The litmus test is Friday afternoon!

Getting into classrooms, talking to students and supporting staff is the single most important aspect of my work at XP East, and one of the biggest litmus tests for looking at the quality of what’s going on is always the end of the week – Friday afternoons!

Yet again, this is what I have seen:

Students redrafting work, students responding to teacher feedback, students using rubrics to support their progress, exceptional levels of productivity, excellent student behaviour, staff working their socks off, students working their socks off, small targeted group work, Padlets being used to support student progress… Oh and did I mention students and staff working their socks off?

Remember, if the litmus test is Friday afternoon – this is working, and its working very well!

Hey, dear everyone else in the world – what does Friday afternoon look like where you work?

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Board of Director’s Meeting Update

I wanted to take an opportunity to highlight the hard work that goes on behind the scenes in our school. The Board of Directors of XP Trust met this morning as part of their role within our Governance structure. All governance at the Trust is focused on active and purposeful engagement of stakeholders to ensure each school is continually proving and improving their practice.

The specific role of the Directors however is to:
– Ensure our clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction
– Hold the headteacher to account for the educational performance of the school and its students
– Oversee the financial performance of the school and make sure its money is well spent
– Ensure the legal and financial responsibilities of XP are carried out.

Our directors are made up of parents and people from a range of professional backgrounds. You can read about the individual Directors here, but to illustrate: we have a prison Governor for HMYOI Moorland as Chair, two Principal Lecturers in Education for Sheffield Hallam University, the CEO for Lincoln City FC, an internal auditor for DMBC, a solicitor, and an experienced Governor of a Primary school from within the Trust.

The Directors all lead committees linked to safeguarding, curriculum, finance, premises (to name just a few) but I think you will agree, the experience and expertise of our Directors are of a very high calibre indeed!

Such meetings are tough because the level of detail required is precise, and the questions that arise from a committee’s findings are challenging. What particularly struck me however was the level of honesty in our discussions. Our work is so important, and the stakes are so high that conversations should not be fudged by not having the courage to speak up, or ask that particularly question to challenge the status quo.

No one in our Governance structures is trying to catch anyone out or embarrass anybody. What lies at the heart of their approach is a rock solid – cast iron authentic commitment to trying to create the best schools in the world.

Consequently, let it be said that we welcome this level of challenge.

Right, there’s work to do!

The Governance at XP website can be accessed here

‘Exceptional!’

That’s how I described today’s Remembrance Day service at our school this morning.

The event acted as the ‘final product’ for the expedition ‘Over the top!’ (for parents who are new to XP East, every expedition has a final product that culminates in a Presentation of Learning in front of a wider audience).

In my closing remarks I emphasised that our Y7s have been with us for just 9 weeks.

That’s. 9. Weeks.

The people who witnessed today’s event (including myself) were staggered by what they saw: 45 minutes of 11 and 12 year olds reading extracts of their creative writing, reciting poetry, explaining military links from WW1 to modern day Science and performing scenes related to their work in Drama – in front of 250 people. The transitions and movements between the 20 plus segments during the service were all conducted by students. There was no one hidden behind the curtain whispering ‘NEXT!’ or ‘GIRLS YOU’RE UP’. They pulled it off due to the hours of preparation that went on throughout the week.

The event embodied the work of expeditionary learning – drawing on disciplines from different subjects and linking them together via a guiding question, combined with developing the character of students.

What I saw today was nothing short of exceptional.

Well done Year 7s and what a start to life at XP East!

Day 4: Parents – please read before you watch the video!!

Here is the final video that highlights the daily activities and challenges that students were involved in at Aberdovery – Day 4.

Before watching, please read the following…

As I sat down and opened a nice cold bottle of shandy at home on Friday night, my thoughts quickly drifted to what I had witnessed over the previous 4 days. I was moved beyond belief to see first hand how students and staff overcame the struggles that they faced each day, and how it brought them together in the face of adversity. Whether it was walking for 8 miles with heavy rucksacks, immersing themselves in freezing water, camping overnight, canoeing or climbing mountains, I experienced a togetherness that centred around the concept of Crew.

Parents: please ask your children the question ‘What is Crew?’

I guarantee that you will be amazed at what it is beginning to mean to your son or daughter. Ask them for examples of how students acted as Crew, and give them the opportunity to express how they supported others, and how too they were supported.

In the following video, I stumbled into two Y8 Crews and as per the videos for Days 1, 2 and 3 none of the student interviews were scripted. I simply asked them some questions and recorded them on my iPhone. All students responses are sincere and authentic.

I’d like to thank our highly dedicated and committed staff for helping to facilitate such a memorable experience. Overall however, I think you will agree that what took place in a small coastal village in Wales between August 28th to August 31st 2018 was something very special indeed.

JP

 

Day 3 – Morning update.

Morning parents, just a quick update.

As you can see from the video below, the environment surrounding the Outward Bound centre in Adberdovey is absolutely beautiful this morning. All is quiet and peaceful, and there have been no issues overnight. Students will have either woken up in their campsites or log cabins, and more activities are planned for today.

Stay tuned.

JP

Day 2 at Outward Bound Aberdovey

Check out Day 2 everyone.

As you can imagine, it’s difficult to try and get 150 students into all of the photos and videos so apologies if your child hasn’t appeared yet. Nothing is planned, it’s simply point and shoot using my iPhone (or fly the DJI Spark drone somewhere).

All students are out on expedition and they are either camping out or staying in log cabins with Crews in areas around Aberdovey and beyond. I’m on call throughout the night and there have been no problems so far.

Enjoy!

During their first week of the school year, the vast – vast majority of Y7 students across the country find out about their new school building, new teachers, new timetable and new rules etc. I’ll be honest. This kind of first week back is much easier than going to Outward Bound in Aberdovey, in Wales.

The old teacher in me often pauses:

Aberdovey is 5 hours away from home. We’re taking our Year 6 students to Wales on their very first day… what about the new school building, new teachers, new timetable, new rules?

The first week back used to be really easy. So why are we taking students on Outward Bound to Wales?

First of all, this is not about ‘team building’. The term itself does not reflect the power of the work that goes on there. As new parents might be aware, the concept of ‘Crew’ acts as the cornerstone of our work at school. It is called Crew because on a boat, passengers are catered to. Their main purpose is to arrive at the destination with as little effort as possible. They’re involved in activities, but not fully engaged in the journey. Crew, on the other hand, are responsible for the entire journey. They are engrossed in the activities of the ship. In fact without their individual and collaborative effort, the passage cannot happen. Crew reach the same destination as their passengers but the experience is significantly richer.

Crew is our way of ensuring that we help our students to be the very best that they can be – to help to change the world no matter how small or large the action may be. In order to fulfil our potential (whether you’re 11 years old or a 39 going on 40 year old Head of school) we need the support of others around us. Frances Moore Lappe once wrote:

‘I believe that it is almost impossible for people to change alone. We need to join with others who will push us in our thinking and challenge us to do things we didn’t believe ourselves capable of.’

During Outward Bound, students will be outside of their familiar zones; there is no doubt about this.

However, they will be joining a Crew (facilitated by our staff and OB’s staff) where students will form incredible bonds of trust, support, challenge and maybe eventually even love for one another. They will engage in experiences that will be hard. It’s not just about getting themselves to the top of the mountain (both metaphorically and literally speaking) but also about helping others, and allowing others to help you in order to get there. This is our common mission.

The concept of Crew undoubtedly exists across Year 8, and it is the most incredible thing that I have ever experienced in education. Students support each other, and indeed are supported, throughout very challenging events in school. The notion of being out of their familiar zones will continue over the next 5 and 7 years, and it will be Outward Bound in Aberdovey that will help to build the invisible threads that will circle around them.

So, the first week back is normally easy.

For some reason, I’d much rather have the first week like this one!

Useful links:
Important reminders
Kit list reminder

The awe-inspiring XP video from Aberdovey as recently shown to parents:

XP_TEASER_FINAL from Gwyn ap Harri on Vimeo.

XP East Y6 Transition Day

I was delighted to welcome our new students to XP East yesterday. There was no doubt about it, this was a memorable first step in what will be an incredible journey for the new members of our family.

This brief video shows some of the activities that they were involved in and provides a brief glimpse into the transition day itself. Our staff thoroughly enjoyed spending the day with them, and we can’t wait for the new school year to begin.

Thank you to all involved, and we will see you on Tuesday 28th August at 7am for the Outward Bound residential to Aberdovey, Wales.