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.

 

Jan
12

Working together

As this is the first blog of 2018 I’d like to wish everyone a very Happy New Year. It’s already been a productive time at the Academy with students eager to push themselves forward at this demanding time of year.  I have been speaking with many Year 13 students who are excited to be receiving their university or apprenticeship offers.  This is the time of year where the realisation sinks in that their own academic year is very nearly halfway complete and one final drive is necessary if aims and ambitions are to be achieved by the summer.  It is heartening and refreshing to listen to so many young people excited about their own futures, and I must admit that this genuine excitement is rather infectious.  Similarly, Year 11 students are experiencing similar emotions as we held our Year 11 Parents’ Evening this week.  I would like to thank all parents and carers who attended.  Those of you that I spoke to were just as determined as staff here to ensure that the rest of this academic year will bring success.  I am confident that, by working together, we will be able to encourage those in our care to great things this summer.

Behind the scenes, pre-public exams (these used to be called mock exams, now PPEs) that were completed before the Christmas break have all been marked and a detailed analysis by subject, classes down to individual students has also been completed. The information and feedback that is received at a Parents’ Evening, at any time of year, will be based on the forensic drilling down into the paper produced by your child.  Tasks in class, including our “Green Pen” work will allow students to follow up on their exam performance with the identification of what they need to do to improve.  This week I have seen this in operation in several subjects where students are all working on improving upon their PPE performance.  With 4 weeks to go until half term (yes, that is all) our focus is on teaching unfinished parts of the syllabus but soon we will be in the revision season for the final push towards the summer.

It has been an absolute pleasure to welcome everyone back to the Academy and I wish you all every success in 2018.

Dec
15

Christmas Concert followed by Cup Victory

For the final blog of 2017 I’d like to focus on some seasonal items.  Last Friday was our Christmas concert over at St Wendreda’s Church.  Once again, I was amazed by the standard of the musical items produced by all the students involved from Year 7 all the way to Year 13.  It is always encouraging to see students grow and develop as musicians over the years and this year is no exception.  There was a range of seasonal and contemporary performances which displayed a high level of technical expertise, but also of teamwork and genuine enjoyment.  The number of younger participants was very high and certainly bodes well for the sustainability of the event.  I would like to thank the Year 13 students for their contribution to the music department and wish them all the very best with their university applications and offers.  They have certainly been excellent role models for the younger students and have always conducted themselves in exemplary fashion.  Well done to those parents and friends in our local community who came out to join us at the event.  There was certainly a healthy audience to support those performing.  Finally, a big thank you to Miss Griffin and Mrs Furlong from the music department who have worked tirelessly to put on such a lovely concert.

In other news, on Thursday December 14th, The Year 7 Girls’ Football team beat St Ivo 4-3 in a thrilling National Cup round 3 tie. This was a great team performance, in which the girls, came from 2-0 down, showed the sort of effort and determination that encompasses the values we wish to see in Neale-Wade students.  Player of the match Amy Hunt scored 3 fantastic goals whilst Kiera Swanson coolly slotted home the winner with 3 minutes remaining.

I have sent out a letter to all parents to wish them a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  Enjoy the break and I look forward to resume working with you all in January.

Dec
08

Business as usual

Today was the final day of our Pre-Public Exams (PPEs) for our Year 11 students.  I would like to say how well the year group have conducted themselves during the examination period.  The PPEs are an important period for both students and teachers as they enable both parties to highlight where there are any particular gaps in knowledge.  The following lessons after the PPEs give teachers time to plan in order to fill these individual gaps after analysing their students’ results and it gives students the opportunity to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to improve their grades.  The early signs are that the year group has made progress and, if they keep working hard and maintain their positive attitude towards learning and assessments then they will do well in the summer.  So, well done this term, Year 11.  There is still much hard work to complete, but you have taken a positive step forward.

Elsewhere throughout the Academy a wide variety of lessons have been in effect.  I have had the pleasure of judging the catering assessments in Year 9, Year 12 Drama students performed their first production piece, Year 7 maths were working on co-ordinates, Year 7 geography were seen using some exceptionally technical language to explain why a river meanders, Year 11 construction students were laying brick walls and Year 10 catering students working on the effects of food on our bodies.  Business as usual, and this will be the case next week and for the last two days of the following week before we break up for Christmas.

To round off the week we put up our Christmas tree in the atrium today, as I’m sure many families will this weekend.  There will be a prize giving ceremony around the tree towards the end of next week for those who attained the most positive points last academic year as a small thank you for their efforts.  Enjoy your weekend and I look forward to seeing you next week.

Dec
01

Charlie Calvert wins National Award

As we move into the final month of 2017 there is certainly no decline regarding the number of fantastic achievements involving students at the Academy.

On Wednesday evening I had the honour of being invited to the Cambridgeshire & Bedfordshire Young Person of the Year Awards (YOPEY) in Cambridge.  Neale-Wade Academy student and local Police Cadet, Charlie Calvert had made it through to the final round of this prestigious national award.  In a very tense final award ceremony we were treated to ten wonderful accounts about young people who had really made a difference in their local communities.  Each of the young people involved had, truly, made an outstanding contribution in their own way but I take great pleasure in announcing that Charlie Calvert won the overall award and is the Cambridgeshire Junior Young Person of the Year for 2017.  I am very conscious that Charlie’s achievements are a genuine combination of his own positive personal qualities but also shaped when families, schools and local groups such as the Police Cadets work together to achieve the same positive outcomes.  Very well done, Charlie.  Everyone at the Academy is very proud of you and we look forward to your future success.  Further details of Charlie’s contributions can be found on our website at:

http://www.neale-wade.org/news/?pid=3&nid=1&storyid=94

A distinct theme of the evening was the overwhelmingly positive effect that young people have on society as a whole as witnessed by all who had received a nomination in the country this year.  As highlighted during the ceremony, by YOPEY themselves and their associated sponsors in the business world, they continue to be disappointed by the negative portrayal of young people in the media in general and asked all involved to continue to challenge these negative, base stereotypes.  I have the privilege of working with several organisations who do operate to benefit young people and I am hopeful that I will have some exciting news that will be of benefit both to the young people of the Academy and a section of our community.  I will definitely continue to seek to mobilise young people to do good.  It’s always better to actively make a difference rather than criticise from afar.

I would also like to mention the Girls’ Under 13 football team who, despite a narrow 1-0 defeat in the Nation Cup this week, impressed me greatly when I had the great pleasure of being able to see them play this week.  After having gone 1-0 down in the first half the girls showed tremendous resilience and determination until the final whistle.  They were unfortunate on a number of occasions as shots from the Neale-Wade team whistled past crossbars and posts or were saved by the opposition goalkeeper.  At the final whistle there was a rousing “three cheers” from both teams and, despite the defeat, the girls were proud of their performance.   Like after any defeat or disappointment we adopt a growth mind set.  We go again.

Finally, remember next Friday we are holding our “Bobble Hat Day” to raise money for Scotty’s Little Soldiers.  In the evening, at St. Wendreda’s Church, is our annual Christmas Concert which begins at 6:30pm.  Have a wonderful weekend and see you all on Monday.

Nov
24

Resilience

Resilience is a  term that is being increasingly used in education.  In an age where young people are expected to achieve higher academic standards than the previous generation.  Let’s make no bones about it, current GCSE qualifications are more challenging for young people than their parents may have sat.  Elements of A Level study are more common in the current set of GCSE specifications and the breadth of content is wider than ever before.  It is possible to achieve a good GCSE grade in some subjects without completing many of the questions.  However, students may feel that they have “failed” due to the fact that they were able to access only a small proportion of the paper.

Resilience means to restore good mental and emotional health following adverse and challenging situations.  It is not an individual’s natural inner characteristic but rather shaped by experiences and opportunities.  Therefore, it is important for young people to engage in as many positive opportunities as possible both in and out of school.  These will be enjoyable but ultimately build resilience.  Conversely, negative or lethargic experiences such as long periods engrossed in social media reduce resilience.

Therefore, as we have seen from a variety of my blogs this academic year, it is important for students to partake in extra-curricular activities alongside their academic studies to promote their resilience.  Programmes at the Academy such as our Student Ambassador, PiXL Edge initiative and Duke of Edinburgh award for older students provide a much needed social stimulus alongside activities linked with curricular lesson such as sporting and musical activities.  Hence, opportunities to report on success in this area such as on Monday, the year 7 girls football team beat Deepings School 11-0 in round 1 of the National Football competition are vital and much appreciated.  An excellent team performance all round and I am sure that the girls will continue their success but are mindful that if there are future defeats then they will come back stronger.

Nov
17

Opportunities in school and beyond

Throughout the week I continue to be impressed with the achievements of our students within lessons and the ability and desire of our staff to inspire and motivate them.  My learning walks this week have seen some outstanding examples of questioning used to elevate students to higher levels of understanding and tasks designed to reinforce and deepen the understanding gained.  The best lessons appear effortless on the surface but I am well aware of the careful planning, use of prior data and responses to feedback that a teacher uses to reach the very best outcomes for their students.  Well done to both staff and students this week who have achieved these outcomes.  However, success at school is not purely academic and I would like to share with you some examples of the opportunities provided outside of lessons.

 

On Tuesday, the PE department took a trip of 45 students to Wembley to see the international football match between England and Brazil. Students benefitted from seeing some of the world’s best players in a fantastic atmosphere created by 85000 people in our national stadium. Although the game failed to produce a goal, our target of providing high quality experiences for students who represent the Academy in sport was definitely achieved and we hope to repeat the initiative later in the season.

 

On Wednesday representatives from the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy visited us to deliver an interactive workshop to Year 8 students. The focus was on how they use Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) and how, from a careers points of view, the importance these skills are to some roles and careers such as cyber engineers. Students got to see how coding programming is used and built into systems and how drones are now a key piece of military hardware. We were shown how a drone has been built that is the size of a wasp with the possible capabilities that this can offer – mainly to spies! And, also the robot ‘Mya’ was demonstrated to us how it can respond to human instructions and answer questions.

 

On Thursday I had the pleasure of presenting our first Year 7 Student Bronze Ambassador Award of the year to Karyn Goodley.  This is a tremendous achievement considering that it has been achieved within the first term and includes evidencing achievements in the classroom, extra-curricular activities and supporting our wider community.  Overall, it highlights what a fantastic contribution young people make to their community and I am proud of everyone who strives to contribute positively to the scheme.  As an Academy we are striving to fulfil the criteria for over 100 Bronze Ambassadors solely in Year 7 throughout this academic year.

 

Congratulations to everyone involved and I look forward to seeing you all next week.

Nov
10

Remembrance

Today the Academy held its Remembrance Day service in recognition of those who have served in the Armed Forces. Members of the ex-service community were invited in to the Academy to join in our remembrance supported by students representing the various cadet branches in the local area.  As ever, the service was conducted in impeccable fashion and is a poignant reminder to the core ideal of respect, not just on a local but also global scale.  We must remember the sacrifices made by those involved have provided opportunities for those that remain in the future.  Our work with young people on a daily basis is a constant reminder to us of the opportunities that have been provided and we must relentlessly strive to make sure that they are maximised.

 

One such opportunity was our Post 16 Open Evening held on Thursday evening. Once again the main hall was filled with a couple of hundred people listening to our advice guidance and offers for Post 16 study at the Academy.  It was a pleasure to personally talk to numerous parents on the evening and help with the decision making process.  I was extremely impressed with the hard work displayed by both staff and students throughout the evening.  The positive buzz from all involved was both encouraging and appreciated.

 

Psychology department took a group of year 10 and year 12 students to The University of Warwick to a ‘Psychology in Action – Power of the Mind’ event last Tuesday. This event gave students the opportunity to listen to people working in the field of psychology talk about what they do and how they use psychology in their work. All enjoyed the talk on ‘Deceiving the mind’ by Matt Pritchard, Scientist and Magician. This lecture clearly showed the links between perception, memory and attention and magic. Students were impressed that many of the points Matt Pritchard discussed, they had been taught in their Psychology lessons, not the magic tricks though!  Another excellent lecture was that of ‘Happiness and the Rhythm of Life’ by Peter Lovatt, from University of Hertfordshire. He is a psychologist and former professional dancer and enjoys using dance in his psychology research. This lecture clearly proved his theory that dance can improve your mood, when he had everyone up dancing and ensured everyone left happy.  This event helped the students understand the many different routes studying psychology can take you and hopefully inspired some of our students to become future psychology experts!

Nov
03

Strive for Excellence

The second autumn half term is upon us, which brings with it assessments for all students. The first fortnight sees Post 16 students taking their Pre Public Exams (PPEs) followed later in the term by Key Stage 4 students completing their PPEs, including the PiXL Wave assessments in core subjects.  Key Stage 3 students take their turn too, with their assessments closely resembling the style of GCSE papers.  I would like to ask all students and parents/carers to ensure that the time leading up to the assessments is used productively.  This includes thorough revision of the topics that have been covered so far.  This will include knowledge of work from previous years if studying a 2 or 3 year qualification.  I would like to take this opportunity to wish all students the very best in their preparation and I am confident that you will do yourself justice in the forthcoming assessment period.

Elsewhere, Year 6 classes from 4 of our partner primary schools (Burrowmoor, Cavalry, Guyhirn and Westwood) have been visiting the Academy.  They had a tour of the Academy, and a session in the Learning Resource Centre with Year 7 pupils from their schools where they reviewed English exercise books, had a question & answer session and talked about transition to secondary school. Well done to all students involved you did a great job and your former teachers were really impressed with you.

On Wednesday students from the Astronomy club attended the observatory at Cambridge University.  Before using the telescopes they got the opportunity to take part in a lecture on black holes, tour the school of Earth and Planetary Sciences and meet current scientists researching space. The experts at the observatory guided them through identifying some ‘local’ objects in the solar system before giving us an in depth view of the moon. The Astronomy club runs on Tuesday’s in room 106 and is open to all. Currently the club are building telescopes.

Finally, I am pleased to announce continued tremendous success for our Under 13 Girls’ football team who beat Horringer Academy 9-0 in round 3 of the national cup. The team is now in the last 64 of U13 girls Football competition.  Particular mention goes to Sidnee Adams scoring 4 goals after returning from injury and Player of the Match, Millie Jolley who scored 3.  Well done to everyone involved and I look forward to hearing about your future exploits.

Oct
20

Eminent Media Luminary lights up Rewards Evening

Our traditional way to end the first half term at the Academy is with a Rewards Evening to celebrate the success of our students for the 2016-17 Academic Year. It was tremendous to see the main hall filled to capacity with over 400 people including students, teachers, parents, carers and honoured guests.  Our prestigious award winners in each year group were presented with their awards on stage and in between the audience was presented with a delightful array of musical interludes including soloists, ensembles and  choir.

The evening culminated with an enticing presentation from our guest speaker and former Neale-Wade student, Dominic Mohan. The audience very much appreciated the time that Dominic had taken to return to Neale-Wade for the first time since he left as a student.  As former editor of The Sun Newspaper, he regaled us with tales of the many roles he had filled in his career to date including the famous people that he has worked with, including both David Beckham and David Bowie.  Dominic is attributed to having initiated the re-recording of Band Aid’s “Do they know it’s Christmas?” in 2004 and the Live 8 concert that followed shortly after.

However, the core of Dominic’s presentation showed us much more about the man behind the media legend. For one who has achieved so much in the field of journalism and entertainment there is a story of humble beginnings and a strong sense of respect and integrity.  It was evident in Dominic’s time at Neale-Wade, as a student, that he was inspired by a select number of teachers who saw potential in him to achieve great things.  Yet, it was up to him to grasp those opportunities by listening to advice, engaging with teachers and, ultimately, working hard until he had achieved what he desired.  As this resonated with our audience I could see both students and adults acknowledge this simple yet compelling message.  There was the realisation that they can all experience this success and it is within their grasp.

Thank you Dominic. All associated with Neale-Wade wish you every success as CEO of The Outside Organisation and we hope to make your acquaintance sometime in the future.

Finally, I would like to recognise the achievements of one of our current students at the world level. It gives me great pleasure to announce that Paige Harris has attained a World Championship Bronze medal in Kick Boxing in the 60kg category.  In the finals in Dublin last weekend, Paige had to fight in a heavier weight category but still came away with a top class world prize.  As I spoke to Paige today it is evident that she is a very determined young lady who will achieve at the highest levels.  It is also very encouraging to see that she remains grounded and her integrity intact mirroring the message from our speaker yesterday evening.

Well done to all involved at Neale-Wade this half term. Enjoy the short break and I look forward to seeing you all on the first Monday back.

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