22/07/2013

And they say things wind down at the end of term...!?

As temperatures rose to record levels across the country over this last, sweltering week, so it seemed did levels of activity at school during the so-called wind down to the end of the academic year!
 
The start of week saw many of our Sixth Formers return from a fantastic week of hands on business leadership and management experience at IBM's headquarters at Hursley.  We've been privileged to have this unique opportunity with one of the world's leading companies for the last three years now; an opportunity which has led to a number of former students securing internships or gap year placements for the following year.   The timing is also ideal, as it helps to clarify students' wider thinking about wider career and higher education choices.  I know that this will be something that will be occupying many Year 12s'  thoughts over the summer break, especially following the fantastic Careers Week that had preceded the IDM experience in late-June.
 
On Wednesday, the hottest day of the year so far saw us hold a superb Sports Day, with loads of literally 'scorching' (sorry!) performances throughout!  I think our calendar planning team should be commended on this choice of date, arrived at over twelve months earlier! The last three or four Sports Days have been those horribly 'in between' days which make a decision whether to proceed or not so difficult!  'A warm start followed by risk of heavy showers by mid afternoon'. Thanks! 
 
Three things really impressed me about Sports Day this year. 
 
First, the brilliant support provided by our current and many ex-student volunteers as officials.  No wonder that we  delivered so many 2012 Games Makers! They were amazing - and so wonderful to see students who had left three, four or even five years ago coming back to support their former school and the PE Department. Its times like these that you are reminded just how special our school community really is.  Thanks to all.  It was wonderful to see Team Park House working together.
 
Second, the quality of performance.  I've been involved in Athletics for almost forty years, and many of our young people who I was compete on Wednesday have enormous potential in the sport - in both track and field.   They really were some of the very best that I have ever seen, made all the more special given the conditions.
 
Third, the spirit of all the students and competitors alike. Under Miss Sue Atkinson's leadership the House System really has taken a great leap forward this year.  Dressed in their House colours, students supported every event and competitor with appropriately partisan passion! 
 
You could really feel the sense of identity that has now been developed  - a point that was emphasised by a group of students from Years 7-13 who I met for our Celebration Lunch on Thursday.  This year's 'thank you' reward for those students who have a cumulated most commendations turned into a 'Celebration Picnic', enjoyed in a really civilised atmosphere under the shade of the trees at the side of the House.  It really was lovely!
 
During lunch, we discussed the move to non-uniform for the remainder of term. Initially I had decided that this was for Sports Day only.  However, the combination of the excellent atmosphere created during that day and the Local Authority's issue of a Level 3 Heatwave Alert at about 3am that same afternoon convinced me that common sense should prevail! I really do want to commend our students on the way in which they have responded.  No extremes, no one taking advantage.  It just feels right.
 
Thursday also saw another absolute highlight of the term - and a remarkable feat of organisation at this (or indeed any) stage of the academic year by our outstanding Careers Co-ordinator, Mrs Vanessa Bestwick.  Following an inspirational opening address by Olympic Gold Medal winning rower Zac Purchase on the importance of goal-setting, Year 10 students had the opportunity to access more than forty seminars led by colleagues from  local businesses on a wide range of different careers and related topics such as CV writing, preparation for university and interview technique.
 
So, a quiet week, to end a quiet term with only four Prize Giving Ceremonies to follow!  Winding down?!

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