Headteacher's Christmas Letter - December 2018
Dear Parents and Carers of William Perkin and Ada Lovelace,
Almost at the end of our longest term, signs of Christmas are all around us and what a mix that is! Our Christmas tree sparkles with its shiny baubles and sparkling lights and our Advent wreath of purple, pink and white candles is dressed with evergreen foliage.
In our William Perkin, and now Ada Lovelace, tradition, I asked myself why and soon discovered that evergreen fir trees have traditionally been used to celebrate winter festivals, both pagan and Christian for thousands of years. Pagans used them to remind them of the Spring with its new life to come and Christians decorate the wreath with an evergreen circle to represent the hope of eternal life brought by Jesus Christ. The candles representing the patriarchs, the prophets, John the Baptist and Mary symbolise hope, peace, joy and love.
As usual, it is fascinating to see how modern day traditions and symbolism have evolved through history from different cultures and nations. This leads me seamlessly (!) to think about how we are constantly evolving here at William Perkin and that has been particularly true this term.
The Latin term for the third Sunday of Advent is Gaudete, meaning “to rejoice”, and it seems very appropriate for this term as we have much to rejoice about.
The term began with rejoicing that the hard work of students and staff had paid off with superb GCSE results. It was humbling to see how much progress our first GCSE cohort had made under what is called the ‘Progress 8’ score. An average of 1.36 grades above the expected made us the 8th best school in the country, and I would like to thank students, staff and you for believing in us as we set up our different curriculum 5 years ago.It now seems obvious to have academic subjects taught in the morning, a lesson of English, Maths, Science, Humanities and MFL every day, daily prep from Year 7 - 11 and a massive emphasis in the early years on Literacy and Numeracy, but this was not the case 5 years ago. These strategies have proved to be game changing in terms of our students’ academic success
In addition we must not forget our pastoral programme which we designed to allow students to ‘intelligently engage with the wider world’ and produce a school that is confidently Christian whilst open and accessible to all. This programme involving school assemblies, tutor time sessions, year communions and personal, health, socialand emotional workshops provided students with the self-esteem and confidence to tackle all the problems they faced on their journey to GCSE success.
As the Christmas hymn says: Rejoice, Rejoice!
It has been a pleasure to paint on the blank canvas that is our Sixth form provision. The GCSE results meant that 113 of our own students and 30 external made up our first sixth form. Again we have been innovative in our provision with lessons taking place in the morning followed by afternoon subject lectures delivered by our own staff or by invited experts from universities and other institutions. These aim at developing understanding beyond the A-level curriculum and ensuring that our students have a wider vision and range of knowledge. Workshops have prepared them in organising their work, preparing CVs and managing stress.
Our Post-16 scholars programme has resulted in our Politics scholars visiting Parliament to talk about companies doing outreach in schools, visiting Chatham House, the home of the Royal Institute of International Affairs and receiving a talk from Steve Pound, our local MP and a great supporter of the school. Medics scholars have had talks from London Air Ambulance and the Department of Surgery and Cancer at Imperial College. Engineers and Linguistic scholars have also received talks relating to their chosen fields from the Livery Company, Arup Engineering, the Institute of Mechanical Engineers and Kings College. Each of our Oxbridge scholars has a personalised programme to prepare them for their application and interview.
My main cause for rejoicing, however, is the difference those young people are making to the school as a whole. All are taking part in a community service project supporting departments or external institutions such as local charities, hospice, hospital and library. Some are working on the tills in the café at break and lunch, some are mentoring younger students. Their presence around the school is mature and thoughtful, and adds another dimension to our community. We are certainly being successful in our ambition to create interesting and interested A-level students.
Ada Lovelace opening within the William Perkin school building has been another tremendously exciting opportunity for us all. It meant a lot of planning and careful thinking by the staff who, of course, tackled this with their usual energy and enthusiasm. We decided to integrate Ada Lovelace students alongside their William Perkin friends in the morning academic lessons, but let them develop their own community identity in the elective afternoons and in their own tutor groups. At the end of this first term, I am very pleased with the way it is working and furthermore, our preliminary inspection reinforced this view when they praised this way of working and the results it was showing. I am proud that, just as Twyford supported the setting up of William Perkin, we can now do the same for Ada Lovelace.
Excitingly, at the end of next term, new temporary buildings will begin to be put in place on the A40 side of the playing field and our new one storey, with potential for two in the future, extension to the café will be built which will double its size.
As usual, we rejoice in the many and varied achievements of our students this term. As part of our service to the wider world, Descartes and Pascal raised £1,458.42 for Macmillan Cancer Support and Isambard raised £1,783.84 for Tearfund. Locally, Harvest donations were taken to Acton Homeless Concern and our playing fields continue to be used by local primary schools.
Our governors were impressed to hear that the 35 trips run this term more than doubled the number from Autumn 2017. These included ‘Aladdin’ and ‘Guilt Trip’ by English and Drama, the British Library by History, ‘Pioneering Women in Mathematics by Maths’, MFL film trips and excursions to Twickenham, Lords.
New this year was Geography Week where that department celebrated diversity, international development, understanding communities and map skills through games and other activities. Music showcased student talent in their new competition – our own version of ‘The Voice’ with auditions held outside the café during lunch times.
To end, may I wish you a very happy and peaceful Christmas holiday with much rejoicing!
With Very Best Wishes,
Mr Keir Smith
All students should return at 11am on Monday 7th January 2019.
I would also like to remind you of the dates of parents evenings when you will have the opportunity to discuss your child’s progress with their teachers at this mid-year point.
Year 11Thursday 17th January
Year 12Thursday 31st January
Year 8Thursday 14th February
Year 9 Thursday 14th March
In addition, Year 9 have their Curriculum Information Evening on Thursday 7th February.
Christmas Email from Mr Smith, Associate Headteacher