Chair of Governors Update
Chair’s Update July 2020
Normally, at this time of year, I reflect back on all the activities and events that have taken place in the College since the previous September. Clearly, this year, my reflections are somewhat different.
I spoke in my last update about all the work that has been done over the past two to three years to improve communication channels at the College. I think, without doubt, the past few months have shown how effective, and how important, these channels are, and I am extremely thankful that they were in place. It was evident from February onwards that Covid 19 was going to have an impact, but there were many mixed messages being provided to schools. I really do want to take this opportunity to thank Mr Davis and all his staff for how well they have handled the situation. I know that the word “unprecedented” has been, somewhat overused since March, but no one had any experience of handling a situation like this before – and I feel they have done a fantastic job in very difficult circumstances. The aim throughout has been to put the safety and wellbeing of students and their families first and to endeavour to provide ongoing, high quality education as much as possible.
On Monday 6th July Mr Davis, the team for Key Stage 3 and next year’s Year 7, hosted a Facebook live event for parents, carers and students who are coming to the College next September. Over 500 people accessed the session and were able to ask questions which the staff answered as they came in. We are very aware that the transition this year has been very different for the current Year 6 students and they have not been able to visit the College in the normal way, but the staff have been very creative in the way they have tried to provide information and reassurance and this session was a really good example of that and wouldn’t have been possible if all those communication channels hadn’t been put in place.
However, I think it’s important not to forget that we had completed half a year before lockdown hit us. It seems such a long time ago now, but the first six months were as busy as always with visiting speakers, sporting fixtures, drama productions and a plethora of other events. I am so glad that we were able to put on the superb “One Man, Two Guvnors”, The Blend Dance Show and the Rotary Concert in November which once again show cased the musical, acting and dancing talents of so many of our students and which provided several evenings of entertainment for us all. Additionally this year, Cantare, the College choir, having won the Devon Schools Choir competition, performed in Exeter Cathedral as part of the CLIC for Christmas concert. For all of these events I am always struck by the enthusiasm and sheer joy that the students get from taking part and the positive experience that comes from being part of a team.
We celebrated a number of sporting successes, particularly our U15 indoor cricket team, who won various heats and then came third in the SW finals. Our U13 Girls cricket team are the Devon Champions as are the U16 Badminton team. Sam Hooper Pickering and Molly MacLellan were winners at the Devon Schools Trampolining competition and will go on to compete in the National Championships. Many of our students also made it into the Devon County teams for rugby (boys and girls) and Maddie Schuchter was picked for the U14 UK Lions hockey team. Elishia and Malackey Freeman made the England Junior Twirling Team and Sky Shute won a Gold Medal in Acrobatic National Championships. We are particularly proud at the College that we offer such a wide variety of sports for students to take part in. Most terms see over 70 sporting fixtures which also demonstrates the huge level of commitment from our PE staff.
It isn’t just in sport where our students excel. In November, Megha Bose and Adriana Zeamaneagra Castro represented the College at the Rotary Young Chef Competition and Adriana also took part in the Exeter Cookery School for Springboard competition. Adriana came second in both competitions. We had students involved in Maths challenges, taking part in Ten Tors and Duke of Edinburgh and, as ever, numerous trips for a large number of students; from theatre visits to geography field trips to visits to Bristol and Exeter University for curriculum-based activities. The Library is also a core part of College life; organising visiting speakers (Chris Riddell and Derek Bardowell this year) as well as many events and competitions to engage our students in reading and literature.
In terms of site development, we still expect the £13million redevelopment on the lower part of the Green Close site to commence in the next academic year and the second phase of the Maths block development on our Gipsy Lane site will commence in November 2020. In the meantime, we have just completed a £100 000 project to replace the Design and Technology roof and heard this month that we have won a bid for £300 000 to modernise our heating systems across the College.
At the end of this term we will be saying “goodbye” to three longstanding members of the senior leadership team. Kim Dearsly, our Director of Finance and Resources, retires after 13 years. She has been instrumental in orchestrating the bids for capital works across the College and there is no doubt that the new build on Green Close, the Maths blocks and a whole range of other site improvement works are due to her work and efforts to secure money for us through the various (often very complex) bidding processes. Simon Tanner, who has led Post 16 from strength to strength since he took over as Head of Post 16 in 2006 is retiring after 27 years at the College and, finally, Loraine Bowles, who amongst many other responsibilities creates the College timetable each year (which in a College this size really is no mean feat) is retiring after an incredible 38 years. I am sure many of you may have been taught by Loraine yourselves! All of them have contributed significantly to the College in their time and will be very much missed by us all.
For those students in Year 11 and 13, we are very aware that the last few months have been particularly challenging for them. Many will be very disappointed that they haven’t had the chance to sit their exams or take part in those “end of an era” celebrations. Departments have put a lot of work into trying to ensure that the grades recommended to the exam boards are fair and I know that there will be further communication about how “results days” will work this year. I know also that the teams are still hoping to put on the Proms and “farewell” events when the current rules on social events change.
In terms of returning to College in September, we are putting plans together based on the latest advice from the Government, which will, I am sure, continue to change over the summer months. Please do keep an eye on our website where details of plans will be updated as they develop.
Despite everything, I hope you will agree with me that the College has really risen to the challenges that the pandemic has presented to us and shown throughout, as always, a real commitment to students and families in our community. I hope that you all have a good summer and continue to stay well over the coming weeks.
Chair of Governors