Bad Press (22.05.14)It is one of my constant frustrations that young people receive bad press from the media and from older sections of our population when they get things wrong or labels attached without evidence. You know the type of thing – three teenagers waiting for a bus are labelled a ‘gang’. Even in school sometimes, the actions of young people are misunderstood or misrepresented. Yes they can get carried away or lose a sense of perspective but so can adults. Imagine the scene - this week on Tuesday afternoon there were 240 students in the Sports Hall completing a one hour Religious Studies GCSE paper. In addition there were 16 students sitting a Psychology A level paper. All was going well and then there was a power cut. All the lights in the Sports Hall were off for 8 minutes. No there were no riots, outbursts or reactions just 256 sensible, patient individuals (and ten less calm invigilators) sitting waiting for power to be restored. How brilliant was that. Extra time added to the examination if required and the examination board informed. I am relating this story simply because if the student response had been poor everyone would have been told. Good Press is important as well and it might help to dismantle some of the stereotypes.
Little Shop of Horrors (28.2.14)I have often commented upon the current narrow national focus upon attainment as a measure of judgement on a school which misses the wider impact of achievement across the whole educational experience. Each year MCHS presents a whole school musical that showcases the many talents of its students and the brilliant management and nurturing skills of its staff. This year was no exception in that it was an illustration of how the arts can transform and how individuals can rise to the challenge. ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ was in my opinion the best production in this school since I arrived nearly seven years ago. It was vibrant, ambitious and left the audience wanting more. The professional attack of a cast operating at its very best was breathtaking. I know I am biased but why not? As Headteacher I am in a privileged position to witness the early days of a new production, the casting, the planning of sets, twilight rehearsals and cries of ‘it’ll never be ready on time’ as part of the traditional preparation for the first performance. I am not going to single out cast members but I will acknowledge some of the backstage ‘stars’ without whom a performance would not happen. Kieran as the plant – unseen throughout but a central figure throughout a dynamic and exhausting performance. Owen who managed all the sound across the three evening performances. Mr Lentell shone on the lighting, Sam, Ross, Mr Starr and Ms Foy providing excellent musical support. Ms Simpson and Ms Kitchin for set design alongside Mr Smith of course. Finally Ms Dalgleish, Mr Parker, Mr Casson and Ms Edworthy who provided inspirational direction, high production values and above all absolute confidence in the talent we have at this school.
A school mourns for a respected member of its community (06.01.14)Unfortunately I have been in a position as a Head when the school loses someone from our community whether a member of staff or a student. There is no feeling like it in trying to come to terms with that sudden loss of a colleague and loyal supporter of the school. Simon Martindale died just before Christmas in a tragic accident. He was a dedicated and wholly professional teacher who cared for his students and his fellow staff members. He was a Union Representative who only spoke reason when we held our discussions over the years. He was someone I could respect and use as a benchmark for the progress made here at Morecambe Community High School. Staff Briefing this morning was the first time for us all to remember him collectively and to consider our relationships with him across the years. Simon taught at this school for 22 years which is significant service. In addition he attended the school himself as a student between 1977 and 1984. In fact some of my colleagues remember teaching him in his formative years. The school is holding special assemblies all week. On our return to school, after the Christmas Break, we held a minute’s silence to remember Mr Martindale across the whole school. He is already missed by colleagues and students, tears have been shed and the school will be well represented at his funeral later this week.
Volunteering to support student success (13.11.13)I could not be happier that we are a school that has a flourishing Parent Teacher Association; in fact it has now changed its constitution to embrace more supporters of the school with its new title Parent, Teacher and Friends Association. They meet approximately once every half term and their dual aims are to raise funds for young people who attend the school and to have an enjoyable time whilst engaged in those activities. This term alone they have organised a Sponsored Cycle Ride and a Christmas Fair as well as inviting bids from staff to use some of the funds raised. Recently the PTFA also decided to sponsor the next whole school musical production ‘The Little Shop of Horrors’ which is presented in February. It does matter that such an enthusiastic group of Parents and Friends want to add value to the student experiences in school by finding the additional funding necessary. I attend the meetings and they and it is simply a pleasure to be in the company of staff, parents and friends of the school who are so committed and determined to provide such selfless support. For example they make a massive contribution to the leasing of the new minibus to ensure that Outdoor Education is maintained and is seen to be a priority for this community. There are two things I would like to stress. The PTFA would be even stronger if more parents would consider joining it – it is not necessary to attend every meeting and any contribution of time is valued. The second is that the new PTFA Lottery needs more people to commit the £4 per month to it. The monthly first prize currently stands at £300 with a healthy £50 second prize. Contact Mr Gierke at school and he can supply all the details and the appropriate forms to be completed. Above all it is the student body that benefits – equipment, opportunities, trips, challenges and a wider enrichment.
A continuous Open School (22.10.13)It is a difficult process for parents choosing the secondary school for their sons and daughters when there are so many good schools in Lancaster and Morecambe at their disposal. This is one of my busiest times of the year in time management simply because of the sheer volume of parents and Year Six students wanting to visit this school. Each visit takes nearly an hour and we take our time witnessing the work in classrooms, looking at the facilities and observing students as they change lessons. I am currently conducting three such tours each and every day. In one way it is a very useful exercise for me in that I can see my own school through their eyes. The focus in lessons, the politeness shown to each other, as well as our visitors, and the strength of our uniform including in PE. Our Open Evening was very well attended and I encourage the parents to visit the school again during a ‘normal’ day. And they do. They are sometimes surprised by how quiet and ordered the school is and how students are not distracted by visitors from their endeavours in classrooms. Of course in an odd way this contrasts with the buzz and flexibility of the Open Evening itself in fact it occurs to me how overwhelming for a Year 5 student the sheer excitement of so many activities could be for them. It is almost reassuring for the young person (and the parents) to see the school in action with the 1500 students present – happy and safe in an environment they feel belongs to them. I have eight more visits in the three days before we finish for half term and then the 31st October 2013 deadline for applications is reached. Above all I could not be happier with the ways the students and the staff feature as first class ambassadors for this school simply by getting on with their daily routines. Each and every tour confirms what a Good school we are and the variety of opportunities we offer to all our students who attend.
The Start of Term (20.09.13)In my assemblies, last week and this week, I mentioned that I was looking forward to getting back into a routine that comes with the start of a new term. Incredibly many of the students were nodding in agreement and perhaps unsurprisingly the staff attending the assemblies were less committed to my ‘controversial’ views. The 1500 students have returned and what an excellent start they have made. The 220 Year 7 students have responded very positively to secondary school ethos and the massive change it makes to their daily lives. It was refreshing to see the numbers of Year 7 at Netball, Rugby, trampolining, choir and Drama Club in the first two weeks. And it has been my least busy year in helping to escort ‘lost’ Year 7 students around the building as they try to negotiate their new timetable. They seem assured, confident and, above all, settled into their new school. Of course the other newcomers to the school are the 180 Year 12 students who have started the sixth form. Whilst many of them are from our lower school they are faced with the opportunities and freedoms provided for the older students as role models in this school. The provision of iPads and training for all sixth formers and staff has been the additional layer of organisation this year. Yet already we are seeing the positive outcomes of work set for independent study in each subject each week, speedy registration procedures and the efficiency of circulated resources. I was not encouraged today when a Year 9 student asked if I had an iPad as well because a member of staff had told them I was too old to use one! I have my iPad and I am learning but what has been confirmed is how ready the young people are to use technology actively and purposefully in their learning. Generally it has been a calm, happy and harmonious beginning to the new academic year. I know that it will continue and yes I am back into my routine and grateful for it – a sign of age I know!
Open Evening and Beyond (26.06.13)Our Open Evening last week was the best attended in our recent history. It was busy throughout a four hour period and every department and faculty commented upon the numbers of people and the enthusiasm of parents and young people. There was much to do on the night and the engagement levels were high. The activities ranged from Scientific experiments to volcano eruptions to scaling climbing walls – without the occasional food fests and painting and sculpting opportunities. Some of my staff dress up (especially English) as part of the experience they provide – having pirates walk the corridors makes a surprising change. Our Seniors proved to be fine ambassadors for us and many parents commented upon the attentive way they were guided around the school. I have still been busy walking parents and Year 5 students on individual tours of the school during the working day. I like these because it provides me with the chance to see a busy, focussed and productive environment through their eyes. Of course over the last two weeks we have also welcomed our intake into the school. We have held two Induction Evenings and two Induction Days. There was much excitement about the free lunch we provided as well as the taster activities around the school. The students were a credit to their Primary Schools and their parents in the way that they behaved and responded to the different demands of the ‘big’ school. The end of a school year is a traditional mix of beginnings and endings. Open Evening and Induction events on the one hand and the Year 13 Leaving ball and the Year 11 Prom on the other. If I had a pound for every time a Year 13 or Year 7 has said to me how quickly time has gone, I would be a very rich man. However our responsibility is to try and explain that to our Year 7s so that they savour every moment and that they take every opportunity open to them as from September.
A Normal Week (08.05.13)It is raining today and yesterday we had the set piece of the Year 11 Photograph staged outside in the brilliant sunshine without a breath of wind to bring chaos to sculptured hairstyles. It was planned a year ago so we feel lucky to have chosen the right day. And Year 11 looked fantastic as usual. They continue to impress with their unwavering determination to succeed in the forthcoming examinations. At the same time I witnessed some in Year 11 preparing for the Dance Show after school with the same commitment and levels of enthusiasm. The performances are on Wednesday 22nd May and Thursday 23rd May and tickets will be available very soon. Tonight I will be visiting Heysham to watch the Year 11 Girls team play in their final Rounders Tournament (weather permitting). Last week I was involved yet again in the Year 13 Leavers Film – it was embarrassing but it had to be done. It might be the most ambitious one yet. I dread the screening at the final assembly. Can it really be a year since the last one? We heard that our five TECHUK Girls had failed in their quest to win the competition to visit America. They were beaten by a team from Portugal. However the startingly amazing consequence has been that so impressed were Cisco, their sponsors, that they are funding flights for all five girls to San Francisco over the half term break. Some rapid fund raising is being undertaken. What an exciting and fully deserved outcome. Finally in this ‘normal’ week, the Year Nine Football Team has made it to the final of the Lancashire Cup to be played in Blackpool. By our calculations it is the first time that MCHS have had a team in the final for 27 years. Let us hope that the rain has stopped by Friday.
Self Improvement (19.04.13)The Year 11 Year Book is being finalised as I write. I have had the privilege of
reading some of the entries and observations made by students. Entertaining,
revealing and in many cases positive endorsements of the opportunities this
school offers to them throughout their initial five years with us at Morecambe.
There were frequent references to the trips that have taken place over that
time. Another three school trips were organised for the end of term and
through some of the Easter Break. Paris, Krakow and Kenya. Students have
returned from all them feeling pleased with the experiences they have gained
and, dare I say, somehow changed by that contact with a foreign culture and
challenged about what their own life offers them. Of course I am proud that
we have staff who are willing to organise such visits and are prepared to
spend their own time planning them and undertaking them with students. I
know that many staff involved recall their own experiences on trips organised
at their schools when they were students and perhaps how much they made
them question what kind of future they wanted. The experiences gained on
visits, whether abroad or in this country, are, in my view, an essential element
of a whole education. Politicians spend much time judging us on attainment
measures but the experience and self knowledge gained from undertaking
such a visit can be life changing for some students. MCHS provides a wide
range of these opportunities and it is great that parents continue to support
their sons and daughters in engaging with them. Long may they continue.
Very Good Press (12.03.13)It still happens that young people get very bad press about their behaviour
and attitudes but I am here to defend their ground. Yes, a small minority do
deserve the reputation they gain but the others are the ones who set the
tone in this school. I could not be more impressed with the way Year 11 are
tackling head on the challenge of their forthcoming examinations. They attend
session after session after school and are determined to be successful. They
recognise that it is hard work that will bring results and they are determined
that the August results day will be a good one for them. This was typified
when one of them, Conor, sent a letter to Mr Cameron raising his concerns
that was featured in the local newspaper. I did not agree with all that Conor
had written but I was very proud that Conor had the initiative to send the letter
and express his frustrations about national policy. And how hard these young
people work compared to previous generations when it comes to preparation
for the examination cycle. They are not helped when the recent English
results consisted of a raw mark without a grade attached so that they remain
insecure (as do the staff) about the levels attained so far. This is not treating
the students or the professionals with the respect they deserve nor is it an
acknowledgement of the hard work that is evident. I remain positive about the
young people at this school and I, for one, will continue to give them Good
Press whenever I can.
Disco Inferno (04.02.13)One of the important elements of my tour with students and parents who are
visiting this school is to witness activities in the Studio. On the wall as you
enter the Studio there are six photographs from each of the previous four
whole school musical or dance shows. They somehow manage to capture the
exuberance and joy of performance. For some students their participation in a
school production will represent one of the highlights of their time in the
school. It is always interesting how some students will be happy to be part of
the chorus or have just a few lines and others will seek the responsibility of a
main role. In my experience the participation can be transformative for the
young person concerned. It can improve self confidence and focus – it is not
a distraction but rather another strand in the development of a person’s
individuality and talent. I am in the fortunate position of being able to watch a
production start from a few words read aloud from scripts to an amazing
extravaganza over three nights. Watching the current cast delivering YMCA
or balanced precariously in silver boots as part of ABBA, is just affirming
when some parts of the national press would want us to believe that all young
people are feckless and lacking in self discipline. ‘Disco Inferno’ is on three
nights, Wednesday 13th March, Thursday 14th March and Friday 15th March. I
am hoping that like last year there are SOLD OUT signs on display well
before the performance day. Tickets are £5.00 for adults and £3.50 for
children and concessions; there is also a family Discount Ticket. I hope that
you are able to find the time to support the students and staff as well as
having a brilliant night in the theatre with us.
MCHS Community Outreach (21.01.13)It was a great moment when the floodlights of the new 3G pitch were blazing
away at the start of our Senior Prize Giving in December. Former students
and many parents were full of admiration for the facility and they all hoped
it would prove an asset for the school. On one night last week there were
nearly 80 students training on it at 4.00pm when all the grass surfaces were
unplayable. In addition fixtures are now being played which would have been
postponed or cancelled last term. I am also very impressed with the way the
female footballers are already higher skill levels because of the quality of
the playing surface. I shall be watching the staff team (District Champions)
take on Our Ladies in their first fixture this year – I wish them luck. But of
course one intention of the 3G pitch was the development of the Community
use of such a great facility. The school has appointed a Community Sports
Manager who will co-ordinate the use of all sports facilities; Sports Hall,
MUGA and 3G pitch. Already there have been significant bookings of the
pitch: The Vale of Lune Rugby Club, Carnforth Rangers, Heysham Atoms,
Heysham Dynamos and Garstang FC. These are all reputable organisations
and we are pleased with our association with them. Certainly last Tuesday
when I left the PTA meeting held in the Library it was inspiring to witness so
many dedicated sportspeople using the facility between 6.00pm and 9.00pm
in the evening. Part of Ms Stringfellow’s work as Community Sports Manager
is to identify students at this school who can be encouraged to commit to
some of these clubs and as a consequence build upon their own sporting
skills and achievements.
2013 and all that (8.01.13)There was an understandable subdued quality to the start of the Spring Term.
Staff briefing was as if I was an unwanted alarm call interrupting a good nap
and the corridors on day one were eerily quiet with students barely seeming
to have the strength to speak to each other. However today is Day Two and
there is a livelier aspect to the school as staff and students readjust to their
return after an enjoyable break. Of course it is raining today so it reinforces
the idea that some things remain the same about the new year. Our Year 11
return to school already knowing that 2013 is a very important year for them.
Already they are facing an English Language examination later this week that
will assist them in securing a good set of results. They are busy revising and
the staff have created additional revisions sessions in school. I cannot fault
the commitment of students and staff to the acquisition of key skills as the
most effective way to manage examinations. Sadly there are always some
who recognise too late that hard work is at the core of success at GCSE level.
But, of course, 2013 is in itself an extended examination season for Year 11,
Year 12 and Year 13. I trust that they will gain the success that they deserve
through their continued commitment and dedication. The staff, as always, will
give their time generously and wholeheartedly on behalf of these ambitious
A positive Christmas end of term (20.12.12)The final week of term is often an anti climax because of the tiredness of students and staff but this week has been helped by two school events. The Senior Prize Giving was really well attended with many former students making the effort to return from universities to receive our praise and wards. The guest speaker was a former student of the school, Gary Rycroft, who made an excellent speech about the school now and its importance to this community. Last night was the first contemporary Dance Night held by this school. Twenty three girls from year 10 through to year 13 performed twelve different dances. It was a superb evening that celebrated the creativity of Dance and the joy of performance. I know how proud Ms Hudson and Ms Gardner were of all the girls and their commitment. We also had two rugby games this week with some of the members of the sixth form teams playing their final game of rugby for MCHS. They were against the Grammar School and both games were lost to stronger opposition but I could not have been happier about the discipline and approach of all the boys in the squads. And now we have reached the final day. If I was in any doubt, this morning I was stopped by a Year 7 boy who asked: ‘Where do I buy a Santa hat, sir?’ quickly followed by the sixth form nativity play which provided an alternative spin on the Christmas narrative with a too convincing performance by a member of staff as King Herod displaying a definite attitude towards ‘pesky’ children. It has been a very positive and productive year which will be finished in a traditional way in assemblies with singing, dancing and good humour.
The 3G Opening (11.12.12)The project is far from finished but the opportunity was taken to secure an early Christmas present for the students at this school. The pitch had been prepared, the fencing in place and planning had been gained. We were waiting for the floodlights and grounds maintenance but that seemed like a weak reason for stopping the students from enjoying their new facilities. The Guest of Honour for the Opening was David Perkins former student and now professional footballer with Barnsley. Once the symbolic ribbon was cut there was a sponsored penalty shoot out competition with funds raised for Children in Need. This featured a sixth form student against Mr Ip with the staff team goalkeeper Mr Rogers keeping nets. That memorable spectacle was followed by a tournament for all Year 7 forms. Over one hundred students participated in mixed teams on what was a very exciting day for the school. The school has already hired out the facility Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings with local clubs and organisations. The school has wholly funded the creation of this state of the art resource. It is a direct benefit to the 1500 students at the school as well as a potentially valuable community resource.
Motivated by other Children in Need (28.11.12)It was Children in Need this year and sometimes it feels like a version of the hamster wheel with the ‘here we go againness’ of it all. But then the magic kicks in and usually groups of students enthuse or Mr Careless has one of his special ideas. And then suddenly the school has its focus and everyone knows that the Good Cause is there so we as a community can help others. If one definition of education is to be able to think selflessly about other lives then this is a school with very educated set of young people and staff. Students in pyjamas, Office staff in pyjamas and even some young people in onesies (new vocabulary for me). Then Mr Careless organised an auction for the Sixth Form with bids for KFC lunches, marking, car and kit washing, folder organisation and other slave like functions. A successful bid of over eighty pounds was made for one chocolate cake! One student won the right to compete in a penalty shoot out competition with a member of staff at the opening of the new 3G All Weather pitch. And so all thoughts of hamster wheels were banished by the sheer exuberance of a day spent thinking about others and doing something about it. Over £2000 raised and still more to come. What I really like about it is that the lazy, too easy, non uniform days have gone and now it is about what YOU can do to raise money. Watching two students in the crush hall experiencing a day of sponsored silence whilst trying to communicate to their other friends what they were thinking was a joy to witness and typified the kind of day it was.
Sing when you're winning (11.11.12)The school does not have the time to enjoy any post Ofsted relaxation time as we move into Year 11 and Sixth Form mock examinations. Fortunately the staff had a half term break to unwind a little before this work horse term resumed. The Good judgement at least provides some momentum for us all and the intervention classes after school for English, Maths and Science are well attended. One plus this week has been the first performance of our new choir. They have been singing ‘True Colours’ in Assemblies all week. It is an uplifting way to start each day and the quality of the singing and harmonies have been superb. It is a choir of over forty and we see it as a starting point for the school in showing that the voice is the most natural of musical instruments and one that can be a life long learning experience for all. I watched as we hosted a Primary Football tournament on our MUGA (Multi Use Games Area) last night and the Year Three and Year Four students were showing their commitment to a game that will keep them busy, successful and occasionally frustrated for many years to come. It was also good to witness so many supportive parents and enthusiastic primary staff encouraging the young people to give of their best. Our own students did really well as referees, scorers and time keepers. A very positive experience for all.
An Invitation to our Open Evening |
Dear Parent / Guardian
The choice of secondary school for your child is a very important decision, but you have our assurance that in choosing Morecambe Community High School you will not be disappointed. The school looks forward to the scrutiny that comes from a chance to have so many visitors witnessing our excellent practice in so many areas.
I would like to highlight just some aspects of our school life, our successes and our work with the local community:
· Even in these financial times we continue to invest in the school. In the previous academic year we have created a new Reception Area and introduced a modern Cashless Lunch System.
· The school has also built a new 3G artificial football pitch with floodlights. This is exclusively for school use during the day and early evening and is the most modern facility of its kind in the area. Already clubs from the local community such as Carnforth Rangers and the Vale of Lune are using our 3G facility as their training facility and of course many of our own students benefit from this arrangement.
· The school has embraced the newest technology in its significant investment in iPads as from September 2013. All sixth formers will have their own iPads but staff will use theirs to transform the learning experience both in the sixth form and the main school.
· With the reality of compulsory 11-19 education an increasing priority, the school Sixth Form has more than doubled in size over the last four years – with an expected provision of around 300 as from September.
· The unique Outdoor Education offer from this school will continue; the guarantee of five days in Year 7 and as much as possible beyond that initial induction period.
· The school has tried hard to ensure that the transition between primary and secondary is both smooth and successful through its CONNECT programme where staff of this school work in a sustained way with primary pupils both in this school and in their own schools. This includes all sports and events organised at this school.
I am proud to be Headteacher at Morecambe Community High School and I know that I speak for all the staff at the school when I say that they take great pleasure in being associated with a school that aims to provide the best in education for students across the full age and ability range. I am also offering you the opportunity to visit the school on an ordinary working day when you will be able to tour the school, visit lessons together with a senior member of staff. You are welcome at the school at any time, but it helps us if you telephone for an appointment before coming so that we can ensure I am available to accompany you on the visit.
John McNaughton B.Ed., B.A., M.A. Headteacher
OFSTED GOOD FOR MCHS IN ALL ASPECTS |
The telephone call came at 12.05pm on Monday 15th October and although we were ready for the visit it was still a shock that they were here more than a year early according to their own schedule. Of course the short notice of the visit – they arrived at 8.00am the following morning – meant that the school was being judged on the way it is each and every day. Five Inspectors, 47 lesson visits, meetings with staff, group sessions with over forty students and the expected professional scrutiny created a tension in the school that was almost tangible. Later when I conducted my own informal research during assemblies it would appear that nearly half of the 1500 students at the school had some direct contact with an Inspector across the two day period.
On Wednesday at 4.00pm we were given the judgement GOOD in every aspect. The school was an exciting place to be and there was a sense of relief that at long last an improving school had been endorsed by the Ofsted process. Here are just four comments from the report:
- Teaching is good across all year groups and in most subjects; there is a high proportion of outstanding teaching in the sixth form
- The majority of students behave well in lessons and around the school. Poor behaviour in lessons is very rare
- Students feel safe and exceptionally well cared for and feel the school is a strong community and staff are highly committed to helping them to achieve their best
- The school has a good capacity to continue to improve
The Report and overall judgement is also a strong statement about the parents and guardians of students at MCHS who continue to support this school and its development. But above all it has been earned by the student body; they continue to be a privilege to work with on a daily basis. As a school we note the areas for improvement and we shall continue to develop and prosper to ensure that the students achieve their best.