Head’s Blog

Head’s Blog

The first week back in January always feels like the beginning of the journey back down the mountain after the long climb of the Autumn term. We are heading again towards the summer and of course, the public examinations for Year 11. The mocks this week will have been a good experience for them. We very much take the view that they are ‘formative assessment’. In other words, the students will learn from the experience how better to answer GCSE questions and how well their approach to revision has paid off in the examination hall.

Mocks are therefore an extremely important part of Year 11, providing a dress rehearsal for the real thing. As well as the preparation, marking and feedback that the staff do, there is also another team I would like to recognise. A number of our students qualify to have readers and I would like to thank the parents who volunteered to come in over the last week to help out in that capacity.

We also had another very interesting trip out to The Welding Institute last week. The name of the organisation may not be the most glamorous but what they do is fantastic. Their monthly lecture this time was on the Solar Orbiter which will be launched in just over a year’s time to fly closer to the sun than any man-made vehicle has ever flown before. A remarkable number of British scientists are working on the project and the students were privileged to hear more about it from one of the top scientists involved.

With such significant figures regularly speaking at TWI we will be making return visits and are particularly looking forward to the F35B Lightning jet talk on 16th May.

On a separate note, we began the week with a staff training day. Part of the day was given over to two new organisational initiatives. The first is to enhance our pastoral tracking using our current iSAMS system. A school is a complex place and your children have contact with many adults every day. In order for your child’s tutor to be quickly informed of any successes or concerns that may arise, we have introduced a new aspect of the system which allows all such information to be readily shared with the tutor. We are trialling the system at present and believe it will help us strengthen further our pastoral care.

Our second initiative is to trial an online homework system. In effect, it will allow parents to directly access what homework has been set for your child and when it is due. Whilst this could be seen as reducing the responsibility each pupil has for managing their own work schedule, it does make the whole process much more transparent and allows parents to better encourage and support their children in getting homework done fully and on time. The trial will launch shortly and you will receive further information about it then. When it is up and running we will seek your feedback too so that we can refine the system to be as effective as possible.

Head’s Blog – Christmas Quiz

Students have been rising to the challenge of the Christmas maths problems posed in yesterday’s assembly. Avid Radio 4 Today programme listeners may recognise the questions. The first, solved by Sam in Year 6, is this:

If the True Love in the song ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ gave away her gifts at a rate of one per day, starting on Christmas Day, on which day would she give away her last gift?

The second, so far unsolved is the following:

Father Christmas travels home to the Arctic every year for his birthday. At sunrise he gets up for a walk. He walks one mile south, one mile east, one mile north and arrives home. On what day was he born?

I have to admit I could only get my answer down to two possible days and then kicked myself when I read the solution. Let’s see if any of the pupils can go one better!

Head’s Blog

A fortnight ago I returned from a week’s trip to China. The main purpose of the visit was to meet agents and help them to understand more deeply the unique character of Stoke College. In turn this helps them find the students who would most benefit from our approach to education and to recommend them to us. As we continue to grow the school we want to ensure that the overseas students who join us have a good understanding of what we are about and therefore settle in quickly and happily to the school.

It was also an eye-opening experience. So much so that I made a slide show for my Economics A level students which you can view here.

I spoke to one young professional who hadn’t used cash for six months! Most of their transactions, including buying from street markets, are done by electronic transfer, person-to-person, using the WeChat app on their smart phones.

It was also striking that in Beijing, which has a huge number of mopeds and motorbikes, every single one is electric. They have little regard for crash helmets, seat-belts or even using lights at night but they seem to sense the additional risk and drive much more slowly and carefully that us Brits.

It is an extraordinary country and travelling by high speed train (295 km/h) between cities leaves HS2 looking somewhat dated already.

It would be an wonderful experience for some of our students to visit China in the future. We are now teaching Chinese up to Year 8 and we hope some might take it for GCSE. A trip in the coming two years would be fantastic for students who may be interested in pursuing Chinese further. I have no doubt that children in the current generation who can speak a bit of Chinese and understand the culture, will be at a great advantage over their peers.

On a different note, it was wonderful to see all the former Year 11 students on Thursday evening, to award them their well-earned GCSE certificates. They are a fine group of young people and both their parents and staff felt very proud of them as we heard Mr Marple describe each of them in turn. As their tutor, Mr Marple knew them very well. His thoughtful and amusing resumé of each of them in turn was well done and much appreciated.

Head’s Blog

Following its great success last year, we are looking forward to the bonfire night and fireworks display this coming Thursday. All parents and Stoke by Clare residents are invited to come and enjoy the spectacular display. Gates opening at 6 pm and refreshments will be provided. In the interests of safety we ask that you do not bring sparklers. We very much hope you can join us.

This Friday we will hold our annual act of remembrance at the village war memorial at 11 am. Anyone who is free would be most welcome to join us at this solemn occasion.

Our next Open Morning is on Saturday 18th November for the Senior School. The response to the September event was very positive, particularly for Year 7 entries for next year. We greatly appreciate the support we have from families in bringing in your daughters and sons on a Saturday morning to help.

We will run the Open Morning for the Prep School separately on Friday 17th November as a more accessible time for younger families. This will be a chance to meet all the staff and pupils of the Prep School. In addition Mrs Milnes will also be available to meet prospective Prep parents on Saturday 18th.

Flowers blooming in Autumn

We have just bid farewell to our visitors from the Xicheng Primary School of Beijing. A group of 48 Year 7 pupils, with their teachers, spent the last two days with us working on an Art project. Led by Mr Reeves, they produced flowers and feathers based around the theme of an English garden.

The children’s school specialises in artistic endeavour and working with our own Year 7 pupils, they produced some beautiful pieces of work.

We wish them a safe journey as they continue their tour of the UK and I would particularly like to thank Mr Reeves for preparing and leading such a thoroughly enjoyable two day experience.

Head’s Blog

Saturday’s Open Morning was extremely positive and visiting parents spoke highly of both the pupils they met and the staff. One parent noted the sincere pride their student guide had in the school. I should also note how delighted we were to have former pupils return to act as guides. Their loyalty to Stoke and belief in the value of the education they experienced is a real testament to the commitment of the whole school community.

Whilst we were disappointed to hear that our expected visitors for the coming week are unable to join us due to visa problems, the 5 little Chinese boys who spent last week with Mrs Milnes’ class had a tremendous time. Their teachers were sad they had to go, feeling another week would have really helped them attune themselves to the Stoke style of education. It was, nevertheless, a valuable week and memorable for our Key Stage 1 pupils too.

One interesting comment the visitors made was that their boys weren’t used to so much space or fresh air. Life is quite different in Beijing and it reminded us how lucky we are to have our children in such a beautiful, healthy environment and to be able to run around outside so much.

On Thursday we opened the conversation with our Year 11 students, holding our sixth form information evening. It also coincided with a similar event at Stour Valley School where we took a lot of enquiries. We very much hope that not only will a good number of our own students study for their A levels and BTECs at Stoke but also that they will be joined by other local students, keen to have such high quality education so close to home.

This week we are holding our Sixth Form taster day for Year 11s and they will have a chance to experience six different A level lessons. We expect it will be a key day for students as they start to form their ideas on what they wish to do post GCSE. We will follow it up with a consultation exercise with parents and pupils to help us draw up the best curriculum offer possible for 2018. Any parents of Year 11 pupils (or younger) who wish to find out more, please contact Mr Stuart.

Head’s Blog

The parent tutor meeting last Wednesday was an important event for the Senior School. We very much want establish a strong link between you as parents and the tutors of your children. We hope that having the opportunity to sit down together at the beginning of the academic year has established a strong basis for communication. Any concerns, whether academic or pastoral, can be raised with your child’s tutor who will either tackle them directly or ensure that the right person in the school is contacted to help.

Coming up this week we have five young visitors from China who will be joining our youngest pupils’ class for a week for an experience of British school life. We think it will be an exciting time for all our pupils too, as they get to know children from the other side of the globe and learn more about their language and culture. It will certainly make their regular Mandarin lesson come alive this week!

Pupils in key stage 3 lessons will have a similar opportunity the following week as we will be joined by a group who will board with us for a fortnight. This term we began Mandarin for the first time in the senior school and to have the chance to buddy up with a native Mandarin speaker for ten days will be a fascinating and educational experience.

On Wednesday this coming week we have our parent teacher evening for Prep School and on Thursday we have our Year 11 into Sixth Form evening at 6 pm. If you child is either Year 10 or 11 you should already have received an invitation from Mr Stuart. The event proved very valuable last year for our previous Year 11 students. This year we will be offering a wider range of A levels and BTECs and the event will be an excellent opportunity to find out more.

Finally, thank you to all families who will be supporting us this coming Saturday with Open Morning. We are very grateful that your children come in for the morning to help show the very best of the school because it is the relationship between pupils and staff that is at the heart of life at Stoke.

Head’s Blog

We are very much looking forward to the Open Morning in two weeks time on Saturday 30th September and are pleased to see that a good number of enquiries are coming in. We are advertising locally in the press as well as on line and leaflets are going out to local businesses too. If any parents would be happy to take a few to pass on to friends or through their businesses, please do let Mrs Wheeler know. We would greatly appreciate your help and support.

In the meantime school life has settled into a routine very quickly. The boarders had a lot of fun in Thetford Forest on Saturday mountain-biking and at least one of our new boarders from overseas has discovered what nettles are. I have promised to show her what a dock leaf looks like too so that she will be better prepared next time!

Our new Sixth Form study centre is now in action and it is very good to see that it is being well used. It is rare not to find someone in there, even in the late evening, working hard on their home work. Our Sixth Formers have made a very positive start and have embraced the challenge of their new courses.

Last week we held our Parent Teacher Association AGM and were delighted to see a number of new parents come along. The meeting was buzzing with ideas and we are looking forward to building on the hard work of last year’s committee as the new team, led by Mrs Sophia Parker, set to work on this year’s events.

This week we are looking forward to meeting parents on Wednesday evening at the Parent Tutor meetings. This is an important meeting allowing parents to get to know their child’s tutor as they act as the first point of contact for all pastoral and academic matters. Now that we are two weeks into term it is a good moment to review how well your child is settling in to the new academic year and to raise any questions you might have face-to-face. However, if you cannot make the evening, do feel free to contact your child’s tutor at any time.

I look forward to seeing you on Wednesday.

Head’s Blog

Sunday 10th September

These past few days have been long awaited. After all the planning, the preparatory inspection and refurbishment work, we have become once again a school with a sixth form. Not only that, but one welcoming full-time boarders from both the UK and across the globe.

New boarders arrived on Monday for orientation and team-building, and were joined by existing boarders the following day. On Wednesday we welcomed back all the pupils and held a whole school assembly. The new staff and pupil leaders were introduced and we spent some time thinking about what we could each achieve this year.

The previous Year 11s were an inspiration with their hard work and engagement with the Stoke ethos. They were good at helping each other, as well as working with staff and they succeeded together. The message of the growth mind set was not lost on the pupils and students and the parable of the talents was clearly understood. As Tommy rightly said in the assembly, it is about making the very best with the talents you have and not being afraid to use them.

Taking intellectual risks and not being afraid to suggest ideas even if they might be wrong, is hugely important. We are so fortunate that our pupils are keen to support each other. Ideas are not mocked if they aren’t quite right but praised for effort and imagination.

It was a good start to the term and the pupils left to meet their new tutors and to receive their timetables. Tutors at Stoke are very much there to help their tutees, whether they are having any pastoral or academic concerns, and parents should feel free to contact them.

Our new sixth formers had an interesting week too. After a number of induction meetings, and first lessons in each of their A levels, they had an welcome meal at the Cock Inn, Clare on Thursday night with their new teachers and then Mr Stuart, Head of Sixth Form, took them to Cambridge for the day on Friday. They were hugely fortunate to be able to visit the Wren Library at Trinity College and meet one of the admissions tutors too. The Wren Library was designed by Sir Christopher Wren, most famous as the architect of St Paul’s Cathedral, London and whose staircase, from his London home, is now in use in the Main House at Stoke College.

This weekend has seen the boarders have a day out in Bury, buying any last minute items of equipment and clothing for the term and spending some time getting to know each other while they had fun bowling.

Next week will be the first full week of lessons (week B), evening activities will begin and the homework timetable will be published. We will be very much back to the natural rhythm of school life.

Finally, a reminder that the AGM of our Parent Teacher Association is on Wednesday evening at 7 pm. New members are very welcome and it provides an excellent way for families new to the school to get to know everyone better. I hope to see lots of new faces there!

Head’s Blog

Tuesday 27th June

We are in the midst of the traditional end of term events at Stoke. This week the senior pupils are currently following a special timetable for the Arts Festival, which culminates in our Gala Concert tomorrow night at 7 pm in the Sports Hall.

The theme of the Arts Festival is British Values; Global Identity expressed through singing, playing instruments, dancing and art. The students have worked in mixed age groups with each team focussing on one of the four core values: Democracy, respect for the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect for all faiths and none.

The final art pieces will be displayed in the PAB at the end of the festival and parents will be able to view these as part of the Gala as well as on Speech Day next week.

Last Friday was a fantastic day for Stoke too. After the washout of last year it was great to have near-perfect weather for our Sports Day. A great deal went into organising the day, led by the Games staff and supported by the maintenance staff, the catering staff and the academic staff too.

Particularly popular was Mrs Burchell’s Pimms (and Elderflower Cordial!) tent, which at times threatened to blow away in the breeze. It was impressive to see drinks served by one hand whilst the other held the gazebo firmly to the ground!

I am sure all parents would support Mrs Burchell’s compliment to the children on their manners and absolute politeness when getting refreshments. She noted that they also made sure they put their empties back in the correct place (unlike Glastonbury!)

Well done to the Unicorns for being the final winners of the day but the determination and participation was there to see from all the athletes. The Year 5 tug-of-war was particularly competitive! We are lucky to have such a beautiful setting to hold such an uplifting yet traditional day.

The PTA Summer Barbecue is on Friday from 6:30 pm. We are holding it in the Quadrangle by the Performing Arts Block where the Prep School Garden Party was held before half term. It is a lovely setting and we hope as many families as possible will be able to come. Tickets can be bought on the night so don’t worry if you haven’t been able to buy in advance.