When I get tired and feeling blue …

This is the latest in a set of posts about setting up my new school, Trafalgar College. You can see the first two here and here! We are now open for applications which if by some strange twist of fate applies to you then you can do that here

 

This post deals with our summer activities which was the first time since the application for the school was approved that we’ve gone out there and invited people to be part of Trafalgar. Read on to see how it went …

There are all sorts of unknowns when it comes to opening a new school – at the time of writing one of those is still where we will be building it – but a key factor is of course whether we will get the numbers of students we need to make the school viable. Have we matched our vision for the new school to that of the community? Will we have a fantastic new building, have recruited amazing staff to work in it, designed a curriculum and approach to teaching and learning and yet have nobody to fill the place, be taught by the staff and learn? Put simply – if we build it, will they come?

This was in our minds when we were designing our summer activities. After the initial bid writing and the contact with prospective students, parents and wider community groups that went with it this was the first time that Trafalgar College was going to be putting itself out there and seeing what people thought. The first concrete event that we would be involved in. The first time we had dipped more than a prospective toe in the educational waters of Great Yarmouth.

The first job was to pick a range of activities that we thought would appeal while at the same time making sure that these weren’t just a way to fill some days and occupy some time for the children. We needed things that would be more interesting than X Boxes and TV shows but still gave an opportunity to learn new things and develop new skills. Surrounded by long standing attractions like the Pleasure Beach and the Sea Life Centre (as well as the plethora of arcades where I spent too much of my early years) this wasn’t going to be easy.

We aimed for a blend. Day one would feature some scientific work; exploring chemistry, biology and physics, looking at the effects of fulcrums, studying chromatography and dissecting plants. In the future this would be something we could have Trafalgar staff lead but currently we are only three in number (Principal, Vice Principal and PA support) none of whom are scientists so we enlisted a company called Zebra Science for this.

The afternoon was turned over to cooking. Now I like to cook but that’s not the same as being able to develop these skills in others or operate school kitchens so we looked to a local contact – to be precise my local – and drafted in the Eastern Daily Press Chef of the Year Mark Dixon who runs the  fantastic restaurant at the Kings Arms in Fleggburgh. Mark gave us his time for free so I’m more than happy to try and repay him in some way by suggesting that anyone who reads this and finds themselves in the Great Yarmouth area should definitely try his menu! Mark took the students through the process of making a healthy vegetable soup and then some (maybe a tad less healthy but devoured more readily) cookies for decoration. We’re yet to hear how many have taken their newly found chopping skills into the family kitchens but a number of parents were delighted to hear that they could be getting some help with Sunday lunches in the future!

Day two was over to me. Designing a new super hero and then building comic strips featuring their new characters. Our elaborate plans for doing these online were set back a little when we discovered that both of the websites we would need were blocked by the filters in the school we were basing ourselves in for the second day. As teachers we always need to have that back up plan and to innovate, sometimes on the spot, so we decided that having designed the new hero or villain and come up with a back story and ideas for their comic strip we would get the children to pose for the pictures that would make up the strip and then add captions, effects, speech bubbles and so on. You can see the results of some of these on our website and our twitter feed has pictures of the children as they designed and posed for these comic strips and posters of their super hero as well as other highlights from the three days.

As well as children, on the third day we needed one other thing – sun.  Luckily it was a glorious day. In fact I should say it is a glorious day as am currently sitting here watching our summer school participants playing cricket in the playground with just the right balance between sunshine and shade for a good day and somewhere to chill out in between sessions. In total there are six sports lined up, all taught by a superb instructor from Set Your Sights who has a great way with students and has dealt well with the demands from the boys to make each activity them versus the girls as well as making it quite clear that it’s not all about football!

So. I said at the outset that the big gamble was whether or not people would come at all. As a school we don’t exist yet and despite having links with three primary schools in the town (which proved a godsend when arranging venues to host the days) we couldn’t guarantee on these generating enough interest alone, and we are also keen to work across the whole town not just those students and families with whom we already have a relationship. We need’t have worried though. 900 signatures of support for our application should have reassured us that the numbers would be strong and in the end we attracted around three times the number of students that have attended other similar days or activities for new schools we have experience of.

We had wanted a blend of activities and what we were also hopeful for was a blend of children. That the summer activities would be an opportunity for them to develop new skills but also develop relationships and work with students aside from their usual peers and friendship groups. To be a microcosm of the community that we want to create at Trafalgar College. A place that itself will be a microcosm of the town, where there are a plethora of different socio economic, aspirational and ethnic groups, and a place where we are determined to bring everyone together so that each individual thrives and succeeds as part of a collective whole. And this was what we got.

It has been fantastic to see every student get thoroughly stuck in to what was offered; from peeling onions, to dissecting flowers, to posing for photographs and playing dodgeball and we have had some fantastic comments both from the children themselves and their parents. However, it has been seeing how they have quickly joined together in a supportive community group that has been the real plus of being involved this week and bodes well for the positive, vibrant school that Trafalgar College will become.

 

Lots of Love

Colin

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