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Archive for the ‘News & PR’ Category


Easter Extravaganza

April 4, 2014

On Saturday 19 April, The PTA Diamonds and Teesside High School and the Wynyard Residents Association have organised an Easter Extravaganza. The event will take place from 11am to 3pm on the green outside of the Stables Pub, Wynyard.

There will be plenty of Easter themed activities including an Easter Egg Hunt, Bouncy Castle, Easter Egg Decorating competition and much, much more. Food and drink will be available from the Stables Pub.

dd featured post for website

Head Teacher’s Blog 04.04.14

‘Just as castles provided the source of strength for medieval towns, and factories provided prosperity in the industrial age, universities are the source of strength in the knowledge-based economy of the twenty-first century.’

Lord Dearing 2002

As we conclude the Easter term I have been reflecting on next steps in education for some of our older pupils. Our Year 11,12 and 13 pupils will all be embarking upon their external examinations quite soon after we return in the summer term. They are also considering their next steps in terms of their educational career. Most of our Year 13s are now sitting on University offers, almost half at selective Russell Group universities and the remainder at recruiter universities, with a handful opting for a gap year which is a fabulous way to gain some life experience before beginning higher education. Our Year 12s are currently deciding which A level subjects they want to continue into Year 13 and our Year 11 pupils are selecting their A level courses. However, even at this early stage they need to be aware of the degree courses they may want to pursue so that they choose the correct A levels. If a pupil wants to go into engineering for example she/he would be disadvantaged if he/she does not study Maths and Physics at A level. Similarly a Law degree will benefit from a humanity or English or a modern language. Of course our experienced staff can help pupils with such decisions and this will support their own research into different universities and their individual entry requirements. We also know that the best universities are increasingly looking at GCSE grades as part of their selection so we encourage pupils from Year 10 to achieve the highest grades possible in order to facilitate their educational journey later on. At a recent briefing I attended where the speaker shared statistics about university entry with us, we heard that more pupils than ever before achieved places at university in 2013. However, we also heard that the very brightest pupils still face a competitive field but that as part of the widening participation agenda for the nation many selective universities are now seeking to recruit more students from mixed ability sixth forms such as ours.

Most university admission tutors do not look at pure grades however. They want to know that pupils are rounded and can manage varied demands on their time. So they will look for sporting participation, musical interests, work experience opportunities and examples of travel or charitable fundraising. In fact higher music grades also carry UCAS points and can be used as part of applications for university. This week we were very proud that our sixth form class of 2013-4 won the Northern Echo School’s Award for Class of the Year across the North East of England and were presented with their award at the Excel Centre in Newton Aycliffe. They have stunned us with their unstinting dedication to charity work, raising large sums of money for charities such as Teenage Cancer and Sport Relief and also helping elderly members of the community with organising events, supporting our youngest pupils over in  the prep school and launching their Converts footwear as part of their Young Enterprise initiative. They manage all of this whilst still maintaining high standards of academic achievement in their AS and A2 examination courses. Furthermore, there has been minimal input into these activities by our staff who just maintain a watching brief as we encourage them to be innovative and autonomous young adults; a great preparation for higher education expectations. These experiences are all valuable contributions to university applications but also for adult life.

We also support our pupils in the EPQ or Extended Project Qualification which helps them to shine in their chosen university specialism. Pupils can choose to develop and explore their subject in much greater detail and outside the A level syllabus and universities are very keen to welcome pupils with this qualification. More and more often these days universities are choosing to add in hurdles for pupils to jump to gain a place. They often interview pupils especially for medicine, dentistry and Oxbridge. In these interviews pupils are asked to discuss their chosen subject and they will need to have read widely, be well informed and to show a passion and a thirst for new knowledge. The EPQ helps them to do this. This year students have explored a wide range of issues including a study of dentistry, one on dementia, another on cystic fibrosis and another on the role of the guiding association. Some pupils have to take additional examinations such as LNAT for Law or BMAT for medicine and we have staff in school who can support and guide pupils in preparation for these examinations.

Whatever bad news stories you may read in the press about graduate unemployment, university graduates still enjoy much higher employment rates than the average school leaver and command much higher starting salaries. Top earners continue to be in the medical profession, with engineering a close second, physical and environmental scientists are third and architects are fourth. Although young people do not enjoy the grant system from which my generation benefitted and the average fees are now around £9000 per annum, students can now access loans for university and not begin to pay them off until they are earning at least £21000, so higher education is widely available to our school leavers and we would encourage them all to aim high and give it their best shot. Our A level results are very competitive with local providers and our average points score per student is high as a mixed ability sixth form. As elsewhere in the school we believe that we should work with individuals and give them a provision tailored to their needs. So whether they are applying to a selector or recruiter university we can support them every step of the way. They have a personal tutor and an experienced Head of Sixth form who provide careful preparation for the UCAS application. We also have visits from staff at local universities such as Durham, Leeds, Northumbria, Newcastle and Teesside and we are planning next term for a visit to Oxford for pupils who aspire to apply here in the near future. We have an annual careers fair where a plethora of higher education institutions and employers in key areas such as medicine, finance, law, the armed forces, journalism / media and others come along and chat to pupils from Year 9 upwards.

If pupils want to think internationally in the global dimension we now experience they can apply to the USA or European universities. Maastricht University for example has high standards of achievement and will cost 20% of most UK universities and teach many courses in English. Prague has an excellent reputation for dentistry and medicine. Although UK universities are still very popular to international students. In 2012-13 74% of pupils on masters degree courses in the UK were from the EU or international with almost 25% being Chinese. This is an interesting statistic when you consider what PISA data in educational achievement tells us about China and the Far East, suggesting their education system in superior to ours. Why then do so many Chinese students want to study here? I would suggest it is because they know that a UK education does more than produce graduates who are excellent mathematicians or rote learners who can pass technical examinations but helps to develop autonomous and confident lifelong learners with enquiring minds.

So really, the sky’s the limit for pupils with the support of their school and high aspirations of their own. Some days I think back to how exciting it felt to be going off to university when I was 18 and how I would love to go back and do it all over again! I remember sitting up until all hours in college rooms debating philosophical questions and getting up at the crack of dawn to go out rowing with my four. And then I remember the hours I spent in the library revising and writing dissertations and the fact that I was always trying to make my money stretch and think that I am happy with my lot now…

Deborah Duncan

For more information on UK universities have a look at the UCAS website which is a mine of information on everything to do with higher education.


Below are the questions on the website of one of the most prestigious universities in the world; Harvard in Boston in the US. These questions are excellent food for thought if you are aged between 15-18 and considering applying to a top rank university as it demonstrates the breadth of experience, character, education and initiative required if you are going to be a successful applicant;

‘Growth and potential

  • Have you reached your maximum academic and personal potential?

  • Have you been stretching yourself?

  • Have you been working to capacity in your academic pursuits, your full-time or part-time employment, or other areas?

  • Do you have reserve power to do more?

  • How have you used your time?

  • Do you have initiative? Are you a self-starter? What motivates you?

  • Do you have a direction yet? What is it? If not, are you exploring many things?

  • Where will you be in one, five, or 25 years? Will you contribute something to those around you?

  • What sort of human being are you now? What sort of human being will you be in the future?

Interests and activities

  • Do you care deeply about anything—intellectual? Extracurricular? Personal?

  • What have you learned from your interests? What have you done with your interests? How have you achieved results? With what success or failure? What have you learned as a result?

  • In terms of extracurricular, athletic, community, or family commitments, have you taken full advantage of opportunities?

  • What is the quality of your activities? Do you appear to have a genuine commitment or leadership role?

  • If you have not had much time in high school for extracurricular pursuits due to familial, work, or other obligations, what do you hope to explore at Harvard with your additional free time?

Character and personality

  • What choices have you made for yourself? Why?

  • Are you a late bloomer?

  • How open are you to new ideas and people?

  • What about your maturity, character, leadership, self-confidence, warmth of personality, sense of humor, energy, concern for others, and grace under pressure?

Contribution to the Harvard community

  • Will you be able to stand up to the pressures and freedoms of College life?

  • Will you contribute something to Harvard and to your classmates? Will you benefit from your Harvard experience?

  • Would other students want to room with you, share a meal, be in a seminar together, be teammates, or collaborate in a closely knit extracurricular group?’

Harvard University

Sarah and Milly

Pupils Creative Writing Success

During the Christmas term, members of the Teesside High School Creative Writing Club took part in the Inspired? Get Writing! creative writing competition. The competition was organised by the National Galleries of Scotland, the English-Speaking Union Scotland and the Scottish Poetry Library. It is supported by the Gordon Fraser Charitable Trust, the Scotsman and The Educational Institute of Scotland. Entrants were invited to produce creative pieces inspired by works from the galleries’ permanent collections.

Year 9 student Milly Parker submitted an original poem using ideas based on Away From The Flock, a modern artwork by Damien Hirst. Milly’s piece entitled The Perks of Not Being Half a Cow, was awarded first place in the 12-14 age group.

Sarah Bennett in Year 10 chose James Nasmith’s Back of Hand as the inspirarion for her story, and placed as Runner-Up in the same category. The girls’ achievement will be celebrated at an awards ceremony at the Scottish National Gallery on 17 April, where their work will be read aloud by members of the Scottish Poetry Library in front of a public audience.

Head of English, Amy Sanderson, said ‘Milly and Sarah should be extremely proud of their success in this prestigious international competition. We are thrilled that their creative talents are being recognised in this way, and hope th
at other students will be encouraged to take part in the future.’

image (4)

Netball Superleague

April 1, 2014

On 28 March a group of students went to Northumbria University to watch Team Northumbria play Loughborough Lightning in the Netball Superleague. Our girls were invited to be mascots for the evening and a fantastic night was had by all.

Click here for photos



Assistant Head Teacher’s Blog 28.03.14

March 28, 2014

With so many reforms and changes to education in recent months it’s no wonder that heads are spinning and tough decisions are having to be made all across the country in the field of education. At least here at Teesside High we are not slaves to the national education reforms and have the flexibility to look at what is being suggested, enforced and having the luxury to say ‘no, thank you’ should we want to.

But why should we? And how do we decide what is, and isn’t, a good idea in the vast plethora of new changes and implementations that are coming our way. We have been notified of these changes well in advance but changes to these deadlines are plentiful and notification by media, in the many leaks that have occurred, also mean that it it’s difficult to find the real information between the media sound bites and hysteria. How can we, as educators, move forward to implement our decisions when the government departments driving the reforms can’t even agree on when these reforms should begin.

Thankfully, here at Teesside we have but one question that we must keep at the forefront of our minds. What is best for the children?

We are not a slave to performance tables and we can take that brave decision to step away from them, if it is in our pupils interests.
The new GCSE’s come in next year and as a school we have to consider planning the new curriculum, changes to content and staffing consequences. The new changes will mean different grading and more content. There is also a recognised increase and emphasis on learning facts. I understand, to many, that this will be a welcome increase in rigour within our examination structure and at its simplest form I would agree. However, at the recent ASCL conference Sue Kirkham, the curriculum specialist gave me food for thought… The current generation have grown up in an internet age, where anything they need to know is at the click of a button. Google will tell you just about everything you need to know. Is memorising key facts such an important skill or is applying those facts more essential? How much time is spent in your job recalling facts or do you apply your knowledge?

Our children are the ultimate multitaskers, they surf the net, revise to music, using websites and facebooking or snap chatting at the same time, and whilst we may not be able to function in such a stimulating environment this is how they work. All of their lives they have been trained to search for information, apply it to situation, use word packages that check for grammar, spelling and punctuation. They rarely write a letter, preferring to email or word process longer pieces of work. When was the last time you sent/received a hand written letter?

The next generation of pupils will be expected to sit for hours, up to three per exam,
which will test all knowledge in one session at the end of two years. It is a one shot chance.
Thinking about our children starting secondary education and their ease with technology, how many would be capable of sitting for three hours to hand write a history essay! Are these truly the skills that
employers are looking for in a modern world? How much time is spent handwriting notes, memo and policies? Don’t we all use spell check?
Even our mobile phones use predictive text in order to make lives easier.

Clearly teachers now not only have to teach the curriculum content but we also need to train our young people to sit for hours at a time and be able to do large amounts of handwriting and also to cope with the additional stress that this is a one-time chance to do well, as resits are being discouraged.  Now this is fine for the younger children in Y7 and below. There is time for them to adjust and adapt, but what about the pupils sitting next year? The year after? Where is their time?

I have been in the fortunate position of being involved with these changes from very early on and the curriculum leaders have been keeping a watchful eye on all these changes and reforms; constantly asking what is best for our pupils. Do we follow the politicians plans for change or do we branch out, say no to all this uncertainty, and carve our own path which will benefit our pupils most. The ethos of our school is that all pupils achieve; that all pupils strive to be the best that they can. We want to help secure the journey to the next level or stage in education and that goal does not depend on performance tables or the current politicians headline grabbing reforms.

Thankfully the iGCSE has escaped the current government tinkering and is a viable choice as it has proved its longevity and it has been recognised by Universities’ and employers for the last 15 years. There are plenty of resources, past papers, support and training provided for teachers. We have to be brave enough to accept that this is the best alternative, for the good of our pupils.
This is not a decision we have taken lightly. We have looked at the new proposals, investigated the alternatives and discussed with higher education establishments their selection criteria. There is too much doubt and hearsay surrounding the new proposals; we can’t even get a commitment as to where the current grade C will lie on the new 9-1 scale. What is classed as a pass? What is a Grade A?

If there is no guidance for these boundaries how do you select successful medicine/engineering/ veterinary candidates?  Wouldn’t it be more beneficial to change to a qualification that has been around for the past 10 years, is exempt form government tinkering, and is widely recognised by employers and universities? The iGCSE is the way forward.

In September we are planning to begin the iGCSE courses in Mathematics and English Language and Literature with other subjects following in due course. Yes, they are more challenging, but the new GCSEs will be too. Yes, there is more mathematics content, so we are starting teaching in year 9. Our less able pupils will also receive additional time to ensure that they have had the best preparation we can provide.

We fully expect to roll out the other courses in line with the new reforms but we will continue, as always, to do this after careful consideration of the benefits for our pupils rather than the need to conform to the latest political initiatives, performance tables or media grabbing headlines.

The education of our children is too important to play politics with. We must provide them with a set of skills and qualifications that will stand the test of time and serve them well.

Kirsty Mackenzie

Michael Jones

Table Tennis Champion

March 27, 2014

Congratulations to Year 10 pupil Michael Jones who has played in the National Junior Table Tennis League and National Junior Cadet League. Michael was undefeated all season in the Junior League and lost only 1 fixture in the Cadet League.

He gained first place medals in both leagues as National Regional Winner! What a tremendous achievement!

Sports Results

U14 Boys Hockey

The U14 boys played an excellent game of hockey against RHS on Tuesday, ending the game with a 2-1 defeat. Player of the match: Alex Connor

U12 and U13 Boys Hockey

On the 20 March the U12 and U13 boys hockey teams played RHS. The U12 boys drew 1-1 and the U13 won 6-0

U16 and U18 Football

The boys have played two matches against Polam earlier this week, with some fantastic results. The U16 team winning 6-0 and the U18 team winning 3-0. Players of the match: Edward Lorenz and Mark Horton who both scored hat-tricks!

U14 Girls Hockey

On Monday night the U14 girls played Richmond U15 . The team, which was made up of Year 7, 8 and 9, played a fantastic match, gaining a lot of experience against a team comprised mainly of Year 10 girls.

Winter Sports Photographs

A reminder that Winter Sports Teams Photographs will be taken on Monday 31 March. Could children please remember to bring clean sport kit on the day.



March 24, 2014

On 19 and 20 March Teesside High School performed Lionel Bart’s musical ‘Oliver!’ based on the Charles Dickens novel to a sell out audience.

The title role was played by Year 7 student Catherine Hewitt, and she was supported by a cast of around 30 students whose ages ranged from Year 7 to Sixth Form. The actors were supported by a technical crew and stage crew of staff and students who provided lighting, sound and set design.

The cast rehearsed every week for several hours to prepare for the performance.

Head teacher, Deborah Duncan said ‘The cast and crew should be very proud of themselves, they performed to a high standard on both evenings and their dedication and commitment to the show really paid off. Well done to everyone involved.’

Click here for photos.



Congratulations Alexander!

Teesside High School would like to congratulate Alexander Bone, son of music teacher Steve Bone, on winning the BBC Young Musician’s first ever Jazz Award!

Alexander has been playing the saxophone since the age of five having been taught by his father Steve and mother Fiona.

He was one of five finalists and performed alongside the Gwilym Simcock Trio in front a panel of judges which included Django Bates, Trish Clowes and Julian Joseph.

The final will be shown on BBC Four on Friday 23 May.

Teesside High is the region's leading Diamond School

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