Archive for the ‘School’ Category

Social events at Campbell College

Campbell runs quite a series of social events at the college aimed at the parents and former pupils.

They’ve a series of parent/teacher prayer meetings through the year in addition to various family services in the Great Hall. I’d sort-of thought of it as just a school hall but it appears that it counts as a church. In the last family service they had a christening and it seems that they do weddings as well.

Courtesy of the large choir and orchestra, they stage a number of productions during the year. You might be thinking “oh, school production” but in fact the musical event last week was thoroughly professional. In keeping with the spirit of the school, everything was handled by the pupils. Quite surprising to me were the two comperes introducing the show. To be honest, I’d thought that these were the guys who’d opted out of performing and then about 10 minutes into the show they stepped to the side to be the leads in one of a series of numbers that cropped up in the course of the show.

An interesting contrast to the primary school is the approach to child protection. As they say from the outset, they want to celebrate every success of the children and therefore photos of them will appear in publications, online and on the TV. Moreover, there was no stigma about singling out each performer during the show (and quite a number of them were really fantastic).

We’ve not made it through the whole year yet but the above is just a sampler of what’s on offer and doesn’t include such things as the excellent Halloween ball or the upcoming theatre production.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Parent-teacher consultation at Campbell

We had our first parent-teacher consultation with James’ teachers a couple of weeks back.

The first encounter with it was a few weeks earlier when he was issued with a timetable which he’d to have each of his teachers fill in a time between 3.45 and 6pm on the day of the consultation. Each slot was five minutes long and with over a dozen teachers, it sounded like a recipe for chaos.

In the end he missed out several of the teachers but we managed to pick up most of those he’d missed in the gaps that we had between the others. That meant for a very tiring afternoon as the first slot was just after 4pm and we were there right up t0 6pm with virtually no gaps to recuperate between teachers.

I say “teachers” but in reality they operate more like tutors since the classes are so small (just 17 in his) so it’s fairly easy for the teachers to pay individual attention to each pupil in their classes. They were pretty much all very upbeat and positive and the only area where he needs to up the ante is in French (which he should be quite good at). We came away really impressed at how much effort each teachers puts into each of the pupils and it’s confirmed our belief a year ago that it’s the right school for James. So far, he seems to be doing well in the subjects that really matter.

We thought we’d another couple of years to go before we needed to think about subject choices but it turns out that the first decision point is at the end of this year when he’s to choose between Spanish and German as his second language. At the moment, the front runner seems to be Spanish but that could change.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Two months into Campbell College

We’d gotten into a reasonable routine on the homework front as we moved through September which, most of the time, let James keep on top of it. Not an entirely perfect routine mind you as we’d a bit of a wobble mid-month when he figured that he should only do homework the day before handing it in rather than when he received it but we recovered from that. I say “we” as this early in the journey, he’s not quite organised enough to run the whole show himself but he is progressing in the right direction on that front. A couple of weeks in, he took over the organisation of his bag for the next day which was a big step forwards.

The volume of homework, so far, has been surprisingly manageable. Quite a varied mix from day to day and quite a variation in what is required from each of his subjects too. The technology in particular seems to vary quite a lot with bits of reading and note-taking, literacy, drawing, and design work making it by far the most well-rounded subject at the moment. Maths is pretty much as you’d expect with a mix of written and online homeworks that are going over some of the same ground as was covered rather speedily for the transfer test. The early weeks of both technology and art highlighted how much the standard has moved up from primary school and over just a few weeks the work he was handing in moved from being very obviously primary school homework through to bearing at least a reasonable resemblance to grammar school work. The homework tails off rapidly as the mid-term break nears.

We’ve been to a presentation cum seminar that was run for the new starts a few weeks into the term. That tidied up a number of points that I’m sure that many were wondering about but I don’t think that we would say that we know everything yet, the snag being that we don’t know exactly what questions to ask. Way back for instance, we were assuming that we needed to pay the fee upfront and never thought to ask about paying it over a number of months but in practice when you get to the point of paying, their assumption seems to be that you’ll pay by direct debit. On the other side, we’d assumed that we’d only be paying the £50 for the lunch card but in fact the bill was £154 with the extra £100 being made up of the charge for the stationery pack (which is actually all the workbooks etc. and not just the calculator, pencil case and compass), a peculiar charge for transport (which covers excursions that haven’t happened yet) and some additional materials for technology and home economics.

In place of a PTA, for the moment, is the parents’ forum. So far, there’s only been one quite informative meeting of that. It’s better than a PTA in the sense that it’s not restricted to a limited clique but not so good in that it’s not a vehicle for organising parent/teacher events which is the one area that the school lacks at the moment. Somewhat surprisingly, the school has only had a marketing manager for a few months; I get the impression that she will radically lift the profile of the school in the months and years to come.

The family service in October was a very well attended event. Whilst we hadn’t particularly looked for a Christian school, it’s clear that Christian values run right through the school and I think that’s underlying the various “trivial” things that we noticed at the outset and continue to notice as time goes on. Although it’s not a faith school as such it does have the very caring attitudes and values that you’d expect to see in one – in fact the only other school we saw with a similar approach was the Catholic grammar school Our Lady and St Patrick’s.

The only downside we’ve seen is in the traffic jams that are frequent at 3.30 but avoidable when we set off in time in the mornings. Friday afternoon in particular is generally really bad as there aren’t so many after school clubs that day so just about everyone arrives at the same time.

Major upsides are that James has become quite fired about maths which is some feat as he just hated the maths in primary school. The catering exclusively for boys’ interests has helped him in all of the subjects yet it’s not something that we’d even considered a year ago. For example, the topics in English kicked off with those aimed at getting boys fired up about the subject rather than attempting to go for topics that would interest both boys and girls. The library is just for boys which has bumped up the reading he does and he’s even ordered a book. Even though it’s early days for us, his confidence is clearly up – he’d never have even thought to order a book before. Having just 17 in his class has removed the chance of “hiding at the back” that you can get when there are 30 and, whilst we can’t point to something specific, that extra attention can only be to the good and will pay off over the years to come.

So, for us, a good choice and one that is surprisingly affordable.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Campbell College one week in

Campbell is a massive school with a number of quite large buildings, a fair number of smaller ones plus assorted sports fields dotted around an enclosed estate of around 100 acres. Or, in short, it’s a massive place for an 11 or 12 to get used to.

As a consequence of that, they have a whole day of familiarisation for the new starts the day before the rest of the school starts back. In theory, that gets them to know where all their classes are but in practice they all seem to have forgotten by the next day. That combined with the school ethos of always doing your best, has led to some tears with some of the kids who find that they haven’t a clue where to go first thing in the morning as they get quite worked up about being late. It’s fine after that because in the first year, the class is just that as all of those in each of the classes go round in a group for the whole year so if one kid knows where to go, they’re fine. Older kids would realise that the teachers will be very forgiving in the first few weeks and they’re not surprised about a few stragglers who’ve gotten lost, but at 11 or 12 it is, of course, a different matter. Courtesy of the two week timetable, it’ll be next Wednesday before they’ve been to all the classes at least once.

Homeworks have, so far, been very easy going affairs ranging from hunting out medieval images for history through to writing out a short critique of a book for English. There’s very much a concentration on English and maths in the timetable with both subjects on nearly every day whilst the other subjects seem generally more like two or three times over the course of the two week timetable (mind you, that’s just my impression as I’ve not got his timetable in front of me).

There is a choice of several after school activities every weekday though they don’t seem to have started yet. That’s understandable as I don’t think the first year people could cope with any more at the moment. Possibles for our little guy include the languages club, fencing, reading club, young enterprise club and perhaps drama. Basically they’ve a mix of sporty things and academic things. On Saturday mornings, there are rugby and hockey with swimming on Saturday and Sunday though he’s ruled out anything that involves getting up early at the weekend.

Other firsts seem to be in the process of being overcome, with the ties getting a touch neater as the week has progressed and the shoes will have been tied a little faster too. Writing with a pen most of the time is something that our little guy has adjusted to really fast – his writing was so neat the other day that I thought someone else had done it. We’ve still not quite a full set of gear for him though I think the main thing remaining is the white sports socks with the mouth guard being measured up for yesterday.

We’ve not quite got properly into our two school routine yet though that’s mainly down to the heap of road works that are ongoing at the moment along seemingly every road. Surprisingly, James being a touch late means that John is a touch late too – we’d expected that John would always be early so long as James was more or less on time. Picking him up is more of a rush than we’d expected too as it can take almost 30 minutes to get between the two schools rather than the 15 or so that we’d expected. Mind you, that doesn’t matter a whole lot as the traffic jam in Campbell is something else sometimes (so far, Friday has been by far the worst day taking 40 minutes to clear last week!).

One major change for us is that his class is tiny so it’s a lot easier to have a chat with his teacher than it has ever been. It’s a big change for him too as there’s no more hiding at the back of the class and I imagine that the level of participation is a good deal higher which can only be for the good.

Overall, it still seems like it was the right choice for him.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

School preparations

There’s only a couple of weeks to go before James starts in his new school so we’re running around getting the last few things gathered together.

As he’s left the primary school behind, it means a whole new set of things for the uniform for a start. We bought most of that back in June but thought that it would be prudent to leave things like the trousers and shoes until closer to the start of the new school year. We met one of the parents last week who’d not done that and who is now running around exchanging everything for larger sizes.

Whilst we’ve the uniform pretty much sorted out now, there are some awkward things still to get. He’s very skinny so it’s quite difficult to get trousers that are long enough (he’s quite tall) but narrow enough at the waist at the same time. For the first time, he’ll be wearing a shirt and tie so we need to find out his neck size and also to teach him how to tie the tie.

In terms of stationery, it seems that we don’t need to get anything at this point as they’re provided with a stationery pack on the first day that provides everything that they need.

Also to be read over are the booklets that the school provided on the welcome night back in June. Well, we’ve read them, but that was a couple of months ago so I think it’s best that we read over them again in case we’ve missed anything vital.

What we’ve not worked out yet is how we’ll get the two little guys to their schools once the both of them start. It should be fine for the first week, but we’ve not sorted out a long term means of getting them in two different directions at much the same time.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.