PUBLISHED 24 August 2022
Ahead of the GCSE results tomorrow, Mr McKeown reflects on the achievements and developments over the past year - what a year it's been!
There was a sense of utter relief and palpable excitement from students and staff as we returned in September 2021 and the news that the bubbles were gone! For staff to be back in their own departments and to see students move freely around the school was an absolute pleasure and gave a renewed sense of energy and vigour to the start of the academic year.
As a staff, one of our mantras this year has been about continuous improvement and moving up a level; we achieved so much as a school through the lockdowns and various COVID restrictions, there is a real sense of self-belief that there is no limit to what we can achieve, and this was the sentiment for the academic year, both in and outside of the classroom.
From an academic viewpoint, we introduced a number of new initiatives this year, including the new Scholars’ Society and the Lunchtime Lectures series, which included topics as varied as ‘Educational Philosophies’, ‘Freud’s Theory of the Mind’ to the ’Origins of Medicines’. Indeed, the new Headmaster’s Lectures kicked off with the etymologist Susie Dent in November, followed by Monty Halls the marine biologist in April.
In Year 7’s Learning 2 Learn lessons, we introduced a new inquiry learning project, based on the FOSIL model (Framework of Skills for Inquiry Learning). This involved students creating a ‘big question’, which then had to be properly researched and referenced. The final products were made into academic posters and students then presented them at the Evening of Inquiry Learning, where they took questions and discussed with parents and staff. Concurrently, our Year 12 academic scholars also completed an academic research essay to undergraduate standard, based on their A level subjects. This was also presented to parents and staff on the same Evening of Inquiry Learning. The students will use these research essays as part of their university applications.
In sport, we had over 350 fixtures in 2021-22 and typically we have over 200 students representing the school on any given Saturday. The introduction of the new strength and conditioning programme proved very popular with students, especially the early morning sessions before school starts, which were over-subscribed. The ESPP (Elite Sports Performance Programme) has gone from strength to strength with the excellent lectures and seminars given by Simon Clarkson, an expert in the field of developing high performance. From international appearances to competing on a national stage to winning regional competitions, it has been a very successful year.
The Performing Arts Department was absolutely delighted to get back into Lowther Pavilion for the annual musical. Indeed, the production of Oliver! was worth waiting for and will live long in the memory. However, it is not just about the musical; the quality of the Autumn Concert, Cabaret Evening, Teatime recitals and numerous performances from the choir and various ensembles, show the expertise and commitment of our students and staff.
The Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme has proved more popular than ever with roughly 80% of all students in Year 10 involved in the Bronze Award this year - it has become a fundamental part of the culture in the school. The Silver and Gold Awards continue to provide a very popular challenge to our students in Year 11 and Sixth Form also.
A highlight of the annual, national Tycoon in Schools competition was our ‘Just New Friends’ group who set up a traditional games afternoon and evening and invited members of the local community. This not only raised money for Trinity Hospice and Brian House, but also provided a really enjoyable experience for those who attended. This did not go unnoticed by the Peter Jones Foundation (the sponsors of the national competition), who were suitable impressed by the initiative.
We were delighted that the school achieved the ‘Wellbeing in Schools Award’, which is a fantastic achievement; a huge amount of work has gone in from staff, students, parents and governors led by Mrs Marland. This award was a comprehensive analysis of everything the school does for the wellbeing of all students and staff and is a kitemark for the quality of provision.
It has been so good to see school trips return with the much-loved Year 9 residential and the fact that the Year 10 also got a shortened residential in January (after they missed out last year) is testament to Mr O’Loughlin’s perseverance to ensure that everyone has the experience. Indeed, the annual Year 7 trip was shortlisted for ‘School Trip of the Year’ - a trip that has become a rite of passage. At the time of writing, we look forward to our first big international trips again in the summer with the Music Tour to Germany and Rugby Tour to South Africa.
Another of the highlights this year has been the leadership shown by one of our Sixth Form students, Mia, who redesigned the student council into the Student Leadership Committee. Based on the Model United Nations set up, it has been fantastic to see how the students have discussed and debated topical issues that affect them about the running of the school.
There is so much to look forward to in 2022-23; in September we will host part of the Round Square International Conference and will have up to 200 delegates coming from all around the world to come and stay in Lytham St Annes with us. We also have a number of new colleagues who will join us in September, and I know they will add another layer of innovation, energy and expertise.
However, my highlight this year is the tangible feel in school which we had missed during the COVID era – it has been regularly commented on by visitors to the school. In a nutshell, we have created a culture where ‘it's cool to do well’, whether that's academically, on the sports field or through performing arts. The concept of self-reflecting to make progress and support others is really becoming embedded as a key attribute for all students and staff.