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We experienced another year in which the College continued to grow in so many ways, however amongst many changes one aspect remains true, that at the heart of everything are our students. All who work at Catmose standby the strong belief that every lesson, trip and experience should be good enough for our own children and that so many of us choose the College for their child’s education is testament to the quality of our provision.
In a year of change at GCSE, with more academic courses and the new 1-9 grades Catmose students achieved the highest set of outcomes we have ever seen. This did not happen by chance, but as a result of careful planning by our subject leaders and superb delivery by each and every one of our teachers. The progress our students make whilst with us is likely to place us in the top 10 to 15% of all schools nationally. This is particularly impressive when you consider that we have refused to game the progress 8 system of the ‘open’ basket and instead continue to offer a very broad curriculum that includes music, the arts, drama and philosophy and ethics amongst other academic courses. This means that every Catmose student is very well placed to progress to A levels, or to an FE course or into the world of work as an apprentice.
Our extra-curricular provision also improved last year with more trips, electives and experiences than ever before – too many to list here with over 200 now on offer. My own highlight was joining the photography teachers on a winter tour of Iceland with our GCSE students. We braved winter snow storms, driving rain and freezing temperatures to capture some majestic landscapes that will support student portfolios.
Our DofE also continues to grow with the Federation being the largest state provider in the area for this challenging but rewarding course. It is heartening to speak with students who, following an expedition might have a slight limp after walking 40km but are still determined to progress to the next level of the reward; such was the sense of reward they have from completing the challenge. We have a small team of staff and volunteers who give up endless hours in the evening and at weekends to make this possible, but there is no doubt in my mind that our students are better leaders, team players, who have made a meaningful contribution to their community as a result of their involvement.
Madagascar was a colourful highlight of the Performing Arts calendar last year with make-up, music and choreography that gave everyone a spring in their step. The Christmas concert brought us together with the Oakham community to celebrate the festive season. The Year 7’s performed Aladdin with great enthusiasm, with many of them already looking to audition for this year’s Sister Act production. In November, our remembrance took on additional poignancy by the playing of the Last Post as the whole College stood in silence.
The student council continues to shape our approach to everything we do from reducing our use of plastic to transforming Sports day, so that every student was involved in Sports day including our most IT literate students who updated the Hellerup screens as each event was completed. The sports team also sustained a four-year winning run by beating the other five schools in the area in the Varsity completion.
Everything we do at the College is aimed at developing students who are strong characters with the self-belief and resilience to thrive in the modern world. It was only fitting therefore, that a highlight of the year for many of us was a week celebrating positive mental health with a range of activities including Zumba, Bhangra dancing, mindful colouring and the talent show which brought us all together as a community.
I am very much looking forward to the forthcoming trip to Iceland to practise our photography skills. To read more about the trip have a look at this post: https://spwilliams13.wordpress.com/2017/01/21/iceland-gcse-photography-tour-2017/
I have written previously about what to bring on a trip to Iceland in the winter (https://wp.me/pRO7H-As) but here I want to go a little further.
This video is a time-lapse of hundreds of individual photographs taken one after the other and then combined to create a film which condenses several hours down to just a few seconds.
- Interchangeable lens camera. A compact or phone camera will not produce worthwhile results.
- Wide angle lens, with a wide aperture (f2.0 or 2.8 ideal). This will allow you to capture more of the sky and short exposure times.
- A sturdy tripod to keep the camera still for long exposures.
- Weather tight camera bag. If you have any silica gel packs this will help control moisture. If you have been out in the cold ensure you put your camera back in the bag before coming back inside, leave it there over night so that it warms up gradually, this will reduce the risk of moisture damage through condensation caused by rapid warming.
- A head torch with a RED LED. The red is better for night vision and will allow you to see more of the night sky. Once we are in a position all torches will need to be turned off in order that we don’t ruin each others photos.
- A spare battery which you should keep in an inside pocket so that it stays warm. Cold batteries lose their charge very quickly.
- A lens cloth to keep the lens elements clean and smudge free.
- A small towel in case your camera gets wet.
- It is worth downloading an app to forecast aurora activity (https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/aurora-forecast/id539875792?mt=8) or use a website such as: http://www.aurora-service.eu/aurora-forecast/
Night Photography in winter
We are hoping to capture the northern lights during our photography tour and preparation for this is critical; if you plan to simply turn up on the evening and capture the northern lights, even on a very good night, you will be very disappointed with your results unless you have practised the techniques before.
The first thing to try is to go out somewhere that is dark during a cold winter night. You may need to persuade your parent to drive you, or if you live in a village a nearby foot path off the street or church yard are good places to start. We are all used to street lights and perpetual light wherever we are and it can be quite disconcerting to experience real dark for the first time, in the cold whilst also trying to take a good photograph. It is well worth planning ahead and choosing a cold, clear night which will be most similar to what we hope to experience in Iceland. The Met office (https://www.metoffice.gov.uk) will give you a very good idea of temperature and cloud cover before you set out to ensure the trip is worth while. You should plan to be out for at least an hour, this will allow you to test your clothing to ensure you will be warm enough in Iceland: layer up and avoid cotton (e.g. jeans) as this will get very wet, won’t dry quickly and you will freeze. The first thing to get cold will be your fingers (as you will need to use your hand constantly to take photos) and your feet so ensure you have good walking boots with thick socks and gloves or preferably mitts with a wool or silk liner (the mitts are much warmer than gloves and will allow you to slip your hands out quickly to change a setting more easily than heavy gloves will). In Iceland, if we are fortunate to get a clear night and a good display we might well be out for three or more hours, this practise is a good way to check to see if you and your clothing are ready.
The second thing is to try taking some photographs whilst out in the dark and cold without using a torch. Using a torch is an absolute no no as the light will ruin everyone else’s photographs. You therefore need to know where all the controls are by touch alone and to do this you need to practise many times.
In preparation for a night shoot, set your camera up in advance. The aurora may not be around for long and you don’t want to have to waste time setting your camera up or ruining everyone else’s photo by the need to use a flash light.
- Screw in the tripod mount base onto the camera so that you can simply slide the camera into place when in position.
- Set your camera’s ISO to 1600 or 3200. This will allow you to keep exposure times short. If you expose for more than around 20-30 secs the stars will move and you will have trails rather than pin-pricks of light. If we have good aurora a long exposure will mean a green smudge in the sky rather than the nicely defined dancing lights we see.
- Put your camera in manual mode and set the exposure time to 8-10 secs. You can fine tune this once you have taken a few photos. Use your camera’s histogram and check that you haven’t under or over-exposed, your LCD is much brighter than the photo will be on a screen, so don’t rely on it alone.
- During day light, set the lens to manual focus and focus it on a distant object, if possible tape the focus ring in position. If you have a focus guide on the lens the infinity mark will be roughly correct but temperature can affect this so best to take an image of a distant object and check it is sharp by eye. It can be very difficult when it is dark to focus accurately on stars or the aurora, this will mean you end up with blurry photos.
- Set white balance to day light but also shoot in RAW so that you can adjust later in processing.
A good photo of the aurora needs thinking about. What is the foreground, mid and background that gives the photograph an interesting composition? Mountains and trees make good mid ground interest. You could always partner up with someone else and use yourself for foreground interest and with a little light painting (avoiding contaminating other people’s photographs with your stray light) to illuminate yourself.
This photo has myself light painted for about 0.5 secs with a torch, a mountain range provided some mid ground interest with the aurora arching in the background. There is a little too much foreground in this shot but I couldn’t resist capturing myself in front of the aurora.
Are there any leading lines that draw your eye up to the aurora? Alternatively try shooting straight up and capturing a more abstract image of just the aurora and stars.
This image is three photographs stitched together to form a panorama. The road, fence and line of trees provide a leading line to the houses and mountain with the aurora stretching into the sky dramatically in the background. I’ve tried to keep to one-third foreground, two-thirds background to give the image some balance.
Try and avoid taking the same photograph hundreds of times. Move around try different shots, different angles and get a good range of photographs whilst you get the chance as you might not get another.
This was a challenging capture. It is 12 photos stitched together. I liked the leading curve of the edge of the lagoon to the mountain range and then growing out of that the vast arch of the aurora. It is perhaps missing some perspective – a single person – at the bottom would have given the viewer a greater sense of just how vast this scene is.
In this photo (a single frame) I built on the composition above and added the person at the bottom who was stood taking a photograph, this gives the image the sense of scale but in the process I lost the vastness of the aurora from the shot above. Landscape photography is often about compromise as the different elements of a mountainous photograph cannot be easily moved!
The following shot was my favourite from this trip. I loved the way in which the shore line led to the mountain, helped by the reflections of the aurora which also lead the line to the mountain with the aurora erupting out it like a volcano – this image is the one I choose to print for my living room wall.
This year, competition was once again intense for the positions of Head Boy and Girl. Students who applied submitted a video audition, and alongside this their academic progress, house points and attendance were all scrutinised to shortlist for interview with me and Mrs Macdonald. Everyone who applied did themselves and their families proud.
The Head Girl for the 2017 academic year will be Molly White.
“The past four of years at Catmose have been some of the best in my school career with hundreds of opportunities at my fingertips and fantastic learning experiences at every turn. Every teacher I have ever had the pleasure of being taught by has given their up most and I have learnt so much, both in the classroom and in extracurricular activities. I take great pride in my school and feel very privileged to wear the uniform around the campus and when representing the College out on trips. The school building itself is a great hive of inspiration and academic achievement and with many students also thriving in sport or music, celebration of students’ individuality and creativity in all subjects is a big part of the school ethos. The memories I have made at Catmose are some that will stay with me forever.
The wide range of opportunities at that I have enjoyed at Catmose varies from music to sport and from academia to art. I have completed my bronze Duke of Edinburgh and am working on completing my silver and I have been made a Duke of Edinburgh Ambassador for my efforts; I am an academic scholar and have previously been a sports scholar. I have done my Grade 3 flute and play the piano and outside of school, I volunteer. All of these things I would not have been able to do without the confidence Catmose has given me and the support I have from my teachers and my peers, even the subjects I take are very academic and require a lot of support from my teachers. For me, getting the best support and being in the best learning environment has always been crucial if I am to follow my aspiration and become a doctor and Catmose has provided me with just that.
Ever since I first started in Year 7 and I saw the then Head Girl, Francesca Kennard-Kettle, I immediately wanted to achieve, just as she did, and become a crucial part of the school that I’m so proud to call my own. I hope to use the opportunity of being Head Girl to inspire my fellow students to channel their own ambition into becoming something absolutely amazing and to utilize all the opportunities available to them at Catmose.”
“I applied for the duty of Head Boy and was successful in doing so. I am extremely grateful to have been offered the role and I intend to use to its full potential alongside my colleagues, Molly, the deputies and the rest of the team. I applied for the role for a very simple reason…
When I started Catmose College, I felt a bit stuck. I struggled to find anything that I was good at, or any area that I particularly excelled in. Since the beginning of Year 9, I decided that being in a school like Catmose College and wasting the vast opportunities that were available to me, was not worth it. Although confidence was still one of my weak points, I decided to push myself and it was only through the support of Catmose College that I was able to do this. I formed a band with my Maths teacher. I joined Youth Speaks and became one of the top 7 speakers in Britain and Ireland. I started teaching maths and music. I became a History and Music scholar. I started leading tutorial sessions. I started leading assemblies. I started to enjoy everything that was still on offer before but I had never realised that I could do it! I found my passions and expanded on them, bit by bit.
The support, the staff, the students and the equal value that we have here at Catmose, allowed me to find my feet and expand my skills to become the person that I am today. It is my duty to represent all students here in the Catmose Community and ensure that they too have those same opportunities that I did, to ensure that every student finds their feet and develops into a wonderful young adult, developing transferable skills to aid them in later life.
I want to ensure that the house system, electives and extra-curricular activities are beneficial to all and work effectively. I will ensure that all prefects are fulfilling their duty and will listen to every member of the Student Body, to ensure that everybody can bring their unique value to the community. I set out to ensure that the college has several effective committees, all run by students, for events such as prom and the year book. I want to be engaged with all students and staff at Catmose College and ensure that feedback is received and responded to on a regular basis.
My main aspiration with this role has two specific parts. These are things that I wish to pursue and I aim to be the building blocks for but for the students to make their own. I firstly wish to start a committee and course based on self-confidence, comfort zones and developing new skills alongside others. This is currently a work in progress and will be planned, as initially my personal project, by the end of summer – ready for the start of the next academic year. The second part is trying to increase the level of exposure, that we have in college, to politics and current affairs by starting a new extra-curricular activity and making sure that we discuss it in tutorial and assembly, when most applicable.
My time at Catmose College has most definitely been a life changing one. I am so proud to be a Catmose student and this will be shown in the commitment and hard work that I will show, in ensuring that every student has the same opportunities that I had, in finding those skills and developing them. The Catmose Community is a strong one and I promise to continue that, alongside my brilliant peers and I have no doubt that the current Student Body will be extremely well organised and the most effective that it can be.”
In a time of significant changes to accountability frameworks nationally, the College continues to perform significantly higher than the national average with respect to the progress our students make.
Progress 8 which measures progress from KS2 primary results through to GCSE is set this year to be the main performance measure and replaces the 5 A*-C including English and Maths.
This measure gives parents an indication of the progress a student makes at each school compared to the national average. A score of zero therefore indicates an average rate of progress.
We achieved a score of 0.36 which is significantly higher than the national average of 0, indicating that our students gain over a third higher grade in each subject than a student who attended an ‘average’ school who had similar performance at primary school. Over the 8 subjects counted, this equates to nearly 3 GCSE grades better.
Our disadvantaged students also performed above the national average, with a result of 0.26. We will continue to focus on this group of students in order that their outcomes give them the best possible life chances.
For students with low prior attainment we have done particularly well, with a P8 score of 1.02. Our SEN team is to be congratulated on this performance. For middle attaining students it was 0.35 and for higher ability 0.16. We have appointed a project lead for higher attaining students to further improve the progress they are making relative to their peers nationally.
Further detail can be read by clicking here.
WIDER LIFE OF THE COLLEGE
We continue to focus on the ensuring students receive a broad education at the College alongside a core academic one.
This term we have already had trips and visits that will include:
|Sainsbury School Games||Beth Smith||9||6|
|Sainsbury School Games Media Hub||Beth Smith/Ollie Teasel||7 – 9||10|
|British Library, London||Judith Green||11||80|
|D of E Beaumanor Hall||Simon Mellors||9||75|
|Peterborough Field Trip||Steve Kelly||11||120|
|Chitty Chitty Bang Bang||Leanne Mitchell||7||180|
|Burghley House Arts Trip||Hannah Reeve||7||100|
|Cross Country Athletics||Debbie Powell||All||–|
|John Clare House Trip||Judith Green||7||53|
|Geography Field Trip||Steve Kelly||10||60|
|New York USA performing arts||Laura Hollick||10 – 11|
We have also hosted an event whereby every Year 10 student has been trained in cardio resuscitation and the use of a defibrillator as a result of a partnership with the High Sheriff of Rutland.
The new Year 7 students have settled in well, with 180 of them enjoying a trip to the theatre to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. They will build on this experience to put on their own show to present to parents later in the year.
The Performing Arts team has also begun auditions for High School Musical, which will be our main production later this year.
I am immensely proud of Catmose, the staff, students and parents; our community. We have a unique way of working and culture that makes us very different from most secondary schools that we should rightly celebrate as it makes such a contribution to the future success of our students. We see the impact of our ethos every day through the excellent conduct of our students in class, on visits and at competition. We know it by the outstanding results they achieve and in time the successes they have in their careers and family life. Catmose students are at the heart of their community, they gain from this and contribute to it, understanding that with rights also come responsibilities.
We are ambitious for every student at the College that they achieve the very best they can, that they have the very best opportunities in and outside of the classroom and receive the support they need if something goes wrong.
The foundations of Catmose success are built on three pillars, that students should attend regularly, that they should work hard and be actively involved in the life of the College.
A Catmose student attends College regularly, an average one for more than 97% of the time, this ensure they have secure friendships, are able to to find out about the opportunities on offer and achieve better exam results because teachers know that each lesson every student will there ready to learn.
Students work hard from year 7 until the moment of the final exam in year 11, we do our best in each lesson and we prepare for the next lesson by completing prep.
Finally, it is not good enough for a Catmose student to simply attend and work hard we expect them to give something back by joining a sports team, performing in music or drama, by attending trips and visits, by applying to become an academic scholar or a librarian. Each and every student is different but they all have something they can contribute to the shared success of the College and its community.
These high expectations apply to everyone at the College staff, students and visitors; no one pushes in queues, we all only eat in the restaurant, refectory or on the Hellerup and we treat each other with same courtesy and respect we would expect ourselves. This helps create an atmosphere that is harmonious and more often we are mistaken for a university than a school.
We have talented individuals at the College, people who are competing on an individual level in national competitions in sport but we also recognise we are at our best when working as a team. Once again it looks highly likely that we will win the varsity sports competition involving the six local schools as we are already significantly ahead of our nearest rival. Our aim now, as it is for our most talented academics, is to compete on a national level and this year for the first time we entered competitions in netball and athletics. We were very proud to see our year 10 girls selected to represent the region having triumphed in the Rutland and Leicestershire competition.
We take every opportunity to recognise the achievements of our students through commendations, certificates, news letter articles, letters home and of course through the badges that many of our students wear.
At Catmose we trust our students this guides the way in which the College is led, our assumption is that all those who attend the College want to do their best and behave exceptionally well. This belief is the foundation stone of how we manage the College, as a result students are able to use their facilities with very few restrictions from early morning into the evening. Students are not impeded by locked doors, areas that are out of bounds or one way systems, they can use facilities such as computers, the library and music practice rooms without direct supervision. At Catmose with rights also come responsibilities; if students cannot be trusted within such an open environment then Catmose may not be the right place for them. We will do all that we can to support students whose behaviour is preventing others from learning but ultimately we expect every one at Catmose to conform to our high expectations. If there is a student whose behaviour falls below our expectations we deal with those individuals – we never punish groups of students for the failings of one or two.
If they do not meet our expectations following an extensive programme of support we will seriously consider permanent exclusion. This approach is supported by the vast majority of the student body who appreciate the calm and purposeful environment they are able to learn in as a result.
An ethos of trust permeates Catmose as a result underpinned by strong attendance, hard work and engagement which leads to the success of every student at the College.
The photograph above perhaps more visually articulates our ethos, over a thousand people who represent Catmose community standing calmly together on a cold and sunny spring morning – and you were able to hear a pin drop.