has been very impressive and I encourage everyone to make the most of the time that is left this academic year.

 

This week Years 8, 9 and 10 have all been thinking about their future career paths.  The Academy ran 2 such trips this week.  Year 9 and 10 went to Clare College in Cambridge, whilst Year 8 visited University College Peterborough (UCP) for an “Eyes on the Prize” event.  We believe it’s important to raise awareness of Higher Education at an early age as this allows students to explore the benefits that Higher Education Degrees and Degree Level Apprenticeships can offer.  Cities such as Northampton, have made great strides in recent years improving their Higher Education provision and it is very encouraging to see cities even closer to us, such as Peterborough, broadening their offer with a wide range of vocational degrees over the next few years.  This provides clear economic benefits to our students as it reduces many of the increased costs of living associated with going to a university much further from home.  I had the pleasure of listening to a presentation from UCP regarding their future plans and I am hopeful that they can continue to improve local opportunities for our young people.

 

Finally, on Tuesday evening of 6 February we would like to welcome all Year 8 parents to our curriculum information evening.  Over 100 Year 8 students visited UCP today and we’d like to show you how we plan to put your children in a very strong position when it comes to choosing their GCSE options.  I look forward to seeing you then.

Jan
19

Employment skills for life

Ultimately, school provides you with the skills and qualifications that are needed in the world of work so that young people can positively contribute to society. I have great pleasure each week writing this blog to express the tremendous progress that our students make in their academic studies.  However, the “hidden curriculum” also provides fantastic social experiences that build the whole student.  An example this week occurred yesterday when we ran our Year 10 employability skills day. The aim of this was to focus on the options that our students have Post 16 and Post 18 as well as to continue to develop those skills so important to employers. As usual, we were supported by a large number of local employers. This support is invaluable as evidence suggests the more encounters our young people have with employers the more successful they will be in their future careers.  Therefore, our thanks go to Smurfit Kappa who ran a skills assessment centre. This activity helps develop skills such as communication, leadership, creativity, organisation, initiative and planning which is so important in the workplace. The Skills Service ran a CV workshop and ‘Take Your Place’, an organisation which promotes higher education looked at the pathways available to students at the end of Year 11.

 

In the afternoon students had a mock interview with an employer. Although nervous, most students were very positive about the experience and will improve with the feedback given.  This work is vitally important and prepares students for their next steps in their education and learning. Personally, I had great pleasure in helping various students with their CVs and it was extremely encouraging to speak to students about their interview feedback.  Overall, I would say that they performed just as well as many adults in that same, heavily scrutinised, situation.

 

Similar facets of student progress outside of their academic studies include participation in extra-curricular activities. For example, participation in sport is a fantastic activity that can provide young people with the opportunity to experience success in a different field of interest and transfer these skills into adult life.  This week saw our Key Stage 3 & 4 boys’ badminton teams enter the Isle of Ely competition.  The Key Stage 3 team, comprised of Oli Hubbard, Josh Hubbard, Ethan Halls, Callum Campbell and Phoenix Nightingale won both of their matches against Ely College (3-2) and Witchford College (4-1).  At times the match was tight but the team stayed together and displayed tremendous resilience, especially during some hectic rallies, to ensure victory. Our Key Stage 4 team of Alex Watts, Alex Redhead, Patrick Adamczyk and Ryan Simpson displayed the perfect all round game to win both of their games by a 5-0 margin against Ely College and Witchford College.  A combination of subtle wrist shots and powerful overhead smashes produced an outstanding example of full court dominance.  I would like to congratulate both teams who move into the next round where they will play teams from Cambridge.

 

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