So far this year our Year 9 students have been very busy enjoying extended academic, vocational and social events in order to develop as young people in our school and in their community. Our Fair and Square student advice service, set up in Year 7 and run by students for students, is still in existence this year. Although the students now find a range of ways to seek advice and information to deal with any peer issues they many have, the service still provides a quality service for some of our year group.
September – October 2015 saw our newly qualified Youth Sports Trust Peer Leaders take on a number of roles at different sporting events for primary students and for students from Applefields School and Hob Moor School. Our ten leaders braved the cold on the Knavesmire to help with the city-wide cross country event and in a slightly warmer environment at York High School for the indoor athletics events. Two of our students, Harriet Kehoe and Amy Lytham, impressed so much at these events because of their proactive approach and caring attitude, that they have been invited to volunteer at the National Pentathlon Final at the Copper Box on the Olympic Park in June.
Keeping on the sporting theme, our Year 9 Netball team competed again this year in the York and District Netball League and Tournament. They have been together now for 3 years as a team and some great friendships have been established amongst them. To celebrate at the end of the season, we took ourselves off to COSMOS restaurant in York where I believe the girls ate more of the chocolate fountain than anything else! Our girls’ and boys’ Football teams and boys’ Rugby team have also been in action this year. The Year 9 boys won the York City 5-a-side tournament which was organised by York City. They went through every round unbeaten and won tickets to the next York City match. The girls competed in the National Schools Football Cup but were beaten narrowly by St James’ School, Harrogate. The boys’ rugby team have played in the All Schools Programme this year which culminated in the York Schools Rugby League Festival. This was building on the back of professional coaching in PE lessons. The boys have not played rugby league before but some of our students have joined the local club to develop their skills further, which is really encouraging.
In Year 9, students get the opportunity to represent their school and have an impact on their community via the York Youth Council. Fifteen students did a presentation saying why they would be a great ambassador for their community and how they could make a difference to the lives of other people. Whilst all fifteen students could easily have taken on this role, Georgia Wright and Stephen Franklin were both successful and are now enjoying meeting local MP’s and attending regular meetings in York.
To round off our half term we had a pool party at Energise for all students who had achieved 100% attendance so far. We value excellent attendance at York High School and we reward students who achieve the ultimate in this area, 100%. In addition to the pool party, nine of our gifted and talented pupils took part in the Independent and State Schools Partnership (ISSP) annual residential trip to Brathay Hall in Cumbria. Our students joined others from all around the state and independent schools in York to take part in master classes such as Philosophy and Psychology in addition to outdoor adventurous activities such as dragon boating and team building activities. I attended the residential trip to provide pastoral care for all of the students and it was a physically challenging trip but it also challenged and broadened the pupils thinking skills, along with my own and the rest of the half term break was welcomed.
October to Christmas is always a very exciting time in schools. Students are really excited at the prospect of Christmas Day, decorations are bright and bring joy to everyone. Although in Years 7 and 8 we had a Christmas disco, this year they felt they were a bit too big for this. Instead there has been more of a focus on specific vocational activities for our students to help develop their individual interests. The best example of this is our fishing club. Set up at the end of Year 8, the students all have a love of fishing and the outdoors. With the help of our professional fishing coach, Mike Sutton, they are all making excellent progress towards their C.A.S.T. awards, which will help them onto the fishing coaching ladder themselves one day in the future. In March I have been invited to speak at a National Fishing Event at Tutbury Castle to give other school leaders and especially fishing coaches an insight into how fishing can raise the aspirations of some young people and how it has helped pupils at York High School to keep focussed and make progress at school. This is an exciting event and I am really looking forward to sharing our success with them all. In the summer we will be hosting our first every twelve hour fish-a-thon at Pool Bridge Farm in order to raise funds to keep the club going. Fortunately our bait is always supplied free of charge by Acomb Pets, Acomb and this helps enormously.
Some of our Year 9 students have aspirations to be police officers, detectives or service personnel in general. As a result I asked our local PCSO to arrange a visit to a police station and he came up trumps. The students spent the whole day visiting the firearms officers and their impressive array of firearms and lifesaving equipment, they visited the cells and processing area of the station, the call handling section was very organised and calm given the job they were doing and the students got the chance to meet all different personnel such as CID, policemen on the beat and community workers too. Unfortunately the police dog couldn’t make it on that day but this experience definitely inspired our young people and some of them are sure they want to pursue a career in the police or uniform service. Other students who also have a good idea of what they want to achieve when they leave school have now taken up their vocational placements doing boxing, farming, mechanics and woodland management at venues around York. The students attend weekly and this is a vital element to their development as young people and for their future. This is an important time for our students to start thinking about what they might want to do in the future, given that they have just chosen their GCSE’s subjects that they will study next year. This is a very exciting time in their school career and I am really looking forward to their GCSE taster day at school and to guiding them through, all the way to their prom in Year 11.
We finished before the Christmas break with a trip to the Ice Factor in York. This was for all students who were recommended by their tutors for making specific improvements around different areas of our school, for example improving their maths progress or improving their attendance or making a difference to someone or something at our school.
Post-Christmas is always a quiet time in the school calendar, which is why I prefer to fill it with inspirational activities for our students. However this year the students have come to me with their own idea for a girls boxing club. We started weekly at school with an instructor from RI Boxing Club and after 6 weeks we went in the minibus to the RI club to join in their adult women’s class in order to extend their skills and build their confidence in the sport. Now some of the girls go regularly on their own and are getting fitter by the week!
Post-Christmas has also seen Year 9 take part in the trip to the Holocaust Centre which was followed up with an assembly to amplify what the students had seen at the centre. This was a very powerful event as the students got listen to and meet a survivor from one of the concentration camps.
To finish the half term I launched the Science Poetry competition in conjunction with the English department who were starting to teach poetry to the year group in their lessons. The pupils talked and rhymed about space and time, food and health and the periodic table. The students came up with some really funny and extremely creative poems but we could only have 1 winner, who was Alex Garbutt with his poem ‘Genes not Jeans’. Please click here for a copy of the winning poem.
2nd Sidney Graca - Science is fun, Science is life.
3rd Jessica Cook – The Periodic Table and its Elements in Haiku
1. Kai Sellers – Gravity
2. Jacob Burns - You may not think science is cool
3. Tyler Stead – Science is so crazy
To help to build on this and motivate the students in English, we also organised a reward trip to Doncaster Dome, swimming and ice skating, for any students in Year 9 who had made excellent progress in English in that six week half term. 66 students qualified for the trip and we had a brilliant time!
Following the well-earned February half term break Year 9 students are now recommencing the Green Apples project, a project which engages with our students over a number of years in order to raise their aspirations about higher education. So far the students have had a day at Askham Bryan College to look at the different courses, opportunities and qualification they could study if they went into that area of further education.
Next our students will visit the university of York or St John’s to get a really good insight into how students study, live and work. The Blue Skies Project is recommencing this half term too. This is a youth engagement project run in conjunction with the Royal Air Force and is aimed at young people who face some barriers to learning. The focus this year is on Leadership and the students will visit many RAF bases in the coming months to face significant challenges that aim to increase and improve their self-esteem and confidence. Brian Cox is the Ambassador for the Blue Skies project and we are hoping that, like last year, he will be able to join the students again this year to help inspire them become enthusiastic about learning and exploring.
Coming up this half term some of our students who have the potential to be Oxbridge students in the future will be meeting with representatives from Oxbridge so that they can gain a better insight into what this means for them, how to apply and what to expect. This is a really exciting time for our students and their parents so we shall see what the future brings. At the end of this half term the reward trip will be clay pigeon shooting for specific students who have improved their behaviour record this term. Groups of students are often selected according to their performances, good and not so good, and given targets to improve or progress further. The impact of these improvements is positive, not only for the student themselves but for all the students at our school.
Looking ahead we have a number of activities and educational opportunities coming in Year 9. It may appear that our students spend an amount of time on reward trips but these trips are well earned and when asked, our student voice made it clear that if they were to be rewarded, then they would prefer trips out, so that has been the focus for Year 9 praise and reward this year. As well as our students continuing their great work on their vocational placements, Blue Skies, Green Apples and the Fishing Club, in the coming months Year 9 will be looking forward to hosting students from a School in the Netherlands for two days, something that Year 9 do each year at York High School. At the end of next half term we are going to the High Ropes Course in York and all students who make significant progress in Maths next half term will be in the hat to go along. At the end of June half of our year group are going to Barcelona where we will visit Nou Camp Stadium, Gaudi’s famous unfinished Sagrada Familia Cathedral and the Estadi Olimpic de Montjuic (venue for the 1992 Olympic Games) amongst many other exciting activities. The end of the year will see thirty students in Year 9 who have had a fantastic year at school in all main areas, such as attendance, punctuality, progress, behaviour, leadership and community, enjoy a day out to Scarborough where we will visit the ruined castle and enjoy the sights and smells of the coast. Finally then, all students at YORK HIGH SCHOOL will have the opportunity to go to a theme park at the end of the year, this is open to all students of all ages and it represents a celebration of another successful year at York High School.
Ms E Evans, Year 9 Leader