Thursday 6 Mar 2014
I am extremely proud and thrilled to report that this year, applications for places at both Coombe Boys’ and Coombe Girls’ have far surpassed anything that we have previously seen in the history of the two schools! I would like to wish all potential parents the very best of luck in the application process and we are very excited at the prospect of working with our new-intake parents and the new generation of Coombe boys and girls during the Summer Term!
Our external sixth form interviews are also now well-underway and it is wonderful to see such a wide range of well-qualified students from other schools choosing Coombe as their first option for this crucial phase of their education; I’m confident they will relish the opportunity to join our own internal Coombe students from September 2014.
Other aspects of the busy of life of the schools continues apace! It may seem hard to believe, but we are now around 10 weeks away from this year’s first public exams – even though it feels that Spring has hardly sprung! This year’s exam-season begins with the AS exams which are considerably earlier than usual – possibly because there were no modules in January of this year.
Last half term saw a number of highly successful federation activities culminating in our fabulously successful joint-schools’ ski trip at half term to Bardonecchia. Thank you to all the participants as well as the staff who accompanied the trip!
Tuesday 28 Jan 2014
As we head rapidly into 2014 and with the days getting longer, I’d like to report some stunning news and remarkable successes at both of the Coombe Secondary Schools during January!
Having barely waved goodbye to the OfSTED Team after the highly successful inspection at the Boys’ school it was a real pleasure to open my post on the 22nd to receive a letter from David Laws, MP, Minister of State for Schools. ‘It gives me great pleasure to congratulate you on the excellent improvement in your GCSE results over the last 3 years’, it reads. Crucially, Coombe Girls’ is in the Top 100 schools for sustained improvement in terms of pupils achieving 5 A* - C grades at GCSE with English & mathematics. Please read the letter for yourself on the website!
If you didn’t catch the Evening Standard’s league table of London schools, let me encourage you to seek it out! We were all thrilled to see both Coombe Boys’ and Coombe Girls’ achieve stunning borough rankings on the basis of last year’s stellar GCSE results – I am looking forward to another letter from David Laws next Year! However, it is a real shame that the same paper is unable to represent the performance of the sixth formers at the College Gardens Campus adequately – particularly as they achieved BTEC scores that put them in the very top league in terms of student progress!
I’d like to thank all of our sixth formers at both sites for the studious and focussed approach they took to their mock exams during the first two weeks of term – good luck with the results on the 29th. I also hope that the intensive careers guidance day that followed has all of you all thinking that the sky really is the limit!
Thanks also to everyone at both schools for the extremely well-attended Cluster Concert and Federation Showcase at the Rose Theatre last week as well as both schools’ stunning Youth Speaks Teams who represented Coombe in the Rotary Club’s Semi Final. We look forward to the range of future events to enjoy over the coming term and wish the staff and students involved in the Girls’ School production of Joseph next week the very best of luck!
Monday 16 Dec 2013
I’d like to welcome all readers of my blog from across both schools within the Coombe Secondary Schools Federation and beyond ! Incredibly, it feels like only moments ago that I was writing about the record-breaking achievements of our students at both of the Coombe schools during a momentous summer and reporting on the outstanding start made by our Year 7 pupils and sixth form boys and girls during September ! Now, already, I find myself reflecting back over an extraordinary term and a range of activities and events that have the most exciting implications for both schools – where does the time go!
Everything at the Coombe Schools is firmly focussed on our students’ progress, success and confident transition into the world beyond us. Whilst our Year 11, 12 and 13 results and the confirmation of our students’ destinations in the summer creates a vivid impression of their success, it is during this term that we receive essential ‘progress data’. This information tells us exactly how well we are doing with pupils and students at all Key Stages and helps us to ensure that every individual in the schools is on a journey to success. I am extremely pleased to report that this information really has made the most positive and uplifting reading for myself and the leadership teams at both schools!
Crucially, it validates exactly what OFSTED and Michael Gove told us about the Girls’ School during last year – that it is ‘Outstanding’ in every regard ! In fact, whilst I had barely finished writing about the OfSTED inspection at the Girls’ School, we were pleased to meet another team in the run-up to Christmas – but this time at the Boys’ School. An OfSTED inspection is always a rigorous and challenging process for every single member of a school’s community, but with a confident and dynamic staff and record-breaking results and progress data, we genuinely welcomed the opportunity to ‘showcase’ Coombe Boys’ ! Very much like our experience at Coombe Girls’ the teams’ assessment was overwhelmingly positive and a tribute to an incredible body of students and staff – all of whom thoroughly deserved such a powerful vote of confidence in their work. Whilst I would love to reveal the outcome in proper detail, I am unable to do so until the report is published - which should be any day !
Numerous other developments and activities have taken place during a term which would require a novel to record it all! We are in the process of developing a new and special relationship with Knollmead Primary School in Surbiton – something which many of you may have read about in the local press. This is a particularly exciting development for the Coombe Federation and we are really looking forward to working in partnership with them and sharing ideas, initiatives and expertise in ways which will be beneficial to all.
Parents of Year 13 students at both schools will also know that this is a momentous term for students making decisions about Higher Education and going through the university application process. We have seen a very positive range of offers coming in for students at both schools, but it has been a very interesting year in terms of the numbers of interviews that are taking place – not only for Oxford and Cambridge, but also at Russell group institutions that seem to be adopting a new process. As ever, we ensure that all students are superbly prepared and we look forward to more positive news as those offers come through!
Our Year 13 students certainly aren’t the only ones having interviews at present as our Year 11 boys and girls are currently making their applications to our sixth form. One of the real pleasures of my role at this time of year is interviewing a range of these students and discussing their futures with them. I am always struck by the intelligent, focussed and aspirational thinking that characterises our girls and boys – it leads me to feel that our future will be in very safe hands ! I would also like to thank our Year 11 students for the effort that they put into their mock exams which ran extremely smoothly and I would like to wish them luck with the results that they will be receiving in January !
Finally, I would like to mention a number of other hugely positive elements of the term. Whilst it now seems a good while ago, both schools ran particularly well-attended Prospective Parents’ Evenings – which were also the launch of our brand new prospectus. Our external sixth form evening was also an impressive and positive event during which large numbers of our Year 12 students made a very strong impression on potential new students through their representation of subjects and advice to applicants. As ever we have also welcomed numerous high – profile visitors to the schools and will be doing so to an even greater extent in the future as our ‘Ad Astra’ programme attracts an even more eclectic mix of inspirational and thoughtful speakers than we have had previously! Earlier this term we welcomed two inspirational sports-related speakers, David Dein and Hannah Beharry, and it is always wonderful to be able to develop our students’ aspirations through such powerful role models.
However, we are now are all looking forward hugely to our federation ‘Carols by Candlelight’ celebration and then the end of term beckons - and I know that the students and staff at both schools are ready for a well-earned rest ! I would like to wish everyone a very restful, happy and peaceful Christmas and a great start to 2014.
Tuesday 10 Sep 2013
Readers of my Summer Term blog might recall the adjectives ‘breathtaking, invigorating and outstanding’ that I used to describe my feelings about the momentous and incredible term that we had just experienced at Coombe – not least being told for the fourth time by OfSTED that we are an ‘Outstanding’ school!
Well, what can I say about the summer, our results and our students’ successes? Quite simply, whilst the sun made it one of the best summers ever, our students and staff ensured that it was simply the very best summer of results’ that we have ever seen!
Exam results’ days at both AS and A Level and GCSE are always profoundly emotional, exciting and intense – all at the same time! It is that critical moment in time where the whole of our community – staff and students, parents, and governors realise everything that we have strived for during the year.
I won’t rehearse the detail – no doubt you will have seen the press and the numerous league tables. Suffice to say, Coombe students are in a league of their own – both locally and across the UK. Against a national back-drop of tougher standards at Post-16 and a decline in the top results, Coombe doubled the number of students achieving A* grades at A Level and massively increased both the pass rate and ratio of top grades at AS Level. Individual successes are far too numerous to mention, but when we have students achieving 5A* grades and being very closely followed by numerous of their peers we know we are doing well!
However, our GCSE students were very definitely not to be outdone by the sixth formers! In fact, their performance was equally emphatic and again very much against the local and national trend, we saw our girls achieve record results. 80% of the girls who studied for their GCSEs at Coombe achieved the magic 5 A*-C with English & mathematics with 30% of those results being either A* or A grades – a truly stunning accomplishment!
I really would like to take this opportunity to congratulate and thank every one of our students, staff and parents who have worked so incredibly hard and with such tenacity, intelligence and commitment to achieve such wonderful results! No pressure for next year for our current sixth formers and Year 11!
Whilst these results are moment in time to genuinely celebrate, of course, in reality it is about a great deal more than that - it is a process of profound transformation in our students’ and parents’ lives as that ‘dream place’ on the cherished course at university is secured– or the possibility of studying the perfect subjects in the sixth form to launch a passionate career direction becomes reality. I can honestly say that this is something that this was powerfully evident to anyone who attended either of our results’ days or our sixth form enrolment at the end of August!
However, the summer was not only about those crucial results! We saw a significant proportion of our new Year 7 students actively involved in an amazingly busy and vibrant summer school. It almost felt as if the school was back ‘in business’ before the start of term. Our Sixth Form enrolment was also hugely successful and it has been fantastic to see such focussed and well-qualified Year 12 students making such a positive start to their sixth form careers at the same time as our new entrants to the school begin their ‘journey’ with us in Year 7.
As ever, an incredibly busy and exciting term beckons – not least because we look forward to our Prospective Parents Evening on October 9th, closely followed by our Sixth Form Evening for new applicants to the school in November (TBC).
Lastly, we have just commissioned a brand new school prospectus which will take us forwards for the next four years. I am absolutely thrilled with it as I think that it really captures the essence of life at Coombe ! If you’d like to have a look at it you can see it on our website now!
Monday 5 Aug 2013
Breathtaking, invigorating and outstanding! There simply is no other way that I can describe this most exciting and incredible year at Coombe Girls’ School! I would even go as far as to say that it has been one of the most enjoyable and rewarding years of my career to date.
It goes without saying that the students and staff at Coombe are a privilege to work with but I am constantly struck by the dynamic, positive and purposeful way that the school responds to the myriad events that are part of the vibrant life of this hugely successful and ‘Outstanding’ school!
To name but a very few of this year’s happenings - it has been our first year as an academy, something which has brought a number of exciting new ways of working and thinking. We also met Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, in January who was followed by Ofsted earlier this term - they told us that we are an ‘Outstanding’ school for the fourth time! We now have an amazing new Geography and Science complex – something that didn’t even seem a possibility at the start of this year.
However, this does not begin to describe the incredible range of events that have comprised the summer term here! Every single week seems to have been packed with high-profile and successful events – for which I would like to thank every single student and member of staff involved. We had an exceptionally stunning Year 9 Enterprise week – which features in our brand new forthcoming prospectus! This was closely followed by the impressive ‘Coombe Creates’ evening and Art Exhibition – which took place on the same night as our Year 13 UCAS evening. I have lost count of the requests that I have had to purchase art works from that evening!
It was also wonderful to see the start of the secondary education ‘journey’ for our new Year 7 entrants and their parents – and in the very same week that we welcomed our new Year 12 students and new staff to the school as well!
However, one of the real highlights of the year for me is that moment where we pause to reflect on the breath-taking range of talent, hard work and success that is the real focus of our entire school. The ‘Coombe Celebrates’ event was a very powerful reminder of the calibre of our students – something that was clearly obvious to our esteemed special guest Frances Cairncross, Rector of Exeter College, Oxford.
However, whilst we are about to pause for a well – earned break, we are looking forward excitedly to seeing the fruits of all of our labours in the results for our Year 11, 12 and 13 students. For them, this will be one of the biggest and most exciting moments of their lives as they become eligible for the next step in their ‘careers’ whether it be the sixth form, university or employment with training. I know that our Year 13 students have worked with an incredible focus in pursuit of their university goals and it is one of the proudest moments of our year as we see these achieved. Equally, I know that our Year 11 students are incredibly excited about the prospect of joining Year 12 and we look forward to seeing you all at enrolment on the 22nd August.
As one year ends and we are busily preparing for the next, I am aware that there is already an enormous amount to look forward to and I could easily write my next blog already! However, it is important to pause, reflect and refresh ready for the next chapter at Coombe. I would like to wish all of the students and staff who are leaving us this summer the very best in all of their endeavours and I hope that everyone has a relaxing, safe and enjoyable summer.
Tuesday 4 Jun 2013
Welcome again to readers of my blog and I hope that you are enjoying weather which is suggesting that summer is now genuinely upon us!
You might recall from my last blog that we were anticipating the arrival of summer and with it the yearly exam session that is without doubt the most important time of the year for many of our students – and parents as well! I can now report that the huge range of exams that our students sit at Coombe are now well and truly under way along with the enormous number of revision sessions, breakfast pre-exam briefings and the like – all of which run like a smoothly oiled machine!
However, this obviously belies the incredible amount of organization and effort that is central to supporting our students in achieving their very best. Clearly though, without our focussed Coombe students working with their typical determination, energy and resilience we would achieve little and I would like to wish them and their parents the very best during this extremely important and pressured time.
Talking of ‘importance’ and ‘pressure’ you may well be aware that we had our own whole-school ‘exam’ in the form of a visit from Ofsted just before the half term break. In some ways it had already been an unusual year, thinking back to our January visit from the Rt. Hon. Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education. However, whilst we knew that an inspection was imminent, in many ways the waiting was more difficult than the event itself and it was almost a relief to know that we would be receiving these high profile visitors to Coombe – albeit with even less notice than Michael Gove !
In the event, everything went superbly and I was extremely proud and grateful that the inspection team were able to see and assess Coombe for what it really is – an outstanding school in every regard. In fact, their judgements were exactly this and we have been rated as ‘outstanding’ in each of the four categories that are assessed during an inspection.
For me, however, almost more important than the official judgements are the strength of the positive and almost effusive comments about the work of the school that populate this report. For example, the team judged that ‘due to very high expectations, students’ attitudes to learning are extremely positive’ and that ‘their behaviour is exemplary both in and out of class’ They also felt that ‘teaching is of exceptionally high quality’ and that ‘teachers have high ambitions for their students’. These few quotations do not begin to convey the tenor and impact of the inspection team’s findings as conveyed in their report and if you haven’t already done so, I would urge you read it in detail through the link on our website.
What is central in all of this for me, however, is that the staff, students and I know that Coombe Girls’ is a truly wonderful school. However, it is immensely gratifying when rigorous, critical and official outsiders confirm our convictions!
However, the pace of life at Coombe is as dynamic and positive as ever and we are looking ahead to another extremely busy and vibrant half term! In the immediate future we have the opening of our stunning new ‘Parker Building’ and the ‘Coombe Creates’ exhibition, closely followed by our Year 11 Opportunities and Guidance Evening, New Year 12 student Induction Day, Coombe Celebrates event and our new Year 7 Entrants’ Evening, to mention but a few of the high – profile events to take place over the next seven weeks!
All in all, it will be an action-packed half term that is focused both on the closing of the current year, but equally on our readiness and preparations for the next exciting chapter which commences in September 2013!
Monday 15 Apr 2013
Like everybody else, I am glad to see the return of longer, lighter days and even the possibility that Spring is finally here with what seems to be warmer weather at last! I always find this a particularly optimistic time of year when the focus is very definitely on anticipation and looking forward with renewed energy as we enter one of the most exciting but crucial phases of our school year. There is definitely a sense of excitement as new opportunities become available to our students and, like anxious parents, we watch with pride as they progress successfully to the next stage of their educational and vocational careers.
The Summer Term obviously marks the beginning of the exam season and we are aware that students are focussing seriously on revision and targets. As always, members of staff are constantly on hand to provide support, guidance and encouragement. Nerves and anxiety are an inevitable element of the lead up to final exams, but we really try to ensure that students see these effects positively and as a spur to the effort and commitment that produces outstanding results. Obviously, we wish everyone the very best of luck and look forward to their continued outstanding achievement this summer!
Whilst the last term was short, it was as intense and exciting as ever with high-profile events and activities during every busy week! However, the production of Little Shop of Horrors was clearly a resounding success. The students performed to the public with gusto, surprising many of us with the considerable range of talent. Not only were the students singing, acting and dancing but also playing in the band and supporting the cast backstage. Comments were made that this was the best ever Coombe performance - a definite challenge for next year’s potential performers!
I would like to thank parents, students and staff for supporting the Sixth Form during this year’s fantastic Rag Week. Sixth Formers raised money by washing cars, running interhouse competitions, a sponsored cycle ride and a bake sale, to name but a few of the many activities on offer. Over £2,000 was raised over the 2 Sixth Form Campuses and this will be paid to the Rag Week charity Momentum. Well done to all involved!
As the new term begins, it is clear that exam-success is not the only thing on the agenda! As ever, there is a breathtaking range of activities and events to pack in during this half term – all of which will be posted on the website in the usual way!
Lastly, I would like to bring your attention to an important feature of our work this term - our newly refreshed vision statement. We have revised this to help everyone to fine-tune and focus their thinking about key features of life and success at Coombe.
Coombe prepares each student for their World of Opportunity by enabling individuals to flourish through:
• innovative teaching that is inspirational, compelling and fun. It engages every learner in their journeys of self-discovery, fulfilment and academic excellence;
• a community in which empathy, tolerance, integrity and shared purpose promote exemplary behaviour and outstanding relationships between all;
• developing confident learners who are happy, resilient and committed to shaping their world. They are proud of their abilities, highly ambitious and excited about their potential.
We hope you enjoyed the Easter break and look forward to another successful term.
Tuesday 15 Jan 2013
Welcome to readers of my first blog in 2013 and I would like to wish all students and parents a very happy and outstandingly successful new year !
Eagle-eared listeners in my assemblies at the start of term will recall my key theme – using time profitably because it passes incredibly quickly and we never know what new opportunities will present themselves ! ‘Carpe Diem’ – or ‘seize the moment’ is a motto of mine and a belief that I’d like all of my students to hold close to their hearts!
Well, barely had I finished my assemblies than I received a call on Tuesday morning informing me that Michael Gove, MP, the Secretary of State for Education would be visiting Coombe at the end of the week ! I was told that he would also be attending with a host of dignitaries, including the MP for Richmond and North Kingston, Zac Goldsmith and Cllr Andrea Craig.
Many of you will be well aware that Michael Gove is the most senior politician in government with responsibility for policy that impacts every single school in this country. As a school, we were immediately clear that this was both an enormous privilege and a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate the outstandingly positive, happy and unique learning environment that is Coombe Girls !
Whilst the visit was only planned to be an hour long, we were determined to pack in as much as we possibly could to ensure that Mr Gove met as many staff and students and visited as many classrooms as we could manage. On reflection, I feel that we certainly achieved that and he had a hectic hour with us last Friday ! If you would like to know about one of the key events, please read Year 12 student Alex Mackie’s write-up of Mr Gove’s answers to our student question panel which was absolutely fascinating. Mr Gove seemed relaxed, frank and open as he answered a myriad of questions about his life, education and journalistic and political career.
As a Headteacher, I am intensely interested in the politics of education and as you may imagine, there were questions that I would have loved to have had time to raise. However, time was extremely tight and it was abundantly clear that Mr Gove was determined to spend the maximum amount of time talking to our students and finding out exactly what they felt about their school !
From the comments that I received both during and after the visit I think that I can say that impression that he received was very clear ! Coombe students are happy, extremely focussed and an enormous credit to their school and themselves.
Strangely, we had no real idea why we were visited by such illustrious company until Mr Goldsmith explained that he had wanted to ‘showcase an outstanding local school’ in his area. Mr Gove was also clearly particularly interested in the highly successful federation arrangements that link the boys’ and girls’ schools. If you’d like to know more about the visit, please see the Surrey Comet website, or look out for us in the paper next week.
However, as I mentioned at the outset, time does not stand still and we have an enormously busy and exciting term to look forward to ! A huge number of our students are currently sitting January modules for the last time that these will happen and our Year 11s have just received their Mock Exam results. They are now about to begin the crucial final four months of preparation for their GCSEs.
Meanwhile, we are looking forward with excitement toward our Sixth Form RAG week, the Spring Concert, the school production and a host of other activities! Excitingly, we are also resurrecting outstanding events from the school’s past including the Isle of Wight Sixth Form team- building trip and our famous New York and Washington USA visit ! We are also launching a whole new programme of study to ensure that Coombe students have the best possible chance of success at the very best universities both in the UK and abroad.
All in all, Mr Gove’s visit has marked a great start to a new year at Coombe and it is clear that 2013 is well under way !
Tuesday 20 Nov 2012
As the year progresses, we are always of aware of the many changes looming on the horizon, and in particular preparing for the many changes predicted for education. Many of you will already be aware of the Government’s proposal to replace GCSE courses with the EBacc which proposes a focus on Maths, English, Science, MFL and Humanities and to discontinue AS and A2 January modules from 2013. We will endeavour to keep you informed of proposals and updates and ask that you continue to support your daughter’s education in the usual way. Also, we cannot forget the Ofqual report recommending a change to the ‘retake’ culture so prevalent over recent years. Here at Coombe we have seen many changes and are confident that the changes will not have an adverse affect on the students. Indeed, we envisage a smooth transition.
Change is inevitable and it seems that the time is quickly approaching for our current year 11s to move on in their educational journey. Over the last few weeks, we have been interviewing our current students hoping to gain a place onto a course in the Coombe 6th form. The high calibre of the students never ceases to please me and, this year, I have been particularly impressed with how prepared the students are and how assured they are about what they want to do in the future. It is reassuring to see that our careers advice is encouraging the students to be aspirational and excited about the opportunities available. We look forward to continuing in the same vein with our careers programme in active tutorials, assemblies, PSHCE and IAG days.
Finally, I must mention the selfless and mature support shown by our students for Remembrance Day. Poppy sales over the last few weeks were impressive and we were very proud that some of our students went to the New Malden memorial service on Sunday. As well as this, on Friday and Monday, assemblies were dedicated to the many people who have fought, died and lost loved ones for their patriotic duty. The Senior Performance Group showed remarkable empathy in their dramatized dedication and all students involved were able to reflect on the actions of others.
It is a testament to the Coombe students that they represent the Coombe Learner Profile so effortlessly. We look forward to supporting them further in their hard work in the upcoming Gym and Dance Display on 20th and 21st November and Carols by Candlelight on 12th December.
Monday 1 Oct 2012
The Coombe Girls' School prospective parents’ evening takes place on Wednesday 3rd October and we look forward to welcoming year 6 parents who face one of the most important decisions they may ever have to make for their daughter. We are sure that visiting parents will find us welcoming and happy to answer any questions they may have. Don't forget that we are also open for visitors of prospective pupils on the morning of the 4th from 9.30 until 12.30, so feel free to come along and watch our working day.
You will see that there are many exciting opportunities here at Coombe and, as well as welcoming prospective new parents, we look forward to applications arriving for next year's 6th form.
Some of our Media Studies students have just returned from a visit to the Harry Potter Experience and we were pleased to welcome guest speakers last week to our Year 11 progression guidance day. During the day the Y11 cohort were involved in an exciting range of activities and sessions to enable them to develop and focus their thinking about the range of possibilities for their futures after the end of Year 11. The sessions included a range of different areas including an introduction to the UCAS website (University and Colleges Admissions Service), a talk on student life by representatives from Kingston University, guidance discussions on Post-16 study options by members of the sixth form team and current Year 13 students and information on apprenticeship career routes in the local area.
As prospective sixth form students, our Year 11 girls will be able to benefit from our new Study 6 facility and thanks go to our PFA who have opened this new study area for the 6th form in the LRC; there are many new books & resources on offer aimed in particular at the upper school. In addition, the school garden continues to flourish with vegetables sold by the pupil gardeners and, across the school, a range of new literacy classes are on offer to support class and coursework.
We are extremely proud to announce that we have recently been given the Silver Eco-Schools' Award and the Eco Action Group are working hard on their next projects for the prestigious Eco School's Green Flag. We hope that staff, students and parents will participate by making bird boxes and looking out for Spring Watch activities after Christmas.
This time of year is exhilarating as we embark on new projects and welcome new cohorts. The results and enrolment days at Coombe Girls' School have been the most successful to date. We are very happy with the progress made by all of our students and are ready to face new challenges brought by changes to the external examinations in the future. We are very aware that parents and schools alike have been outraged by some of the pressures put on our young people; however, we believe that changes bring challenges. Challenge is something that Coombe has always embraced. We are here to support the students and give them the chance to fulfil their potential and take full advantage of the opportunities available. We will continue do this no matter what form examinations take and how high the standards are raised. We hope that parents will continue to make strong links with us at the school and join our newly launched parent council so that we can work together to give our students the best that the future has to offer. Please do not hesitate to become part of the Coombe team; never has the partnership between schools and their communities been so important.