Literacy skills are needed across all curriculum areas, from reading Maths questions precisely to searching for bias in historical sources. Pupils should be able to read and write fiction and non-fiction. For too long in this country the KS2 English SATs paper concentrated on non-fiction. (“Describe your favourite meal.”) Pressure from Head teachers and writers led to a change…the irony being the creative writing test contained “no element of creativity”.
At Stoneygate we want pupils to be creative. We want pupils to enjoy reading and writing fiction.
Last week pupils were enthralled by Mrs Angell’s poetry recital of ‘Albert and the Lion’.
Mrs Angell with a particularly good Lancastrian accent…
Could I thank the numerous Reception and Year 1 parents who attended a Reading and Phonics Workshop after school on Monday. The aim of the session was to show how children learn to read, write and spell in the early years. Parents attempted ‘pure sounds,’ blending sounds together to make words and segmenting to spell. There were also suggestions on how to make reading fun and the importance of reading to children.
Several Headmaster’s Awards this week went to pupils linked to their creative writing.
Rosie’s story (Y3), “The Little Lost Cave Man” was not only beautifully written, but also included wonderful animations.
Our pupils do produce work of outstanding quality. Here are two extracts from their work this week…
“Deep down, under the huge waves, where the light is slowly fading away, where the flora and fauna are sparse, is where the mermaid is. She is waiting there- as timeless as it seems- silently waiting for something. What? Only she knows.
Her long majestic tail flutters slowly behind her. Her lengthy blue-black hair, dotted with pearls, diamonds and sapphires flows down her front. Her steely-grey eyes light up and are welcoming. She catches your gaze.
But don’t trust her, (as docile as she seems), for mermaids are ferocious, ruthless creatures….”
Lightening flashed all around, huge tongues of blinding, petrifying light. I was terrified. I knew there would be a storm, but this was worse than I has thought. The ship rocked back and forth, back and forth as huge waves crashed over the ship. I was in a nightmare of inky blue darkness, thunder and an endless flood of water. Then I remembered. The three stowaways. How could I have forgotten them and their plan to escape with ‘it’ in a storm? Whatever ‘it’ was, ‘it’ would almost certainly be valuable. Then it struck me like a bolt of lightening: the diamond.
Today pupils from Years 8, 9 & 10 watched a performance of ‘Private Peaceful’ at the Royal and Derngate, Northampton. This moving novel, written by Michael Morpurgo, relives the life of Private Tommo Peaceful, a young soldier awaiting the firing squad at dawn. During the night he looks back at his short but joyful past growing up in rural Devon: his exciting first days at school; the accident in the forest that killed his father; his adventures with Molly, the love of his life; and the battles and injustices of war that brought him to the front line.
Private Peaceful on stage today…
Keeping with all things theatrical , good luck to Josh (Y6) who will be performing at Her Majesty’s Theatre in the West End this weekend in a musical called “Troubles A Brewin’ .”
Other Headteacher’s Awards:
Dylan (Y8) for creative writing, Ellie (Y3) for a beautiful Stone Age poster and Oliver (Y3) for creating an impressive 3D WWI trench.
One final message, please don’t forget to support Mr Palmer and the Rainbows charity this weekend. Pupils from Stoneygate have ‘special access’ to get close to the guy (designed and made by our pupils).
Enjoy bonfire night,
Mr J F Dobson
Last week the city of Brussels re-named one of its squares after Jo Cox, the Labour MP murdered by a right-wing extremist during the Brexit referendum campaign. It was a fitting tribute to a hard-working MP, who had once lived in the city.
In schools we have a duty to teach ‘British values’, we need to actively promote: democracy; the rule of law; individual liberty; and mutual respect for and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.
This afternoon our Year 7 & 8 pupils debated two interesting topics:
“Should we be scared of robots and AI?”
“Should female athletes get paid the same as male athletes?”
The debate over pay certainly brought heated discussion at the staff table over lunch! Here lies the beauty (and frustrations) of democracy. Staff were delighted at all teams involved in the debating and the audience participation. In both debates pupils put forward articulate responses from both the opposing team and questions taken from the floor. A ballot box was available for a secret vote. The results were as follows:
“Should we be scared of robots and AI?” YES (24 votes) NO (7 votes)
“Should female athletes get paid the same as male athletes?” YES (14 votes) NO (17 votes)
Arush… ‘commanding the floor’ and delivering a fine speech.
The theme of Tuesday’s assembly was ‘not to fear the unknown, but to embrace it.’ Mr Ashwin explained to pupils how sometimes we have to step out of ‘our comfort zone’ and to prove it Mr Ashwin played the viola. (He has only been learning for 5 weeks, and despite a few wrong notes (!), got to the end of the piece….well done Mr Ashwin.)
I’m delighted to say pupils (from Reception to Year 10) have certainly ‘stepped out of their comfort zone’ this week and seized opportunities.
On Monday, Reception pupils went on a Bear hunt at the Arboretum on Carisbrooke Road. They acted out the story and took part in various activities associated with the book. The pupils then sequenced the story with their creations at school in the afternoon.
On Friday, the Reception children picked cooking apples in the school grounds and made apple and blackberry crumble to take home.
“We’re going on a bear hunt…”
Numerous year groups have participated in Geography Field trips this week. Year 2 went for a very wet walk this morning around Great Glen as part of their topic on ‘Our Local Area’. They posted letters addressed to themselves and then bought a snack from the Post Office and enjoyed eating it at the park! This afternoon they enjoyed plotting the local amenities onto a map.
Year 2 exploring Great Glen…
Year 8 pupils took part in Geography field work around Rutland on Tuesday and Year 10 students joined up with Dixie Grammar school pupils to complete GCSE coursework today.
For several pupils taking part in the vocal concert on Tuesday evening meant ‘stepping out of their comfort zone’. Congratulations to all soloists who performed in that very special concert.
Thank you to all of the Pre-Prep pupils and staff for their charming Harvest assembly.
Head teacher’s Award:
Jack (Year 5) for improved presentation.
Year 2 Star of the week is Armaan.. for trying very hard in his swimming lessons.
Year 1 Star of the week is Yash for super writing about Warwick Castle.
Reception Star of the week is Aveer for being super organised!
It’s been a busy week.
Enjoy the half term break,
Mr J F Dobson
I am fascinated in how and what children learn.
Twenty five years ago I was living and teaching in Hungary. The ‘iron curtain’ had recently collapsed, the Russian language was no longer compulsory in Hungarian schools; Europe was awash with ‘glasnost’ and ‘perestroika’. This new era of openness did not however stretch to the History dept at the secondary school I was teaching at. Here, students were not encouraged to ask ‘why’ certain events happened, they were told dates, they were told what happened and they were told to learn them.
Today pupils will still need to learn ‘facts’: from times tables to spelling patterns, from historical dates to Scientific formulas. How we teach and learn varies from subject to subject and from pupil to pupil. In the last two days I’ve been monitoring the varied approaches we take at Stoneygate from Reception to Y10. I’ve witnessed so many different style of teaching and learning from text books to tablets, from ‘chalk and talk’ to pupil-led learning. This week we have had pupils experiencing medieval history at Warwick castle and a pupil-led dissection of a sheep’s lung!
Kinaesthetic learning at Warwick….
Pupils finding imaginative ways to remember facts linked to physical processes and volcanic activity in Geography.
This week I’ve surprised pupils (and staff alike) by appearing in their rooms, Ipad in hand, to record the various ways we teach and the various ways pupils learn…apologies for the filming quality!
As a school we are currently looking at ways to improve mental arithmetic. The Government is keen to follow methodology currently being used in South East Asia. Learning times tables is important, but so too is the ability to use that information. If an eight year old knows 12 x 3 = 36, can they work out… ‘if one mini-bus holds 12 pupils, how many mini-buses are needed to transport 40 pupils?’
Knowledge counts for very little if one cannot apply it.
This year we have already introduced Ninja Maths to boost mental arithmetic with our older pupils; post half term we will be introducing ‘Rockstar Tables’ for pupils in Years 2-6. This is an exciting way to learn tables.
This week is dyslexia awareness week. For some pupils remembering and retaining these so called ‘facts’ is a challenge in itself. Tom Cruise had to develop his own method of remembering lines. There is an obvious correlation between resilience and dyslexics- sometimes they have no option but to find other, more imaginative ways to learn and remember. Walt Disney, Richard Branson, Mohammed Ali, Stephen Spielberg and Albert Einstein all showed great resilience and endeavour. They were all dyslexic.
I have two reminders:
Please don’t forget to join Mr Ashwin on Tuesday afternoons in the hall (2.30pm) for the Stoneygate Community choir. No auditions required…if you enjoy singing Abba classics in the car, then this is for you!
Could parents/pupils remember to support our Year 10 enterprise initiative by bringing in jars (& lids) which will then be sterilised before being used to produce the most delicious Christmas chutneys!
Stars of the Week:
In Year 2, Ketanndu was star of the week for a super Harvest acrostic poem.
In Year 1, Charlotte was the star of the week for her excellent general knowledge in Science and History lessons.
In Reception, Arjun was awarded star of the week for his outstanding listening.
Enjoy the weekend,
Mr J F Dobson
Francis Nathaniel Tarr was a typical Stoneygate School pupil. He was bright and he loved rugby and cricket. It was at Stoneygate over 100 years ago that he developed a passion for sport. Pupils can see his name in the dining room. He was captain of rugby in 1901.
After Stoneygate, Tarr went to Uppingham. From 1906- 1910 he read law at University College, Oxford. He played rugby for Oxford University.
Academia & sport….Tarr at Oxford (back row, far right).
Whilst playing for Oxford, his abilities were noted by an English rugby scout. In January 1909 Tarr won his first cap for England playing against Australia.
Having graduated from Oxford, Tarr then worked as a solicitor in Leicester, but continued to play rugby at the weekend! As tension in Europe mounted, Tarr was appointed lieutenant of his Leicestershire regiment in 1913. Tarr, handsome, sporty and articulate came to the attention of the War Office and their propaganda operations. If Tarr was fighting for his country, so could others.
During the second battle of Ypres in July 1915, Tarr was giving orders to his men, when a splinter from a shell struck him in the face.
He died instantly.
Another captain from the Leicestershire regiment, John Milne, described Tarr as… “.the most attractive personality in the battalion, young, good-looking, full of charm, with an eye that always had a twinkle in it, a born leader, yet the kindest person possible, a Rugger international, the idol of the machine-gun section, which he commanded before he became adjutant. Everybody was heartbroken, for everybody would miss him they would not look upon his like again…”
If you are interested in rugby and history, the RFU commissioned an excellent film on the sport and WWI called ‘The Rose and Poppy’. Below is a trailer…
Tarr’s passion for academia and sport began at Stoneygate, over one hundred years later we still want to produce gifted ‘all-rounders’.
On Wednesday this week we had numerous fixtures against Maidwell Hall. It was a tough afternoon for most teams- Mr Stocks and I were away with the U13’s and U12’s and despite both teams losing, they showed great determination and did not give in. Congratulations to the U11’s who defeated Maidwell with tries from Will, Jacob, Ezrah and Marcus.
Tarr would have been proud…
Mr J F Dobson
Last week Tony Blair spoke of an impending ‘leadership crisis’ in Britain, where voters will have to choose between Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson (there was no mention of Theresa May). Although tempted to follow in Monsieur Macron’s steps and create a ‘Centrist Party’ for Britain, I’m quite happy to stay and lead Stoneygate!
At Stoneygate, we are continually looking for ways to improve student leadership; the three strands of STEP (Stoneygate Enrichment Programme) are: Business & Enterprise, World Perspectives and Leadership. Our eldest pupils and newly formed Prefect team will be experiencing leadership opportunities throughout the year.
Our new Prefect team…Rayhaan, Leroy, George & Rebecca
Communication skills are certainly important leadership qualities and I’ve witnessed plenty of that this week. Thank you to Year 3 for delivering an informative and amusing assembly on Tuesday. Inspired by Sara Varon’s book “New Shoes”…as a school and community we are hoping to support a local charity that re-cycles old shoes.
Year 3 delivering lines with clarity, confidence…and in costumes.
Thanks to Mrs Stocks who spoke to students this week about the importance of words. Despite the thousands of words in the English language, we only use a small percentage. As a school, we would like pupils to expand their vocabulary and therefore Mrs Stocks has introduced a ‘Word of the Week’. The first one being one of my favourites…”somnambulist”. Do ask your children if they know this word…if not, send them to me!
We encourage our children to lead by example. We encourage positive behaviour both inside and outside the classroom. We also develop leadership through sport. I was fortunate enough to take the U10s to Fairfield this week…what an exciting match! Eight tries all, with examples of strong leadership and outstanding teamwork. There have been some impressive sports results this week (please do check both the website and blogs)…with our U13 rugby teams successful at Oundle and our U11 girls (both A & B’s) triumphant at the Stamford School hockey festival.
Results & goal scorers (A):
Ratby A: 1 v 0 (Olivia)
Grantham A: 2 v 0 (Imara and Olivia)
Stamford A: 1 v 0 (Lyla)
Brooke A: 1 v 0 (Olivia)
Copthill A: 4 v 0 (Imara, Lyla, Olivia x 2)
Strategic planning and skills are also important leadership attributes; congratulations to Arav for his victory in the Leicestershire Junior chess championships last weekend.
Strategic brilliance and a sharp mind….Arav.
Stars of the Week:
Thank you to all the new parents who attended our ‘drinks and canapés’ evening and thank you to James Coles (Coles Nurseries) for speaking to our older pupils on the subject of growing and selling crops.
Enjoy the weekend,
Mr J F Dobson
Despite the windy conditions the boys had a super afternoon of rugby. In both matches the teams were very evenly matched, which made for thrilling contests which went back and forth in terms of possession and tries.
The A team ran out winners 50-40 thanks to two late tries and the B team won 40-35 in another very close finish.
Many thanks go to the Oundle staff and pupils and to our parents for their touchline support in the gale.