Open Event questions & the New 11+

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Our recent Open Evening was one of the busiest we have ever had.  It was amazing to greet so many girls and their parents.  There was lots going on so I hope people who came didn’t miss out on activities.  Open Days have also been well attended; giving parents the opportunity to see a normal school day.  If parents have missed out on these occasions we hold another in May, when you are very welcome to return.  I was asked many questions by parents so I thought I would share some of my answers.

Parents of children on the Wirral are extremely fortunate because of the wealth of excellent schools.  In some areas of the country there is just one good or better local school that everyone has to fight to get into.  Here that is not the case.

There are huge debates taking place nationally regarding the Government’s latest dictat that there should be more Grammar schools.  This has led to, at worst, some Grammar school “bashing” and at best, debate regarding pedagogy and values.  Our recent Open Events have been opportunities for us at WKGS to showcase our school but also a chance to have discussions with parents about the pros and cons of the 11+.

Having been the Head of two excellent mixed comprehensives and now an outstanding Grammar, I have seen the benefits first hand.  I would argue that bright girls can thrive in any situation.  My daughter for example, and her friends did brilliantly at Dinas Brân, my previous school.  They were catered for because we had a fast track programme and were taught by some teachers who would enrich the curriculum both in and out of the classroom.  When I was Head there I used to say to teachers, “If your child was in your class, would you be proud of what you are teaching?”  “Would you speak to her like that?  “Would you be happy for her to witness what happened in your lessons?”  I was Head there for eight years. Eventually, with whole school training, dealing appropriately with behaviour, having streaming etc. teaching and learning improved and I am proud to say, in my last four years, Dinas Brân was in the top 10 schools in Wales. 

A key focus, however, of a comprehensive is very much the C/D borderline students and, in my experience, of managing behaviour.  Teachers have to be able to differentiate their lessons because of the enormous ranges of ability in the school and have to be masters of their craft to convince reluctant learners that they want to learn as well as providing opportunities for the most able to excel. A difficult task.

However, a Grammar School education is very different.  A parent told me yesterday that they were in a quandary because they have a good mixed comprehensive on their doorstep and they loved West Kirby, but it meant a bus journey, therefore they were weighing up the pros and cons.  And it is a dilemma because we all want the best for our children.

As a Head, I do not have to ask teachers at West Kirby questions.  Teachers here are so focused on doing their best to achieve the highest standards.  They do not have to spend their days dealing with disruption, they can focus on the task in hand.  Girls come to a Grammar School to do well.  They want to achieve.  It is a joy to walk around the school, to feel the buzz in lessons, to see them laugh and enjoy learning.  Year 7 girls are still able to play outside, to skip, to hopscotch, to enjoy being young girls.  The pressure on them to grow up quickly is there in the outside world but I truly believe that here we can give them the confidence to grow and mature at their own pace, we support them to achieve, we stretch and challenge them to aspire to be the best they can be without the distractions of the opposite sex, boisterous behaviour and noise.  The main difference in an all girls’ school is the confidence they show in the classroom.  Here, no one is afraid to put their hand up to answer questions; girls support each other and help each other to find solutions; they are not called “swot” or “teacher’s pet” for producing beautiful, detailed homework because they all do it!  In a mixed setting, even in a good school, you do find that boys shout the loudest and girls modestly take back seats unless really pushed and encouraged.  It never failed to astound me that my articulate, argumentative daughter and her very bright, lively friends, used to acquiesce to her male peers, even if they knew the boys were talking rubbish! 

I suppose it could be argued that by being in a mixed environment it prepares children better for the outside world and the challenges that lie ahead.  Again, unless you have taught in a Grammar or experienced the enrichment opportunities and the challenges offered you might think this were true.  Nothing can prepare girls better than the grounding we give them.  It gives them space to think, to grow, to develop their arguments, beliefs and character.  Our school is inclusive, bringing girls from all over the Wirral, North Wales, Chester and Liverpool.  This brings together different cultures, backgrounds, beliefs and customs.  It is a mixing pot of view-points and experiences.  Girls here are exposed to critical thinking, problem solving, enrichment that extends far beyond the classroom and they are able to realise their dreams without battling with disruption or put downs.  It doesn’t mean that teachers have an easier job.  The pressures are different.  We still need to differentiate, support and guide – but the stretch and challenge is at a much higher level; the girls are thirsty for knowledge and teachers have to keep abreast of the latest developments in their fields.

The school is one big family and always feels very positive and calm. This isn’t to say that the girls always get on!  As in any family, there are times when there are disagreements.  Any Head who says that friendship issues do not happen in their school is not telling the truth.  When one has over a thousand young people under one roof there will always be fall-outs, disagreements, and very infrequently, someone who feels isolated or excluded from a friendship group.  At West Kirby, if we know about a situation we deal with it, communicating with parents, endeavouring to build bridges between girls and sorting out problems.  Strong pastoral care means we get to know girls well and can solve issues quickly.  Friendship problems happen everywhere, but here they are dealt with and not pushed aside.  Our aim is that every girl should be happy.  If they are they, can then focus on their learning and achievements which is why we are so successful.  We offer support through a Learning mentor, School Counsellor, excellent pastoral teams, youth worker, School nurse and so on.  No one gets lost.  We strive to ensure every child is successful.

So now to the 11+.  “Should I put my daughter under that pressure?” was a question asked on Wednesday night.

My answer is “what pressure?”  If she passes you give her additional choices, if she doesn’t there are excellent schools on the Wirral or Chester or Flintshire to choose from.  Our joint decision with the other three Grammar Schools to move to the new CEM 11+ negates the need for tutoring.  The new test builds upon the work the children do in their primary schools.  Numeracy, literacy, comprehension and problem solving.  The old 11+ was archaic and children often needed a tutor to help them access the language of the test.  Many horror stories have been bandied about regarding how hard it is…..but I am sure much of that is to keep tutors in business!  If your daughter loves to learn, can talk about what she is doing/reading/learning, is good at English and Maths, then she should attempt the paper.  The test is now done on one day.  There are two fifty minute papers with a twenty minute break in between.  What’s to lose?  

We are proud to welcome girls from all backgrounds, cultures and north west areas.  Why not come to join our happy family?

 

Ayesha

Ayesha joined WKGS from Leamington Community Primary School in Liverpool in September 2015. She is now in Year 8 and her favourite subjects are Biology, Mathematics and Religious Studies. Her proudest moment so far in life was winning an art competition and meeting the then Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Tony Concepcion. Outside of school she enjoys swimming and cycling. Ayesha hopes to become a doctor because she wants to help people to the best of her ability.

"I was really nervous coming to WKGS, especially because I was the only student from my primary school and leaving my friends behind was difficult. The induction day was really helpful and everyone was very welcoming. I found it easy to make new friends. I believe that life is not a race and the only things you should be chasing are your dreams. If you are willing to let West Kirby help you to achieve them, this is the place for you."

Kristen

Kristen is in Year 12 and joined WKGS from St Bridget's Primary School, West Kirby when she was in Year 7. She is studying four subjects in Year 12; Fine Art, Textiles, Psychology and Biology. She enjoys Art a lot, but Textiles is her passion and she hopes to work within the Fashion Industry. Her greatest achievement was securing an A* grade in both GCSE Art and Textiles.

I am very happy to be part of the Sixth Form at WKGS and in particular because of the breadth of A-level options available, including Fine Art, Art Textiles and Textiles Technology.

Sheila

Sheila McClennon is our Chair of Governors.

"I have such happy memories of my time at West Kirby and am still friends with the girls I met here. We were quite a lively group, did a lot of drama and I just remember lots of laughter; those uncontrollable giggles that come out of nowhere usually in assembly. But we all did well. I worked in Paris before studying English, Drama and American Studies at Manchester University. Since then I have worked in radio and television as a reporter and presenter mainly on BBC Radio 4 although I did have a lovely year with Terry Wogan taking famous people out to lunch before his chat show. I moved back to the Wirral when my daughter Rachel was born and was thrilled when she, too, started at West Kirby. And now after many years as a Parent Governor I have taken over as Chair. It’s a great honour - I owe the school a lot and it’s nice to be able to give something back."

Nicole

Nicole is in Year 9 and joined WKGS from Avalon School in September 2014. Year 9 girls have already begun their GCSE courses and Nicole enjoys GCSE PE, English and Maths lessons. Her other options are German, History, Business, Religious Studies and Triple Science (Biology, Chemistry and Physics). Nicole is a hugely talented Table Tennis player and has represented England at the European Mini Cadets & Ireland at the Slovakian Open. She aspires to play at the Commonwealth Games in Tokyo.

She writes: I like WKGS because the school gives me the best opportunities to be the best I can be.

Hannah

Hannah joined WKGS in September 2012 from Prenton Preparatory School. She is now in Year 11 and is studying Mathematics and Further Maths, English, English Literature, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Geography, History, Latin and Physical Education at GCSE. Hannah enjoys swimming and running competitively and competes in many triathlons. She also plays Netball and takes part in athletics and cross country fixtures for the School.

Hannah is a very able mathematician and hopes to study a maths or science-related degree at university. She writes:

WKGS is very welcoming. There are a variety of different activities, which are suitable for everyone. The staff are friendly and helpfu and provide the best opportunities to help me achieve my goals.

Sienna

Sienna is in Year 7 and joined WKGS in September 2016. She was previously a pupil at Cornist Park Primary School in North Wales. Sienna has settled in well and loves Maths, French and Spanish lessons. She enjoys netball, ballet and tap, musical theatre and drama activities and raises money for the RNLI each summer. Sienna's proudest achievement to date was winning the Under 12s Welsh netball championship in Cardiff; she was part of the first team under the age of 16 to win this accolade. Sienna will remain at WKGS until Year 13 when she hopes to go on to become a brain or heart surgeon.

I feel proud and excited to be part of such a wonderful school. WKGS is worth more than getting up at 6 o'clock each morning! It is where I've always wanted to be. I love it!! 

Mr N Attwood

Neil Attwood is our IT Manager and since the early 1980’s, whilst a pupil at Calday Grammar School, he has been involved in computing. He is a Time Served Electrician and has a Degree in Software Engineering. He joined WKGS in 2007 as an IT Technician and has developed as the School’s IT Provision since. Over the past three years the school has installed an entirely new network and new virtualised servers and now has a solid foundation in for current and future technologies. From here on the possibilities of utilising new teaching and learning techniques are un-paralleled. Neil has recently become a member of the Health and Safety Committee and has embarked on as Master Course in Advanced Education Practice.

“I am honoured to have been given the opportunity to work at WKGS. The school's ethos is both traditional and modern with staff and leadership embracing the ever increasing uses of technology. We are now at the beginning of a whole new era of Mobile Technologies and I am looking forward to developing these for the benefit of both staff and students. Over the next few years I want to enhance the teaching and learning experience by introducing new methods of interactivity and collaboration which will allow our students to excel both during their schooling and in their onward journey into higher education and beyond”.

Mrs A Goodall

Mrs Audra Goodall joined WKGS as Head of Physical Education way back in 1994, having previously taught at Derby Moor Community School where she was Head of Year 9. She attended Worcester Girls’ Grammar School before progressing on to Bedford College of Physical Education where she graduated with a BEd(Hons) in Human Movement Studies. Audra has always had a passion for sport and as a teenager represented Worcestershire in netball, athletics and cross country. She then went on to represent Wales in the U21 and senior national netball squad for seven years.  She still enjoys keeping fit by playing netball for Vale Royal Netball Club in the Chester netball league as well as running whenever she can find the time!

‘I feel privileged to lead a team of highly motivated and committed colleagues in the PE department at WKGS who give so much of their time to provide additional opportunities for our students. It’s fantastic how sport for girls has progressed and there are now so many activities for them to get involved in, with so many positive role models to aspire to. The students at WKGS have a vast range of extra-curricular activities to choose from, covering all areas of the curriculum. I love our traditional school House system which allows them to take part in the 1500m on Sports Day, sing in the House Choir or try out their culinary skills in the House Bake-Off!’

Elizabeth

Elizabeth (Lizzie) is in Year 10. She joined us in September 2013 from Avalon School, West Kirby. She is enjoying the challenge of 10 GCSE subjects and in particular enjoys Music, Geography, French and Spanish. A keen clarinetist, Lizzie has completed her Grade 5 exam as well as Grade 6 in piano. She is a chorister at Liverpool Cathedral and plays in Wirral Schools' Concert Band.

Lizzie's greatest achievement to date is singing with the Liverpool Cathedral Choir in a concert which was televised on BBC1. She looks forward to reaching Grade 8 in both instruments and wishes to pursue a successful career in science.

West Kirby Grammar School has offered me many new opportunities that I would never have thought of doing alone. It has helped discover new talents and make memories that I will never forget.

 

Ryan

Ryan is in Year 12 and joined us from Birkenhead School for our Sixth Form. He is studying English Literature, PE, Physics and Economics. He particularly enjoys studying English Literature and Economics, which is housed in our newly refurbished Sixth Form Centre, Easedale. Outside of school, Ryan is a keen sportsman and plays tennis and football; a sport in which he has won over sixty trophies. Ryan's ambition is to set up a successful financial advertising company, which makes his A-level Economics a top priority!

I was extremely excited and happy to join WKGS as I knew it to be a very good school, which gets extremely strong results and could help me fulfil my potential in every aspect of life. "Everything was impossible, until someone actually did it...."

Kaya

Kaya joined WKGS in September 2016 in Year 12. She was formerly a student of Birkenhead High School Academy. She is studying A-levels in History, Spanish and Economics and a fourth AS subject, English Literature.

Kaya is a very keen rower and competes at Warrington Rowing Club. Her greatest acheivement to date is coming second in the British Junior Rowing Championships in July 2016 with her double partner. She also relishes being part of the Young Enterprise project in her enrichment periods.

I was really excited to join WKGS for the Sixth Form. It provided me with a fresh start and a chance to make new friends. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time so far as everyone has been so welcoming. I find all my A-level subjects really interesting.

Bethan

Bethan joined WKGS in Year 7 from St Peter's Church of England Primary School, Heswall. She is now in Year 12 and is studying Biology, Chemistry, English Literature and Spanish. She is working towards her Grade 5 piano examination and enjoys dance lessons in Modern and Musical Theatre. Bethan is looking forward to going to Uganda in the summer of 2017 with her Youth Group. Her proudest achievement to date has been getting the role of Maria in the school production of The Sound of Music in November 2016. She hopes to go to university, possibly to study medicine. However, she intends also to continue studying Spanish and it's something she really enjoys.

I honestly couldn't be happier at WKGS. Being here has given me so many amazing opportunities and I have formed great friendships, which I am sure will last for life.

Miss S Cliffe

Miss Sophie Cliffe joined WKGS as a newly qualified Psychology teacher in September 2016. Having completed her BSc Psychology and Criminology degree at Liverpool John Moores in 2014, she has since gone on to complete her PGCE at Glyndwr University in Wales. Sophie describes herself as a teacher who is passionate about her subject and someone who is devoted to becoming a subject specialist pedagogue. For this reason, she has recently enrolled to complete a Masters in Education run by WKGS alongside Liverpool John Moores University. 

 

I am privileged to be part of a fantastic department that runs extra curricular trips and excursions to enable students to apply psychology to real life situations. In December, we are taking students to London overnight so they have the opportunity to participate in a phobia workshop! We are also attending a Criminology conference in the latter part of the year. This will provide students with a unique insight into why people commit crime, which will assist them in their discussions when we cover forensic psychology as a module later on in the year. 

Tonia

Tonia joined WKGS in 2002 from Avalon School and left in 2009, with AAB A levels. This enabled her to go on to study at the University of Birmingham, where she achieved a First Class honours degree in Sport and Exercise Science. After university, she undertook the role of Sports Intern at Millfield in Somerset. She has since been working in as Outdoor Activities Co-ordinator and Assistant Houseparent in a girl’s boarding house. In the future, she plans to complete a PGCE and enter the teaching profession.

During her time at WKGS, Tonia was elected as Paton House Captain. This leadership role led to her most memorable moment from school; captaining Paton House to victory in the highly anticipated, annual House Music competition, with a medley of songs from ‘The Lion King’.

"WKGS opened my eyes to the importance of volunteering and giving back to the community. I was given the opportunity to travel to Inner Mongolia, rural China, as part of the ‘Making a Difference’ project in 2007, which is an extremely worthwhile cause. Additionally, I gained an appreciation of the value of team work and camaraderie, through group work, representing the School in sport and the Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. I believe my strong educational background, teamed with making the most of every opportunity, provided me with many transferable skills and prepared me for life after leaving school with many happy memories and lifelong friends."

 

Mr J Young

Jon Young is in charge of Product Design. He grew up on the Wirral and attended South Wirral High School, where he was always involved in shows, productions, choirs, trips and house events. He was inspired by John Griffiths, an iconic, brown lab-coated CDT teacher who had a kind heart and an immense love for machinery and materials. Jon became Head Boy at South Wirral before embarking on a degree in Product Design with QTS at JMU. He then joined WKGS in 2002 in a time of transition from CDT and Electronics to industrial application, modern materials and manufacturing. Jon is a very active member of the Parents Association and also a School Governor on the Curriculum and Health & Safety Committee.

"I am very fortunate to work in a forward-thinking school with colleagues who all want the best for their students and strive to provide them with the best resources and enrichment opportunities to stretch beyond the school day. I also enjoy supporting the PA and organise the Junior School Disco. Recently, I have also been appointed as Enterprise Coordinator, a new and exciting challenge, which will involve me forging links with local businesses and running Enterprise Days. It is an exciting time in Technology at WKGS with a new computer suite, state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities, a new laser cutter and 3D printer, all of which enable our students to produce work of an industrial and commercial standard."

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Ayesha
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Kristen
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Sheila
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Nicole
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Hannah
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Sienna
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Mr N Attwood
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Mrs A Goodall
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Elizabeth
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Ryan
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Kaya
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Bethan
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Miss S Cliffe
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Tonia
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Mr J Young
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