Teaching & Learning Blog

 

Welcome to the official RGSHW blog.  We hope that fellow educators, observers, interested parties and those who simply enjoy being a part of the school community enjoy the posts we publish here.  I hope that this website will become a resource of thoughts, ideas and innovation.  It is a way of sharing the voice of our incredibly talented staff with the world.

 

In a world where technology is becoming as familiar to you as the hand with which you hold your iDevice, it seems appropriate that schools join in the flow of online knowledge.  Who knows, we all might learn something.

  • Guided Learning Open or Close

    At my previous workplace I visited a primary school in Bicester. I was there to look at the potential for developing a curriculum link with a Rwandan School. However, whilst visiting I stumbled upon the idea of Guided Learning.

    Guided Learning is an excellent way to cater for an individual’s needs in a classroom environment. I think the best way to describe it is by using an example.

    Example:

    I would mark a set of Year 10 books, once I have completed the marking it is abundantly clear that 4 or 5 of the boys have not grasped the main concept of the lessons. So what options do I have? Previously, I would end up writing down lots of targets for the boys, often repeating myself and taking up plenty of time. I would then hand the books back and probably never even check whether the boys have even read my comments let alone learnt from them. Instead, what I would now do is hand the books out at the start of the lesson and get all the boys working on a task. I would then ask the 5 boys who had not grasped the subject to come and join me in a separate part of the classroom. I would them proceed to teach them the topic they had not previously understood. I would teach them in a different way to the previous day as I may not have catered for their best learning style 24 hours earlier. I would work with the group for possibly 10 minutes before returning them to the main activity. I might then ask to see the students who are working on the A/A* borderline to explain to them what they need to be doing to access the top grade.

    Once working with my guided group I do not wish to be disturbed. I therefore appoint two student experts whom boys are to ask for guidance from if they are struggling with the main activity. The difficulty is not working with the guided group but setting an activity which the rest of the class can get on with independently.

    Guided learning could have a huge impact on student results at RGS. As a member of staff I really enjoy teaching the smaller groups and find it incredibly rewarding. In a school like ours boys can get on and work independently and therefore we have the opportunity to regularly use Guided Learning. Guided Learning goes on all the time at RGS, but it is often done at lunchtimes or during after school sessions. We should be able to give this individual support during lesson time. The primary school I mentioned at the start use Guided Learning for every English and Maths lesson. It has improved results. I am not suggesting we should be using this every lesson but I do think it should be part of our teacher’s toolkit. Next time you are sat at your desk while the students are working, why not give Guided Learning a try.

     

    A Wallace 

  • Flipped Lessons Open or Close

    Over the past few months I’ve been reflecting pretty heavily on my own teaching. I’d been attending a range of meetings at school, talking to various colleagues in and out of the Geography department, and been feeling a little frustrated with a whole range of aspects of my own teaching.

    Firstly, we’ve been talking a lot at school about “Independent Learning” and how we all know that students learn a lot more effectively if they take true ownership of their own studies and discover the learning themselves, rather than us constantly spoon-feeding them. I remember a Key Stage Leaders meeting a few months ago where a number of us reflected that this sounds great in principle, but especially with GCSE teaching, we find that time constraints and exam syllabus requirements means that we often revert to this spoon-feeding, and that there simply aren’t enough genuine opportunities to do proper independent learning.

    Spoon-feeding becomes an addiction for all involved.

    We’ve got pretty bright boys at the RGS, and we often think of them as sponges, waiting to soak up the pearls of wisdom we give them in lessons. With exams always looming around the next corner, we often revert to the spoon-feeding technique as a safety net: for us, so there’s no excuse (“I gave them the notes, it’s up to them to learn it”); and for the boys as at least if they cram the notes into their books or their files, that’s as good as learned, isn’t it? This addiction does no real good to anyone. We all know it, but what can be done about it? As teachers we get frustrated as the spoon-feeding takes up all our lesson time, and really we know, deep down, that this passive approach to teaching and learning is far from effective. We also get frustrated as the addicted students keep demanding more of us, safe in the knowledge that they don’t have to show any initiative as we’ll do it all for them eventually. We’re addicted, they’re addicted, but what alternatives are there?

    Musing about these two issues simply got me more and more frustrated! I continued apologising for simply giving the boys notes, but they understood. I continued relying on force of personality to keep boys on my side, rather than inspirational teaching. However, just before Christmas I stumbled upon a new teaching method that instantly grabbed my attention. I have to thank our wonderful Director of Development for drawing my attention to the blog written by Duncan King, Head of Geography at The Perse School, whom I have subsequently met up with to share similar ideas.

    He was writing about his experiences with something called Flipped Teaching.

    The concept is simple: the traditional structure of lesson time being where a teacher instructs and lectures, and homework being where learning is embedded by practising exam style questions is ‘flipped’ entirely. You might say that this happens already, for example where you set students homework to read a chapter of the textbook and you spend the lesson discussing ideas and concepts from what is read. Well this is true, but what is new about this modern Flipped Lesson approach is the use of digital technologies to enable the homework task to be more engaging, stimulating and interesting than simply reading a book!

    What I have been doing is recording a series of short videos, each delivering curriculum content that I would normally deliver in a traditional lesson. The videos are created using a PowerPoint presentation, which I then narrate, annotate and highlight as I would in a normal lesson. These presentations are then saved as a video file and then uploaded to YouTube and then linked to on our VLE. I then set the students a homework task to watch a video, complete the notes and work that I describe on the video, in preparation for the next lesson. This then entirely frees up the lesson to really embed the learning that has taken place at home. The boys have to come prepared with a question from the video they’ve watched. I spend the first five minutes of the lesson getting the boys to peer check that the video work has been completed, and then answer any questions the boys have. We can then practise exam questions, delve deeper into the material covered in the video, look at similar work in different contexts… All the things that you wished you could do but never had the time to, because you were too busy spoon-feeding!

    To me, this style of teaching is a solution to so many of my little frustrations with my old style of teaching. The boys are truly in charge of their own learning: they can learn the material and work at their own pace, in their own time, and wherever they are comfortable. They come to lessons fully engaged with the topic, prepared with questions and queries, driving the agenda for the learning in the lessons. Boys’ notes are easily checked with peer assessment. Any student who misses a lesson, or drops behind with work, can easily catch up as all the lessons are available on the VLE. Also the boys are, generally, really motivated by the multimedia presentations and videos. They are, finally, becoming truly independent learners!

    From a teaching point of view it makes my life so easy! I prepare a lesson once, and it’s there forever. It might take a little while to create each video, but it soon pays dividends when you think of all the time you save not ever having to repeat yourselves to boys who’ve missed lessons, or struggled to understand topics. Marking notes and getting boys to catch up missing work has never been easier: I just have a checklist of expected work which I tick and highlight the missing work, or give suggestions on how to improve the notes. Also, suddenly, the VLE has a purpose! Instead of just being a dump for all the worksheets we used to hand out on paper, it is now a truly interactive lesson delivery system. I can create whole lesson schedules, with videos, follow-up work, and tick boxes for boys to register when they have completed activities. I’ve used videos to give really detailed feedback on past exam practice: far more than I have been able to give in normal lesson time, and ready for boys to watch and make notes on when they are ready to, rather than straight after they’ve had the demoralising news that they didn’t quite get that A* they were targeting. My role in lessons has entirely changed: I’m no longer just a lecturer, an instructor, but I am now a coach, a motivator and a learning guide.

    Surely there are problems?

    Well yes, it’s not all been plain sailing, but many of the issues I experienced at the start of piloting this are starting to be ironed out. I had some issues early on with boys not being able to access the VLE due to their passwords expiring. Now I have a YouTube channel the boys can access without even going onto the VLE. I also had some issues with boys not having Internet access at home; now they bring in a memory stick for me to transfer the videos on, or a DVD to watch on their TVs. Not all lessons lend themselves to being flipped, and it’s taken a little while to find out what works and what doesn’t. At the moment I use an iPad to flip my lessons, using an App called Explain Everything (see the video below for how to do this) and if you don’t have an iPad, this is an issue! However, there is a free piece of PC software called Cam Studio which enables you to create a video of anything you’re doing on your computer screen, so can create similar videos.

     I’m not the sort of person who does a lot of work when I don’t see the point. However, I don’t think I’ve put in so much time and effort into a teaching technique in my entire career. I can really see amazing potential in Flipped Lessons, and am already seeing huge results amongst the classes I’ve been trialling it with. Freeing up my valuable contact time with pupils to be able to do proper, interactive, engaging teaching has revolutionised my lessons. I’ll report back at a later stage with my progress!

     

    T S Bennett 

  • Raising Attainment Open or Close

    Like Mr Wallace and Mr Bennett, I have also been reviewing my teaching methods and really trying to think what will work best for our students in trying to raise their attainment not just at KS4, but at KS5 and KS3.  There’s a lot of pressure on pupils and teachers alike in trying to achieve the best results possible and this pressure then manifests itself in the creation of exam factories (or “academic hot-houses” as the press likes to call them), which doesn’t always work for every student and often takes the enjoyment out of the subjects being studied.  Here’s a quotation from Plato, whose thoughts on education are still relevant even today:

    Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each. Plato (BC 427-BC 347).

    I really like this quote as it relates to a particular style that I have used in my lessons and in most cases can be subscribed to other subjects.  It is often referred to as “active teaching” and alongside “flipped lessons” and “guided lessons”, it just adds to the teaching toolbox of ideas that will hopefully help each student to know what amuses their mind and direct them to the genius within them and raise their attainment.

    At a recent conference I attended (about raising attainment at KS4 in History) Ben Walsh, one of the speakers, (an author of many of our History GCSE textbooks), gave a talk on trying to get students to understand the fundamentals of source analysis and ensuring thatALL students can understand what we mean by source analysis.   Within History this is often the bane of our lives when it comes to ensuring that our students do well with these sorts of questions, which are so popular with the exam boards today, but are often unpopular with the students as they do not fully understand the principles.

    To refer to Ben Walsh and the research he has done, when you ask the students their perception of Historical practice, you often get these replies:

    Eh?; Sources and stuff; The stuff in sources; That stuff they tell us to do … “bias and that.”  Ben Walsh 2012

    With regards to these sorts of replies, he challenges the methods that have been used and instead of asking the students what they can find out, or asking whether these sources are useful or reliable about X, Y and Z, we should ask them what questions can these sources answer and how satisfied are they with those answers?  Getting them thinking, and challenging them with a collection of sources and getting them to come up with the questions that can be answered by the sources can raise their understanding.

    Alongside this, challenging the student’s perceptions of source work, is the active approach to challenging their views on a particular topic and getting them to really think about it.  This way they are more likely to have a deeper understanding of it and raise their attainment.  The active approach and this is something that you cannot use in every lesson, is to turn the classroom into the topic you are looking at.

    For example:

    Recently I have been studying the Berlin Wall with my Year 10s and the common misconception within this topic is that every East Berliner wanted to go to the West and this was a simple decision.  By turning the student into an active participant we challenge them and get them thinking.  The historian Ian Dawson has done a lot of work on active learning and with the help of Ian Luff has devised a number of different active scenarios to help a student’s understanding of a topic.  Their scenario “Escape to the West” is an activity intended to give insight into the ideas and attitudes prevailing inside the DDR (East Germany) during the period 1961-1989.  It challenges the simplistic view, so often held in the West, that every citizen of the DDR was desperate to re-locate to the West German Federal Republic.

    For the activity I changed the room into Cold War Berlin, with an East and West side and a death zone in the middle.  Every student is involved and is given character cards, and an information sheet with push, pull and stay factors on them and a set of instructions.  They are then asked to read their cards carefully and make a decision on whether they are going to stay in the East or risk an escape to the West.  If they decide to escape, they have to be careful about trusting anybody as some of their colleagues are secretly playing the Stasi, who will be trying to find out who is planning an escape and can then arrest them. If they can plan with somebody else without being caught the chances of them getting across the divide will be greatly improved.   The Stasi officers also have the power to offer bribes to any they think might tell them who is thinking about escaping.  After this talking period, the students are given a period of time to try an escape if they want.  On the Western side are other students tempting them over.  The end result is that some of the students are successful, some are reported on and are arrested and some are caught by the guards.  In the debrief, I asked why some decided to stay, and why some tried to escape and some decided to report on others.  The variety of answers was brilliant and well thought out and when I then asked them to write down for me ‘What factors might an East German citizen considering an escape to the West think about before taking a final decision and was it as simple as the West suggested?”, their answers were much better thought out as they were able to remember what they had decided and explain why they had decided to do what they had done.  (If interested, more activities like this can be found on http://www.thinkinghistory.co.uk.)

    Challenging the students in different ways and using a more active approach, alongside guided learning and flipped lessons has certainly helped me raise a greater understanding in my subject and raised attainment, in a fun and memorable way.  As mentioned previously by Mr Bennett and Mr Wallace, these are all ideas and not new ones, but have been refined and adapted by each teaching generation and can be used alongside traditional methods to help the student better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of his genius.

    B S Ellis 

  • Data and the FFT Open or Close

    Data has become a dirty word. The one universal experience I seem to share with all teachers everywhere is that of sitting through apparently endless Powerpoint presentations about “performance data”, while wishing that I was spending the time more productively planning lessons, marking books or, frankly, doing anything else. We’re all interested in our pupils doing better; it’s just that the data drive seems so impersonal, so unconnected to the pupil-teacher relationship and so… uninspiring.

     But it needn’t be so. In an ideal world, this information would aid teachers by helping to motivate our pupils, inform our teaching relationships and evaluate the strengths of our teaching. I want to suggest how we might use the mysterious Fischer Family Trust (FFT) estimates for all three.

     What the FFT? 

    Roughly speaking, FFT takes the Key Stage 2 results of a student and tells us what pupils with those results, from similar backgrounds and at similar schools have achieved in their GCSEs.

     

    The table above is for one of my current Maths students. So, for example, 27.9% of students with the same KS2 results, from similar backgrounds and at similar schools, achieved a B grade in their Maths GCSE. The FFT column shows the grade which 50% of similar students achieved or bettered (also highlighted in orange). So the student above is more likely than not to get at least an A. FFT+1 (also in green) is simply one grade higher, if possible.

    Motivating our pupils

    There is a good deal of suspicion about target-setting, and much of it is well-placed. Hastily dashed-off targets, little understood by parents and not discussed with students either before or after being set are at best ineffective and at worst pander to complacency or insecurity. But the research is relatively clear: when done properly, target setting is effective in raising grades.

    Of course, we all want to motivate pupils with a deep love of learning and of our subject. I come from the school of thought that education is about drawing out the best in pupils as whole human beings, not just the best test results. But both we and, more importantly, they will be judged in part on exam grades and so it is our job to ensure that this overlaps with all-round education and is not presented as an either-or choice.

    So how can target grades make a difference? And how might FFT estimates fit in with this? The research says that targets should be:

    1. Realistic: our professional discretion should mean that targets are not unreachable and hence demotivating; but do we really want our students to target being in the bottom 50% of students with the same KS2 results?

    • The FFT estimate should typically be the minimum we choose for a target grade.

    2. Aspirational: better to ask a student to aim for a higher grade than settle for a lower one;

    •  Err on the side of FFT+1 rather than the FFT estimate, if you think it is a possibility.

    3. Negotiated: we are trying to assist our pupils to be reflective, ambitious and independent learners;

    • Talk through what the difference probably was between pupils with the same KS2 results but who got the higher and lower GCSE grades; then discuss with our students where their work shows that they currently are on that spectrum and what they have to change to match the highest-achieving pupils

     4. Revisited: as a one-off exercise, target-setting will have little to no effect;

    •  When classwork and homework is regularly related back to target grades then they might help to sustain high expectations and effort levels.

    Informing our teaching relationships

    I’m all for giving a pupil a fresh start at the beginning of a year and allowing them the chance to renew their expectations of themselves. But it is (in my not-so-humble opinion) facile to think that ignoring what they’ve done previously gives them the best chance of developing. It would be like a doctor advising a patient on healthy living without first looking at their medical record – less, not more personal.

    While FFT estimates should obviously not completely dictate our teaching styles, they do give us a chance to see at a glance:

    • who may struggle in our subject
    • who perhaps has a lot of potential but hasn’t really fulfilled it yet
    • who has worked really hard and is, if anything, ahead of where we’d expect

    This snapshot could help us to tailor our pupil-teacher relationship, allowing us to very quickly offer appropriate encouragement or challenge, extra support or more stretching tasks. We are hoping to make this and other information available on class registers from the very beginning of September.

     Evaluating our strengths

    Mark Twain popularized the phrase “lies, damn lies and statistics.” And he had a point. Statistics can be made to show pretty much whatever you want. I will openly admit that each September I quite like smugly patting myself on the back by counting the number of A*-A grades my students achieved. If that number doesn’t look so good, then I might check out the A*-B or A*-C percentages instead and quietly mutter to myself about lazy students. But as a result, nothing changes for the better.

    So perhaps we can use FFT estimates – statistics personalized to our specific class – to see the situation more clearly. The next time we go through the annual fun-fest of performance management, one suggestion might be this: I might make a list of the students who did not achieve their FFT estimate in the latest public exams, or who missed out on FFT+1, and try to explain to my performance manager how this happened for each in turn and, crucially, what I might have done to improve the situation. This could directly inform my performance management targets for the next cycle. Statistically, we are on shaky ground if we place too much significance on the overall percentage who have achieved their FFT targets from a small class of students. But the pupil progress target is supposed to be about each of our students achieving their potential, so it makes sense to use FFT estimates to focus our attentions on individual pupils who have not done so.

     Who cares? OFSTED, for a start.

    It is a cold, hard fact that OFSTED use a measure closely related to FFT to assess the effectiveness of departments and schools. It was also recently announced that school league tables will start featuring similar measures to FFT more prominently. So professionally, we need to be bothered. A number of high-performing schools also use this data to evaluate their teaching staff internally, although this is by no means universally accepted as a good idea. But most importantly, if we care about motivating our pupils, informing our teaching relationships and evaluating our own strengths, FFT gives us brief insights which it would be careless to ignore completely. 

    D P Gallagher 

  • Organised Chaos Open or Close

    In my first few years of teaching, I had a very clear idea as to how I was meant to be successful in the classroom: me at the front teaching, leading; pupils listening and learning. However, here at the RGS the dynamic and energetic boys that we teach do not learn as well when confined to a chair and kept in silence.

    In my NQT year I was given a very valuable piece of advice, which has stuck with me ever since. I was assured that it was ok to have a time in each lesson when you take a back seat and allow the pupils to learn independently. In my first year of teaching, this for me could only be silent, individual work as it was the one way I was confident that the work would be completed to a satisfactory standard. As the years have gone on and I have grown in confidence and have built up a strong rapport with my classes, I now realise what this member of staff meant. He did not mean that ‘silence is golden’, what he meant was that I should allow the pupils to take responsibility for their learning and not to rely solely on me.

    Due to the pressures of exam results teachers find it increasingly difficult to relinquish control over their pupils as it is imperative that they cover the subject matter thoroughly. This need for control can mean that lessons become prescriptive and very much teacher-led so that the information can be passed on but not necessarily fully understood. By no means am I saying that we should have no teacher-led lessons as the information has to be delivered somehow, however what I do want to emphasise is the active learning element of a lesson. This was all brought home to me after going on a course called ‘Pimp Your Lesson’. No, we were not led into room covered in leopard print and rap music, much to my dismay, but what was clear from the start was that lessons need a bit of glitz and glamour to catch the pupils’ imagination and in turn, inspire and motivate them to learn.

    Gone are the days where an outstanding lesson is assumed to be a quiet one. Ofsted now calls for ‘resilient, confident and independent’ learners. Easier said than done. These three things are difficult to separate and essentially must become part of a culture in your teaching. The course did not stress their ideals through Ofsted’s but promoted innovative teaching ideas which were predominantly pupil-led in order to facilitate the aforementioned qualities of a successful learner.

    For instance, when delivering content heavy lessons why not divide all the information onto cue cards and have the pupils teach each other the content. Once this is done you can have a group discussion on what they now know about the topic. Suddenly, every pupil is out of their seat; every pupil has a job; and every pupil is confident they can answer at least one question on the new topic. I’m sorry teacher, but you will no longer be the centre of attention. Yes, there will be noise and movement but you too will be confident in the knowledge that they are completing a task and learning in an enjoyable way.

    So next time you are struggling to come up with an inspired way of teaching the use of the pluperfect tense or the periodic table, why not have a look at ‘Pimp Your Lesson’ by Isabella Wallace and Leah Kirkman and adorn your teaching with some pedagogical pimpage!

    S K Lawson 

  • Teach Meet Open or Close

    Last week I attended a TeachMeet at John Hampden Grammar School. Of course this was entering the enemy lines and I have to say I was very pleasantly surprised. It was a well organised event attended by about 50 enthusiastic practitioners. We were provided with exceptional biscuits and a variety of hot and cold drinks and all this hospitality was laid on for free. The staff co-ordinating it were enthusiastic and efficient.

    For those of you unaware of what this event entails, it is an opportunity for teachers to share best practise in 2-5 minute presentations. When you have one minute left a "nodding horse" was waved at you and when your time was up objects were thrown at you. The made your final minute all the more exciting and reminded of practising slip catches in my cricketing heyday!

    I managed to steal a few great ideas and was particularly impressed by a website called www.cheneyagilitytoolkit.blogspot.com this is a site set up by an AHT called Amjad Ali from the Cheney School in Oxford. There are over 200 ideas which you can borrow and add your own ideas to. I would recommend all staff to have a look at this site. He presented well and with a good deal of passion. I have already taken some ideas from the website.

    The evening also introduced me to the idea of using twitter. I am still not one to 'tweet' much but I have found loads of really useful teaching connections and ideas. There are many professionals who are regularly tweeting about teaching ideas and there has also been plenty of advertising for other Teach Meet Events. There is a South West Teach Meet in Bristol in June which I think would be well worth a visit.

    I was the penultimate presenter at the evening which was a slight shame in that it was difficult to concentrate on all the other presentations knowing I still had to perform. I presented the Teaching Cards idea which we designed here at RGS. The cards have been really well received and I have had plenty of interest from people wanting more details. I am really delighted with the response and hopefully a wider number of students will benefit from sharing these ideas. Below is an example of the cards which have been produced.

    The reason I produced the cards in the first place was due to the fact that I was finding it increasingly difficult to get the time to plan fun and creative lessons. I assumed this was the case for most busy teachers. By creating this central resource, all staff now have 52 teaching ideas readily available. Walking around classrooms I regularly see the cards on teacher’s desks and the ideas being used. Trying to create a culture of sharing and celebrating Teaching and Learning can only be a good thing. I hope the students at RGS are benefitting from this.

     

  • Stick 'Em Up: Making Marking Quick on the Draw Open or Close

    Last year I had the joy of reviewing the Physics Department’s marking policy.  Our previous guidance was very detailed, contained lots of suggestions, but was basically too complex to work well.  We needed something simpler and more effective.  And quicker.  If you teach 200 students, take the books in once a fortnight and spend 3 minutes marking each one (one minute could be spent even finding the work) you are looking at a minimum of 5 hours of marking each week – which is a lot of time considering the extremely perfunctory level of feedback which can be given to each student.  Teachers cry out for quicker ways of marking which give helpful advice.  Just writing phrases such as “I liked the way you…” or “Next time, please improve your…” or “Next target:” at the beginning of your comment takes up valuable time which could have been better used on the important part of the sentence.

    The work of Stanford psychologist Prof. Carol Dweck seemed relevant.  Her studies had shown that if the pupil’s effort were the main topic of comment, progress and tenacity in learning were significantly improved.  Our school already has a helpful framework for effort grading, as used in our reports.  This is on a scale of  1 (excellent) to 5 (execrable) with ‘3’ being a decent, complete piece of work of the standard we would expect from all of our students.  In our department, we had already agreed to use these effort grades as our main ‘score’ for pupil homework, and pupils were already trained in this – report grades did not come as a surprise to them, or to their parents if they were looking at the exercise book.

    What we did in the light of this was to design a marking sticker, which could be printed 21-up on a standard (L7160) sticker sheet.  The teacher sticks it in the pupil’s book after the work, rings the appropriate effort level and completes one or more of the comments:

     

    I found that the prompts sped up my commenting and the ‘thermometer’ gave a helpful context for the student grade. I also ended up giving higher quality feedback, even when marking quickly, than I previously had when sitting down to do a purposely thorough job.  Pupils liked the stickers too, and it was easy to flick through the book and see if previous targets or comments had been acted upon.

    As Prof. Dweck found, the focus on effort encouraged the pupils to improve, as it enabled them all to see that they could gain a higher grade {you can always improve your effort}.  The effect was noticeable with ‘middle band’ students many of whom moved from ‘3’ to ‘2’, while their slightly less focused brethren slipped less frequently into ‘4’ territory. It was also effective in giving the most determined a challenge (a ‘1’ is really tough to get and requires considerable independent research), and the most truculent a suitable prod – nobody wanted to get a ‘5’ two week’s running, knowing that they would next see it on their report.

    The only disadvantage so far, to my mind, is the time and expense of printing the labels.  However once we have the design right, it would be possible to have an ink stamp made up so save on further printing costs. 

    A C Machacek 

  • Form Tutor Ideas Open or Close

    I like to approach form tutoring as a cross between teaching and parenting.  I tend to regard my form as an extension of my own family and so I like to check that they are doing well, but also feeling happy.  Being in the form room as they arrive, allows you to talk to them individually as they come in and check how that Chemistry test they were worried about went or how they are coping with their various sporting injuries.

    With upper school groups, form time is the students’ first brush with education for the day, so I like to have something ready that will interest them.

    This takes a variety of different forms, from the very structured to the more open discussion activities. 

    Each time reports came out I produced a sheet to chart progress, so students could see how their marks were changing and set targets for the next grades.  There was also space for extracurricular achievements and early UCAS ideas or more detailed targets depending on when in the academic year this happened.

    Here are some of the activities that I have used with my form over the last two years:

    Balloon debate of degree subjects.  (November Year 12)

    Pairs were given a degree subject (some obvious, but some quite specialised to make them think a little more carefully about what is available).  They then had time to look through some university prospectuses and work out why we should keep their subject in the balloon.  This did bring out a lot of discussion of the relative merits of different courses, but also made the group think about using information from prospectuses to make their own choices.

    Presentations. (October to December Year 12)

    Once a week we had two presentations from either individual students or pairs of students.  These had to be about something that the students enjoyed or cared about.  It really helped the boys to get to know each other a bit better, whilst honing their presentation skills.  Some of the less outgoing form members, turned out to be natural presenters and no-one found it too much of an ordeal.  Subjects went from Rubik’s Cube solutions to Samurai warriors.

    Predictions for the next year. (January Year 12 and January Year 13)

    Students had to predict three things that would be true of them in a year’s time, at least two of which were about their academic progress.  They then had to make a few predictions about the rest of the world, sports, celebrities, politics etc.  We put everything in an envelope and opened it the following year.   It was a very interesting exercise, as many of them had changed their ideas substantially over the course of the year.

    Interviews. (September to December Year 13)

    Each form period two people were interviewed by a panel of five form members.  The interview schedule was written up in plenty of time so that students could prepare for both roles as interviewee and interviewer.  This not only gave them vital practice of being in the hot seat, but also made everyone think very carefully about what could be asked at interview.  Panels were made up of three students interested in the same area and two from different disciplines.  The research that went into creating subject questions was excellent.

    Household Prices Quiz: (March Year 13)

    Each pair had to decide how much the twenty products listed would cost them.  We then checked who had over and who had underestimated. 

    Products included all university course books for a year (based on average given by university websites), A4 pads, milk, bread, eggs and a pint of beer in a pub in London and in Manchester.  It is important to be very specific about what is being bought, so we went for cheapest own brands for the most part.

    Top cookery tips: (December Year 13)

    Each pair listed their top tips for eating on a budget and then we attempted to come up with a top ten.  Unfortunately McDonalds did seem to feature quite strongly, so we went over how to make soup with very cheap vegetables.  We then had a soup challenge which involved students bringing in samples of their soup for tasting.  (This did result in my Secret Santa present being two cans of soup!!!)

    Advice for children: (February Year 13)

    We discussed how difficult parenting can be for a parent of a teenager.  Small groups then put together guidelines for their teenage children.  This was very interesting! Age of consent for sons was raised to 18 and for daughters to 30!

    Top ten things to do before you leave the sixth form: (April Year 13)

    We looked at some lists of top ten things to do before you start university and some lists of things to do before you leave university.  Some of these were serious, some more jocular.  Students then made their lists to pass on to next year’s Year 12s.

    Other ideas included:

    A typing course in the computer room courtesy of Anton

    A lot of UCAS research.

    Old English words to bring back into every day vocabulary.

    Tips on interviews, personal statement writing et al.

    One to one progress interviews.

    Thinking skills questionnaires and pedagogical research.

    IQ tests.

    Observation tests.

    Origami challenge (ostensibly making jumping frogs, but actually looking at how people coped with challenging instructions)

     

    Over all I would say that being a form tutor is a time consuming, but incredibly rewarding role; allowing you to make a real difference whilst having a lot of fun!  

    C Wells 

  • Twilight Training Open or Close

    Running staff training is not an easy task. I have run many sessions over the years, but this week I had to run some twilight training as a member of the SMT. Whilst our aim was to try and engage and inspire all staff, I have to realise that you are never going to please or inspire everyone. The fact of the matter is that staff are incredibly busy and if you are running after school training then staff will no doubt have to have changed their usual plans. Marking will have to be pushed back, childcare might have to of been changed, the gym might have to wait, the afternoon nap may well be cancelled. Even at our school, with a fantastic staff, people are already slightly put out at having to attend. External Training days are far more productive as staff are often off site, their lessons are covered, they have time to reflect and normally have a good lunch!

    However, Twilight Training is a different matter. My aim was to try and give everyone something of value. With this in mind, I think it is important to try and cover a number of topics thereby raising the chances of benefitting many staff.

    This week myself and the Teaching and Learning Team were trying to allow the opportunity for staff to reflect on their teaching. The initial exercise was to encourage staff to be reflective of their teaching. They worked in pairs to describe the best lesson they had ever observed. They then compared the two lessons before summarising the key attributes that both lessons had. They then worked as a group of 8 to compare their notes before deciding their top 3 attributes of great lessons.We were pleased and yet not surprised to see a great deal of overlap between the different groups.   As expected, engagement, pace and progress were the most important factors.

    We then progressed to talk about teaching styles before showing them what the 2014 Ofsted handbook suggests about the matter. Ofsted are no longer interested in the teaching style. Sir Michael Wilshire does not mind if there is no independent learning, he is not fussed if the lesson is primarily teacher led. Do whatever you like, on the condition that students are making progress. I welcome this news, and I think that will be the case for some of our staff who teach in a traditional manner and get excellent results, whilst at the same time ensuring that their pupils enjoy the subject.

    There was a worry in previous years that lessons had to be all singing and all dancing to get the top grade. We teach in a great school with a variety of learners and trying to get all staff to teach in the same manner would destroy the individuality and at times eccentricity that makes our school so successful. In a recent survey eccentricity in teachers is what our students really respond to.

     

    We then presented ideas about Vygotsky's Zone of proximal development and linked this to a revised version of Bloom's Taxonomy. We then discussed the science, the art and the craft of teaching a good lesson. I am sure many of the staff remember these models from their own training days or private reading but we felt it was really important to remind them. We then watched a10 minute video of a lesson and attempted to see evidence of the science, art and craft of the lesson. We finished the group session by handing out details of the SMSC changes and how the 4 strands could be implemented within departments.

     

    The staff then split off again in pairs and the planned their own "study lesson". In essence, this meant they planned a lesson together and arranged a time to observe each other teaching the lesson. In between both lessons they have the opportunity to discuss and then amend the lesson accordingly.

     

    I planned an introductory lesson on Tourism with Andrew Zair. It was really enjoyable to plan a lesson together. Andrew observed me teach the lesson and I think he appreciated the opportunity to view another lesson but I found it really useful having him there to bounce ideas off. We then amended the lesson and I observed Andrew teach a far superior lesson. When discussing it at the end we were still not happy we have demonstrated enough evidence of progress, yet by the end of the discussion we felt that simple adjustments would make it a top standard lesson.

     

    I am hopeful many of the other staff will enjoy a similar learning experience. Running the training was enjoyable but the actual study lesson was probably the most valuable aspect of the twilight session. I may have enjoyed it but the proof will be in the staff evaluation! 

  • Teaching and Learning Meeting Open or Close

    The week before half term we held another Teaching and Learning Meeting. We had over 20 staff attending our internal “Teachmeet”, including a Neil McKain from John Hampden Grammar School. I recently attended Neil’s excellent Teachmeet at John Hampden and was pleased to be able to re-pay the favour. I hope he found it enjoyable and left with a few ideas to share with his staff. My aim in the future is that we can have representatives from all local Schools in attendance.

    At this event we had 6 members of staff sharing some brilliant ideas. Sabrina Lawson presented some excellent ideas including using the greatest childhood game of Battleships! James Young adapted the Sudoku game and included how it can be adapted for different departments. Shradha Tan talked about the brilliant work she has been doing with 6th Formers who are struggling with their organisation and commitment. Paula Dove shared Key Word Splatting and the Time Bomb, two great suggestions to encourage fast thinking and competition. Lucy Sowah shared Kinetic Pictionary and Conceptual Grouping. Finally, Cathie Wells wowed us all with all kinds to interactive, innovative and fun ways to teach maths. I had prepared a series of ideas to share but there was no time to get to these, so I’ll keep them stored up for the next meeting.

    We spent the final 10 minutes discussing Marking. The stimulus for this was Anton Machacek’s recent blog which can be found on this page. Sadly, time was too short to do this topic justice but I am sure we will re-visit it.

    The hour disappeared very quickly and a huge amount was covered. I think everyone in attendance really enjoyed themselves and learnt some great ideas. I will look forward to organising the next one.

  • Festival of Ideas Open or Close

    What a brilliant occasion! This was my first visit to the festival of education at Wellington and will hopefully be the first of many. I have visited Wellington College often on rugby fixtures and I am always impressed by the fantastic buildings and surroundings. It is the perfect environment to run such a festival.

    The first workshop I attended was in the “Spiritual Room”. Chris Waugh was the presenter and he spoke with incredible passion about increasingly giving students ownership of their learning. I was quite inspired by the amount of responsibility he allows his students to take. It seemed like a very novel approach, ideas included allowing students to pick their teacher, teachers “pitching” their trade to the students, students posting much of their work on a blog. There are lots of potential barriers to his ideas and I can already imagine staff being concerned about posting work on social media, but I think they will be more concerned about no students picking them as a teacher! Lots of good thought provoking ideas.

    The second seminar I went to was Tom Sherrington (Headguru teacher). I always enjoy reading Tom’s blogs, they are always very interesting and have provided me with many ideas for my own teaching and learning group. Tom was as ever talking about teaching pedagogy. The session was very insightful and reminded me I need to go back and read through his 10 great lessons again. They are an excellent read.

    After a nice break for an ice cream and cup of tea with my colleague David Gallagher we attended Guy Claxton’s talk about learning habits. I have heard Guy talk before but I felt this session was better than previous. This might just be because we are looking to launch our own culture of learning at the moment so I had a vested interest. I loved his analogy of school’s containing three types of people- fairies, trolls and hobbits. He talked about fairies being romantics who are very laissez faire. Trolls are the people who spoil the party, they are against change they enjoy challenging things but do not provide solutions. They think children are running wild due to the fairies! Finally, hobbits, these are the people that school needs. They work hard for the common good of the school. They are adventurous but still cautious and certainly determined. The pleasing thing is that most people working in our school are hobbits. I think that if we didn’t have the variety of people working in schools it would be a dull place and too easy!! We are working with a lot of Guy’s ideas at the moment. You can read more on this on our Ethos of Learning page.

    I then attended a talk on exam reform. It was an interesting seminar but much of the information I was already aware of. However, the most pleasing aspect was that I happened to sit next to my old Geography teacher from when I was at school, David Hymer, who is currently Deputy Headteacher at West Buckland School. David is definitely the reason I became a Geography teacher. He is a real inspiration and it was wonderful to see him after about 15 years. I actually emailed him about 5 years previously to thank him for his inspiration.

    Lunch was a delicious pork roll in the sunshine, I had the chance to catch up with a family friend who now teaches and thoroughly enjoys her time at Wellington. Lunch got extended and I had the chance to catch up with Andy Wright (John Hampden GS) and Dan Edwards (ex-JHGS and now Stephen Perse School). It’s always great to hear the views from other local teachers, so we can compare notes and hopefully the odd good idea.

    The final workshop I attended was a panel discussing what the future of education may well look like. It was very interesting to hear the experts view. Graham Brown-Martin had been travelling the world looking at different approaches to education and hearing him speak certainly made me realise how fortunate we are to have such a good and free education system but part of it made me think should I not be teaching in one of these totally deprived schools. Food for thought indeed. I also had the chance at the end of the session to have 5 minutes with Tricia Kelleher, the Headteacher at The Stephen Perse School. She was lovely to chat to as we reflected on the previous discussion.

    In summary, would I say I came away with loads of new ideas that I want to try? Probably not, but I did not stay for the Gove talk! However, I did really value the opportunity to have a bit of time to think about education and all the different facets of it. I really hope to attend again next year and I will certainly try to encourage far more of our staff to attend.

     

  • Sixth Form Blog Open or Close

    After finishing school just last month I have been given the opportunity to reflect upon my time at the RGS, especially my two years in the sixth form. Although I have enjoyed all my seven years these two were undoubtedly my favourite.

    The transition between the middle school and sixth form is not just a change of uniform. It consists of a change in teaching styles, teacher interactions and responsibility. Each of my subjects were taught in different styles but with the common goal of more independent study than at GCSE.


    For example, in Geography instead of regurgitating case study facts from a powerpoint we do our own research allowing us to remember the facts most interesting to us. Coupled with this we participate in many class debates which highlight every element of an argument whilst engaging the class. The various methods used, ranging from teaching each other to fieldwork engaged the class and gave students the skills need to thrive in all facets of life.

    As a senior boy of the school it is expected that you will take on responsibility and aid the younger years. Through this trust, the boy’s role in the school shifts as do relationships between the students and the teachers. This is seen in and out of the classroom where students and teachers interact both seriously and jokingly.

    The sporting opportunities continue in the sixth from, the commitment from the sport staff allowed our 1XV to reach the semi-final of the Natwest Cup this season. In addition to this as a member of the CCF Navy section I became an NCO teaching me leadership whilst in school and on courses. By doing the above it allowed me to achieve 3 out of the 5 criteria needed for Golf DofE unknowingly. I was informed of this by the DofE leader at the school and in turn I have been able to achieve the award due to the school.

    I believe that the sixth form at the RGS has not only been extremely helpful in preparing me for tertiary education but in developing me as an individual.

    Alex Murphy

  • Accelerated Reader Blog Open or Close

    Accelerated Reader Blog

    We have been using the Accelerated Reader scheme at RGS for over 10 years, as part of our Wider Reading initiative, and in that time it has gone from strength to strength.  The Accelerated Reader programme is used by the English Department for Year 7 and 8 classes, and the scheme is co-ordinated and monitored by Library staff.  We STAR test our pupils in Year 7 and 8 so that we can establish their Reading Ages and we track progress thereafter.   
    AR’s impact has been very positive, particularly now that we have the AR app, so that our Year 8 boys can take quizzes on their iPads.  We have a large collection of books with Accelerated Reader quizzes, and we are constantly adding and extending this collection, as well as replacing worn out copies of the most popular books.  Year 7 and 8 classes come in to the library once a week for their English Reading lesson and library staff monitor the quizzes passed, and award certificates; word millionaire certificates, and termly class prizes. 
    The programme has become even more popular since we introduced a competitive edge:  each class races against each other on a racing track, which is displayed in the Library.  We also involve form tutors in the competition and the race to the top.   Last year we set a class target of 600 quizzes passed, and the target was exceeded.  This year we have set the target even higher, and it looks as if we are on track to achieve this already.   The Year 7s have risen to the challenge this year, and we have several word millionaires already and one pupil has read over 5 million words.

    These regular reading lessons help to support the importance that the RGS places on literacy and reading for pleasure. The boys enjoy reading and quizzing, and it has become part of the school ethos.  The boys have a lifelong love of reading, and we see this continue in to Sixth Form when the boys read widely across their chosen subjects, as well as continuing to read for pleasure.

     

     


    Mrs Rodrick
    School Librarian

  • Y7 Reflections of Teams Open or Close

    The Year 7s are given the opportunity to reflect on their first few months in their new environment and to really consider the skills they are trying to develop. Here are some pupil thoughts on teamwork in Art.

    How did I get on when I worked in a Team?

    Question 1: What did I find difficult about working in a team?

    When you work in a team, any schoolboy's first instinctive is usually to rush over to their friends desks and work with them. The student likes working with his friends but after a while he realizes that this may be obstructing his potential. I noticed the people who don't usually hang around with the other people in their group, during break time and lunchtime and decide to go with someone new produced some of the best pieces of artwork.

    Question 2: How did you solve differences?

    As a group we discussed the matter of our disagreement and gave our point of view and supported our arguments with reasons such as: if you use a conté you will have sharp lines that contrast well with the grey background but if a white chalk is used it may smudge over time and blend in with the background therefore not making the volcano look authentic or dramatic. We weighed the pros and cons to conclude a result.

    Question 3: How did it feel to not always get your way?

    When working over a project like this there are so many possibilities. Where does the volcano go? Should the tornado be coming down to the left or the right? Who should draw what? At the beginning of the topic I was adamant on having the volcano to draw but instead I was told to draw the nuclear bomb. I didn't think this was necessary or appropriate for this particular art project and it was also a very difficult piece to draw. I would have .been much more comfortable drawing lightning or a comet and the person who gave me the nuke chose the job of a volcano. The bomb felt out of pIace but it was too late to change now. When we selected a group leader at the beginning the person was chosen not because of expertise but his ability to make people laugh. I was annoyed that this is the way society selects it's leaders today and more adult instances like Donald Trump being an influence shadows across students who are going to be the leaders of tomorrow. No leader is perfect but the choice is there. It's up to people to take the right path and make the futures of billion's a better one.

    Question 4: What advice would I give to other students who are working in a team?

    Work with someone new and experiment. You don't know until you try. Plan way ahead in advance. This ensures you are always on top of things. Elect a group leader who is willing to run things properly and take this project seriously. Consider all actions to make sure nothing goes wrong. Ifyou are not sure about something speak to the teacher or other people in your group who are doing similar things to you.

     

    How I got on in a Team

    A.) What did you find difficult in the team?

    I found planning and choosing which part each person would draw the hardest part of working in a team.

    B.) How did you resolve differences?

    We resolved differences by every person writing down what they really wanted to do then we put it all together so everyone was happy.

    C.) Have you got better at cooperating is so why?

    Yes I have got better and cooperating as I have learned how each person does everything in their own way and you need to let them finish before you tell them what to add or take away.

    D.) How did it feel not to do everything my way?

    It was nice and I liked it as when you were discussing what to do you would just do it your way but when working as team someone could make up a better idea that you had not thought about.

    E.) What advice would you give to someone trying to work as a team?

    I would say always go around finding what people do and don't like doing than you can plan around what they have said so everybody in your team is happy with their job.

    F.) What did you learn while working in a team?

    Working as team really helped me build a relationship with people who were not my closest friends or not my friends at all now they are my greatest friends as we know who they do and don't like.

     

    How I Got On In a Team

    The giant charcoal drawings we produced were very much a team effort and this was something that all of us in the group had to work on. Despite a possible lack of experience our team worked well together. However there was some minor disputes, such as how dark or powerful we would make the sky and how we would transfer the tracing paper onto the large sugar paper.

    For most of the disputes they were simply answered in a group vote, after this we all agreed on the same thing (most of the time). This is one of our major strengths and reasons we had major success.

    Another difficulty of working in a group is not having your way all the time, surly experienced by all of us in our group. Personally this was not an extremely challenging task as I have vast experience of working in a team environment before but a few of us had not and thus struggled. However as we got further and further into the piece they managed to accept that maybe, their view was not always best. Again I believe that this was a major step towards our success.

    Looking back on the experience how I realise that I have got much better at cooperating and will look to take this forward into other aspects of life, as this is a major skill. There are many ways of improving in the cooperation aspect of life but I think that I have mostly improved in taken more time over work with my teamwork. This is because before if someone got something wrong before I would have little patience and suddenly blame them for it and be extremely angry, but now I will try and encourage them and help them in what I believe is best. Again this is a skill I have picked up and I am sure my teammates have one the same, as we have all made our own mistakes. But encouraging each other made our drawing much better.

    If I was to do this again or give anyone some advice about working in a team I would say:

    • Keep calm, a lot of the time people will get it wrong but if you give them encouragement they will soon improve and do a much better job than if you were to get annoyed at them

    • Enjoy the experience it is not something you will get to do often in your school life

    • Listen to everyone's views, their view may be better than yours

    • Take a step back every now and again to see how your work is going working in a team is one of my favourite things to do as if one person makes a mistake it is much easier to solve. You also get to see the joy on people's faces when you finish the task and get to celebrate with one another and just have fun.

     

    How I got on in a team

    A) What did you find difficult?

    In the process, the difficult part was when two people did two completely different things and we had to try and fix it but having to realise we were not all going to get our way

    B) How did you resolve your differences?

    We just put everything down, looked at it and tried to find a solution collectively. We never allowed anyone to argue, and tried to get on with it as fast as possible.

    C) Have you got better at co-operating- In what way?

    I have got better at Co-operation in the sense that I can ask any team member my questions before I dive straight in, and never be distracted by what they are saying, by stopping and listening to them.

    D) How does it feel to not have everything your way?

    It is sometimes difficult, but if you are being outvoted, you have to take it on the chin and develop the idea yourself- don't leave yourself out because you are bitter! You can also try to add more to the idea instead of just sulking because you don't have your way.

    E) What advice would you give about this?

    I would say to not only contribute lots of ideas yourself, but also listen carefully to others so you can develop their ideas. Always work as a collective, not as a one-man team.

    F) What did you learn while working in a team?

    Working as a team is one of the best things academically you can do. It is a life skill and I have learnt lots about carefully listening to others, to developing their own ideas. It is incredibly enjoyable as you can celebrate a collective success.

  • Alex Chietan, 1st XV Captain 2015/16, discusses leadership Open or Close

    Rugby at RGS is an intrinsic factor contributing to the proud tradition of the school and the 1st XV captaincy is its highest leadership role for an RGS student.

    One of the fundamentals of being a good captain is being the best player that you can. Sometimes it is easy to get distracted by the leadership role however leading by example is the very essence of being a good leader as this has the power to inspire, motivate and galvanise the people around you. A good leader is not necessarily the person who talks the most. ‘Actions speak louder than words’, and therefore a demonstration of your commitment and passion is often the most effective way of showing your expectations for the team and also encouraging them to replicate this. Saying this, the focus of these demonstrations and actions vary from person to person. For some it is about that one big moment that changes the course of the game, but personally, I’m a strong believer in doing a hundred small things that lead to the desired result.  This shows how a leader isn’t just about being at the frontline the whole time, behind the scenes work such as sorting out the match shirts and the changing room before game day, which was done every week this season with my vice-captain Adam Bennett, is what being a leader is about.

    The title shouldn’t just be something that is announced at the start of the season and it should never become a right. Being in a leadership role should motivate you to constantly improve and to get the best out of yourself and your team. It also isn’t a dictatorial position where you have to make all the decisions. It’s about using the resources at hand to come to the correct final solution; this season I had a very capable senior leadership squad and decisions made on the pitch were rarely ever just my own.

    Being the 2015/16 1st XV captain for RGS has obviously been a huge honour for me. What makes it special is the sense of family surrounding RGS rugby, an unspoken, mutual respect of anyone who has ever put on the shirt. This season especially I have felt that a band of brothers have been built where both joyous victories and crushing losses shared together have played their part in solidifying the bonds between the boys. My final point on leadership is to form this sense of community. Having a group of players that, without having to ask, are willing to put everything on the pitch for you and your common goal is a very powerful thing.

    Alex Chietan

    1st XV Captain 2015/16

  • Top Honours for CCF in National and Regional Competitions Open or Close

    The Royal Grammar School’s Combined Cadet Force (CCF) has won top honours in both national and regional competitions. The Senior and Junior Cambrian teams won the ‘Western Mail Trophy’ for best overall CCF Unit. In the 11 Brigade Military Skills Competition, RGSHW CCF came first in in both the CCF Skills and in the ‘March and Shoot’, a first-time achievement for the school.

    Some of the boys describe their unforgettable experiences, it was fantastic to see such determination and consistent professionalism from even the most junior of the cadets, something which we hope to continue to build on next year.

    Cadet Ben Hunt, describes his experience of the 11 Brigade Military Skills Competition:

    The 11 Brigade Military Skills Competition takes place at Longmoor camp, Hampshire. It is a test of military knowledge, physical fitness and ability to adapt to an ever-changing environment. Our team consisted of two NCO’s, Colour-Serjeant Thompson and Corporal Holland, and the rest of us were just the basic cadet, fresh into the organisation. Nevertheless, we went in with an open mind and a desire to succeed.

    There were many tough opponents including 5 ACF teams and 5 CCF teams. The first day was the Military Skills Competition, which included target indication, shooting, camouflage and concealment, team building, observation and we finished the day with the electronic range. The team did well in all aspects of the competition. I have to point out that there was one unofficial event, this was the drill display every time we marched to the mess hall, where we halted and fell out, in front of the queuing cadets from the other units. The chaps in our section nailed it every time, probably because we were under pressure.

    The second day was dominated by the dreaded March and Shoot. Teams march 1.5 kilometres as fast as they can and then conduct a competition shoot immediately after. Our section had the fastest time of twelve minutes and six seconds for the march and then went on to exceed expectation, coming second, on the shoot.

    The prize giving was tense as we did not expect to win. However, we came out of the competition as first in the Skills Competition and winners of the March and Shoot. Morale was very high waiting for the coach as we were eager to discuss our success. A massive thankyou must be given to the NCO’s and Maj. Sowah for the training and organising the trip, but also to the cadets who took part, so really well done to Cadets Binyameen Mohammed, James Forster, Davis Halligan, Euan Bevridge and Josh Dinsdale.

    Cadet Colour-Serjeant Harry Smith led the RGS Senior Patrol on the Cadet Cambrian Patrol 2016. He writes about his experiences:

    Leading the Senior Cambrian Team this year was a challenging but enjoyable experience, and very rewarding. The competition consisted of a 25km patrol across some of the most arduous terrain in Brecon Beacons on the Saturday, and an advance to contact on the Sunday morning. This was in the form of another tactical patrol and a shoot on a live range.  During the patrol on the first day, we had to navigate challenging terrain over mountains and through valleys. The going underfoot was very difficult as the tactical scenario dictated the need to avoid roads which meant instead traversing the marshes and rolling tundra of Sennybridge Training Area. However, due to previous Duke of Edinburgh experience in the area we managed to keep up a good pace, even on the soul sapping ‘The Road of Death’, the only passable route through a large forest, which seemed to never ending. Along our route were stands which aimed to test our skills in tactical situations, such as a first aid scenario, an observation stand and a section attack lane. These stands were challenging but due to our excellent training and preparation for the competition we completed them with ease. During the advance to contact on Sunday we had to again navigate challenging marshes and a deep ravine to a rifle range. Upon arrival we completed a live shoot which comprised of a run down from 300m to 200m before firing a scored shoot at fixed targets of 12 rounds per man - all in 90 seconds. The weekend ended in a brunch from a field kitchen, which was well received after a weekend of army rations. At the awards ceremony tension was high but we were rewarded for our hard work over the weekend by receiving the only Senior Team gold medal, and the trophy for the highest combined CCF score overall.

    Cadet Corporal Harrison Meadows led the RGS Junior Patrol comprised of largely Year 10 cadets on Cadet Cambrian Patrol 2016 and writes:

    On the 22nd February I and seven other cadets of the RGSHW CCF embarked on the most prestigious cadet competition available: the Cadet Cambrian Patrol. Cdt Cpl Alex Ludlow and I led the team through the weekend which began with arrival into Sennybridge camp in Brecon Beacons on Friday night. On arrival we were placed in a pen within a large open barn, and made preparations for the coming competition. With ammunition distributed and kit checked, it was time for the orders. After hours of eager waiting we were called into the headquarters for the brief at half past midnight, a challenge for the cadets but one they met with a professional competence. After that it was time to get our heads down for an early awakening at four thirty the next morning.

    We were awoken at 0300hrs by the sound of artillery fire and Apache helicopters flying overhead in support of a large attack by 3 Commando Brigade being carried out in the vicinity.  We began readying ourselves for the patrol and at six o'clock we jumped on the minibus and disembarked to be left to operate unsupervised for the remainder of the weekend. With 25km of hilly, rough terrain to cover and ten checkpoints to reach, it was a daunting task. The first checkpoint saw us thrown into a fire and manoeuvre stand where we were able to put into practice our section and fire team contact drills. The stand was a fantastic success, with both fire teams clearing the position whilst reacting appropriately to being fired upon and returning a high rate of fire. Once we had been debriefed we began a 7 km patrol across the rolling tundra of the Brecon Beacons to the next checkpoint. After some time we made it through several checkpoints and to the next stand. We replenished our water before then beginning a first aid scenario. The cadets responded well to the situation, running through the smoke and dealing with all three casualties with a calm yet urgent manor. We then carried out a tricky 10km patrol, stopped for some lunch in a dense woodblock and arrived at the third and final stand where our observation skills were put the test. The stand saw us patrol through once enemy held territory without being able to talk to one another and only using hand signals to point out the 23 objects that lay in the forest. We moved off and made our way to final checkpoint and then onto the platoon harbour for a well-deserved night’s sleep.

    We rose early the next morning to complete a March and Shoot using live 5.56mm ammunition. We completed the kilometre cross-country march over very rough terrain in six minutes before arriving at the range. The shoots were both ‘snap’ shoots, one being an up and hold shoot where we were to fire five shots at the target in twenty seconds. The second was a display of five targets, with each exposure lasting three seconds. The cadets shot well considering the 200m distance of the targets and the fact that many had never shot at this distance once before. This event signalled the end of the competition and we arrived back at the headquarters for some brunch supplied by the field kitchen. 

  • Is Using a Creative Process an Academic Advantage? Open or Close

    Alex Hannaford in Year 9 discusses creativity and the 'creative process'.

    Do you get stressed when you look at your homework planner? Do you lack in organisational skills? And do you lose focus after only a short period of time?

    Then you need a creative process!

    Creativity is something I feel very strongly about, it is the answer to all my problems: not only does it allow me to think things through flexibly - using all my initiation to explore new ideas and creative pathways - but it gives me the courage to make challenging assumptions and grants me full access to my problem solving abilities.

    Creativity is, as Oxford neatly puts it: “The use of imagination or original ideas to create something; inventiveness”. That’s quite a good overview, but for me, creativity is used in everything: from generating homework to improving schools.

    You might not think of it, but you use a creative process for everything, it's just not always formalised. But to find out why it can help our learning, we have to know what it is?

    'The Creative Process'. A process for solving problems, or answering questions, is a great way of utilising your mental resources and not getting stuck on a piece of work for too long; if you follow it correctly, you can't go wrong. The process that I follow has the steps: Discover, Make, Observe, and Repeat.

    Let’s go over each of the steps individually.

    In the first step, Discover, you plan your work. Empathise; Getting down key information that you don't always think of helps you to progress seamlessly through your work. Personally, I like to come up with question based success criteria, which normally go something like: does it appeal to my target audience? Does it solve their problem? And do I convey my message well?

    Once you have made your success criteria, you can start to come up with ideas for how you'll tackle the problem, whether the problem is your homework, or a poor schooling system.

    In the Make step, you apply your ideas from the previous step to try and solve the problem. This could entail writing the essays first draft; or increasing punishments to enforce discipline in classes.

    Next, the Observe step: a key part of the process, where you look at what you have achieved, see if it meets the success criteria, and ask yourself, "did I succeed?"

    Finally, remember to repeat the process in order to check your outcome and decide how to fix flaws in your handiwork do this step as much as you like.

    This sequence of steps is not fixed, but rather fluid. You can go backwards and forwards throughout the process without disrupting the flow, because when you are making, you can also be discovering new things about your field of work.

    Hopefully, now that we've been through this together, you should be able to see some of the applications for a process like this outside of 'creative' tasks. For example, if you were intending to make a school better, you may want students to gain the most benefit from the short 5 hours of lessons that we have a day. You could ask, "how might we increase the productivity of our students during their lessons?" (Note the "how might we..." question, this allows people to come up with a wider range of possible solutions). Then, still in the discovery step, people could contribute different ideas as the answer, for example: changing the teaching methods; changing the lesson length; or increasing break frequency or length.

    Next, test each suggestion. Make changes to the various aspects of education discussed in your discovery phase, and conduct analysis on various subjects with various classes of varying abilities, to see how the teaching changes have effects on how the students learn.

    Observe the results, if what you produced had a good outcome: repeat the discovery phase to find out how you could improve the product further, and if you failed completely: repeat the process to come up with a different battle strategy.

    Another example is within myself writing this speech, I started with a plan, incorporating success criteria, and mentally discovered my target audience (you guys) and therefore the level of linguistics I would utilise during the speech. I also planned my anecdotes towards your level of intelligence, making sure to include appropriate examples you would recognise.

    Then I moved onto to making my speech content, the waffling stream you're hearing now. On my first attempt I tried to get everything down on the page and didn't mentally rule anything out, but often even I can find this process to be challenging at the least, and is a skill I have not yet mastered (shock!).

    After my first draft, I was ready to look at my work and check for: fluency, accuracy and content suitable to my target audience, not forgetting the all important success criteria (which I keep bringing up here and there). If anything was wrong, I repeated the process to discover what to change, then I made the change, then I checked it again. This allowed me to create an insightful experience for you dear readers.

    That should give you an insight to the process's uses outside of "pure" creativity. Now to discuss, in short points, why you should use a process.

    Using a process allows you to be more efficient in your work - as it gives a guide to follow to get things done correctly.

    Using a process allows you to be more organised - as if you finish a stage, then when you come back to your work you know what you have to do to continue.

    Using a process allows you to be more focused on your work - as you don't worry about the finished outcome if you trust the process.

    Using a process allows you to be less stressed about pulling the work out of nowhere - because you have a definitive place to start.

    Using a process allows you to work better as a team - as if you all know the process then you can help each other out based on the stage you are on.

    Using a process allows you to make yourself more professional - as regularly referring to a process adds credibility to your work when working with someone.

    So, to sum up these reasons in one sentence: Using a process gives you a mental maturity which is a huge advantage academically for our generation.

Close