I can’t quite believe that we are almost at the end of the autumn term: the time has simply flown by in a frenzy of fantastic activity.
Careers and College
In helping our students think about their futures, our visit to the Suffolk Skills Show at Ipswich which was really motivating. Students had the opportunity to learn how to use industrial drills, chat to the Police force about careers, learn about the milking industry in East Anglia and even sit in a real army helicopter. This major careers exhibition was host to thousands of students from across the region and our young people managed the crowds and the noise very well indeed. Some of our students also visited West Suffolk College this month and I was very proud of the intelligent way they asked questions about the courses on offer. We are very lucky to be situated between Bury St Edmunds, Braintree and Cambridge where we have many colleges within easy travel distance of us. This means that students who would benefit from a part-time college course have an amazingly wide selection to choose from. One of our students is considering a new and exciting Animal Care course run locally. The centre has reptiles, farm animals and even Wallabies for students to work with.
I mentioned in the last Newsletter that we were doubling our Horticultural facility for vocational skills development. We are also proud to announce that the Royal Horticultural Society has awarded the school a Level 4 facility certificate, which reflects the quality of the work done here (bigger and better)! Next summer, we plan to sell the produce produced by the boys in ‘Healthy Eating Veg selection boxes’ to local residents and we are a donating some of the produce to a residential home for senior citizens in Haverhill. Outside of school, some students currently have weekly work experience. This includes work at our local equestrian centre, in a garden centre and a charity shop, where they are learning to complete tasks independently and to follow instructions. In addition to this, we have now sourced other work experience opportunities locally, including painting, land maintenance and working with wood. Whilst some students have already begun working at our new vocational skills site, these programmes will be developed over the next few weeks so that more students can access them in the New Year.
Trips and Visits
The promised ‘Big Day Out’ was a huge success. The boys were driven directly to the London Aquarium on board a 56 seater luxury coach, driven by none other than our proprietor, Colonel Boulter. They walked along the Thames taking in the sights before arriving at Big Ben – a highlight for many of the boys. In the spring term we will all go to the Natural History Museum and spend some time in Hyde Park having a picnic afterwards. Just before Christmas, some of our students will be making a visit to the West End theatre to see the amazing production of War Horse, which has some wonderful personal and social development messages woven into it – and is utterly heart-warming.
In November, following a study programme about Democracy and British Government, we held our own elections for school Captains. The areas of responsibility are: Charity, Outdoor, Council and Assembly. The boys voted, using a ballot box, and the winning boys were duly elected. These school leadership roles are vitally important to promote self-help, independence and responsibility. Students are already carrying out their responsibilities including attending the Accessibility Committee meeting, arranging the assemblies, discussing improvements for next years’ sports day and (very excitingly) planning an early spring concert.
The Common Room is being transformed with original artwork, painted directly onto the walls. We are fortunate to have teachers who are gifted artists! One large display represents our Social and Cultural programme, comprising of a tree and each of the topics we have explored so far being represented by a leaf on the tree. Our foliage will get very dense as the year progresses! On the other side of the room, our representation of Compassion (a key school value) is illustrated by our ‘Circle of Compassion: being Human’ graphic. This simply shows how kindness and respect for others results in building the number of friends and helpers within your own personal circle. Captain Cook House continue their Community Learning Programme and in recent weeks we have visited Lackford Lakes, the Sedgewick Museum (featuring dinosaur skeletons) and Linton Zoo. These learning events blend communication and numeracy development with the study of a particular key topic, such as History or Natural Science and of course personal independence skills.
On the sports front, one of our younger students has been selected to play for the highly regarded local football team and we are advised that he is already one of the club’s star players.
In my last newsletter, I advised you that we had applied to become an Examination Centre so that our students can take their BTEC, Functional Skills and GCSE examinations here, in familiar surroundings. Well, we have been ‘approved’ and are now officially an examination centre, which is fantastic! We also received confirmation from ASDAN that we have successfully passed the moderation authorisation process to enable us to certify boys’ achievements ourselves.
Christmas and … Snails?
If you are thinking about Christmas gifts and your son uses MAKATON, I would highly recommend an investment in an Android Tablet or iPAD along with the MAKATON programme from http://www.mychoicepad.com/ . Although obviously quite expensive, this is a brilliant tool that students could keep about their person and would help bridge the gap between home and school. While we are talking about Christmas gifts, may I put in a word for one of our student’s entrepreneurial efforts this year. He has been raising Giant African Snails (at the moment they are ‘normal’ size) and has sourced vivariums for them. They are available as a Present Package for £17 each which includes a sub-base of warm living materials, a starter food pack, a care instructions leaflet. Alternatively, the snails, without vivarium, are available for £2 each. You couldn’t want for an easier or more unusual Christmas present. Just telephone or email me if you would like to acquire one.
Before the end of term, we will be off to support one of our own students staring in Pantomime with a local Dramatic Society, which I am sure will be lots of fun and I hope will motivate all of our students: we are all very proud! In pursuance of such opportunities to support and be supported by the local community, some of our boys have been invited to present assemblies to our neighbouring Primary School in the New Year. Just before the end of term, you will receive another School Report covering English, Maths and ‘all subjects’. Then, at the end of February, the first spring term report will have a detailed account of all subjects individually. Please do contact me if there is anything at all you are concerned about or would like to know: if you wish to drop by and see you son at work in school, then do just ask – you are very welcome.
GREAT NEWS! Ofsted have been to see us to evaluate our recent progress. Their report is fantastically complementary and they have concluded that we are fully compliant with all the recommendations they made previously. The final report will be published by the end of this week and I will send you a full copy. The Ofsted Inspector said: “There have been notable improvements in the quality of teaching, learning and assessment, based on high expectations and a rigorous approach to monitoring” and “the boys were welcoming and willing to show me their work and tell me about their learning”. The way the boys demonstrated their skills made our hearts positively burst! What a great way to end the year.
PLEASE: It would help us enormously if you would make an entry on the Ofsted ‘Parent View’ web-site. We have created a link to this on our own web-site in the ABOUT drop down menu or you can access it directly here: https://parentview.ofsted.gov.uk/ Thank you in advance for having a go.
If I don’t get to see you before the Christmas break I hope you have a happy and stress free holiday and I look forward to working with all the boys again in the New Year.