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News from across our secondary schools

Blaise celebrates its love of reading

Students across the Greenshaw Learning Trust love to read, and nowhere is this more apparent than at Blaise High School. The school’s Library Launch lessons have delivered its new online library service, showing students how to reserve books for delivery (both for reading for pleasure and non-fiction, to complement the curriculum). Students have also learnt how to self-checkout their new reading books on their designated days in the library. 

The library has introduced students to their author pen pal, Simon James Green. He asked students to send him postcards with their book recommendations. They had 80 completed postcards to send him! This was the first time that some students had written a postcard and learnt about pen pals. Students are excited by the opportunity to correspond with a real-life author and are requesting to read his laugh-out-loud books. 

Celebrating independent reading in assemblies has seen one student reserving and reading 21 books and one tutor group borrowing 73 books this term (teacher included).

Year 9 and 10 students have started reading and voting on this year's Bristol Teen Book Award shortlist, celebrating diversity. Participating students will be able to meet all the authors and attend workshops at the award-giving ceremony in February.

Brakenhale’s virtual open evening is a hit!

On 18 September, Brakenhale School held its very first (and hopefully its very last) virtual Year 6 open evening. Over 700 people from 350 families logged on to the live presentation, which is a phenomenal response. Jane Coley, Headteacher at Brakenhale, said: “I can't deny that it was very strange presenting to myself on a screen, but what was lovely was the constant messages of support popping up.”

The school has received a huge amount of positive feedback about the presentation, the excellent virtual tour and the departmental information video that followed. Jane added: “I would like to offer a big thank you to our network manager, Mr Murray, who supported me on the night and managed to work with some very new software. As we say 'every day is a school day'!”

Lockdown Lit at Broadwater School

Two students from Broadwater School are winners of a writing competition, called Lockdown Lit, and will have their work published in an anthology of poems. In the hope of inspiring creativity amongst the nation’s children during lockdown, Libri Publishing launched a short story writing competition called the ‘Lockdown Lit’ prize for children. It was a free competition open to all children and entrants were invited to write about anything they liked – fantasy or fact. 

The prize for winning entries was to see their work in a book and the stories were judged by a panel of children’s writers. Fateha was runner up in her age category, with a fantastic poem entitled ‘Outbreak’ and Rachel came first in her age category with her poem about ADHD. In recognition of this achievement, the school will receive copies of the book when it has been printed. 

Five Acres adventures at Viney Hill

“Every child has the right to an adventure. Life is about grabbing opportunities. The prizes don’t always go to the biggest, the best and the strongest – they go to those who persevere.' Bear Grylls.

With the Chief Scout's wise words ringing in their ears, Year 7 students at Five Acres High School embarked on their very own adventure at the Christian Adventure Centre in Viney Hill over October 14 and 15. Seventy-six 11-year-olds let loose in the forest with bows and arrows, bikes, fires, ropes, rocks and football. Climbing to great heights, abseiling and exploring the forest at night. The first day was a great success with everyone enjoying new skills and adventures. 

Through absorption and osmosis, all those lessons learnt in class and which will guide Year 7s throughout their time at Five Acres were being learnt, through a spirit of adventure and new experiences. The velocity of an arrow, gravity's effect on the acorns falling from the trees, the abundance of the resources in the Forest of Dean, throughout time, which had led humans to settle and master the physics, geology and geography of mining, the chemistry of smelting iron and precious metals, mathematics in building and travel, the astronomy of navigation and the history of the earliest tribes, through the Romans, the Tudors and the wars with France and Spain to the industrial revolution which has shaped the places where students live today. 

Eighty students attended on day two, enjoying the same wide variety of activities, with woodland walks, bushcraft, the gathering of resources (sticks) for kindling and the making of bush-fires to toast the squidgy marshmallows to a scorched delight. The challenge of the high and low ropes needed grunt and effort, but so much help and encouragement from classmates ensured success and delight at new skills mastered. 

Throughout the trip, students demonstrated the school’s five values of ambition, confidence, creativity, determination and respect. Particularly noteworthy were the attitudes of Habiba, who kept on trooping despite a couple of falls from her bike, and Dominic, who overcame a fear of heights to abseil down a cliff.

Despite not being able to enjoy camping due to COVID-19 regulations, students got a great deal out of their experience, and all earned their Bronze Character Education Adventure badges. 
The motto of ‘adapt don’t cancel’ continues to run strong through the school as Five Acres’ flourishing societies and academies programme continues to thrive.

Outdoor adventures for Gloucester Academy students

One of the Year 7 students at Gloucester Academy wanted to share their experience of his adventures at Viney Hill. I have really enjoyed my time at Gloucester Academy this term. It has been great to make new friends and try new subjects, but the highlight so far has been our Year 7 adventure visit. On Saturday 10 October, all of our year group was given the opportunity to go on a trip to Viney Hill Christian Adventure Centre in the Forest of Dean. We were at school bright and early, but we didn't mind as we knew it was going to be a fun filled day! 

When we arrived, we were split into groups of ten students and each group participated in different activities throughout the day. Our first activity was mountain bike riding. During this session, the bike riding instructor made us ride up and down rough hillsides, which to my surprise turned out to be quite fun, although hard work. Throughout the 8km ride we rode a woodland bike course which included sharp bends and dips. We even had a go at cycling over a ramp so we could gain speed for the rest of the course. 

After returning from the bike ride, we gathered at the activity centre for a much needed snack break. Then the next activity we had was archery and, in this session, we learnt how to use a bow and arrow. We even managed to get Miss Milne to participate. A few of us of managed to get a bullseye, which gave us a great sense of achievement. The archery instructor was really fun as he made us compete in teams and create team names. Unfortunately, my team did not win, but we had a great time learning the new skill. 

Our last activity was navigation and map reading in the forest. In this activity, everyone had maps and clues. Each clue led us to a letter and then an acronym to unscramble. Some of the clues were really hard to find, so it was a real test of how well we worked together as a team to finally make it out of the forest! 

Our day ended with a delicious BBQ and it was great to reunite with friends to find out all about the activities they had participated in. Burgers and doughnuts were a great way to celebrate the effort we put in that day! 

The whole experience was really fun, but what we enjoyed most was the sense of achievement. The instructors, activities and our teachers helped us to really push and challenge ourselves, even when we found it hard. Skills like teamwork, self confidence and tenacity are important in and out of school, and we were all proud of what we achieved. 

BLM: The power of words at Greenshaw High School

A global pandemic encouraged many of us to turn inwards and consider our own feelings. It also gave us the time to look outwards and contemplate the state of the world. Lockdown allowed us the space to dedicate time to our feelings, and there was plenty to feel about: George Floyd, Black Lives Matter, an uprising around the globe.

Many students at Greenshaw High School felt these events fervently, but, with no classroom or peers to experience them with, it could have been quite an isolating time. However, many of the school’s Year 10 students participated in a series of creative and artistic lessons provided for them to give them that safe space to feel and explore. During that time, they used their words. They were encouraged to explore their feelings on a deeper level; inspired by artists like Akala, Jericho Brown, and Assata Shakur, students were given prompts to create their own poetry.

The powerful ideas that poured out of the school’s students were astounding. Compassion, justice, equality, love, hope, and optimism filled their submissions. Kelly Wilcox, an English teacher at the school, said: “Our students have a fierce sense of social responsibility, and it is incredible to watch them appreciate the raw power of emotion in words.”

This project evolved with the help of Ellie Shakespeare, Greenshaw’s resident artist, designing incredible visual depictions of four student poems. The combination of being able to use words and art to have a physical visual representation of its students’ voices and beliefs is now a powerful emblem on the walls of Greenshaw’s corridors, showing students how their words can make a difference in the world. 

DEAL Time at Henley Bank

This year, Henley Bank High School has introduced Drop Everything And Listen (DEAL) time to Friday afternoons. With everything in society becoming more instant and fast paced, staff at the school noticed that this has transferred to our ability to truly stop and concentrate on what we listen to. The average amount of time we listen to a song before we fast forward to the next track is only 22.5 seconds! It is becoming more and more common for young people to find it difficult to form opinions on what music they like or explain why they like something when they do hear it. This is such a shame as it has been scientifically proven that those people who listen to music improve their concentration, cognition and memory exponentially. Indeed, according to the John Hopkins Trust, listening to music can improve our ability in the following areas:

  • Reduces stress
  • Lessens anxiety 
  • Improves exercise
  • Improves memory
  • Eases pain
  • Provides comfort
  • Improves cognition.

DEAL time aims to give a calm end to the school week, giving staff and students the opportunity to sit and listen to an entire piece of music with no distractions. Just as they start the day in tutor time reading with a slide providing the genre, context and background of the class’ chosen novel, so it will be in DEAL time. A slide will provide basic information on the style, composer, context and what to listen out for. The music chosen will vary in style and influences, drawing on artists from all over the world. A recent 2019 study from Exeter University and Oxford University’s Psychology and Sociology departments has explored links between listening to music and the ‘unconscious attitudes towards other cultures’. It goes on to say that listening to five minutes of music from another culture is enough to give the listener a more positive bias towards that culture. 

DEAL time will be shared via the school’s social media pages, so please log on and join them. 

Holmleigh Park photography competition

Holmleigh Park High School recently held its first House competition, which was a photography challenge. With the topic of ‘change’, students were judged on both the technical quality of the shot, and the story behind it. The school had over one hundred entries, and staff found it incredibly difficult to pick a winner. Eventually, the judges settled on Acacia (Javelin House), whose photograph perfectly captured the changes in society from generation to generation (pictured top left).

Orchard Park celebrates Black History Month

If there has ever been a time to celebrate Black excellence past and present, the time is now. 2020
has held a mirror up to the world and forced many to come face to face with the reality of racial inequalities prevalent in our society. Against the bleak backdrop of the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black communities and the death of George Floyd, something beautiful emerged – solidarity and understanding. The Black Lives Matter protests around the world sparked a commitment and ignited a passion in many individuals to learn more about Black history, heritage, culture, contributions and experiences. 

Orchard Park is passionately celebrating Black history through the showcasing of Black excellence from Croydon’s own classical composer, Samuel Coleridge Taylor to cellist, Sheku Kanneh-Mason MBE. From talented, self-taught South African artist, Earl Christmas to American fibre artist, Bisa Butler. Many departments have got involved this year. The music department celebrates Black female composers such as Chinquinha Gonzaga and Zenobia Powell Perry, while the English department honours the legacy of Maya Angelou. Led by the history department, all year groups have been invited to take part in an essay writing competition which involves students researching and writing about one of the great Black Britons posted in their bubble zones. And last but not least, they acknowledge the catering department for celebrating black culture at lunch times all year round – the jerk chicken, rice and peas and plantain was a hit last week! 

The school is concluding its Black History Month 2020 celebrations with a What Black History Means To Me assembly from Deputy Head Girl, Sofiat, and an exhibition she put together to celebrate the diversity of Black hair. Sofiat said: “I am proud of who I am and you should be too.”

Josie Mingay, Interim Headteacher at Orchard Park said: "As a school, we hope the events of 2020 will be a catalyst for Black history to be shared much more widely throughout the curriculum and continue to create meaningful conversations that will shape a better future."

Foyle Young Poet of the Year winner at Yate 

Yate Academy is delighted to announce that a Year 8 student, Hope Vaughan, has been selected by judges Maura Dooley and Keith Jarrett as one of the 85 commended poets in the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award 2020. Hope was selected from over 6,000 entrants and over 15,000 poems this year from across the world, which is an amazing and impressive achievement.

Congratulations are extended to the Yate Academy English department, in particular Miss Weech, and other members of staff who have helped to inspire, develop and nurture students’ poetic talent.

In normal circumstances, the winners would be invited to attend a prestigious ceremony in central London. However, the ongoing situation with COVID-19 has meant that it has moved to an online celebration, to which Hope has been invited. This took place on Thursday 15 October via Zoom. Hope’s winning poem will be published on The Poetry Society’s website and featured on our YouTube and Vimeo channels later in the year, and will appear in an online anthology in the spring. She will also receive a range of prizes, including an invitation to attend a virtual writing workshop in the second half of this term.

Izzy Ambrose, Headteacher at Yate Academy, said: “We are thrilled with Hope's achievement and can't wait to share her winning poem."