Category Archives: Students

Life in the Learning Commons

Friday already and the end of my first full week as Director of Learning Commons and what a week it was.  Before I launch into looking back and indeed forward to some upcoming events, I just want to say thank you for the fantastically warm welcome I have had from students and staff.  Particularly to our wonderful Digital Leaders who have made my transition smooth and stress free.

This week we celebrated Roald Dahl’s birthday, it was great to have conversations with the students on our fond memories of these amazing books.  Remember that if the book you are after is not in the library then do check our eReading platform.


We also got a sneak peak at the yacht we will be using in a cooperative venture with UTC Plymouth, this will see a small team build and program an autonomous yacht to sail round a course of GPS way-markers.  Watch this space!


Calling All Engineers

RN YOE 18 - LockUp

The Royal Naval Engineering Challenge 2019 (RNEC 19) will take place at HMS SULTAN in Gosport, Hampshire, on Wednesday 27 March 2019.  I am looking to put a team of Engineers together to work on this exciting challenge where each team will be required to design and build a floating vessel and a separate RV, both of which can operate by remote control and work together to recover the aircraft. More details and a sign up form if interested can be found here.

Interested in coding?

Screenshot 2018-09-13 at 21.41.49

This term will see the relaunch of Code Club; a great opportunity to support our students who want to learn to code.  The code will help to build projects such as Scratch, HTML, CSS and python by making games, animations and websites.  For more information, visit their website.

Sign up here if you are interested.

This week Ms Buckler is reading Split Second by Sophie McKenzie.



RED HOT Lesson Blog post 5

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I really enjoyed observing Al Morris’ Year 8 DT class last week.

This lesson allowed the students to tidy away after a busy practical session in a safe and ordered environment. During the previous lesson, the students had been made aware of expectations to clear away. Al has used music to establish routines and teach pupils to associate particular cues with specific behavioral requirement’s in the classroom taken from Pavlov’s theory. Music is a great tool to signal a transition from one activity to another, for both the teacher and the student. The students knew exactly what to do when they heard the music, Benny Hill’s theme tune and responded right away. The room was tidy within 2.40 mins, a seriously impressive time. Pupils also had an incentive to do well as groups were timed and feedback and commendations given to winning tables.

The lesson ended with a ‘catch the question’ plenary.” Al started the ball rolling by asking a question, on answer a pupil could then ask a question to the class that they were sure or unsure of the answer and so on. Pupils were really enthusiastic to take on the teacher’s question role. It was a quick and easy plenary to apply in any lesson.

On arrival I had noticed a sign which read “Luke Warm Lesson!” Al, you need to change the sign to Red Hot Lesson.

Amanda Burdon

Red hot lesson blog post 5

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Peer Monitoring the SPAG helps fill the pot to success!

On each table is a laminated A3 coloured sheet demonstrating best practice use of SPAG. All students are consciously aware of their grammar expectations.

During the previous lesson, the students were required to write a paragraph using creative writing skills to compose the beginning of a ghost story.

The peer mentor went around the room whilst the teacher (Gemma)  was delivering the next part of the work, reading over the students work and awarding them a gold star if they managed to get no grammar errors. If the peer mentor spotted an error this would be circled to allow the student to make the relevant correction.

Brilliant – 1) teacher spends time teaching instead of marking, 2) it acts as a learning opportunity for the peer mentor, 3) there is no disruption or time lost from peer marking in class 4) the students have the incentive to do well so they get a gold star……which leads to a bigger prize.

What’s not to like? Everybody remembers getting gold star in school it’s nostalgic.

Well done Gemma!

Nicola Lilley  with thanks to Gemma Machray


Red hot lessons- Blog post 4

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“Spot the errors”

Nicola produced an A5 size sheet with five questions/statements each of which contained one or more errors.  As the class entered they were given a sheet and the questions/statements were also projected onto the screen.  They had five minutes to study the sheet before Nicola started to ask students to identify the errors which they then had to circle.  Not only did they have to identify the errors, they also had to justify why they thought they were errors.  The questions/statements were progressively more difficult.

An ideal starter to assess prior learning (could also be used to introduce a new topic) and to get the students ‘warmed up’.  They responded very well indeed and the use of ‘errors’ made it that more interesting.  Some struggled with justifying their answer and Nicola used this as an opportunity to develop their answers with further questions. Sheets were then collected in at the end.  

Kevin Mitchell (Observer)

Interestingly, I called the starter “Beat the Teacher”, but it all amounts to the same thing.  The previous lesson I gave the students the opportunity to fill in a table identifying key aspects of legal structures of business. As I was unsure of whether or not they really appreciated the nuances, I created a starter to check their understanding and reinforce their knowledge by putting the A01 knowledge into context.  

I’m definitely using it again; 1) it gave me chance to get organised and take the register, 2) it got them settled in to the lesson quickly, 3) I was able to challenge their understanding and application to a high level, 4) it gave me an opportunity to hand out commendations at the start of the lesson which got us off to a positive start.

Nicola Lilley (Teacher)

Day 5:The Cookie Monster , Sir Ian and Gollum

One of the reasons I get on so well with my form group is because I believe that positive nurturing in the early years will pay dividends as they move up the school and develop into less angelic creatures.
I like to make one of my tutor sessions each week a bit personal geared towards them and their needs and one of the key skills I have been encouraging them to do is to resist temptation.  When I asked them what this could mean at school, they gave me examples such as
“hitting someone when they upset you”
“shouting out an answer in class”
“calling someone a name like douche”
“pinching someone else’s stuff”
Generally the low level annoying behaviour. that if we didn’t have we would have solved the problem nationally.
I then played them this clip from Sesame street as it’s something they’re all familiar with and often the simple messages are the most effective.
The moral to my episode is that we all have “cookies” in our lives everyday.  Your challenge is to resist the cookie, take a deep breath and think about what effect your actions will have. Doing nothing is better than doing something and getting into trouble.
I hope I can use the cookie resistance ……in teaching it’s called patience.
Happy Christmas,
Nicola Lilley10174117234_b263cd11f2

Revision Strategies

Greetings citizens of the internet! (™Ryan Sherbet on YouTube)

I’m Jonathan Dunn, director and founder of, and a year 11 student who’s partway through his exams. I started my revision at the end of January, which is completely reasonable and earlier than when most people started – I think it was just over 100 days until my exams started when I began revising. This means that I have had plenty of time to master my revision techniques, and so I hope to share them with you today.

First of all, revision strategies vary from subject to subject. Also this isn’t necessarily the best way for you to revise as this is a matter of personal preference and so you should do what works best for you.

I would highly recommend a revision timetable; if you want an easy template that I used, then I would be happy to share it. It works best if you lay out pretty much all of your day and then you can visually see where you have free time. I found that 45 minute sessions with 15 minute breaks between each session works best for me. I did initially an hour and a half each day with a day off on Sundays.

I’ll start with Maths as you all should be taking that. Here past papers are key. Work through as many as you can and make sure you understand all the questions you went wrong on; take them to your teacher during lunch if you don’t get them at all.

English. Now, everyone says that you can’t revise for English; well they’re kind of right. It’s not so much revising knowledge, but improving your skills. With the language exam you want to practice the questions and take them to your teacher to get feedback. Then go back and try it again. Also read examiners reports and check out Mr Bruff, on YouTube.

Sciences. You should be taking Chemistry, Biology and Physics. Now for these I disagree with doing past papers partly. I think it’s more important to actually learn what you’re being tested on first. So read through the entire textbook. This seems like a big task, so do it in little manageable bits, like when you’re on the bus. Then read the syllabus through properly. (You can find these with a quick Google search). After reading a topic and its syllabus section, then do the past papers.

MFL. Here you should be learning as much vocab as possible. If you get a vocab book then put them onto Quizlets. I can’t recommend Quizlets enough. (Email me if you’re interested in a complete German Quizlet set of all the vocab you need).  Then practice them regularly.

The other subjects are all your options, which will be different to mine, so you can work out how to revise for them yourself. I hope this has been of use. Any questions then email me.

Happy revising and good luck!

(It isn’t about luck; it’s about the hard work you put in now. Success is not by magic it’s by work!)

Jonathan Dunn


My Revision Techniques

The key to revising, in my eyes, is planning. Throughout the year I think that it is crucial to make notes in every lesson and make sure you understand what you have learnt, then go over your notes that evening so that you are confident on the subject. Don’t be afraid to ask your teacher for help if you do not understand at the time, it will make your life significantly easier in the future. When it comes to serious revising in summer, the process suddenly becomes a lot easier and manageable as you have already understood the whole course. From Christmas time to Easter I will write all my notes on to revision cards, with a question based on the syllabus on one side, and the answers on another side. However, I know that revision cards are not best suited to everyone, some prefer just writing on paper or making posters, but what you have learnt needs to be written down because the process of physically writing involves conscious thought and it is much more difficult to switch off, unlike just reading through a textbook. I can then use these cards at anytime, making sure I regularly test my knowledge and, most importantly, make mistakes which I can then learn from. After this learning stage, past papers are very useful. I usually do one or two for each exam using the book to help me and take a long time over each question, then mark them in detail. If there are any topics that you are finding particularly difficult, make sure you spend time doing extra questions, until it becomes your strongest topic. I usually do the remaining papers on my own without the book as a mock and I spend a lot of time seeing how the mark scheme wants me to answer the question. I do as many past papers as I possibly can, and I usually do about two within the week before the exam. During this intense revision period, take breaks and use your breaks productively, such as doing some exercise or playing an instrument. You cannot work all day every day with no breaks. It is also normal to be stressed, and I would be worried if you weren’t stressed. I believe it is important to be able to use that stress wisely and convert it to motivation to revise.

Matthew Adams