Head Teacher’s Blog 13th January 2020
Happy new year to you all. I hope that everyone had a blessed Christmas.
I would like to begin by thanking students, parents and staff who supported a number of community events at the end of last term.
Our Advent Carol service was a really prayerful time, led wonderfully by students and staff from both St Maries and Notre Dame. It was great to see a packed church and I thank everyone who helped to plan the service or who supported it in other ways.
We also had our A Level Prize Night on the Thursday before we broke up. It was lovely to see so many former students able to come back to gather once more in the Salle where they received their A Level certificates and where a number of students received other prizes for their time at Notre Dame. Mr Haigh, who is now Head Teacher at King Ecgbert’s, kindly returned to Notre Dame to give the St Julie speech and he certainly gave us a really inspiring message. Anya Brown received a great reception as she was announced as the winner of the St Julie award for her contribution to our school community.
During advent, students and staff were very busy raising money for various charities which the students were involved in choosing. The “Winter Wonderland” was busier than ever with students from many different form groups packing the Salle with a range of creative stalls, selling things or running games and activities. As always, I was so impressed by the commitment of the students to fundraising work and I thank the parents for your support.
As a last part of looking back, I know a number of our students made their confirmation last term and some others have theirs to come later in the year. I would just offer my prayers and congratulations to all of those students. I was very moved to hear that one student took Julie as her confirmation name, having learned about the Saint who founded the Notre Dame order in her RE lessons.
This term our Y11 and Y13 students are into their final run up to the exams. Teachers will be setting homework that helps them to revise and will also be giving tips and advice on ways they can prepare for exams. However, the following three points are good general advice on revision and exam preparation:
- 1. Make a revision timetable if you haven’t already done it.
The important things about making a revision timetable are:
- It is good to spread revision out over a long time, doing a little bit every week rather than cramming it all in at the end. You are trying to build memory and re-call and the brain does this best through regular repetition over time.
- By spreading revision out over a long time, you also make sure that you can build in space for relaxation and seeing friends and family all the way through the exams. This is important as it helps you to manage stress so that you can do your best. If you leave everything until the end, you will increase stress and you won’t leave time to rest.
- Do a little bit of every subject every week. The gaps between revision sessions on a subject are just as important as the sessions themselves for strengthening memory and recall. It is best to spend a bit of time on every subject every week, instead of spending a long time on one subject, then leaving it for a long time before coming back to it.
- 2. Test yourself.
A great way to spend your time when revising is to make flash cards for each subject, with questions on one side and the answers on the other. You can then test yourself on these cards (or ask someone else to test you) every time you are doing some work on that subject. Keep going with it even when you’re getting all the answers right. By doing this repetition over time, you will really help to strengthen your memory and your recall. You will find that the better you know and recall key facts, the easier you find it to learn other facts and the easier it will be to make links between things which you need to do in exams.
- 3. Sleep is important
Of course this is always true, but the run up to exams may be a great time to get into good habits if you don’t have them already. A particular tip here is to try to avoid using mobile phones and tablets before going to bed and to leave them out of the bedroom. They can be a distraction and make it harder for us to relax and get to sleep.
Y8 Option Choices
Our Y8 students will be making their option choices during this term. They will get advice on this through the enrichment day, assemblies and form time. We will also be encouraging students to talk to their teachers, to friends and to family as they make their decisions. The Y8 Options Evening (23rd January) is an opportunity for parents to hear first-hand the information and advice that we give to the students. The normal Y8 parents’ evening will then be on 3rd March and this will provide an opportunity to talk to individual subject teachers about options for your children.
Also this half term, we mark Holocaust Memorial Day with assemblies for each year group and our ‘Shoah Service’ with Y9 students. This service follows the pattern of an international service, which specifically remembers the events of the Second World War and calls us to be mindful of the horrors that can happen if we are not vigilant against division, hate and discrimination. In the service, we are reminded and inspired too by the many acts of kindness, goodness and bravery where people stood with the Jews and others who were being persecuted during that time.
Finally, this half term we will also be marking the anniversary of the death of Sister Dorothy Stang. Sr Dorothy was a sister of Notre Dame who was killed by forces who opposed the work she did resisting the deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest. It will be the 15th anniversary of her death on February 12th this year, which Notre Dame schools round the UK will be marking. We will be linking our remembrance into the Climate Summit which happens this summer in Glasgow, as our young people pick up the baton left by people like Sr Dorothy who have spoken out for care of the world and its people.
Dates for your diary
- Y13 Parents’ Evening Tuesday 21st January (5-7.30pm main building)
- Y8 Options Evening Thursday 23rd January (7pm – 8pm in the Salle*)
- Dance Show Tuesday 28th January (6.30pm-8.30pm in the Salle)
- Y11 Parents’ Evening Thursday 30th January (5-7.30pm main building)
- Last day of half term Friday 14th February
- Training Day (students not in school) Monday 24th February
- Students back in school Tuesday 25th February
- Y8 Parents’ Evening Tuesday 3rd March (5-7.30pm main building)
* The Y8 Options evening will involve a presentation given by Mr Nixon and Mr Saunders, providing information for parents of students in Y8 about the curriculum they will follow in Y9, Y10 and Y11 and the options that they will make this year. Individual subject teachers are not available on this evening – the opportunity to speak to them is in the normal Y8 parents’ evening on 3rd March
Some events happening with students during school time over the coming weeks
- Enrichment Day 2 Thursday 16th January
- Shoah (Holocaust) assemblies and Service Week beginning 27th January
- Remembering Sr Dorothy Stang* Week beginning 3rd February
A Word from the Physics Department
The physics department continues to have great success with supporting and recommending students for the Arkwright Engineering Scholarships. We currently have 3 scholars, Matt Moran and Peter Clayton in Y13 and Igor Panfill in Y12 who have reported that this has and continues to be a great opportunity for their future career plans. Dr Bruce is helping the largest ever group of students working towards the scholarship this year, with projects including: a sensing system for restaurants to use to check which tables are taken; a working model of Jupiter and its Moons’ motion; a system to re-use bath water as a toilet flush; a working hovercraft and many more excellent ideas.
STEM club continues to be ever popular with our younger students. Miss McClafferty and Dr Williams have run several physics themed sessions. The STEM club was set up to help pupils learn to enjoy science and improve their practical skills. Most recently, they were making lighthouse models using power packs and circuits. Pupils were challenged to try to build a lighthouse, which could both spin at the top and contain a flashing light.
As our planet faces the ever-present threat of climate change we are doing our bit to help. our work as an Eco School is overseen by Science Teacher Mrs Wilkinson. Our current Eco School Projects include starting up a pen recycling facility in the library. All types of pens and correction fluid containers can be recycled. Why not send in your old pens from home? The Save Our World Group with Miss Gennard are preparing resources to be shared school wide to remember the 15th anniversary of the death of Sister Dorothy Stang, a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame who spent her life campaigning for the protection of the Amazon Rainforest and its indigenous people.
There’s a new club that very definitely isn’t Physics, but just like Physics, it asks the most difficult questions and accepts that sometimes there aren’t answers. Every Monday for Lower School and every Tuesday for years 10-13, we meet in Lab 9 and discuss the fundamentals: could you make a computer that thinks and feels? Is it ever right to kill another person? Is the present king of France bald?
Year 7 students have been studying Space and Energy in recent weeks and we've had some incredible space projects, ranging from cakes and model solar systems to presentations about black holes and Space exploration.
Year 8 have been learning about forces and electricity - many or our students were brave enough to experience an electric shock from the Van de Graaf generator - a hair-raising experience!
In addition to the work we currently do with our GCSE groups (regular homework, time for consolidation built into weekly practice), we have also continued to innovate and improve the resources and lesson activities used within lessons to greater support our students in this challenging time.
In Year 11, the pressure of upcoming GCSE examinations is looming, so we have been working closely with our students to better support them in their revision both in and out of school. A series of revision classes, both during and after school, have been available since the beginning of the school year. The response from this has also been very positive and indications from the mock examination done in December shows that students are benefiting from this additional coaching.
Our KS5 students have recently undergone a series of informal mocks to assess their grasp of the topics, showing excellent progression of students from GCSE and AS. Outside of school, however, there have been exciting opportunities planned for our students which will be conducted over the next two years in the form of school trips.
Earlier last year, students had the opportunity to visit the Alton Towers theme park to see a rather exciting application of their learning of mechanics and material sciences. Not only was there some great fun to be had, there was also some great opportunities to do some real life data collection on real physics applications.
This year also marks the 4th trip of our students to the CERN laboratories in Geneva. The trip has become very popular with this iteration being our most heavily subscribed yet! The lucky 37 who are able to go can look forward to seeing the awe-inspiring CERN facility, meeting some of the world’s foremost particle physicists, some relaxing boating on the lake Geneva and, of course, some delicious chocolate and inspiring cultural buildings. The CERN trip will be taking place on the 20th, 21st and 22nd of April this year.
On Wednesday lunchtime we have a new club. It is a group of Sixth Formers working right at the boundaries of what Physics can teach us, looking the hardest questions that A level can ask, and perhaps a bit further: stretching and challenging the finest minds in the school. You might get asked whether the centrifugal force is real, or the resistance of a cube of 1 ohm resistors, and for these, you won’t know the answers, so it’s all about figuring out a way of addressing the question.
We have also supported the application for a large number of Oxbridge interviews, setting up a series of practice interviews to put potential candidate on the spot to help to prepare them for the difficult questions they may be asked.
Future teaching Scholars
We have a physics future teaching scholar who has been spending time at Notre Dame teaching physics, observing lessons and conducting research. This is a 6 year programme where a scholar gains experience in schools alongside their undergraduate degree in physics. They also attend training days at Notre Dame and complete online assignments. When they graduate they start their Notre Dame SCITT as an employed unqualified teacher at a school in our region. We currently have 1 Physics and 6 Maths in the undergraduate phase of the programme. We have 6 employed SCITT trainees. The program aims to address the shortage of Physics and Maths teachers across the country and Notre Dame is the regional training centre in this region.
We are supporting Yewlands Academy science department with physics teaching. The department has several NQTs and only 1 physics specialist who is an NQT. We are running hands on sessions on the GCSE required practicals as well as supporting them with the difficult to teach concepts and misconceptions. This will be followed up with coaching sessions to meet their needs such as SOW development support and lesson observations.
We have set up year groups in Seneca Learning to make it easy for GCSE Students to find the right courses to study. Senecalearning.com is a brilliant and free resource that covers all the detail of all science courses in an engaging way which is proven to help with students recall. If students aren’t using it already they need to!
Keep checking our social media accounts on twitter and Instagram for other revision aids and science news - just search for and follow NDHSScience