Winning at Life – and Taboo!

I absolutely love this picture which was taken the morning after the night before of Crew Finch’s last Passage Presentation.  Phew!

It was nice to finally be able to put the last portfolio back on the shelf and have a bit of fun regrouping as a Crew with a competitive friendly game of Taboo!

It’s been an intense few weeks of final preparations and practicing in Crew, with feedback from those who had presented prompting last minute tweaks, changes and minor panics from those who had yet to deliver theirs!

I didn’t manage to take any photos during the presentations because I was too engrossed listening to what these incredible kids had to say.  All 12 presentations have been very different and I have been left gobsmacked after each and every one.

I don’t know what impressed me the most: the honesty and integrity shown as they discussed their academic and character growth; the ambition and determination shown when they spoke about their future selves; the awe-inspiring confidence as they spoke not just to me, but to a whole panel of adults; or, they way they weren’t phased at all by any of the panelists’ questions at the end (and we asked some tough questions!)

GCSE choices have been made and Crew are now more than ready to tackle the next stage of their learning journey.  They have all acknowledged that the GCSE years are going to hard, with some needing to up their game a little to make sure they get the grades they need.  We talk a lot about climbing a metaphorical mountain in Crew.  They have achieved so much already and I’ve no doubt at all they they will all get to where they want to be.  However, if any of them stumble along the way, they know that they’ve got the whole Crew behind them ready to give them a supportive shove up to the top of their mountain.

A massive appreciation, as ever, to all the families who have supported their children through this milestone.  It’s been an honour to share the experience with you.

DofE Update: getting ready for the outdoors!

We’re getting to the exciting part of our Bronze DofE – the outdoor expedition!  A few of the DofE team attended a 2-day Outdoor First Aid course at Peat Rigg, tackling different emergency scenarios right in the middle of Storm Ciara (we’re hoping for better weather conditions on our actual hikes!)  You’ll be pleased to know that we all passed.

So far Crew Finch have completed their skills section and are well on the way to completing their volunteering section (reading with Y7 students.)

Crew have already chosen their hiking groups – they’ll be walking in two groups of six rather than all together – and the nice part of this for me was hearing them say that they wanted to be in groups with those members of Crew who they wouldn’t usually spend time with so that they could have the chance to bond with them a little bit.

We want to make sure that students are fully prepared for the qualifying expedition element, so our Friday afternoon sessions are now fully dedicated to preparing for the outdoor expedition and will cover such things as:

  • Basic first aid (including CPR)
  • Menu planning
  • Stove safety/cooking
  • Packing rucksacks
  • Route planning
  • Codes of conduct

Key dates:

  • 14th Feb – Medical consent forms to be returned to me please!
  • 3rd April – Kit check (we’ll send a list home with students)
  • 23rd April – Practice hike (day only)
  • 9th-10th July – Qualifying expedition (overnight)

I’ll be handing over the DofE blogging to Crew so that they can keep you updated on their planning and progress.

Crew Finch Check In!

We’ve been a bit quiet on the blog post front, but it certainly hasn’t been quiet in Crew!

Since coming back after the Christmas break (Happy New Year, by the way!) we’ve been super busy making sure we’re ready for our Passage Presentations, which start next week.  If you haven’t booked your slot yet, please do so here – I can’t stress enough the importance of attending this presentation.  You’ll get to hear your child reflecting on their progress so far, and where they want to go in the future (pro tip: bring tissues!)

We’ve also had our eye on the latest data drop.  The results are in and, I have to say, last term looks like it was another cracking term for Crew Finch!  But more on that next week…

It also looks like we’re having an excellent start to this term too. Just 3 weeks into the term and we already have several reasons to be proud! We’re top of this term’s attendance league (currently third overall) and we have the lowest number of entries on the conduct form.

I’m also seeing some fantastic entries on the praise form for my Crew from other staff.  I’m especially proud of Bryn, who has received praise from Miss Haughey for his amazing effort and time spent completing his maths homework.  A massive well done to Mackenzie, too (pictured above) not only for making me the perfect brew during our recent Crew breakfast, but for also getting himself on the praise form 10 times already this term!  Your hard work and contributions in class are not going unnoticed, Kenzie.

Two brilliant examples of students working hard and getting smart, and I just know that there are more great things to come for Crew Finch.

Casting our votes!

Never mind what’s been happening in Westminster, something much more crucial has been going on here as the whole school spent last week finding out more about the different parties, taking part in debates, and casting their own votes in the XP – East General Election (please do have a read of the blog post; it’s ace!)

I have to say, it was one of the best weeks we’ve ever had in Crew with lots of intelligent and well considered discussions and … erm … “lively debates” (arguments?!) about politics and democracy in our country.  We really do need to keep young people engaged in these types of conversations. Now more than ever.

A MASSIVE appreciation to Miss Haughey and her A-Level Politics students for organising and facilitating the XPE General Election.


‘Just one thing’ about Crew

We didn’t have the best start to Crew this week.

I received an email from Mr Pearson telling me that (with the exception of 2 students) Crew Finch hadn’t behaved very well during Friday’s DofE session.  They’d been disrespectful to him and to each other.  To top it off, other teacher had similar feedback about certain members of Crew.  As you can imagine, I was not a happy Crew Leader!

So they spent Monday’s session writing out reflections on what they’d done and how they were going to put things right with Mr Pearson, myself and with each other.

However, what struck me about their reflections is that there was no sense of accountability in any of them and that they were all blaming each other!  We had a discussion about this during Tuesday’s Crew session, and it became apparent that Crew are actually a bit fed up with one another at the moment, be it because of general conduct, missing extended study deadline, or not respecting each other during Crew time (talking over people is a major issue in my Crew!)

I thought it was worth regrouping and revisiting what Crew should be, and all it has been to us in the past.

I set up an activity where they had to tell me “just one thing” about Crew, focussing on the following areas:

  • Crew makes me feel…
  • Without Crew I would be…
  • How has Crew helped me?
  • How have I helped Crew?
  • What could be improved?
  • If I could give one piece of advice to another Crew it would be…

We used the silent conversation protocol for this – a dialogue using writing rather than speech –  meaning that we all had chance to have our ‘voices’ heard.

It was heartwarming to see that Crew is still something special: it makes us feel safe, welcome and not alone.

There were lots of examples of how Crew had helped one another (Aden broke the rules here and added 3 things rather than just the one!)

The ‘What could be improved?’ sheet gave us the chance to reflect on what is going wrong at the moment, and open up discussions on how we are going to fix these issues.

The activity really helped to clear the air and we’ve now got a plan to get back on track.  I guess like most relationships, we will have falling outs and annoy each other from time to time, but what matters is that we make the time and space to address the issues and make things right!

An appreciation goes out to Libby for making an apology to Mr Pearson on behalf of Crew Finch during our Y9 community meeting.


Our Year 9 Pledges

As we come to the end of the first term of Y9, Crew Finch took time to reflect on their progress so far and made pledges for next term.

We focussed on three specific areas:


We are tracking attendance because, as our board says, every day at school matters!  When we mapped this on the board we soon noticed that our overall attendance needs improvement: only 4 out of 12 Crew members have achieved 100% attendance this term!  It was a bit of a wake up call to realise that if you’re around the 96% attendance mark (which sounds quite high) you’ve actually missed 7 days of school per year, which equates to a whopping 35 lessons!

Accelerated reader:

All our students sit STAR Reading tests at the beginning and end of the school year to track progress in reading ability.  I’m pleased to report that the latest results shows that all Crew Finch have improved their reading levels.  We all know that reading improves comprehension and vocabulary, which in turn helps us to understand texts and write more creatively in other sessions.  Well done Crew Finch!  We still have one dedicated reading session per week, and Crew will also be helping Y7 students out by listening to them read for 15 minutes a week.

Crew HOWLs:

Crew are assessed on their Crew Habits of Work and Learning.  I have shared the data with Crew and they agreed that I have been fair.  There are a few students hitting 4.0 across the board, but I have had to take into account those students who let Crew down by consistently not completing extended study, or by not coming to school with the right equipment, or by appearing on the conduct form.  This has been reflected in scores.

Our pledges:

So – after all that discussion Crew have set themselves targets for each of these areas for the next term.  These range from “I will aim for at least 98% attendance” to “I pledge to read at least 3 books to end without skipping any pages” (!!)

This lot are so focussed so I know that they’ll smash their targets by the end of next term!


It’s good to talk (to yourself!)

On Thursday Crew Finch shared a lovely breakfast together whilst using the time to talk about being kinder.  But this session wasn’t about being kinder to others; it was about being kinder to ourselves.

A recent State of the Nation report explored the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people, and indicated that 1 in 5 young people aged between 10-24 years are not happy.

Of course, there are lots of contributing factors towards this, but I thought it would be good to sit with Crew and talk more about what it means to be kind to ourselves, and make them realise that the voice inside our head – i.e. our own self perception – often tells us lies.

I asked Crew to consider this: is it OK to talk to other people the way we often talk to ourselves?

They answered with a unanimous ‘No.’

We ended the session by writing down 3 things we loved about ourselves.  We’re going to have these on display for a few days and I’ve asked Crew to add more good things as and when they want to (either more about themselves or about others.)

I also asked Crew to write down a burden – one thing that is making them feel unhappy about themselves at the moment – and these have been passed to me rather than shared, unless they were happy to do so.  I’ve pledged to spend a some time with each member of Crew individually over the next week, just to have a quick discussion about their burden. Hopefully it will lighten the load for them and make them understand that it is indeed good to talk: to ourselves and to others!

What a lad!

Let me introduce Aden.

Not only is he part of my Crew, I’m also lucky enough to work with him across all his lessons and have done so since Y7.

When Aden first started, it’s fair to say that he was a very different boy to the one he is today.  He won’t mind me telling you that he struggled to manage his frustrations and found it difficult to focus in class.  But Crew supported him (even when he didn’t want us to!)

He often found himself getting into trouble and was sometimes removed from his peers to spend time in reflection.  But we always welcomed him back into Crew.

During Y8, Aden’s little ‘blips’ became fewer and far between, and by the end of the year, he had improved both his academic grades and his HOWL grades.  And Crew celebrated him!

There were a couple of moments today which have made me reflect on Aden’s progress from Y7 to Y9.  Simple things which show how far he’s come and how much he’s grown to love learning.  For instance, he was so absorbed in reading and making notes on Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ he didn’t even notice me taking his picture.  Later on in History, he received a spontaneous round of applause and an entry onto our praise form for the quality of his response when asked to analyse the message behind a source we’re studying.  Moments like this got me thinking about his journey from Y7 to where he is today in Y9, about to embark upon his GSCE studies… and it took my breath away!

Last week, I asked Crew how they felt about Y9 so far.  Aden said that it was more challenging than Y8, but that he would “knuckle down and try my hardest.”

And he absolutely is!

Riding the Y9 rollercoaster!

Here’s quick check-in to review what’s been happening with Crew Finch!

Well, at the moment it’s all about preparing for Passage Presentation, where students have to present their reflections on their XPE experience so far, how they’re developed as a learner, and why they think they are ready to embark on their GCSE studies.  This is such a pivotal moment in their school life, and we’ve been having some really interesting conversations and reflections based on not only where they want to go, but also on how far they’ve come since Year 7.  A letter invitation will be being sent out to parents/carers/community members soon.  Having sat in a few last year, I would recommend bringing tissues!

However, there have been opportunities to break off from our intense Passage presentation with a bit of a ‘friendly’ basketball competition with Crew Mandela. I’m pleased to say that we held on to our title as Basketball champs 🙂

The highlight of the year so far for me though has been our fieldwork to Alton Towers, where students got to consolidate their learning on forces and speed,  as well as having a go at designing their own rollercoaster… We also spent time as a Crew going on some of the rides: Smiler, Nemesis, Gravity and Oblivion to name a few!  I was happy to take on the role of Chief Bag and Coat Holder so didn’t get to go on any of the rides (nothing to do with me being scared stiff, honest!) but I absolutely loved seeing the pure joy (and terror!) on the faces of my Crew before and after each ride.

As I said in my last blog post, students are working so hard at the moment across Crew and all their lessons, and we’re enjoying riding the rollercoaster of Y9 (and Passage!) together.  Some of the twists and turns are scarier than others, but we’ll always get off with a big smile on our faces.  Scream if you want to go faster 🙂

Crew Finch are back on it!


If I had to sum up Crew Finch’s first two weeks back at school in just one word it would be:




I have been absolutely blown away by each and every one of my Crew’s positivity and eagerness to begin their Y9 journey.  In just 2 weeks they have had all sorts thrown at them: Careers, GCSEs, Passage Presentation and Duke of Edinburgh, alongside the usual fieldwork, immersion activities and expert visits.

Oh, and an 8 mile hike on the Monsal Trail. 

And they haven’t batted an eyelid, even though they know that they will have to work harder than ever before to face the challenges ahead.  They know that there may be struggles ahead but while there’s Crew, they’ll get each other through (there’s a song in there somewhere!)

So, my first blog of Y9 is to give a MASSIVE appreciation to Crew Finch for being so enthusiastic and positive about the new school year and everything Y9 has in store for them.  An appreciation for getting straight back into the business of learning and – perhaps most importantly – getting straight back into the business of being Crew.

Year 9 – we’re ready for you!