Yesterday evening I attended the Year 6 Open Evening at our local secondary school, Cottenham Village College (@CottenhamVC). My youngest son, Ben, is in Year 6 and Cottenham is our local secondary school. As an advisor, who was a teacher in a secondary school for many years, it can be hard to attend these evenings as you have your own agenda. It is hard not to bring a ‘critical eye’ to the proceedings. However, I tried hard to be ‘just a parent’!
My eldest son already goes to Cottenham, so we had a fair idea of what to expect. However, the following aspects of the evening struck a chord with me, as both a parent and an educator.
A coherent vision for a well rounded education
As a parent I want to know that my son is going to do well at the school. I want to know that he will be able to achieve his potential. It is not just about academic results, but I do actually want him to get a good set of GCSEs! This philosophy of balancing high academic standards, with a well rounded and balanced education was clearly articulated by the headteacher (@StuartLock). What a brilliant idea to have staff and pupils involved with the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme outside- the fairy lights were genius! What a testament to the school’s aim for each pupil to ‘be the best you can be’ by many subjects displaying work from a range of abilities. This to me showed that this school has high expectations for all at its heart.
Genuine and honest view of the school
Like all schools, Cottenham Village College is on a journey. Last year it moved from requires improvement to a good Ofsted rating. This school is one with aspirations for its pupils, but also for itself too. I like this! The staff, including the headteacher, were honest about where they were at, how they were changing things and seeking the very best education for all its pupils. However, they accepted that not everything was perfect. Thank goodness!! If a school says they are perfect they might be apathetic to change and development.
The pupil’s voice
During the main presentation we heard from current Year 7 pupils who had just started at the school. I’d expect this sort of contribution as a parent, but it didn’t stop there. When visiting different subjects, pupils talked openly and confidently about their experiences. They engaged in conversation with myself, as a parent, but also with my son. Teachers talked to my son (many asked how he had broken his arm to be fair, but it was a conversation starter…) about his likes and dislikes. They genuinely spoke to him, not just asking questions about which primary school he was currently attending, but asking about and engaging him with learning. So when I asked Ben today what he thought of the evening he said ‘It was an epic time. It was such a great experience. It also told me not to be scared when you start. I’m going to love it’.
The Opening Evening allowed my son to see the possibilities ahead of him. He was particularly taken with Design and Technology and science. The school managed to excite and enthuse, showing that everything and anything was possible. Ben’s eyes were opened to the depths and wonders of learning! It is a shame that we do this sort of thing only once a year… It was also fascinating to see my older son, enthusing about all the subjects as he took us on our own private tour! He said things like ‘you can’t miss music’… ‘you can’t miss languages’…. there is enthusiasm for learning in this school.
Food…from jaffa cakes to make theological points in RE to crisp circles in maths…from ‘buying’ croissants in French to a crisp brand survey in computing… the college really should advise parents beforehand not to have dinner before they attend their opening evening! A bit gimmicky… maybe… but who cares (ok, some might…)! My boys loved it, although neither of them wanted to attempt to separate the different parts of the jaffa cake…I did have a go and failed. The Trinity remained intact for another day…
For more information about Cottenham Village College see http://cvcweb.net