Sixth Form Applications for September 2023 NOW OPEN, please click here

The Secrets of our Success Letter

Posted on 18th March 2014

A New Senior Prefect Team

I am delighted to announce the appointment of the new Senior Prefect Team to serve for the next 12 months.  The Head Boy is Ben Stacey, the Head Girl is Kate Pattison, the Deputy Head Boy is Marcus Polledri and the Deputy Head Girl is May Al-Moasseb.  Additionally, I am very pleased to tell you of the appointment of two new Secretaries to the School Council, Sheehan Quirke and Annabel May.

Congratulations to all of them.  I am sure they will serve the school with distinction.  Congratulations to all 28 students who put themselves forward for positions in the Senior Prefect Team.  We are very proud of them all.  There will be many other opportunities to serve the School for these students including our soon to be selected House officials.

Our new team will have big boots to fill!  The retiring Senior Prefect Team, consisting of: Head Boy Matthew Walker; Head Girl Antonia Feilden; Deputy Head Boy Liam McHale; Deputy Head Girl Blythe Holland; and Secretaries to the School Council, Harrison Holland and Jinjin Guo, have made a huge contribution to the life of the School and have probably been the most influential team ever.  They have our appreciation and admiration.

New Ways of Measuring Success at Caistor Grammar School

At a recent staff meeting, I asked Heads of Department to identify five students that are taught their subject in the school who are both particularly outstanding and a delight to teach.  This is the first time we have gone through this manoeuvre but it will not be the last: it was an enthralling and inspiring half hour.  We recorded the names of all students mentioned and every one of them will receive postcards to mark this distinction.  Some students were mentioned more than once which seems to me a really extraordinary accolade.  Thomas Christie (8Z) was mentioned no fewer than six times, Caroline Bassett (10Y) was mentioned five times, John Asumang (11Y) was mentioned five times, Megan Harding (10X), Chris Durham (9Y) and (7X) Nikita Tan were all mentioned four times.  Two students were mentioned three times.  They are: Alex Sedman (8X) and Anna Carter (7Y).  Many, many congratulations to every student who was mentioned.

It is not really surprising that Thomas Christie (8Z) should have been mentioned more times than any other student since this very week he has achieved a remarkable first for Caistor Grammar School.  He has gained an A*1 in every single subject (no fewer than 15!) that he is currently taught in his latest Assessment.

It is increasingly the case that students are meriting an A* in their Assessments, although my colleagues have made this a difficult thing to achieve.  To gain an A* in every single subject is an extraordinary phenomenon, which might not be repeated in our lifetime so we send felicitations and salutations to Thomas. He is a role model for us all (a sort of Stakhanovite, Jefferson, Michelangelo and Sir Steve Redgrave all rolled into one)

I have also started to take more note as I record people’s grades in their Assessments of the number of students who gain all 1’s (to be so defined a student must have a showing of 1 in every single subject in their Assessment and can have no more than four 1/2’s).  The number of students achieving this standard, even judged by these demanding standards, is remarkably high.  For example, in 8X no fewer than 19 students gained this, in 7Y it was also 19.  In 10Y it was 16 (they are currently the three forms with the highest all 1’s totals but their newly established records stand to be beaten soon, I hope!).

Wonderful House Plays and All That

I was thrilled by the wonderful standard of our House Plays recently and my opinion was clearly endorsed by a large, enthusiastic audience at our public viewing.  All three of our Junior plays were absolutely delightful, imaginatively and expertly conceived and flawlessly executed.  The winner of the Juniors was Hansard, but every one of them could easily have won.  The Senior House Plays also provided many memorable moments to savour and Rawlinson’s winning play was as witty and inspired an offering as I have ever seen (I was sitting in front of a row of Year 11 students who during scene changes could be heard whispering to each other, “I can’t believe how funny this is”, as they sought to catch their breath from laughing so much.  The joke about the £5 book token is still bringing a smile to my face, but will not lead to an inflation busting increase in their value!).  In the same week as House Plays we had our Shrove Tuesday House Pancake Race.  You can see some fantastic pictures of this on our school website taken by our very talented photographer Francesca Altoft (12SM).  She also very kindly has taken pictures of the House Plays for us.  Both pancake races created the same result which was a double win for Ayscough with Rawlinson in second and Hansard third.

Our Year 7/8 English Department Public Speaking Competition also produced performances of an extremely high standard.  Again I do not think I have seen three Year 8 teams who were together so accomplished.  The winning team from (8Z) consisting of: Chairperson Beatrice Duckitt; Main Speaker Imogen Laycock and Vote of Thanks Robert Hewis was as accomplished a team as I have ever seen (oh dear,  I’m having to use that phrase rather a lot at the moment!).  Meanwhile as I write this letter, news reaches me of the success of our team in the regional final of the team Maths Challenge. Sammy Braben (9X); Jemi Maliyil (9X); Daniel Bassett (8X) and Laura Brady (8X) have won the regional final and now go through to the national final in London in June.

Talking of national finals I am immensely proud of our Year 8 football team who, just before half term, reached their own national final: the English Football Association’s Small Schools’ Trophy Competition. There were 360 entrants in the competition so to be in the last two is no small achievement.  If you want to see a picture of the team you could do so by visiting my Twitter page (which is easily accessed either by searching on Twitter for Caistorgrammar or by clicking on the little bird on the top right-hand side of our website (which enables you to access my Twitter page without actually joining Twitter).  If you want to keep up to date with school life, you should also regularly go to our web page itself which is full of photographs and stories bringing to life much of the news I have conveyed in this letter.

The Secrets of our Success

I have been reflecting on what are secrets of our success as a school and perhaps not surprisingly finding that there are quite a few.  Our assembly theme currently is “Going Against The Tide” and this provided me with an important secret.  Research revealed that the number of students who are the only one from their primary school is a staggeringly high proportion.  This is consistently the case in just about every year group in the school: approximately 1 in 4 students.  When you factor in the number of students who have come with just one other person from their primary school, it rises to nearly 40%!  Such students are doing something very unusual.  They are going against the tide of what most of their peers do.  They are consciously reaching out for something that they think will push them further and allow them to fulfil themselves better.  They are defying the mathematical logic which tends to “regress towards the mean”.  Their parents obviously play a very big part in this and the 98% turnout of parents in our Parents’ Evenings so far this year, gives further evidence of the special part you play in our School’s success.  The third most important pillar along with students and parents is staff.  My own expectations of the people who work at Caistor Grammar School are, you will not be surprised to read, exceedingly high but I am rarely disappointed and my expectations are shared by students, parents and governors too.  Most importantly they are also shared by the people who work here.  We know how lucky we are to use our professional skills in such a place as this.  We greatly relish the opportunity to put our expertise in front of an audience so willing and able to take the most from all that we offer.  Many of our teachers have acquired a legendary status among our students.  One of these is our Head of Science, Dr Derek Carr.  I attended one of his inspirational lessons on Friday afternoon (I hadn’t intended to but as I walked past he beckoned me in!) and observed the creation of delicious colours and noxious fumes.  When I tweeted his picture with some suitable comments, it quickly became my most re-tweeted and favorited ever tweet!  I realise I have not quite reached the level of popularity that was recently achieved at the Oscars, but within our little world it was clear that I had touched a chord.  I am also struck by the passion for high achievement which is evident within the School: the willingness to go the extra mile to achieve student success, the attention to detail which is increasingly evident in all that we do and the love of the School which is held by students on their departure from it, mostly.  This was very powerfully evoked for me at the Hustings for the Senior Prefect Team.  Nobody observing this event when 28 students spoke, one after the other, could fail to be impressed by their talent, the strength of relationships which exist within the sixth form and their overwhelming love for their school. It was very moving.

Finally, in listing the secrets of our success can I put forward the humble triangle Δ.  The termly opportunity to gain this mark of distinction (the standards for which have not altered in nearly 20 years) is something which is a clear exacting target for a large proportion of our students and their parents.  Our system of reporting focusing on just four categories of attainment and especially on effort grades (again just 4) is an easily understandable and very effective device for analysing success.  This year once again our effort averages are on the rise.  Currently, for example, the effort average for Year 10 is 1.25 (where a 1/2 counts as 1.5 and a 2 as 2.0).  This, in particular, shows a record breaking performance by our Year 10 boys.

I would be interested to hear what you consider to be the secrets of our success so if you would like to write to me or e-mail me at , please feel free to do so. Just never let me hear you say we are an exam factory!

What I Spend my Time Doing

When Simon Heffer visited our School earlier in the Spring Term, one of the questions he asked me was “What do you spend your time doing?”  I thought for a second and then replied “Well, actually, I spend most of my time talking to people – students, colleagues, parents, oh, and governors.”  I think I am probably unusual as a Head in the proportion of time that I devote to speaking to individual students.  Of course, this would not be possible if I had to spend all my time recruiting staff or, worse, making staff redundant; or if we had huge budget problems.  Fortunately, we are not in any of those predicaments and my main focus can be ensuring that there is a clear sense of purpose in our community and making individual interventions that will have an impact.  Upon further reflection, I realise that I also spend a good deal of time writing: writing reports to Governors, writing on Reports and Assessments for students and their parents (again I suspect that some of my fellow Head Teachers would look askance at such a proportion of my time being devoted to this task) and writing newsletters (like this one) to parents.  Since I end up signing my name more often than any other two words, I daily give thanks that my name is not Winterbottom!  I also like to spend a good proportion of any day watching what is going on in the School at breaks and lunch times and just around the place.  This is one reason why school trips are so valuable; they reveal so much about what our students are like and they help to cement relationships so well.

Memorable trips abroad

And talking of School trips, we have had a number of really memorable ones recently.  If you want to find out more about them, you can go to our School website and often there are extra pictures to be perused on the link from Flickr at the bottom right hand side of our website page.  I am extremely grateful to all those colleagues who have participated in the trips to Russia, Italy, France and Belgium that have taken place over the last month or so.  In particular, thanks go to Mr Marcus Croft, Mr Tom Smith, Mr Andy Holland and Mrs Briony McNeilly who led these adventures.

With very best wishes

Yours sincerely