21/10/2013

Read all about it!

There's no such thing as a typical weekend in this game!

As regular readers of this blog we be aware, two weeks ago I was in the Middle East, working with our inspirational colleagues in schools from Baghdad.

This weekend opened with a tour of the Universe.. 

Universe

via Battersea Power station...

Battersea Power Station

I spent Saturday in South London at the headquarters of The British Interplanetary Society advising on the development of a brand new A Level Subject. Space Science Technology!

Baghdad colleagues

The entrance lobby of the British Interplanetary Society in London

Space travel

Not, I emphasise, as a satellite technologist or the proverbial rocket scientist, but rather as the Head of a school which several years ago established an innovative pilot programme in GCSE Astronomy as an enrichment course offered (perhaps appropriately) in a twilight slot for both students and parents. The concept was in fact student led. It developed from an idea put forward by the Student Council, who wanted a new and challenging area of study. There followed a rapid discussion involving myself, Mr Miller, our Head of Physics, and Dr Stuart Eves, researcher, lecturer and one of the world's leading space satellite technologists - who also just happens to be the husband of former Park House Maths teacher, Mrs Alison Eves! We wanted to run an exciting and very different GCSE course which would extend learning across the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects and appeal to students, parents, grandparents - and even some staff - alike.

The GCSE course continues to flourish under Dr Eves' inspirational leadership. A remarkable thirty-two students are currently enrolled. If you interested in the offer, please don't hesitate to contact either myself or Mr Miller directly at school for more details.

Following the success and obvious popularity of the GCSE programme, Dr Eves has successfully secured the support of the Department For Education for consideration of a progression pathway for students through to A Level. Saturday's planning session at the amazing British Interplanetary Society headquarters (itself worthy of a study visit in its own right as you can see from the earlier photo of the entrance lobby) was to draw together a range of experts to design a draft A Level syllabus specification to submit to the DFE.

Derek Peaple Textbooks

My views were also being sought in the context of my roles as a former A Level Chief Examiner and  text book author.  This experience is of course very much grounded in a passing knowledge of the past rather than future of space engineering and technology, but it will be vital that any new A Level programme is appropriately and realistically matched to students' abilities, needs and interests - and is deliverable in a school Sixth Form context.  Hence my input!

The creativity of the thinking of the contributors present in the workshop was inspiring. This is about the development of what has the potential to be a wonderfully  innovative interdisciplinary curriculum offer, combining physics, chemistry, biology, electronics, design technology, computing - and even perhaps my own subject area, history, if consideration of the political significance of the space race in Superpower rivalry is taken into account. What a brilliantly exciting concept! What an addition to the curriculum it could become! Maybe I wasn't so out of my depth as I felt in the room at the beginning of the planning session after all!

Sunday morning began with a trip over to the really impressive BBC Radio Berkshire headquarters in Emmer Green, just outside Reading to review the week's news stories and Sunday Papers on Phil Kennedy's Breakfast Show.

BBC Radio Berkshire

It really is a wonderfully imposing building, which was used during the Second World War to intercept enemy intelligence

Phil's questions to me perhaps inevitably focused on the educational issues making this week's national headlines - industrial action and the emergent split between Nick Clegg and Michael Gove over the Free Schools policy. Together with fellow reviewer, Nick Horton-Baker - the Director of Reading UK Business Development Partnership - we were also asked to select a range of articles from the Sunday press.  I had a selected a feature on pollution in Ulan Bator, the Mongolian capital city which is also home to our amazing partner school,  something on the cost for fans wanting to follow England at the World Cup in Brazil next year following last week's qualification and a piece on a school in Newcastle using table tennis to motivate disaffected students. 

The one that was chosen for comment, however, was my obligatory 'funny' selection from the front page of the Sunday Telegraph. As I pointed out, in mid-October you'd have to have something about Christmas (!) and there was an article on Waitrose's new Christmas Dinner selection - for dogs! It seemed to hit the mark!

Informally the morning also offered a great opportunity to talk about how this week we had received the brilliant news that the Berkshire School Games had won a national award for the delivery of an outstanding multi-sport festival for young people.   I have the pleasure of chairing the Organising Committee for this Olympic and Paralympic style competition which involves over 3000 primary, secondary and special school students from across the County.  In 2012 we were judged to have delivered the best Games in the South of England, and this year were voted runner's up in a competition covering all forty-nine counties across the country that offer similar festivals. 

Park House students have always been at the heart of what makes the School Games in Berkshire so special. They, together with other young leaders from schools across the County, are the reason why we are the only area in the country to have won a national award for two years in succession.

Park House School Games Makers

The vision for the Berkshire School Games is for an outstanding sporting and wider educational experience   'for young people led by young people'. Our students have from the start played a major role in the team of nearly 200 young leaders trained to support and deliver the competition. They form our very own 'Games Makers', and are also many of those very students who so distinguished themselves last month when being identified as the leading student volunteer team at the National School Games in Sheffield - the culmination of all the completions held around the country.

In a weekend of travelling to the stars and back (well, South London and Reading to be absolutely truthful) and ranging through all that the week's national news had to offer, this local achievement is really one to read all about!

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