Weekly Blog

21st January 19

Monday

I have a lovely journey into work each day: Bumbling through the quiet Kent countryside and sleepy little villages, along the coast road to check that France is still there (Bonjour! Ca va?), round and down past Dover Castle and into our beautiful priory grounds. It’s a great way to start any day – especially a Monday! 

The first hour of the morning is taken with going through the records of participants on the Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) scheme here. Heartening news – one participant completed Silver on Friday and now another pupil achieved their Silver today. DofE is a great scheme (www.dofe.org). The Gold DofE is held in such high regard by employers that participants achieving Gold receive their certificates from royalty at Buckingham or St. James’ Palace in London. Here is what a typical Gold participant has to do: A year of Volunteering; A year of a Physical activity; six months learning a Skill; 5 days and 4 nights on a Residential course and 4 days and 3 nights on a group Expedition in “Wild Country” covering about 50 miles. All of that is outside of school time whilst studying for 3 A levels. You would give someone like that a job or a university place, wouldn’t you? Currently, 15 Dover College pupils are completing their Gold.  

A variety of tasks follows, including an enquiry from a parent about the National Citizen Service offered here to Year 11 and Year 12 after their exams. For the National Citizen Service, pupils complete: a week of Outdoor Pursuits, a week of university Residential and a Community Action. This lasts a month for Year 11 and 2 weeks for Year 12. Cost to parents for the whole thing = £50! I’m used to spending time convincing parents that this deal is for real! This parent was no exception! If you are a Year 11 parent and want your child to do something worthwhile after their GCSE exams, talk to me! More details at: www.ncs.yes .

One task, as Careers Manager, is to organise speakers for weekly presentations to the Sixth Form in our Lecture Theatre. Some of these talks are concerned with careers opportunities – such as presentations from university teams on how to apply and finance. Some are on cultural and social events and some are enrichment talks to broaden pupils’ horizons. Today, it was a presentation by the splendidly named speaker, Heidi Robus-Toner, from “The Mighty Roar” on volunteering adventures and opportunities abroad (www.themightyroar.co.uk). Universities love potential students who are “well-rounded” – not just enthusiastic about their subject but who have completed work experience and community service and something extra – like DofE and NCS – that makes that applicant stand out from the crowd -and it is taking opportunities like the above that will help our pupils secure a place in the university of their choice.

I am Year 13 tutor for Duckworth House (and in charge of organising the senior school PSHE programme). PSHE takes place for all senior pupils on a Monday afternoon and gives pupils an opportunity to reflect on society, current affairs and pressing issues of the day. We divert from the published programme for today because the girls have an assembly to deliver and I want them to have plenty of time to think about what they want to do as this will be the last ever assembly that they will give to school. It is a bitter sweet experience for them that, from now on, every event they take part in at school will be “the last time that…”. It does not take long to agree the theme of their last assembly as it will take place on February 14 (No prizes for guessing the theme!).

The school day ends for me with the Monday Activities slot of 4.30pm to 5.30pm with this year’s Gold group planning their route for their 4 days and 3 nights’ expedition in the Brecon Beacons in the summer. Planning has to be completed soon – despite that expedition not taking place until the end of June – as the school needs to sign off the paperwork as well as DofE Kent and the Snowdonia Expeditions Panel.  My admin pile for this one expedition – let alone all the others for this year – will be a small mountain in itself!

Tuesday

Tuesday morning is spent adding new book stock to the fiction library here in the LRC (Learning Resource Centre). Fiction is usually organised by author’s surname but the LRC supports the English Department’s campaign to raise literacy levels and arranges the stock in number order for the “Accelerated Reader” scheme. [Example: A pupil takes a reading quiz and gets a number score, such as 4.1. The pupil chooses a book from the 4.1 selection of titles, reads the book, takes an on-line quiz on the book and, if scoring above 80% on understanding the text, is awarded points and can select books from the higher number awarded, such as 4.3]. Data from the online quizzes becomes a reporting tool for the English teachers on how well their pupils’ reading is progressing. It is an elegant, understandable and self-perpetuating system of rewarding good progress.

The afternoon is spent at Dover Leisure Centre assisting with the running of the House Swimming Gala. Go Duckworth! The wonderful thing about these house events is that they are cheerfully noisy – with pupils cheering on everyone, not just the swimmer from their own house. 

Alongside the Head of Sixth Form, I am the school based UCAS Advisor helping Year 13 complete their university applications. My favourite task of all is helping pupils shape, edit and proof-read their Personal Statements to show all their shining lights. After the applications are sent, it is a joy to see wide-eyed faces and hear awe-struck voices exclaim: “I got 4 ‘unconditionals’!… I got my first choice!… I’ve got an interview!”. The deadline for the very last application for this year is 17.59hrs today. 6pm is too late! Don’t worry, we made sure that all our pupils applied in good time!

Wednesday

Next academic year, senior pupils will have the opportunity to demonstrate “Leadership” and “Service” skills (alongside their traditional academic studies). My task is to lead on this and investigate programmes and activities that will allow our pupils to record their skills in these areas. This morning, I am with a British Army team in Ashford investigating their Leadership programmes as part of my research. 

In the afternoon every form in the senior school has their own session on DLC (“Digital Literacy and Citizenship”). I am one of the core team that devised the programme. We were concerned that we needed to do more in the way of formal education to ensure that our pupils understood online dangers.  We first started planning our programme in February 2018 and launched in September 2018. This week the DfE announced plans to include online education into the SRE (Sex and Religious Education) curriculum. Again, Dover College is about a year ahead of the state sector but the issues are so serious that I am just so glad that the DfE are catching up.

We hope to appoint an “Outward Pursuits” leader so I complete my part with the list of “Essential” and “Desirable” skills and experiences of DofE Mountain Leader for the job description. It is so important that the DofE team continues to grow and develop. I have an exciting vision that we will, one day, be offering other types of expedition at Dover College: Horse-riding… Sailing… Canoeing… Cycling…

The afternoon ends with the after school Wednesday Activity session. This time, Bronze and Silver DofE participants begin planning the routes and campsites for their qualifying expeditions…

Thursday

With the help of our amazing and hard-working estate staff, I start removing non-fiction texts from the mezzanine floor in the LCR. All the texts are going back to departments in readiness for the creation of a “wellbeing space” – this will be a pleasant, relaxing and welcoming space where anyone from the school community can go to have someone to listen to them if they are under stress or feeling anxious. It is a wonderful idea and I am glad to be helping to make it happen.

Today, the British government launches its “Fire It Up” media campaign to heighten awareness of the opportunities for apprenticeships in the UK. This is perfect timing as we have the first of the academic year’s parents evenings next Thursday and I start to get all the resources ready for that evening for year 11 and their parents on: Post 16 Option choices, looking ahead to university courses and choices, Careers information, DofE, NCS, leadership courses, community and service projects – and apprenticeships, of course.

[www.apprenticeships.gov.uk]

The afternoon ends with INSET (In-Service training for Teachers). We are tasked with continuing preparations for the launch of the “Connected Curriculum” in September. In this spirit, I continue my research into suitable Leadership and Service projects for Sixth Form.

Friday

This morning is spent on future projects planning: First Aid refresher courses for myself and other DofE leaders; draft expedition forms for “Wild Country”; confirming a speaker for Sixth Form [Dr Max Bodmer www.op.wall.com]; booking assessors for Gold qualifying expeditions; Signing up 2 members of staff as Young Leaders for DofE; employers’ Fair in Ashford; DLC review meeting with core team; return visit from a previous Dover College charity of the year [www.teenagecancertrust.org]; Apprenticeship provider meeting with Year 13; stock order for Fiction; speaker on studying in the USA; Work Experience request to Pfizer…

As non-fiction is being returned to departments, it is a great opportunity to loan texts to pupils embarking on the EPQ. The first enquiries for hard copy come in and I am pleased that we have stock on Franco’s Spain, Fashion designers and speciality areas of the Second World War…

A planned Whole School Emergency Evacuation practise starts with an alarm at 14.45. My job is to check the upper levels of the LRC, LRC itself and the toilets before liaising with Chef Charlie that the kitchen and cloisters are clear. As usual, every pupil is amazing and understands why we have to do these drills. Cold!

Brilliant!  Two members of the next group of Silver participants are here (the LRC is also where Sixth Form come for private study and where some groups are sent if their teacher is away). They have finished their school work and so begin the detailed route planning for their expedition. I’m really pleased how much of this skill is remembered from when they planned their Bronze expedition.

Each week I write a report – rather like this one – for Mr Kibler for the SEF (School Evaluation Form) as a log for the everyday activities that are taking place under my auspices. This week is rather odd in that I am writing a blog that I then record I have done in the SEF – and write a SEF report recording that I have completed a blog! I crack on with that SEF report.

I do a final online check on progress of our participants and Assessor reports for all the participants at Dover College. Good news – two more participants have achieved their Silver Award this week.Yay!

At the end of the day, I grab a map of the Bronze Qualifying Expedition route that the pupils have decided upon. I need to check that the campsite they chose is suitable. I’ll walk their route too so that I will know where tricky navigation decisions will have to be made by them.

Before turning out the lights, I set up the IT that we will need for our “Mental Health First Aid Training” course in the LRC on Saturday morning starting at 8.30am. 

Saturday morning is also when one of our amazing Gold participants has volunteered to become the Dover College DofE Ambassador and will represent our pupils at future DofE orientated events. So proud!