Trudy Read is Deputy Head Teacher, Designated Safeguarding Lead & Subject Leader for English and Literacy at Parkside Academy. Here, Trudy and her students get together to reflect on 2017.
This year has seen a whole host of challenges, successes and achievements for students and staff at Parkside. 2017 began with Year 11 returning to school for mock exams which marked the final stages of their time with us. Always a stressful time, students did well and in May, all students faced and conquered anxiety to sit final exams. After a school Leavers’ Ball in 2016, this year’s Leavers chose a trip to Chessington World of Adventure to celebrate finishing school. It was an early start and any of you reading this who’s 15/16, will know how early starts are no fun for us teenagers! It was well worth it though and we made some amazing memories to cherish. Exam results came in August and gave us grades to be really proud of and doors opened for us in the next phase of our lives with every student moving on into work, an apprenticeship, sixth form or college studies.
Students who attend Parkside all face personal challenges in life. Sometimes, getting to school feels like an impossible task. Sometimes, talking to another human being seems unmanageable. For some, these are daily trials which test spirit, determination and confidence. But despite all these difficulties, what unites everyone at Parkside is their compassion for others. Every year we aim to raise more money for charity than the previous year and try to come up with new and funny ways of doing it. We’ve washed cars, cycled virtual marathons and worn Christmas jumpers. We also love a big bake sale and have many great student bakers who’ve cooked up gorgeous sweet treats. We’ve raised well over £300 since January and have probably put on as many pounds in weight what with the delicious cookies, buns, muffins and cakes we’ve sold.
A first this year was for our key stage 3 students to watch ten chicken eggs hatch! Back in April, we did a Science project in which we learned about different life cycles. Watching the eggs crack and hatch in the incubator was really exciting and a bit weird too. Most of us hadn’t seen a new born chick and we were surprised by how gooey and ugly they were! We got to name them and then once they were old enough, a student and her family adopted them. This has meant that we’ve heard about how they’ve grown and have also had some of the eggs they’ve laid. Life is full of more cycles than we thought.
In another first, we held a Creative Arts Week in July. We were given lots of options to choose from: music performance and recording, woodland adventures and camping. The whole week was a great success and on the last day, we all came together and shared stories of our adventures, experiences and what we had learnt. Overall, we enjoyed ourselves, gained confidence and discovered that we can do things that we hadn’t thought we could. With support and encouragement from others, and a bit of self-belief, we can achieve so much.
A new school year began in September and a number of new students joined the Parkside family. It’s such a scary and stressful time for us: new people, building, routines and a lot of change which are many of the things we find difficult. Some of us have had bad experiences in other schools and so it’s tough to try and trust again. It takes us a while to get used to Parkside because it’s like no other school we’ve been to. Other students and all the staff are so understanding of our different needs that it makes it easier for us to get up in the morning and get stuck into learning. We all have our wobbly days but if we need it, there is always someone who can give us time to talk. Maybe that’s one of the key things that makes Parkside so special: there is time for everyone; everyone gives someone time.
2017 closed for us with end of term activities which included a drumming Flash Mob in the centre of town. Organised with our music partner Musica, students and staff hid in doorways, shops and alleys, and then appeared to perform for unsuspecting shoppers on a chilly Friday lunchtime. It was a great feeling to see complete strangers stop and listen to us. Some even joined in!
As we look back on 2017 and forward to 2018, we realise how much we’ve learned about each other; as well as the usual school stuff in science, maths and other subjects. We also accept that there’s still loads to learn. 2018 is bound to throw us a few challenges but in our end of term Celebration, we were read the words of a famous baseball player, Babe Ruth who said, “…you just can’t beat the person who never gives up…” And we think that’s us.
Bring on 2018.