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School Blog

Blog 25, A Note to Year 11 from Mrs O'Connor, 26th May 2017

We’ve almost come to the end of another academic year and it is tiem for us all to reflect on your journey at High Storrs. It has been wonderful watching you blossom from Year 7 into mature young adults ready to take your next steps.

We enjoyed the Y11 Celebration Assembly and the wonderful Prom, but now is the time for you to focus on your exams and look to the future. To fulfil your potential take heed of your teachers’ advice, attend revision lessons, do wider reading and ensure that you look after yourselves at this critical time.

Whether you are leaving High Storrs or staying on, we hope that you make the best of your abilities. Take your opportunities, look for the path where your abundant skills will make you a success. The one key bond is that you all went to High Storrs School. Be proud of this and continue to be great advocates of your school in the years to come.

Good luck Class of 2017!
Blog 24, This week’s blog is a letter from Mahroof Mohammed, school governor. 23rd May 2017

Dear Students,

The blessed month of Ramadan will begin on Friday/Saturday this week, subject to moon sighting. It will last for 29/30 days, with fasts, on average, starting at 2.30 am and breaking at around 9.20 pm. This is a very long time without food and water and that, coupled with all the extra duties you will perform during this month, will be tough.

Many of you will also be sitting your GCSE, AS and A level exams at this time and will, without doubt, have a clash of conscience and guilt as to whether you should fast or not. I experienced this dilemma when sitting my A levels at this time of year many decades ago. My first exam was Economics. I revised for days hoping that certain questions would appear on the paper. When the day finally arrived, I walked into the room full of nervous energy, flipped over the paper and looked at the questions. I was so pleased to see a question on "protectionism" - all my Eid’s had come at once! What happened next was not so great … my mind went blank and I struggled to finish the paper. The only consolation was that it was a mock exam. I went home and started revising for the next exam. This was when my parents took me aside to explain that postponing my fasts until after the exams was a possibility. Like many of you I had not thought this was an option. I thought it was a sign of weakness and I felt guilty even thinking about it. I thought it was a sure fire way of failing and, at the age of 17, I felt invincible and there were other Muslim students telling each other that not fasting would result in failure or a bad mark. A whole host of emotions to face and exams too!

However, my parents watching and observing me over the next few days could see that a few hours of sleep and long fasts were affecting me badly. They were right and I ultimately took their advice. I hasten to add that my parents were not scholars of Islam, just normal parents trying to do the best for their children. I am now a parent and have faced similar dilemmas - yes, I also feel all the emotions you are going through, your parents will be feeling the same, but I gave the same advice to my children that my parents gave me.

In the eighties, when I was doing my exams, there was not the information you now have via the Internet - there is lots more advice available to young people nowadays. It remains an individual choice but there are scholars who think that sitting important exams is a reason for postponing your fasts to a later date. The pursuit of education is also a religious and moral duty for Muslims.

Have a wonderful and blessed Ramadan, and all the best for your exams.

Mahroof
Blog 23, The student experience in West Side Story - Elliot Goodhill & Vishal Chanda, 19th May 2017

Working side by side with people who eventually become like family is only one of the perks of being a part of West Side Story. All the cast rehearse regularly, almost every day after school may seem like too much, but once in rehearsal the time flies by. Being surrounded by a group involving all years, you get the opportunity to interact with each other, forming friendships which you previously may not have been able to do.

All the hard work put in throughout the year leads to an exhilarating first show, a buzz which carries on throughout the week leading to an explosive final show. It is a complex process filled with high energy warm ups and intense focus, but in spite of this we’ve not forgotten how to have fun; as each rehearsal is filled with laughs and is an excellent break from homework or revision. When it comes to the final show, we know it will be emotionally exhausting, possibly even filled with tears, especially when the whole cast say goodbye to the Y13s. But it’ll be a suitable end to a year filled with excitement, energy, hard work and laughs. It’s quite hard to put the experience of west side story in to words, but it is an incredible experience that we won’t forget.
Blog 22, Intermediate Maths Challenge - Mr Wells, 8th May 2017

On 9th February, we once again entered 90 students for the Intermediate Maths Challenge; an event that puts school pupils to the test with tough Maths questions requiring them to use their curriculum knowledge in interesting and unusual ways.

We had some truly fantastic results this year with 15 Gold, 29 Silver and 29 Bronze certificates awarded. Among these were 14 who qualified for the Kangeroo challenge; an exam taken by some of the best young Mathematicians from around the world.

Even more remarkably, two of our students, Sam Salih and Jack Gray, qualified for the Olympiad, which is an exam taken by the top 500 students in the country, requiring entrants to answer just a few extremely challenging longer-style questions designed to stretch the best Mathematicians in the country. Most of the questions leave Maths teachers scratching the heads and so to achieve so well with very little specialist preparation is an immense achievement. Sam and Jack both got Merit certificates for their results in this, we couldn't be more proud!

To give you a little flavour of what our students faced, here is a sample question from the Intermediate Maths Challenge (the first paper taken by students in Y9-Y11)

The combined age of Alice and Bob is 39.
The combined age of Bob and Clare is 40.
The combined age of Clare and Dan is 38.
The combined age of Dan and Eve is 44.
The total of all five ages is 105.
Which of the five is the youngest?
Blog 21, Venture Week - Mr O'Connor and Mr Fahidi, 2nd May 2017

If you talk to your friends about school, hopefully they had many good experiences and made some good friends that even to this day they keep in touch with. You may reminisce about the teachers you had, lessons you liked, or maybe how wonderful the school dinners were... However, sometimes the most memorable parts of school life include the extra-curricular activities and the trips to far gone places. It is on these trips that students begin to develop some independence and resilience. For some it is the first time away from home, for others it is a chance to establish new friendships.

On Sunday 9th April, whilst many of you were still in bed or maybe even dreaming about the Sheffield Half Marathon which occurred later that same day, 81 students and their parents filled the school hall with all of their suitcases, ready for adventure. Some of the cases were even bigger than the students carrying them! These students were off on High Storrs’ annual trip to the Isle of Wight: that’s right Venture Week 2017 was here.

Led by a fabulous team of 9 teaching and support staff*, and also accompanied by two of our wonderful Y13 students, these kids were in great hands for 6 glorious days away from home: sun, sea and… well, grass.

You would have thought that at such a time, the little darlings would be fairly tired and still worn out from the previous 7 week school half term. No, this was not the case! The coaches were filled with all the latest musical hits and vibrant conversations. There was a brief panic amongst some of our students but the staff realised everything was okay when one student suddenly exclaimed “we can relax now, I’ve found Radio 4!”

After a fairly clear journey from Sheffield to Portsmouth, there was some confusion as to whether or not Passports were needed for the ferry crossing (one student even texted home to see if Mr O’Connor might be joking or not!) Without them, we crossed over to the Isle of Wight and made our way to the Kingswood site at Bembridge which would be our home for duration. We arrived at 4pm, exhausted but ready for our adventures.

We weren’t disappointed, the first activity was a Trail of Mystery, someone has stolen Lady Gu-Gu’s amulet and our students had to interview all of the suspects and find out who the culprit was.
Mr Fahidi looked particularly great as a female DJ!
Whilst on site at Kingswood, students got involved in lots of different activities that really challenged them either physically or indeed mentally as they tried to overcome their fears (e.g. of heights!). Whether they practiced shooting arrows in the archery session like Robin Hood, or scaled the climbing wall like Catwoman, there was something for everyone: fencing, low ropes, laser quest, zip wire and nightline to name a few more. There was one activity in particular that stands out where several students, including Orlando and Rosie, scaled up Jacob’s Ladder – this course was 7 wooden logs arranged vertically so they had to work together to climb between each log which got further and further apart but these two made it all the way to the top in record time (the last gap was easily twice the size of them!), a fantastic accomplishment.

When asked what their favourite activity was, most will reply without hesitation – 3G Swing! Essentially, two at a time, students are attached to a metal bar and hoisted up on an elasticated rope for as high as their fear will let them, before being fired into the air at the force of 3G. Exhilarating fun!

Our first day out was to the historic city of Portsmouth where we first visited the Mary Rose Museum – this is a great experience and is highly recommended! Although there is not much of the original ship left due to erosion whilst in the water, through lots of modern technology we were able to see what life would have been like for the 500 men who sailed her. In the afternoon, we had some free time to shop at Gunwharf Quays before making our way to the Emirates Spinnaker Tower where we were able to make our way to the first floor 100m up and get a full view of Portsmouth harbour in all its glory. For some students getting into the lift was a big deal – the fear of enclosed spaces, but they managed it! There was also a glass viewing platform. Our students were very happy to walk across this glass panel or indeed cartwheel, dance and jump on it!

Our second day out was to Amazon World on the Isle of Wight. Now, we did try to convince students that we were going to visit a big warehouse containing lots of boxed goodies ready for delivering across the globe but they had already googled it and saw that it was a zoo…
There was a chance to see Wallabies, Parrots, Tortoises, Crocodiles and Penguins amongst other animals but the favourite has got to be the Lemurs, if only because we got to go into the enclosure to meet them close up. In fact, one student, James, at one point had 3 lemurs sitting on his back and shoulders. They caused a bit of a frenzy as they jumped from one student to another!
The day concluded with a trip to the Superbowl.

Just as our days were jam packed with activities, so too were the evenings. From the Trial of Mystery, above, to the Campfire where we toasted Marshmallows, sang songs about bananas and told stories. One of the favourites this year was the Scrapheap Challenge where the group had to design an outfit from cardboard and tape – although they had to dance, sing or tell a joke to get tape. One team very creatively, designed Euan the Box-Turtle which was a bit of a showstopper!
On the last night, our boys and girls got themselves washed (some for the first time that week!) and changed for the Disco Night. Typically, the dance floor was filled with lots of girls dancing in unison with a few boys sliding up and down on their knees. The ‘cool dudes’ stood on in one corner of the room, desperately wanting to dance their hearts out but just not wanting to be seen as uncool. That is until the staff intervened and got them moving – we set up a few routines for them and they were away. One young man, Ben, really got into his dancing and even began to choreograph the whole room!

At the end of our six days, we were very sorry to leave but excited to get back to Sheffield. We said our goodbyes to the staff at the site and our group leader Luke, who weirdly is originally from Hackenthorpe, Sheffield.

So all that is left to say how wonderful our Year 7 students were on this trip – a real credit to their parents and to the school.
As Luke would say: “White Rose, White Rose!”

*Massive thanks from Mr Fahidi and Mr O’Connor to all of the staff that accompanied the trip (Mr Haigh, Mrs Dalby, Mrs Stephens, Ms Richards, Miss Diskin, Miss Evans, Miss Brown) and our sixth formers (Marie and Olivia) who were brilliant! Your support is very much appreciated as these trips could not run without it.
Blog 20, Mrs Tasker, 28th April 2017

I was working on a new blog about student participation and ways to engage them in the debates around the General Election (and trying to think of a way to stir their interest in my assembly on the topic) when it struck me that it might be best to share this blog again. I wrote it a few weeks ago but it is so pertinent and the financial future for schools is so worrying. It would be fabulous if we could all challenge local and national candidates over the coming weeks to tell us what they will do to address school funding as the future is currently looking very grim.

In the second week in March some of the teachers' unions encouraged school leaders to write to parents and the community to urge them to put pressure on the government about the growing schools funding crisis. They even launched a Twitter campaign with the hashtag #whatwouldyoucut. The hashtag accompanied photos of a range of fantastic opportunities provided for pupils such as extracurricular sport, music, dance and drama. It also accompanied parts of the curriculum that would be under threat as funding decreases such as some languages or arts subjects that are not attracting big numbers at GCSE and A Level. Some schools even tweeted pictures of science experiments and technology workshops. The aim of the campaign was to show politicians and the public impossible decisions that schools must make to cut a total of £3 billion from their budgets by 2020.

Families and students will realise that High Storrs, like all schools across the city and the country, has had to make changes to address the decline in funding. Group sizes are bigger this year, for example. Headline news may have stated for the last couple of years that more money is being spent on schools than ever but that is simply because there are more children; in real terms every school receives less than they used to (in a large school that could be as much as a million pounds per year less than they received five or six years ago).

We did not take part in the Twitter campaign - I understand why many schools did, but it just seemed so sad to share images of brilliant activities in jeopardy. But I did want to write about the dire situation for two reasons. Firstly, I think it is important that our community know how serious the situation is and that decisions we make to increase groups, reduce staffing and possibly limit activities are taken in this very difficult context. Secondly, if the situation is not resolved, High Storrs will have to make further changes and cuts that will limit and mar the education we offer. I think the day will come when I have to ask you to join me in lobbying politicians nationally and locally to do more to secure excellent education for our young people
Blog 19, Ms Lee - DIGGER Club, 25 April 2017

Hi, my name is Fran Lee and I am a Teaching Assistant at High Storrs.

In the past we have run very small scale gardening projects with students on the SEN (Special Educational Needs) register. These projects have proved to be very successful and the pupils thoroughly enjoyed them. In these projects we are able to cover a variety of curriculum including; English, Maths, Science, IT and Art/Creative Skills, whilst educating pupils about environmental issues. The projects help develop social skills, build confidence and have very calming and therapeutic effect.

This year we are aiming to start the project up again but on a larger scale with a view to it becoming a permanent, all year round piece of work. We have been given a large plot of land within the school grounds to use and we have a lot of ideas for it in the long term – these include growing fruit, vegetable and flowers; making our own compost; designing and building the compost bins; solar and wind power projects; creating a sensory garden; raised beds for wheelchair users; making bird boxes; attracting a variety of wildlife; constructing a greenhouse out of drinks bottles; building a barbeque and a pizza oven and designing a system to collect rainwater.

The project is aimed at pupils on the SEN register and disaffected pupils in need a new challenge, however we will encourage other pupils to get involved too. It has the scope to build confidence and raise self-esteem, whilst simultaneously creating a sense of pride and ownership of the school. This will be a great opportunity for students with little of no access to a garden at home to learn new skills.

It is important for young people to understand the importance of looking after the environment and learn about self-sufficiency and we believe that this project will be invaluable to them – it’s learning while having fun!

Similarly, we believe that schools should be seen to be setting the right example, not only to the pupils and their parents, but to the local community as well. We want to show what can be done through recycling and care for the environment and believe that the students involved will become advocates as they will so quickly see the visible results of their work giving them a real sense of pride.

We aim to produce as many resources ourselves as possible, but there will be some items that we will need to purchase, such as a secure shed and some tools. To aid this we will be contacting gardening and hardware businesses asking for their help and support, but if you are able to help in any way at all we would really appreciate it. We are seeking donations of old tools, plant pots, seeds, wellies, DIY and gardening books, gloves (basically anything that could be of use!) or monetary donations.

If you need any more information, would like to be involved or have any donations please be in touch - flee@highstorrs.sheffield.sch.uk
Blog 18, Mr Parker - Art Exhibition (27th April), 3 April 2017

Matisse once said “Creativity takes courage”, and we in the Art department at High Storrs aim to consistently celebrate the courage, determination and, for lack of better words, sheer grit of our students. For us, there is no better way to do this than with our annual GCSE Exhibition.
As most other subjects are gearing up for their exams, our Art students are on the final stretch of their creative marathon. Since September they have been industriously working on their coursework, researching and analysing artists, taking photographs, creating studies, working and re-working pieces, constantly reviewing, refining and developing their skills and ideas. All before undertaking an exam project from January to April. Currently, they’re putting the finishing touches to their 10 hour final pieces; and I must say, they’re looking great!
Any parent reading this, or even a family friend who knows someone whose child has completed their GCSE in Art, knows how much work there is to be done. 9 intensive months have led to this moment. The culmination of all the hard work is here, and what’s so great is that we can all see it. And by all, we mean ALL. Friends, family, members of the public, Art enthusiasts… you are welcome to attend and see the fantastic range of work that has been produced and created by our very talented students.

There’s paintings, drawings, photography, textiles, so much eye candy to be viewed, and something for everyone to enjoy. Over 100 students have worked tirelessly, to put on a fantastic show. Every year our exhibition gets bigger, better and more ambitious. The quality of work is truly fantastic, and I’m not just saying that because I’m one of the teachers. I genuinely believe that we are fortunate enough to work with some of the most creative and imaginative young people in the city. In a subject that is often thought of as ‘soft’, it is always exciting to see the how much work has been generated by these brilliant Artists, as well as testament to their commitment, work ethic and passion. For some, this will be the start of their creative future life. We have seen many former students have further success at A-level, and then on to high education to study; architecture, graphic design, textile design, web development, fine art, costume design and much more. When considering the ‘worth’ of having a creative career, sometimes people often have the misconception that there’s no money to be made in pursuing this path. However, creative industries last year were responsible for contributing almost £90bn to the UK’s economy, and account for 1 in 11 jobs. So do what you love, and do it well. Even the former President Barack Obama knows that "The future belongs to young people with an education and the imagination to create." It’s exciting to think that in a few years’ time, some of these students could be adding to this statistic, and it all started here! But let me get back on track.

From 6pm on Thursday the 27th April, our doors will be open for the one night extravaganza that is our exhibition. Some of you will have already received invitations in the post, so put the date in your diary! Bring grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends. You won’t be disappointed. However, if you can’t attend on the night, it will all be there for you all to see on the new official High Storrs Instagram account the very next day (search for highstorrssheffield). Please come along and support our students and celebrate all that they have achieved. Also, just think of all the money you’ll save not having to travel to London to get your fix of culture for the year.
Blog 17, Head Boy and Girl Team - Sixth Form, 28 March 2017

Red Nose Day

Any situation involving either cake or teachers in costume always garners an incredibly positive response at High Storrs School - last Friday managed to combine the two, and was certainly no exception to the rule. Over five hundred students crammed themselves into every nook and cranny of the school hall, and a queue to enter the Bake Sale wound its way far down the corridor throughout lunch, until not even a broken biscuit was left. Almost two months of hard work and planning on behalf of the Head Team went into the Comic Relief event, but by the time we had finished, over £781 had been raised for a profoundly worthwhile cause, and definitely felt like a mass success given the massively enthusiastic response.

Inspired by RuPaul and Chrissy Tiegan, our Head Girl decided to break away from some of the more traditional fundraising activities (although the Bake Sale went down extremely well, raising almost £200 alone!) and invited the teachers to participate in a Lip Sync Battle. After a lot of persuasion, along with some mild coercion and bribery, we managed to find ten willing volunteers, who put on the show of a lifetime! Including numbers such as Salt and Peppa’s ‘Push It’, courtesy of the Lyceum team, and Britney Spears’ ‘Baby One More Time’ (along with a very familiar outfit worn by Mr Jeffrey), Mr Haigh, as Ed Sheeran, and Mr Mallaband, as Stormzy, eventually stole the show with their rendition of ‘Shape of You’.

A huge thank you needs to be given to all of the teachers who participated, our wonderful Head teacher, Ms Tasker, for hosting the event, and Mrs Walcott, who raised an incredible £182 with her Sponsored Silence. Throughout the day, High Storrs was abuzz; it was an incredibly uplifting atmosphere, and the overwhelming support on behalf of students and teachers alike was breathtaking, a wonderful way for us as a Head Team to end our term.
Blog 16, Mr Jeffrey, 27 March 2017

West Side Story

It has been more than a year since we decided to tackle West Side Story, with Dance teacher, Mr Selby, having called for this choice for even longer! Whilst we were still in rehearsals for the bloodthirsty ‘Macbeth’, we were mailing and phoning to New York at the start of a journey to produce, what I believe is, the greatest musical ever written.

Behind the scenes there has already been a buzz of work as the Finance, Admin and Communications departments have hustled and bustled to make the audience’s experience as well organised and entertaining as possible, even before the last one was finished!

We began by seeking to purchase the rights to produce West Side Story and arrange the hire of scripts and scores. Despite being a school production, the writers and original producers of the show still get their fair share of the profits and bill for permission to use their work. Some may feel this fee is unfair, but this is the way that creative workers get their cut of the spoils of their labour.

The budgeting of the show is a time to argue for big ideas, compromise when those dreams aim too high and to have the annual debate about ticket prices. Costs involved include hire and purchase of seating, lighting, sound equipment, costume, props, set and materials for added scenery. The bills are high but so is the quality of the shows we produce and this year we were thrilled to receive sponsorship from Morfitt Smith Estate Agents to help us cover the costs of some of the big ticket items.

We always want our shows to look and sound as professional as possible and for our performers and technicians to experience a professional atmosphere in the rehearsal room and in the performance space. Performing Arts Technician, Chris Hanlon, coordinates a brilliant network of students and staff, who meet weekly throughout the year to support all of our performance work. As our talented performers sweat through rehearsals, there is always a ‘techie’ or two making notes in the corner of the room.

The audience may not notice the work of dozens of people in the preparation of the play, but they would certainly notice if the work had not been put in. It is a privilege to be part of the High Storrs artistic community.
Blog 15, Miss Baker, 20 March 2017

Geography A-Level fieldtrip

Last week 16 A-Level geography students and three members of staff packed up their clipboards and waterproof jackets and headed off down the motorway to North Wales. The best way to learn Geography is by getting out of the classroom, and that is exactly what we had planned for the next three days.

We spent our first afternoon in the lovely little village of Betws-y-coed exploring whether or not the ‘formal’ representations of Betws-y-coed (maps, Census data etc.) are actually mirrored in reality. Students trialed a range of qualitative data collection techniques – some fairly traditional, such as interviews and questionnaires, and some a little more quirky. One of the activities involved following a bird in order to explore areas you might not normally think to look! After a hearty meal of Welsh cawl (stew!) students collated their data and had a go at analysing their findings, which included the tricky task of interview coding.

The next day we were up bright and early for our trip to the beach. Criccieth is a stunning coastal area backed by the beautiful mountains of Snowdonia and overlooked by a 13th century castle. It was the ideal location to assess the sustainability of coastal defenses. The weather was also on our side, which made the task of measuring beach profiles all the more enjoyable. If you ever find yourself in the area, then we can definitely recommend the ice cream shop at the top of the hill as well! The evening was spent trying to eradicate the fear of statistics in geography, and playing a few games of table football!

On our final morning we headed out to the old slate mining village of Llanberis. We visited the fascinating slate mining museum and used some new fieldwork techniques to assess the success of re-branding in the village. We found that the owner of the slate quarries was so hated by the workers (with good reason!) that after his death when his coffin was driven through the village, the inhabitants spat on it.

Then it was time to head back to Sheffield, tired but with a whole bank of trialed and tested fieldwork techniques (and some Welsh cakes!). AS students will be tested on some of their new skills in their exam, whereas A Level students now have to decide which of these techniques they might want to try in their own independent geographical investigation.

Well done to all students involved, and thank you for all of your hard work.

Miss Baker, Mrs Bonner and Mr Russell
Blog 14, Ms Tiffin, 13 March 2017

On the last Friday of term, one coach, 48 students and 7 staff (who kindly gave up their half term) ventured off on the annual High Storrs Ski Trip to Bormio, Italy. We traveled over land, sea and more land to reach our destination almost 1000 miles away on a journey that was timed by one of our students to be 26 hours and 45 minutes! Having reached our hotel, tired from a term of hard work and travelling for so long, we were greeted by wonderful hotel staff who ushered us straight in for some beautiful Italian food.

As always, the first morning of the trip is full of anticipation and excitement about the days ahead and we finally got to see the mountain range in its full glory. After the military style operation of getting everyone suited,booted and through the ski hire we were ready to ascend the gondola; laden with our skis, poles and helmets.

Students were divided into groups by ability, met their ski instructors and our adventure could really begin. There were lots of smiling faces over lunch in the sunshine, surrounded by breathtaking views of the Italian Alps. After an afternoon of skiing, the Students were all ready to get some rest back at the hotel for the evening, which was our only free one of the week.

We spent the days skiing and the evening were filling with activities. One of the favourites was the welcome party held in the quaint town centre. Students experienced the Italian hospitality with open air dancing and music provided from a live DJ, with locals in traditional dress gave us a flavour of the town. Other evening activities included pizza night, a disco and sledging.

As the skiing continued the students grew in confidence and it was a pleasure to see them supporting, encouraging and helping each other overcome their fears. The variety of activities ranged from snow park tricks for the advanced group, to taking the first ever chair lift ride for the beginners; all of whom achieved this before the week was out. They shared the joys of skiing and the laughs of crazy tumbles, of which Mr Haigh had the best (and longest) when he fell off the button lift.

The highlight of the week was the school Super G slalom race in which students in each group raced against each other. With Miss Mulrennan’s expert commentary on the microphone I think we were the loudest school on the mountain with encouraging cheers and whooping which, I am sure, could be heard over the border in Switzerland!

The week was soon over and during the return journey students had found new friendships, shared their highlights of the week and were already asking where we were going next year!

I would like to thank our wonderful students for their exemplary behaviour, positive attitude and making the most of the opportunity. You made the trip!

Grazie mille,
Ms T
Blog 13, Mrs Tasker, 2 March 2017

On the first day of the half term holiday I received an email from a wonderful student. He was perturbed by the letter sent out just before we broke up outlining a need for High Storrs School to academise. He told me about an online petition against the proposal. It was a thoughtful email, outlining the fears of many that becoming an academy would threaten all that is special about High Storrs School. Moreover, it railed against the ‘big chains’ and referred to evidence that academisation does not necessarily lead to school improvements.

There are many that believe academisation is not the right was forward for schools in England. They were saddened by the moves made in Spring last year to pass a law to force all schools to academise. Then they were heartened by a seeming U-turn a few months later. Alas, whatever we think of academisation, the future seems clear… all schools will ultimately become academies. Twenty three out of the twenty five secondary schools in Sheffield have become academies and over a third of Primary schools are also academies. We have a Regional Schools Commissioner whose role it is to move all schools in our region into Multi Academy Trusts. So the debate is no longer binary (i.e. ‘should we academies or not?’), the debate is ‘how do we do this on our terms and preserve all that is special and unique about High Storrs School?' This is the debate that is currently occupying our governing body (and has been for more than a year now). They are spending hours discussing and exploring the options with a key principle at the heart of all they do – what will preserve the best of our school and enable us to further improve? There are advantages and freedoms to academisation too that can make our school even stronger.

If you have thoughts and feelings about the next steps for High Storrs School do share them! You will soon receive a letter asking for questions that will be answered and addressed on our website. I hope a great many more of our students and community will be part of the debate moving forward.
Blog 12, Ms Richards, 15 Feb 2017

February is LGBT History Month. Each year I do the research and prepare to deliver a week of assemblies to encourage our students to think about different aspect of LGBT. In 2013 we looked at the word ‘GAY’ and how we often use it inappropriately; 2014 we looked at Closets and what we had hiding in them; 2015 was all about the experience of being Gay in a straight world. In 2016 we spoke about religion, beliefs and philosophy and 2017 the theme was all about law and citizenship.
But 2017 will be a year that I will never forget because not only did we look at the theme law and citizenship in the assemblies, we decided as a school to do something very different. We held our first ‘Take PRIDE in Yourself: Celebrating Diversity’ event. Oh and what an event it was!
We had representative from LGBT Sheffield, LGBT University of Sheffield, South Yorkshire Police, Fruitbowl, SayIT, Sheena Amos and St Marks Church. We also had some of the members from ‘Out ALOUD’ choir singing. From the school community we had a cake stall, a stall selling wrist bands, lanyards and rainbow shoe laces and there was a stall about genderbreads and even a LGBT candy crush style game.
The hall was alive with people, with citizens, with individuals from different cultures, different beliefs, different backgrounds and different sexualities. Everyone supporting, everyone learning, everyone having a good time. Today, 9th February 2017, will be a day I will never forget. I am a citizenship, I have rights, I have my beliefs, my culture, my background and my sexuality and I should not be afraid to show:
‘I am what I am and what I am needs no excuses’.
I really hope that High Storrs School will continue to make a difference in people’s lives and I hope that people will be as proud of this school as I am today. Thank you to everyone who took part.
Blog 11, Mrs Tasker, 10 Feb 2017

On 9th February our school celebrated ‘PRIDE Day’. The slogan from our PRIDE Awareness Week is “take pride in yourself”. How fitting for our work in schools.

The event in school included colourful celebrations (students and staff wearing brightly coloured tops, music in the hall at lunchtime) and thought-provoking information (stalls in the hall at lunchtime to raise awareness of issues linked to gender and sexuality). All these endeavours have been complemented by work in PSHCEE lessons.

Our LGBT group and the brilliant Ms Richards orchestrated the whole event but many staff and students got involved, for example making cakes to sell and manning the stalls. We were also overwhelmed by just how many organisations were keen to give up their time and join us. The school hall was packed through-out lunchtime as students picked up leaflets and chatted to the various organisations, ate cakes, bought rainbow merchandise and stopped to hear the fabulous ‘Out Aloud’ singing group. When lunchtime was over I went around the room thanking all the groups who had joined us. They were all so complimentary about our students and two separate individuals commented on how different their school days would have been if there had been such warm and positive events like this in their schools.

PRIDE Day is so important to our community because it is all about diversity and inclusion. Such commitment to openness and tolerance have never seemed so important in schools and beyond….
Blog 10, Abi Osborne, Student Support Assistant, 6 Feb 2017

"Good morning you're through to the House office".
"Oh hi. My son is playing his very first rugby match for the school tonight and he forgot to tell me until last night he needs a gum shield. I've been to try and get one from Decathlon but they're closed as there's a sink hole in the car park. He's so looking forward to playing is there anything you can do?"
"Leave it with me and I'll speak with the PE department. I'm sure we'll be able to sort something out"
"Even if it's a used one, run it under the hot tap, you have my permission, he'll be fine. He's desperate to play".

Knock at door "Hi Miss I've come to collect a prize for getting my rewards"
"Stress ball or highlight pen? Well done, keep up the good work!"

Log on to start checking emails - another knock at door, "Miss our printer broke last night so I've not printed my homework off - Sir's gonna kill me - what shall I do?"
"Don't panic you can log on in the Library and print it out there".

My day starts at 8am and this is a flavour of some of the things I deal with even before first bell at 8.35am!

I've been in my role for just over 5 years and I can honestly say, no two days have ever been the same. Each day I deal with a whole range on things:
• Nagging (students' description!) about punctuality and attendance,
• Supporting a student through a tough time,
• Phoning parents/carers about issues,
• Completing paperwork and filing,
• Delivering a forgotten packed lunch,
• Undertaking a mentoring session,
• Reminding a student they have a detention,
• Meeting with external agencies,
• And finally, sitting down with the Head of House and a cuppa to review the day,

It's a busy and varied role, which I love. The best part? Watching the students at Leavers Assembly collecting their Record of Achievement hoping what I've done has helped them in some tiny way.

By the way the young man did get to play rugby thanks to the PE department supplying him with a gum shield........ a new one!
Blog 9, Claire Pender, Assistant Headteacher, 1 Feb 2017

If we think back to our school days, we all remember those teachers who inspired us and made a lasting impression. For me, a teacher I will never forget was the mighty Mrs Sutton, an English teacher who had such passion and enthusiasm for English and Drama it rubbed off on her students. Her lessons were creative and fun, but rigorous and challenging. She certainly instilled in me a passion for literature and drama at an early age.

Teachers are key to improving standards in schools and their professional development is something that we take very seriously at High Storrs. We aim to provide a seamless continuum of professional development opportunities for our staff. All teachers can remember their first experience of being placed in front of a classroom full of pupils; something that, at times, can feel like being thrown to the lions! At High Storrs we support trainee teachers across our school, providing them with a warm welcome and meticulous mentoring and coaching in the classroom. For our newly qualified teachers, we have a robust induction programme aimed to support them in their first year in a school. These new entrants to the profession meet weekly to discuss teaching and learning developments and share excellent practice. Teachers who are interested in developing their careers have the opportunity to participate in a professional development programme at High Storrs called ‘Pathway to Middle leadership’, a programme which supports teachers as they take their next steps in their career. Many of our staff have also taken part in the city wide Sheffield Middle Leadership programme, enabling them to take on a ‘closing the gap’ leadership challenge and present their findings to the Senior Leadership Team. We are also leading a cohort of female teachers from primary and secondary schools across the city who aspire to senior leadership in our ‘Leading Women Development Programme'. Several of our staff have taken or are currently undertaking the National Professional Qualification for Middle leadership or Senior Leadership and we are rightly proud of our teachers who hold ‘Specialist Leader of Education’ status, enabling them to support other schools through consultation or longer term placements.

Teaching and Learning underpins all our work in school and we are committed to improving practice. Our Teaching and Learning group is currently using action research to develop marking and feedback across school. Every year we host teachers from across the city as part of a ‘Leading Outstanding Learning’ programme. We are also the only centre in the country offering a level 3 Qualification for teachers in Co-Development Coaching, giving the opportunity for teachers to visit other schools and engage in coaching activities to improve their practice. In the summer term all our teachers are part of a ‘learning triad’, observing each other’s lessons and focusing on a particular area for development in the classroom, underpinned by wider research. We have hosted several regional ‘TeachMeet’ events giving teachers a platform to share ideas and experience with others. The development of teaching and learning is the foundation for all our INSET days which are relevant, interactive and provide opportunities for our staff to work collaboratively with each other across subjects.

There are many other opportunities for our staff to develop their skills and knowledge but I hope that I have given you a flavour of the kind of work that we are engaged in. Dylan Wiliam said, ‘Every teacher needs to improve, not because they are not good enough, but because they can be even better’… It’s with this mantra in mind that we ensure that High Storrs is the best that it can be and our teachers are unforgettable in the minds of their pupils.
Blog 8, Nicole, Sixth Form Student, 30 Jan 2017

A Day in the Life

A day in the life of a sixth former can comprise of virtually anything; with academics, extra-curricular activities, University applications, and life outside of school to consider, there’s so much going on. My timetable varies from day to day. Usually I have a two or three hours of taught lessons, with the rest of my time dedicated to independent work.

Today. having attended registration, my first lesson is History, we’re focusing on early-modern Spanish finances, and my group is delivering our presentation on economic mismanagement under Charles V. Our teachers put a real emphasis on group work and independent research, in an effort to prepare us for life after school, and it’s an especially enjoyable aspect of the course.

As the bell rings for break, I usually dart along to the Sixth Form Deli, ready for my mid-morning caffeine hit, before finding a seat with a group of friends. Although the common room itself is always hectic, it has such a welcoming and energetic atmosphere.

In the third and final hour of History, I’m working on my coursework; our class is focusing on the Witch Hunts, which is a fascinating area of study. I’m particularly interested in the gender dynamics at play within the trials, and to what extent they were a persecution of the contemporary female social identity.

After a morning of intense note making, lunch is certainly welcome. Although I have my afternoon free, I usually take half an hour to eat lunch with my friends, before spending the rest of the day in the Study Room, either on homework or revision. Finally, a night of more work usually follows, before repeating the pattern in the morning!
Blog 7, Mrs Vaughan, Deputy Headteacher, 23 Jan 2017

The Doors of Opportunity

It is the time of year when students in years 8, 9, 10 and 11 consider their options for future study.

Y11 have been thinking about their future in terms of whether they will continue their study at High Storrs or whether to experience a different learning environment. Their decisions are around whether to take A Levels, how many and in which subjects, whether to pursue a more vocational route with L3 BTEC courses or an apprenticeship at college, or in a school sixth form. Most of them have made their provisional choices and now just need to concentrate on working hard to maximise the outcomes of this year’s exams to ensure they can take up the courses they’ve chosen.

Year 9 and 10 are reviewing their KS4 choices to make sure they have the right courses mapped out for the rest of their time before they complete Y11.

Y8 have possibly the biggest challenge as they consider which courses to take over the next three years, at a time when they may well not yet know what kind of pathway they ultimately want to follow. My advice to Year 8 is the same as it is to the older students: Think carefully about what you will study, be realistic about what you can achieve with hard work, don’t set your sights too low, and above all, choose a suite of courses that enables you to keep future options open as long as possible. If you choose to stop studying a particular subject now, how will it impact on your future opportunities? Try not to close any doors.
There has been much discussion around the English Baccalaureate since it was first introduced by then Education secretary Michael Gove over 5 years ago; which subjects should be included, who should take it, whether the restriction damages the Arts and what doors it could open for individual students. Presently, to achieve the ‘E Bacc’ students need to be successful in studying GCSEs in English, Maths, Science, Geography or History and a language. The government is keen that as many students as possible study a rigorous, traditional curriculum.

Since it is still not yet clear how important the 'E Bacc' will be for individuals, at High Storrs we encourage students with a strong academic potential to take all of these subjects, to ensure no doors close for them in their future. We also don’t exclude any student from accessing these subjects if they want to try them. Fortunately, our curriculum is still flexible enough to have room for further choice beyond the 'E Bacc' including Technology and the Creative and Performing Arts which are particularly close to our hearts.
Blog 6, Teacher (anon), 16 Jan 2017

New Habits Kicking In

Well, I've been worrying about this student (we'll call him Pupil X) for a while: he's a bright, capable lad but he hasn't been working as hard as he could, and his recent marks in an important assessment were well below par.

When I gave feedback to the class, I told them that they were very welcome to come and chat with me about their marks in more detail, but that if they preferred they could email me. I often say this to my classes, but no-one has ever taken me up on the offer!

So last night, at about 10pm, I checked my emails one last time and there's an email from Pupil X. He told me he realises he needs to up his game, and put forward a couple of excellent suggestions as to how he is going to do this.

I can't tell you all how much this has made my day/my week! It's an act of real courage to put your hand up (albeit figuratively) and say "I'm not doing what I should. I'd like to do better".

We've already met up and had a good chat, and have discussed how we're going to tackle his underachievement together. I'm sure he will be able to do this, but the maturity and honesty he has displayed in his response so far makes me feel very certain that not only will he be successful in my subject area, but in many other aspects of his life too.
Blog 5, Mrs Tasker, Jan 2017

New Year, New Habits

The theme for our January training day was habit change. The new year is typically a time for resolutions and determination to change, but change is hard. Last year I read a fantastic book on habit change by Charles Duhigg, a Harvard Business School graduate and award winning journalist. His book is called ‘The Power of Habit’ and the central idea is that we cannot rid ourselves of bad habits, instead we must override them with new habits. This is an idea we have embraced within our professional development; all teachers have identified one thing that they would like to improve in their practice and are trying one or two strategies that will ultimately become new habits. For example, this might be planning simple activities that ensure students read and use feedback to improve their work, or, strategies to encourage more students to answer questions in class. Many of these changes are tweaks, but they are often the key to improvement.

Habit change is not just restricted to teachers. Our Y11 students are weeks away from trial exams and only a few months away from the real exams. This is also true for Y9 and Y10 students too. Tracker 2 for all our Key Stage 4 students went home before Christmas and our ever tenacious Head of Key Stage 4, Mrs O'Connor, has been examining the data and planning ways to help students who will benefit from support beyond the classroom. As part of this I have been meeting Y11 students: all fabulous young people but all of whom could fly a little higher. These conversations are not to add pressure or stress (we all know these can be stressful times for students) but to talk about habit change; tweaks that could make all the difference. For example, I have shared a fabulous article about 'the power hour' - an approach to revising that does not necessitate more time, but ensures students use their time better (this wisdom comes from a fantastic blogger I follow on Twitter who shares revision tips and more for young people and their parents @Lucycparsons). I have also discussed ways to get more out of time in the classroom - answering more questions and staying more focused, for instance.

Qualifications open doors so it is vital we help students build the best habits for success. All my conversations with students thus far have been incredibly illuminating and have proven to be invaluable in helping me get to know High Storrs. These students are exceptional. I was so impressed to receive an email one Saturday from a student I had met and conversed with on the Friday. He thanked me for my time and asked me to share anything else I had found or read that might be useful. What a wonderful example of an ambitious student seeking to achieve all they can with the help of their teachers. Fabulous!
Blog 4, Mrs Tasker, Dec 2016

Staffing changes have meant that I have started teaching three Y8 History classes on a Wednesday. It is a fabulous opportunity to get to better know nearly 90 students... and it is also fast becoming the best part of my week. Teaching 20th Century 'Democracies and Dictatorship' to bright, funny, quirky and eager Year 8s is a joy. If you are the parent of one of these students, please do tell them.

I did not pick up my classes soon enough to contribute to the tracker (they are split classes and the two excellent teachers I share with have completed the report). The Y8 trackers will be the third year group tracker to go out this school year so far... and each tracker includes the most important feedback on each student. This is the 'attitude to learning' grade. The best is a grade 1 (outstanding) and the worst is grade 4 (inadequate). Simply put the criteria for outstanding describes the learning behaviours that will lead to success in school and in life.

Here they are,

• Always fully engaged in every lesson
• Always strives to develop excellent skills and understanding
• Always completes work on time and to a high standard, often exceeding expectations
• Always responds constructively to feedback without prompting and seeks additional guidance
• Always well prepared with equipment and resources.


Good grades are important because the open doors and increase choices at 16 and 18 but developing these learning behaviours are crucial.

I am a huge fan of Carol Dweck and her book 'Growth Mindset'. The central premise is that hard work, effort, the willingness to make and learn from mistakes is more important than any notion of innate talent or intelligence. One of my favourite ideas in the book is 'I can't do it ... YET'. Our attitude to learning grade 1 describes the behaviours linked to this mindset. It would be great if you could discuss your child's attitude to learning grade further with them. What first step could they take towards an outstanding attitude to learning in every subject?
Blog 3, Mrs Tasker, Nov 2016

Last Tuesday was our post 16 Evening ... and it was busy! Mrs Bonner and I spoke to over 700 parents, carers and students in the hall over the course of the evening and many of the subject talks were packed in each of the five sessions! I must also mention that Summer (our Herd of Sheffield elephant) was in the hall to welcome everyone! A huge thank you to everyone who donated to the cause and, of course, the wonderful Mr and Mrs Prince whose generosity ensured that she came home.

I really hope that students and parents got a flavour of the High Storrs Sixth Form. It has been judged 'outstanding' in Ofsted inspection (including 2013 and 2010) and scored an ALPs 'excellent rating' in recognition of the value added to students' learning and achievement. Simply put, teaching and support enables High Storrs sixth formers to achieve excellent grades and gives them choices post 18.
In my speech to parents, carers and students I shared feedback from recent Y12 student voice. Here are some of our current Y12s thoughts on HSS Sixth Form,

• I chose High Storrs Sixth Form as it is ranked amongst the best in Sheffield.
• The enrolment process went smoothly.
• I think I have settled in well - all of the students I have spoken to have been kind and the teachers have been helpful too.
• I enjoy the subjects I am taking. There are great resources here, especially for science related courses.
• I’ve settled into High Storrs sixth form life very well – I feel like I’ve made the transition from XXX very smoothly.
• I was attracted by the courses offered, especially Theatre studies and the Drama team.
• I was attracted to High Storrs Sixth form because of the quality of teaching and I am extremely happy now I’m here.
• The facilities are good, especially places to study.
• I enjoy the way subjects are taught.
• I feel very comfortable in Sixth Form.
• The facilities are very good.
• I am happy and my teachers are very helpful.
• I have made new friends.

There are a number of other Sixth Form Open Evenings over the coming weeks and it is important for students and families to look around and make an informed choice. It is a bewildering time in education at the moment ... grades are becoming numbers, GCSE and A Level specifications are changing and all exams will once again be linear (i.e. taken at the end of the course with no modules and little or no coursework). Our High Storrs wisdom is to see A Levels as two year courses. Make your choice of 4 or 3 at the start and immerse yourself for two years in those courses. Taking AS exams at the end of Y12 in every subject is a distraction ... and I am certain all our students could do without another summer timetable of multiple external exams at the end of Y12.

As a final note, if you were unable to join us on Tuesday 1st November and would like to find out more about joining our Sixth Form and our fabulous facilities please do get in touch.
Blog 2, Mrs Tasker, Oct 2016

One of the things about High Storrs School that I am most enjoying is the strong sense of community. The vertical tutor groups and the House system really do create a positive atmosphere and strengthen relationships. It is lovely to look into form rooms and see students of different ages sitting together, talking together and working together. Each of the four Houses are a community within a community; each has a slightly different character (but they are all equally competitive!).
I am also getting to know the wider community. This includes our governing body (three meetings so far), parents and carers (six evening events to date) and local people I meet on bus duty and in Bents Green on a Monday lunchtime (on duty!) This last week I have also had the pleasure of visiting three of our partner Primary Schools; Hunters Bar Juniors, Greystones Primary and Hunters Bar Infants. The warm welcome at each of these schools has made my week. I have seen a re-enactment of ‘Theseus and the Minotaur’, an incredibly active Maths lesson, fabulous sentence construction and a Gruffalo hunt. I have visits to more of our local Primary Schools in my diary for the coming weeks.

High Storrs School has also engaged in some Sheffield-wide endeavours with our city-wide community. For example, there is a ‘Herd of Sheffield’ elephant designed by a member of staff. Jane, our administration services clerk, won a competition to have her design painted onto an elephant by a local artist. The splendid beast has been admired by all outside Sheffield Train Station over the summer months but we want to bring him home to High Storrs and hope our students and their families will help us. From Monday 10th October we will have collections in assembly to raise funds to bid for the elephant at auction on 20th October. All funds will go to the Sheffield Children’s Hospital. If you are happy to help us please spare some change for your child to bring to school for the collection (and/or donate at our Open Evening on 6th October). I will let you know if we are successful at the auction!