Head Teacher's Blog

Feb 01
Chess
​OK, s​o you think chess is a bit nerdy? Ah, but you are so wrong.  Here's ten reasons why chess is cool (I do like top ten lists)

  1. Chess is a game for people of all ages.   Proof of that can be seen every Monday and Wednesday lunchtime at our Chess Club, where all year groups play against each other.  I'm 50 something and I can still give the young guns a good game!  Just check out this picture of the final moves just before I deliver the coup de grace!  I have to confess I'm very competitive…  My knees may struggle with even the briefest of basketball games, my dodgy shoulder hampers my once brutal tennis serve and my eyesight falters a little when I hack my way around a golf course but… You can learn to play chess at any age unlike in many other sports, you don't ever have to retire.
     chess.jpg
     
  2. Chess develops imagination and creativity. It encourages you to be inventive.  There are an indefinite amount of beautiful combinations yet to be constructed.  I read somewhere that there are 400 different positions after each player makes one move apiece. There are 72,084 positions after two moves apiece. There are 9+ million positions after three moves apiece. There are 288+ billion different possible positions after four moves apiece. There are more 40-move games on Level-1 than the number of electrons in our universe. There are more game-trees of Chess than the number of galaxies (100+ billion), and more openings, defences, gambits, etc. than the number of quarks in our universe!
     
  3. Chess shows that success rewards hard work. The more you practice, the better you'll become.  You should be ready to lose and learn from your mistakes.  One of the greatest players ever, Capablanca said "You may learn much more from a game you lose than from a game you win.  You will have to lose hundreds of games before becoming a good player."  I love this concept.
     
  4. Chess and Psychology. Chess is a test of patience, nerves, will-power and concentration.  It enhances your ability to interact with other people.  It tests your sportsmanship in a competitive environment.  Like I've said I'm super competitive during the game but the moment it's over there's a hand shake and we move on.  I never (well rarely) gloat or wallow in the glory of victory J
     
  5. Chess is cheap. Money's tight but you don't need big fancy equipment to play chess.  A board costs a couple of pounds.  You can even play against your computer!
     
  6. Chess develops memory. The chess theory is complicated and many players memorise different opening variations.  You will also learn to recognise various patterns and remember lengthy variations.  I'm not quite there yet.  I sometime stumble and bumble my way forward.  But I'm getting better.
     
  7. Chess improves concentration.  During the game you are focused on only one main goal- to checkmate.  No matter how much the children try they will not distract me.  No way.  Not a chance.  I even turn my phone off!
     
  8. Chess develops logical thinking. Chess requires some understanding of logical strategy.  For example you will know that it is important to keep your king safe at all times, not to give away your pieces away for free.  Mistakes are inevitable and chess, like life, is a never ending learning process.
     
  9. Chess enables you to meet many interesting people. It can be a very social game.  I've already got to know some children that I may not have done if the chess Club didn't exist. 

  10. Chess is great fun!  For me it's like Cluedo, Super Mario, Mousetrap, Jenga, Space Invaders, Chase the Ace and a game of test cricket all rolled into one.  Like I say I am 50 something.  I'd forgotten how much I loved to play the game.  No game is ever the same.  It never gets boring.   Every game you are the general of an army and you alone decide the destiny of your soldiers.  You can sacrifice them, trade them, lose them, defend them, or order them to break through any barriers and surround the enemy king.  You've got the power!

    We are looking to set up a 'friendly' game with Alleynes High School and Oldfields and Ryecroft.  I'll keep you posted.

    If there are any parents out there who would like to help out with one of the after school chess clubs let me know.  It would be great to hear from you.

Dec 31
December 2016

It has been an absolutely fabulous term, and one that has flown by. I have just enjoyed an uplifting couple of hours at the Headteacher’s celebration assembly. They children were brilliant, as always, celebrating each other’s successes with respect and warmth. I was able to observe from within the audience this year as Mrs Wilbraham-Jones and Mrs Bould led the celebrations, and could immerse myself in the experience. Seeing the delight on the childrens’ faces as they walked to the stage to accept their awards was inspiring. The choir sang their hearts out and everyone joined in for a couple of Christmas carols at the end. We will now take a quick breather, before heading off to St Mary’s Church for the Christmas service; we will return for a boogie at the Christmas disco this evening.

I write this blog with a smile on my face and joy in my heart. Have a wonderful Christmas holiday, enjoy every single moment, have a rest, spend time with your loved one and we will see you all in the New Year.

Mr Slack

Oct 21
Upbeat and positive…

Today I feel particularly fortunate indeed. I'm generally pretty upbeat and positive… I really am! However this past couple of weeks I have had to spend a few days out of school and to be honest I've been feeling very guilty about not being around to see the children and staff. Working across two schools and not being at Windsor Park every single day seems very strange at times. I simply can't be in 2 places at once and I have to rely on the team around me, in particular the Senior Leaders. I am so lucky to have them alongside me at Windsor Park, an exceptional team with experience and talent. I am lucky that they step up so that I am secure in the knowledge that the school is in very safe hands.

I returned to school yesterday at lunchtime and initially couldn't find anyone in the building. Everything was far too quiet! I started to walk the building and found clusters of staff and children working through their lunch breaks. Opening classroom doors I was delighted to find; the new Student Leadership Team meeting with a member of staff preparing for the upcoming open evening, the Chair of Governors spending time listening to the School Council, the English Team sharing some lemon drizzle cake planning and preparing for their next crazy enrichment activity, the school choir practicing for their upcoming performance, the computer room full to the brim for the homework club with children, heads down, tapping away on the keyboards – I don't think they even noticed me enter the room. I walked a little further, passing a small group in a maths room, all giggling, whilst working on a problem on the board, obviously sharing a joke with the teacher. Now I've started to write these thoughts down I don't want to miss anyone… science – Y8s revising for their upcoming test, the Teaching Assistants working with a group of children in Room 12, a lovely smell of baking bread from the Food technology room. I daren't go in there or I know my diet will be out of the window. The Worship Team in the hall preparing for the assembly, the PE team over in the gym with a group of Young Leaders… Like I say I feel very lucky.

The staff have such humility and always think what they can do for others. They are self-aware and are emotionally intelligent. I like to think that we can coach the skills of assessment, teaching and learning, behaviour management, subject coordination and so forth but we have to start with personal leadership skills. They all have these in bucketfulls.

The Leadership Team (and I would include Ian Johnstone – the Chair of Governors in that group) at Windsor Park are resilient and they have the emotional health and well-being of all pupils and the school community at heart. They have the uncanny knack of being able to face challenges and barriers with an unerring ability to be positive and to smile. I just wanted to take the time to say that. To share it with you. To say thank you. To put it in writing.

Jul 22
Farewell, adieu, aloha, arrivederci, ciao, au revoir, bon voyage, shalom, totsiens, zàijiàn

As the children made their way homewards recently I decided to sit in my room and write my farewell to the Year 8s.  I did so with mixed emotions.  I hope you don't mind me sharing my thoughts with you as I'm sure as parents my sentiments will resonate with your thoughts too.  The end of an academic year is a significant moment, but moving to a new school after four years can seem daunting.  You will see this time as a defining moment of real and significant change; a watershed moment if you will, just as I do.

I am aware that sometimes my blogs become somewhat introspective, melancholy even.  I think it's because I rarely sit quietly, reflect and write my thoughts down.  I'm not used to it you see.  It's usually a letter to the Local Authority, a document for the Governors or a memo to staff which is often quite matter of fact and impersonal.  So, I thought I'd share with you my Welcome Address that I gave at the Year 8 Celebration Evening last Tuesday - let me know your thoughts…

'Farewell, adieu, aloha, arrivederci, ciao, au revoir, bon voyage, shalom, totsiens, zàijiàn

I have come to know you well over the last 3 years and you will always hold a very special place in my heart and so on the one hand I have a sense of profound sadness to see you leave.  Yet this is your moment!  It is your time to move on and to shape your future at another school.  I am excited, proud and delighted that you feel ready to face the future with a confidence and energy that is tangible.  You are the Windsor Park Class of 2016 and there will never be another group like you.  You are unique and you are irreplaceable.  It is true that the current Year 7s will become the new Year 8s but they will never be you.  You have cemented a place in our history.  We will still talk about you fondly in the years to come.  We will watch you from afar, read the weekly TAHS roundup, hoping to see your names and we will talk to our colleagues at the high school to see how you are doing.

While academic learning and acquisition of knowledge has been a key part of school life for each of you these past four years and you should undoubtedly be proud of your achievements, what you have learned at Windsor Park has extended far beyond the national curriculum.  In fact, I am quite certain that the memories you are taking with you are more grounded in your social and emotional experiences since you started school.  Friendships have been formed that will last a lifetime, memories made that will never be forgotten.  Your experience at Windsor Park is part of your identity and something to be proud of.  While you will meet new friends and have new learning experiences in September, you will always have a special bond with those you are sharing the stage with today.  Be grateful for the special connection you have with your peers for they will continue to be an anchor for you.

Learning for life - I hope that you take this away with you today knowing that ending your four years here at Windsor Park is simply one marker on your life journey albeit an important one.  Your formal education includes important academic learning that is fundamental to whatever path you choose in your life and, during your years at Windsor Park, a foundation has been laid.  As you continue your journey, I encourage you to be curious, to continue to ask challenging questions and explore the possibilities ahead of you.  Know that you can make a real difference and make the world a better place.  Pursue your passion and love learning.  Doing so will keep create greater vitality and bring meaning and purpose to your life.  Learning lasts a life time and your journey has only really just begun.

So as I bid farewell to you all, I hope that you will take these final words of advice; be curious, find and follow your passion, be safe, be fair and perhaps most importantly - be kind - to yourself, to others and the environment.  And remember that Windsor Park and your experience here have shaped who you are.  Be grateful for the past, the people who care and love you and be inspired and excited about your future.  Remember: Learning for life.

Good luck to each of you.  I look forward to hearing about your successes in the months and years to come.  Thank you for being a part of our community.  We will miss you.'

Jun 30
Sometimes it's good to go back to what you love

Sometimes it's good to go back to what you love.  To remind yourself why you came into the teaching profession.  'Do what you love and you will never work a day in your life.'  Isn't that the saying?  To reconnect, revitalise and lift your spirits!  Well that's exactly what I did on Tuesday after school with a group of Year 7 basketballers when we played against our old rivals Oldfields Hall.  We've been training on Tuesday's after school for a couple of months and they've been asking me to set up a match so that they could test themselves against some real opposition.  So I dug out my old basketball boots, took my chrome pea whistle out of my kit bag and entered the fray!

You may not be aware but I trained as a PE and English teacher many years ago at North Cheshire College (Padgate) as part of Manchester University and in my heart and mind (but not my body!) I'm probably still that PE teacher from years ago.  I loved playing sport myself, coaching and teaching PE and it felt good to go back to my roots so to speak.  The boys and girls were an absolute delight; Connor, Adam, Charlie, Alex, Harry, Edward, Max and Gemma have trained so hard and they really are becoming super basketball players and are beginning to gel as a team.

We are going to keep the training sessions going and I'd like to take this opportunity to invite any more year 7's to come and join the group.  It's on Tuesday evenings straight after school.  Who knows we might have the next Larry Bird or Michael Jordan amongst our ranks.  Bring on the Harlem Globetrotters.​

May 27
Cakes and Sponsored Fun Run!

Some days I feel trapped in my office, starved of sunlight; often alone or working with colleagues on a document or a piece of research, a meeting, phone calls, emails, another meeting  … (you get the idea!)  Then comes a knock on the door: three beaming year 6s' with a tray of magnificent cakes.

'It's time for you to judge the competition Mr. Slack!'

A grin begins to form on my lips.

'You know Sir! Djafarou…  The boy from Niger that we're sponsoring!  Everyone's been baking.  There's loads of cakes.  They're everywhere!'

My pen goes into my pocket, the annoying mouse gets pushed to one side and I'm off.  Free!

Pink fairy cakes, a lemon drizzle, chocolate brownies, a mountain of rocky roads, a beautiful coffee & walnut cake … all lined up ready for the official tasting!  How lucky am I?  This Friday is turning into a very good day!  There're so many I have to ask Mrs. Capewell, a self-confessed cakeaholic, to help me (I can assure you I didn't have to ask twice!)

Thoroughly replenished, and feeling a little guilty, I head off to for a walk around the classrooms.  I meet Caitlin Palmer and James Bown and spend a few moments reminding them how amazing they were at the public speaking competition earlier in the week.  I bump into the Christian Charity committee working on their next venture to raise the remaining £215 they need.  I wander outside onto the pitch in the glorious warm sunshine and take the opportunity to congratulate Ellie Alcock (discus), Shani Wright (800 metres), Charlie Martin (high jump) and Ben Seaman (long jump) who are practising their events following selection for the Staffordshire Athletics Championships at Northwood Stadium after half term.  As this goes to print, I have been told that George Foster has made it through to the finals of the Radio 5 Young Commentator of the Year competition.  One of 20 finalists from 27,000 entries – we will know the result when we return after the half-term.  Go George!

After a couple of blissful hours I head back to my room.  Not for a meeting.  Not to check my emails. It's time to get changed into my running gear in readiness for the sponsored fun run!  It'll give me the chance to burn off a few calories from those gorgeous cakes; an opportunity to see the children and the staff having fun letting their hair down.

Afterwards I know a calmness will to envelop the school.  Half term will have arrived.  Everyone will feel a little lighter (both metaphorically and physically after that 'fun' run).  Children will melt away beyond the school gates with smiles on their faces.  Staff will head off for their well- earned break.  I will sit back in my room again.  Just for a little while.  Perhaps I'll have a cup of tea, turn off my computer and take a moment or two to reflect on an amazing half term.  Then I'm away… a nine day break; home, family and friends.

Apr 26
Growth Mindset

Last week, two of our staff attended a workshop on Growth Mindset at St. Edwards Middle School in Leek and came back inspired by what they had learned.  They have talked to me about introducing the idea of growth mindset to our school community and I am really excited about the proposal.  I'd like to take the opportunity to introduce the concept to you.

Carol Dweck is one of the world's leading researchers in the field of motivation.  She focuses on why people succeed and how to foster this achievement in schools.  In her research on motivation and achievement, she introduces the idea of Mindset.  Mindsets are beliefs about yourself and your basic qualities such as your intelligence, your talents and your personality.

People with a fixed mindset believe that their traits are just given to them so people with this mindset worry about how adequate or inadequate they are instead of developing their traits.  They believe that their talent alone creates success - without effort and they are reluctant to take on challenges.

People with a growth mindset, on the other hand see their traits as just the starting point and that these can be developed by dedication, hard work and effort.  This view creates resilience and a love of learning.

When we encourage a Growth Mindset in children then they become enthusiastic learners.  A Growth Mindset means that their intelligence can be developed which has a positive effect on their motivation and subsequently their achievement.  Dweck's research shows that we produce confident learners when we praise students for the process they engage in and not for being bright, clever or talented.

We would like to develop the idea of 'Growth Mindset' in our school and build on our vision of 'Learning for Life'.  Where we;

  • ​Have high expectations of what they can achieve and be inspired by the success of others.
  • Accept that hard work and effort is needed to master new ideas and achieve excellence.
  • Accept that they need to be resilient and so keep going when things get tough.

    ​​Yet!

    By using 'yet' we give students confidence in what they can do and encourage persistence e.g.

  • I can't do it…yet
  • I'm not good at this topic…yet
  • I tried, but I can't do it…yet

    Check out this video clip on you tube.  I used to love Sesame Street!

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XLeUvZvuvAs

 I would love to hear your views.  Please get in touch.​


Mar 24
Celebrations, Easter and End of Term

Like the children and staff, I look forward to the end of term for a number of reasons. I will have more time to spend with my family, perhaps I'll potter in the garden or do a bit of DIY. It's a holiday, a change, a break from the routine of school life … a rest!

I also enjoy the fast few days of term because the school gathers together for a number of celebrations. On Monday was the termly Headteacher's Awards Assembly where we recognised the achievements of the children, their outstanding efforts, attainments and contributions to school life.

On Maundy Thursday afternoon we will all walk to our local church, St. Mary's, for our Easter Service. It will be a fitting way to end the term, yet it will be tinged with sadness as our vicar, the Rev. Sue Willetts, will be leaving for pastures new and she will be dearly missed by our whole community. She has been a great support and servant to the children and families of Windsor Park. She has led school worship every week since my arrival at the school and helped us to embed the values of compassion, forgiveness, humility, service, perseverance, respect, courage and responsibility. We wish her well in her future, with the knowledge that she has made a real difference to the lives of those in our community and leaves a lasting legacy.​

Mar 03
World Book Day

You will know that at Windsor Park we don't need much of an excuse to dress up, and everyone has delighted and surprised me once again today with lots of little Harry Potters, Hermiones, Supermen, Batmen and even a miniature Gandalf whizzing around for World Book Day.  I'm delighted of course; yet as I write this blog dressed in my outfit (to be revealed via our Community Facebook page later today no doubt!) my mind wanders back to 12 months ago when, dressed as Lord Voldemort, I welcomed the Ofsted Inspection Team into our school.  I sit in my room this morning in a rather reflective mood, wistful, even a little melancholy.  I've stood and watched the children and staff arrive today dressed in their costumes.  I'm looking forward to the day of course, yet strangely, I feel a little morose.  You'd think I'd be on 'cloud nine', however 'He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named' still lurks in the shadows; his mask still sits in my room, watching me with hollow eyes.

As you will be aware the result of the inspection was really positive, but it made me think about how quickly the last year has gone by; about what we have achieved; our children's successes; what remains unfinished, but ultimately with a sense of anticipation as to what lies ahead.  What will the next 12 months bring?  In a time of change, it would be interesting to have a crystal ball to see the future (or perhaps it is best not to know and to shape it ourselves).  It would be good to be able to wave this magic wand I have with me today and to make wishes that would come true!  And so, as I put on my cloak, my long silver beard that is so long I can tuck it into my belt (auburn in my younger days) and my grey green hat, I begin to smile; to become heartened, spirits raised, fortified, once again excited about what today has in store.  I turn to face the old mask sitting, slightly crumpled behind me, and look into its eyes.  There is nothing to fear.  Not with 18 Harry Potters, 14 Hermiones and 350 other little characters to help me.  I'm ready…ready to face the magical world that is Windsor Park Middle School.

Read our next issue of @ Windsor for full coverage of our World Book Day…

Feb 11
I'd like to share the story of 'The Animal School'

​I first came across this fable about 15 years ago in a beautiful book of feel-good stories called 'Chicken Soup for the Soul'.  Each day I try to read at least one of the tales.  It always gives me food for thought and warms my heart.

As schools and children themselves are required to spend more time on the 3 R's (quite rightly securing knowledge and deepening understanding), I'd like to share the story of 'The Animal School' as food for thought.  It's a little provocative, but it helps to remind us that children are all unique and individual, and they have a variety of talents that should all be recognised.


Once upon a time the animals decided they must do something heroic to meet the problems of a 'new world', so they organised a school.  They adopted a curriculum consisting of running, climbing, swimming and flying, and all the animals took all the subjects.  The duck was excellent in swimming; in fact, better than his instructor.  However he made only passing grades in flying and was very poor in running.  Since he was slow in running he had to stay after school and also drop swimming, in order to practice running.  This was kept up until his webbed feet were badly worn and he was only average in swimming.  But average was acceptable in school so nobody worried about that, except the duck.

The rabbit started at the top of the class in running but had a nervous breakdown because of so much catch-up work in swimming.  The squirrel was excellent in climbing, but developed frustration in the flying class where his teacher made him start from the ground up, instead of the treetop down.  He also developed a painful knee from overexertion and so got a C in climbing and a D in running.  The eagle was a challenging child and was sanctioned frequently.  In the climbing class, he beat all the others to the top of the tree but insisted on using his own way to get there.

At the end of the year, an eel that could swim exceeding well but also run, climb and fly a little had the highest average and was highly commended.

 

We know that securing good reading, writing and mathematics are key building blocks for children's future learning and that schools put a lot of emphasis on these 3 areas.  However, we believe that education is about more than simply the 3 R's.  We believe in the holistic approach to education.  The whole child: each one sharing a common bond, yet each different and unique.  Stronger in some areas, less so in others: a brilliant mathematician or a wonderful artist, a keen linguist or perhaps a talented sportsperson.  Children who are natural leaders, entrepreneurs, show empathy and are good friends to others.  Children who are: funny, gregarious, creative; team players or independent thinkers.  Those differences are to be celebrated.  It is the differences that are actually important, that should be recognised and nurtured.

All of our teachers continue to develop critical and creative thinking, opening minds, exploring new ideas and encouraging independent learning.  We are passionate about giving children the skills to move successfully to their next stage of education and are particularly excited about our short term Y6 and Y8 curriculum initiative where children will be developing their core skills in an inventive, creative and diverse yet interconnected approach.  We believe that this will enhance their learning experience.  The uplifting experience of children developing writing skills at Ingestre Hall through the medium of dance, music, art and poetry, and by complimenting them with the physical, intellectual emotional and spiritual, showed what is possible and we will continue to build on this model here in school.​

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