Tuesday, 2nd September 2014

Shiplake’s first Edinburgh Fringe production in 10 years was a success both on and off stage this summer, with good audiences and excellent feedback.

One audience member wrote to the school: “Just wanted to congratulate your students on the simply TOP job they did in Edinburgh! I attended their performance yesterday during one of my five days at this year's Fringe. I had been very politely persuaded to do so the day before by some good old fashioned 'street persuasion' by the tall member of the group, I was very pleased that he did as I would not have wanted to miss that performance. Despite the early hour, not normally associated with that age group, all the players were 'on song', literally!

As I overheard a fellow audience member on the way out exclaim: 'very powerful stuff'. In my view a privilege to witness and scored 9/10 on my private score sheet. Absolutely VERY well done to all involved!”

The eleven strong cast - travelling as the Scruffy Penguin Theatre Company, performed a new play called Homeless.  The production was about a group of vulnerable young people who have formed a fragile community, while living on the street. Each character has their own story to tell about their past experiences, their current challenges and the dreams they have about escaping their present situation.

Students not only had to perform the show once a day for six days (at 9am in the morning!), but had to hand out flyers to try and sell the show to a paying public, see at least one show a day, and live in theatre digs. The experience gave students an idea of what is involved when working as a small professional theatre company while also storing up ideas for future exam productions by watching a wide variety of plays.

Tuesday, 2nd September 2014

Shiplake College was proud to host a pre-season rugby Coachclass course at the end of August, run by the Wasps Community programme. The Coachclass saw 28 boys, across the U9-U13 age groups, come together over three days to learn some of the essential individual and team skills required to succeed in rugby. Amongst the clubs represented at the Coachclass were Beaconsfield RFC, Henley Hawks, Reading Abbey RFC and Wallingford RFC.

Ben Smiley, the Schools Programme Officer and Coachclass Organiser, said after the course: "Wasps have some very close ties with Shiplake College, and we were delighted to be able to run a Coachclass at the venue. The facilities, pitches and setting at the College are outstanding, and they contributed to create a fantastic environment in which to coach. Wasps would like to thank everyone at Shiplake College, in particular Neil Walne, for their help in getting this Coachclass up and running, and we hope to be able to run more coaching events at the College soon."

Monday, 1st September 2014

"We are in the magic-weaving business" announced Sir John Jones, when he visited Shiplake College to present to the staff as part of their INSET training.

Standing at the front of the brand new Lecture Theatre, Sir John went on to provide an entertaining, thought-provoking, enlightening, educational, inspiring and even emotional two-hour talk about the vital role that the teachers at Shiplake play in the lives of our pupils. A role that involves preparing our children for a world that doesn't exist yet and for jobs that haven't been invented. More importantly, a role that involves "eliciting the inner greatness in the pupils - because they are all great".

Knighted in 2003 for Services to Education, Sir John worked for most of his professional life in challenging schools across the north west of England. He has also been invited on to a number of panels and think-tanks. Drawing on his own experiences of teaching and leading, or providing stories and observations from his time visiting other schools,  Sir John illustrated how a single teacher can 'make the difference' to a pupil - often landing that staff member either in the list of three people that changed a person's life, or on the list of those that damaged them.

Sir John's talk looked at the qualities of a good teacher and took the staff through theories that looked at the way someone thinks, how perceptions can be damaging to a child and how to encourage a growth mindset where 'anything is possible' instead of fixed mindset. Providing the staff with 'power phrases' to change their habits of speaking, Sir John illustrated how children may forget how a staff member made them think, but will never forget how they made them feel.

With September the month of New Year resolutions for those that work in schools, there is no doubt that many of the staff went away with lots of new ideas that they will be implementing in the classroom and around the school this academic year. Many staff may also be getting in touch with the 'magic weavers' that influenced them whilst at school and letting these former teachers know the positive impact they had on their own lives.


Thursday, 28th August 2014

During July and August of 2014, 10 students, along with Miss Unwin and Marcel and Sally Wagner, spent 4 weeks in Kenya for the annual trip organised by the College's Expedition Society. Spending four weeks camping, and up to five days at a time without the luxury of washing facilities, not to mention the huge culture shock for many of the students, the trip was both challenging and rewarding for all involved.

Amongst a packed programme of activities, highlights included meeting the natives of villages and the children at the Kikundu Schools Project, for which they built 36 desks and redecorated classrooms. They also spent five days climbing 17,000ft to reach the summit of Mount Kenya, and enjoyed white-water rafting, fishing and even trying goat cooked by some locals.

Marcel Wagner, the founder of GapAfrica, provides a reflection of the trip:

Our silver jubilee comes next year, 2015, but it will be difficult to match this year's trip in many of the ways in which a trip's success is gauged. The past five years have seen a completely new type of participant, boys and girls who are both interested in where they are going and also take as much from the trip as they can.

There are days when it is really difficult, a sandstorm filling your tent with grit, grit in the food and filling your ears up whilst you sleep, the cold and 0230 start on summit day on Mt. Kenya, those, sometimes, long drives on impossible tracks to get to where you want to be next, heat, thirst and then, the ultimate, the culture shock when arriving at the schools in the Kikunduku Schools Project. Add to all of this a lack of water, other than for drinking, that leaves us all nonplussed at being filthy, dirty... who would put clean clothes on a dirty body?

It is only in the last days - those days designed as a reward, days of late mornings in comfortable beds, hot showers and green lawns and fun things to do – that the realisation slowly dawns on what has been achieved, and seen, and the knowledge that hardly anyone else in all their circle and lives will ever see and experience what they have over this long month. These experiences run very deep and speaking about it to the peer group back home leaves blank faces and lack of interest. It is not their fault, they would not have experienced what the expedition boys and girls will have, so how could they even begin to understand... This 'realisation' carries on, long after that joyous reunion at the airport on their return, and the experience continues to seep into their lives, the consciousness, bringing depth, compassion and a richness of soul. It also changes lives.

The trip was in doubt almost until the day we left. Security issues and terrorism kept cropping up. We did take note of this, we tailored our itinerary to keep us away from Foreign Office 'no-go' areas. In the end all was well, the local bush telegraph worked well and the odd thing is that the only major alteration to our plans was made due to strong winds, not terror. Africa has a way of scuppering the best laid plans, but isn't that half the fun?

Saturday, 23rd August 2014

On sports day, the College held a charity raffle to win a signed football kindly donated by the current Chelsea FC playing squad. Thanks to the enthusiasm of pupils and staff, this raised over £150. Half the funds will go towards our ongoing support of sports injury charity The Matt Hampson Foundation, while the remaining money has been used for an entirely different project.

Heads of Department were asked to gather together spare learning resources to donate to less fortunate schools in challenging environments. This resulted in hundreds of Mathematics and Science textbooks (equating to 15 boxes) being packed up and sent to educational charity Books2Africa.

Director of Studies Mr Ian Munro explained: “At Shiplake, our curriculum is regularly updated to keep up with trends of the national curriculum and ensure pupils are being taught the most relevant and suitable content in each subject. This can sometimes lead us to choosing a different course specification at GCSE and A Level, or perhaps moving to a new exam board if they appear to provide a superior syllabus.

As a result of this, some course textbooks can unfortunately become redundant and no longer fit for purpose. Whilst most have had many years of use, it would still be a great shame to see them go to waste. Fortunately, charities such as Books2Africa help to distribute books to schools in need across Africa.” 

A Books2Africa courier arrived this week to collect our donation and the books will be distributed to schools across Africa where they can be put to greatest use. We are also planning to continue our support of Kikundu School in Kenya, via various fundraising efforts over the coming academic year.