Welcome to our final Plymstock blog of 2019, it has been another successful year for the school.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all students, staff, parents and governors wholeheartedly for their continuous support, commitment and friendship to Plymstock School this term.
We have included some Christmas Ghost Stories at the end of this blog for you to enjoy when you have time over Christmas. They are part of our English Curriculum in Year 8, inspired by their study of 19th Century gothic short stories, and in the spirit of Charles Dickens. Enjoy – they’re great! If a little dark!
Have a great Christmas and I wish everyone the very best for 2020.
Christmas Hampers 2019
Christmas is truly a time for giving at Plymstock School
Every year Plymstock School holds a Christmas Hamper Competition, where tutor groups in Years 7-9 compete to produce the most spectacular hamper. This week saw the culmination of an epic Christmas Hamper competition.
In order to create the best possible hampers to spread Christmas cheer, each tutor group in Years 7 and 8 competed to create the best looking hamper. They were decorated as everything from a giant roast turkey to the Coca-Cola truck. Overall, there were supposed to be two winners per year group, but the standard of hampers was so high that there were first, second and third places awarded, with 100 merits for the winning tutor group, 80 for the second place and 60 for the third place (all other tutor groups were awarded 40 merits). The hampers were filled with lots of everyday essentials, as well as some more special Christmas treats and goodies, all donated by the generous Plymstock School students and parents (and they looked fantastic of course!).
The hampers are going to be given to some of the elderly residents of our community, the residents of a hostel for victims of domestic abuse and their children, and to the Plymouth Food Bank.
As it is estimated that up to 1 in 5 of the UK population live below the poverty line, the service that Plymouth Food Bank is providing is vital for many families.
Therefore, the donations from Plymstock’s generous students will directly benefit many people in need, which is especially welcome at Christmas, which is a difficult time for many.
Collection for the Plymouth Food Bank
The Plymouth Food Bank is a charitable trust in Plymouth that helps people with food packages when they are in need of support. Each year the Food Bank has a large group of people to help. Without donations people will go hungry. At this time of year all advertising is aimed at the selfish side of us. This activity encourages the un-selfish side of us. Students across KS4 collected food for the Food Bank to help make a positive difference.
Year Group Leads were: Year 9 – T Wilkins, Year 10 – J Birchnall, Year 11 – L Williams
Mrs Wilkins would like to say a huge ‘thank you’ to all the students who donated; and another huge thank you to the Caretakers who will deliver the van load of donated items.
Your actions do make a difference.
Sixth Form Awards Evening 2019
Last night it was my absolute pleasure to attend our annual presentation of sixth form awards and certificates. It was wonderful to welcome back our Year 13 students, who left in the summer, to celebrate their amazing achievements and catch-up with all they have been up to over the last five months. It was literally the end of an era for many families and a real celebration of successive generations of friends and families of Plymstock School.
We were also pleased to have Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist, Dr Jason Fee, with us as our special guest to present the awards and certificates. Jason gave an interesting talk about his experiences over twenty years providing care and treatment for a range of people with mental illness who had committed serious offences and who were housed in secure hospitals. Jason has led a team who, over the past five years, has opened two new secure mental health hospitals in the South West. His team are leading the way nationally in delivering the changes needed in the NHS and are described by the health secretary as the ‘future for the NHS’. He and his team are now considering how to deliver redesigned services for children from the South West who need mental health hospital support. Jason spoke with passion about how we all need to maintain our mental health and advocated an holistic approach to treatment.
We all need to recognise the risks for us and maintain a healthy balance between having personal and professional purposes in our lives. He spoke of the key elements that together engender good mental health: The support of loving family & friends, the importance of learning new skills and having a job that gives you purpose, being physically active, giving to others and having some sense of the spiritual.
I would like to thank all the staff that organised and supported the event, the returning students and their families, and Jason for making it a brilliant celebration.
Year 7 Headteacher’s celebration lunch
Two weeks ago I had the great privilege of hosting a lunch for Year 10 students to recognise their both their endeavour and resilience towards their studies. This week I was joined by our Year 7 students: Ella, Alfie, Bethany, Lily-Jean, Max, Oliver, Dagmara, Timas, Julia, Lily and Heidi.
Following their recent progress check , they were invited to a lunch with me by Mrs Duff, Director of Learning for Year 7, 8 and 9, Mrs Kirk, Head of Year and Mr Chivers, Assistant Head of Year in recognition of their outstanding progress. We were joined by their tutors for the lunch and it was delightful to talk to them and learn about how much they have enjoyed their first term at Plymstock School, making new friends. They have also really enjoyed Maths, PE, Science and ICT.
Well done to all of Year 7 on their efforts this term. It has been an absolute pleasure welcoming them in September and watching them become fantastic Plymstock School students.
One of the many traditions of Plymstock School, which makes our school such a special place is the annual Ballroom dancing hosted by our PE Department in the last week of this term, as an alternative to their normal lessons. One of the main drives of our PE department is not only physical health and wellbeing but also to enable the students to develop resilience by learning strategies to tackle situations in life that will confront them. Ballroom dancing takes everyone out of their comfort zones, including our staff! Each year the team watch the students who were reluctant participants gain more confidence and others who didn’t initially wish to take part, join in.
It’s a tricky thing, requiring face-to-face talking with people you may not know, girls and boys holding hands and then of course remembering a series of movements and having a go! This is all part of metacognition and the memory of learning, something we are working on this year in all lessons but PE do this day-in-day out. The having ‘a go’ part, is all part of the PE department’s philosophy and it was a pleasure to watch and have my own resilience tested! Thank you to the team on behalf of the students for providing this opportunity within our curriculum. When students leave us they will leave with certificates for exams, but the biggest legacy we create and students take with them are memories for a life time, based around school activities such as this one and trips. They, are such an important part of our school for that reason; ones we hold close to our hearts.
The biggest complement I can give them is that Year 11 were absolutely gutted they couldn’t take part due to the timings of their recent mocks. I know the team will have something special planned for them before they leave as a final goodbye. However, they will continue to support them throughout their exam period -exercise is after all the best way to off load and leave behind the stresses of the day!
Year 12 Criminology
Year 12 Criminology students have been studying hate crime and each designed and produced a poster to raise awareness of the consequences of a social issue of their choosing. They had to think carefully about the images, designs and persuasive language they employed to make their work as effective as possible. As you can see, they produced some brilliant pieces of work. Well done!
Around the site
As part of their celebration assemblies, Year 12 and 13 have been undergoing a programme of forced Christmas fun this week as a reward for their hard work, led by Miss Monelle.
Over this term construction has moved ahead at a pace on our new a 450-seater Arts Centre and we have now reached the roof. It will be fantastic in 12 months’ time to watch our shows in this superb new facility.
Just a reminder that tickets are now on sale and available by Parent Pay, please come and see how amazingly talented our students are; the staff and students have put in an extraordinary amount of time and hard work. We value the support of everyone who comes to watch this high energy show with lively, memorable songs.
We now reach our students of the week section. All our winners demonstrating Endeavour, Resilience and Empathy; simply Plymstock to “be the Best you can be”
Year 8. Three Christmas Ghost Stories from Evie, Tom and Sonny. All the students worked incredibly hard on them but Miss Robinson chose the selection below. Enjoy – they are great…if a little dark!
In Year 9 Ana-Maria has been nominated for supporting another student who has required help moving around the site, she has gone above and beyond.
The following Year 10 students have all been nominated for their work in computer science following feedback to Mrs Harris from their teacher:
It is difficult to single out individuals as they have all done so well but Harley has really persevered and she has improved her percentage by 24% between the first and second mini-mock. This is even more impressive as the second test had 100% more content to cover, was longer and in the main hall in exam conditions.
Joe and Sam have quietly been working on their exam technique and have made significant contributions to lessons.
Rhys, Daisy, Hannah and Keira have created a little in lesson study group and work exceptionally well together.
Finlay has worked really hard on his memory techniques and is working very hard with the staff teaching him.
And finally from Year 10 Mrs Harris and Mrs Offer are really proud with Brandon for his amazing attitude all week and making such a huge effort to improve his punctuality.
In Year 11 we have two nominations.
Josh for his consideration towards the younger students; listening to them, encouraging them, having a laugh with them and making them feel they are part of the Plymstock School community.
Ben he always takes his work so seriously in Art and Photography, is impeccably polite, and is both humble and diligent. A truly commendable young man.
Students of the term
The Sixth Form Team would like to say a well done to all the Year 12 students for how they have settled into their Sixth Form studies, and the Year 13 students who have started their final year of study. Some students have made excellent progress in their work ethic, effort and attitude.
In particular, the following students have been named as their students of the term:
Tyler – for his positive start to his time in Sixth Form, despite being a little apprehensive.
Shannalea – for her hard work and volunteering to help on many occasions.
Ed – for always being the first to volunteer and always doing so with a smile on his face.
Isaac – for showing super resilience towards starting at a new school.
Katie – for always being willing to help out within the Sixth Form.
Holly – for always being willing to help out within the Sixth Form, and support in trampolining club.
Emily – for the amazing effort and commitment she has demonstrated throughout this term.
Tom – for his consistent high levels of effort, and just quietly getting on with it.
Ella – for her perseverance through a difficult term.
Ella – for her super work ethic and being generally lovely.
Misha – also for her super work ethic and being generally lovely.
These students will have a celebration breakfast in the New Year to reward their successes.
Christmas Ghost Stories
Inspired by their study of 19th Century gothic short stories, and in the spirit of Charles Dickens, 8XClaig have written Christmas Ghost Stories. Tom’s story is a heart-warming tale of love and forgiveness, ideal for reading by the fire on Christmas Eve, while Sonny’s story draws the reader into an unexpected twist, which will leave you both amazed and horrified – a cautionary tale for Christmas. Evie’s story is inspired by her reading of Edgar Allen Poe: it’s not for the faint-hearted! Read with caution, and don’t have nightmares.
I’ve really enjoyed them and I hope you do too!
The Old Cottage
As a child, I always spent Christmas with my Grandpa. He didn’t like Christmas, and even though he spent time with me, he never put up a tree, he never put up decorations and ours was the only house that stood alone and unlit at Christmas. He didn’t like the singing of choirs, or even a Christmas roast. He was the person who didn’t believe in Santa – he was a cold as an icicle and as mean as a grizzly bear.
One Christmas, I asked my grandpa why he didn’t like Christmas and why he was always grumpy. He told me about his wife, my grandma. He told me: “The day I met your grandma was the start of my first relationship – a real relationship – and I loved her lots. But one Christmas, we had an argument and she departed. It hurt me, and that is the reason I don’t like Christmas.” He also told me that when she’d left, she’d moved into a cottage in the nearby woods, so I decided to investigate this mysterious cottage.
The weather was fine when I set off, and deep in the woods I found a little cottage, which just appeared in the corner of my eye as I walked through the trees. It was brightly lit, with roses growing around the door and it had neatly painted windows and a smart front door. All of a sudden, dark thunder struck and a gust of wind whistled across my horrified face. I stopped. All I could hear from the cottage was groaning and whining and I froze in fear, before turning and starting to run, but I tripped and fell.
As I tried to stand, I felt a woman’s hand on my shoulder. I turned to look at her, and she helped me up and took me inside. She wrapped a blanket round me and offered me some cocoa, and I replied with a happy grin, and said, ‘Yes.’
This was my grandmother, and we talked about my wonderful grandpa. I asked her why she’d left him, and she replied with silence and a rustle from her dress. She told me how she’d walked out and said goodbye, and how she’d never had the courage to return.
I ran all the way home and told my grandpa all about the cottage and how his wife still loved him loads. He put on his woolly hat, coat and scarf. He ran out of the door and his walking stick trailed behind him as he hurried towards the woods. I ran ahead, showing him the way I’d taken through the woods to Grandma’s cottage.
When we got there, we approached the house with confusion; it was no longer brightly lit and beautifully painted. The windows were broken and the roof had fallen in. As the door was hanging from its hinges, we stepped inside and the floor creaked. ‘What happened?’ asked my grandpa.
I looked around in shock – where was my grandma? What had happened to her pretty little cottage, which I had been in only that morning? Just then, I saw a letter on the floor, addressed to my grandpa. I picked it up, and opened it. It said:
Please understand that I always loved you, and I’m sorry that I died before I could return and tell you that. It was good to meet our grandson this morning – he loves you very much too.
Have a wonderful Christmas,
I stared in horror at the letter as everything went quiet. My grandpa was in shock, and I felt a cold, icy shiver freeze my spine. The woman I’d met that morning, my grandmother, was a ghost!
We walked home in silence, and it was getting dark by the time we arrived at my grandpa’s cold, unlit house. My grandfather turned to me, and smiled. ‘She loved me,’ he said. I nodded.
‘Come on,’ said Grandpa, ‘Let’s go and get a Christmas tree’, and ever since that day, my grandpa has celebrated Christmas, knowing that his beloved wife is watching over him.
The Haunted Woodlands
As a child, I always spent Christmas with my nan. We always went to church, which was boring and full of elderly people. My nan never bought me an advent calendar and she never let me build a snowman or throw snowballs at anything. She was boring. My life was boring. The only thing we had at Christmas was an old Christmas tree. All the leaves had fallen off it. No lights. No decorations. Just branches of the dead, lifeless tree.
I always liked playing in the woods on Christmas Eve and one year I snuck out at night whilst my nan was asleep. I put on my wellies, got my torch and left the quiet, dark and dull house. When I got into the woods, I saw the most beautiful thing ever – a massive Christmas tree decorated from top to bottom with baubles and lights. Then, a great idea popped into my head. ‘What if I go home and get an axe and cut it down so I can bring it back to Nan’s house,’ I said to myself. So I walked back and took an axe from the shed.
As soon as I took my first hit, the tree spoke! ‘Leave me alone, please don’t cut me down,’ it said. I thought I was imagining it and ignored it. With my second hit, I cut the tree down and it fell with a deafening noise, hitting the ground with a thud. I dragged it back to my nan’s house, put it up in the living room, and crept up to bed.
Early next morning I heard a scream. It was my nan at the sight of the tree. Excitedly, I ran downstairs and saw my nan sitting on the floor, staring at the tree. I asked her if she liked it, but she didn’t reply. She just sat there, very still. I leaned into her, trying to nudge her, but I lost my balance and fell right through her body and began to fall. I felt like I was falling and spinning for an eternity, but I finally landed in an abandoned looking house. It was overgrown; vines, weeds and grass were on the walls and floors. I decided to go outside. When I came out, I was in a massive forest that looked like it went on forever in every direction. I turned around and a face appeared right in front of me.
‘Aaargh!’ I screamed. It was my nan. Her pale face seemed to stare straight into my soul. ‘Jack, why did you cut down the tree?’ she asked. ‘You are the reason I am dead. I had a cardiac arrest as soon as I saw the tree. How dare you!’ Then she faded into nothing and an enormous hole opened beneath me. I started falling. I was panicking because I thought I was falling to my death, but I landed in a tangle of roots at the bottom of the hole. I wondered why they were there, and then I saw that my arms were turning into sticks, my legs into a giant stump, my hair into leaves and everything else into branches. I tried to scream, but no sound came out. I couldn’t talk and I tried to run but I couldn’t move. I had turned into a tree.
I have been standing in this forest for years, just waiting to be cut down by another child who doesn’t think about things before they do them.
Someone a bit like me.
The Tolling of the Wedding Bells
The gramophone wasn’t working – it played the same section of an insufferably cheerful festive song again and again. The tree loomed hideously above me, gaudily clad in decorative baubles and assorted items. The hearth was bedecked with stockings and holly – I was sickened at the sight of it. Christmas sent ice through my veins and the ice felt colder every year. I closed my eyes to block out the nightmarish room, but the song continued to scrape at the edges of my mind until I felt I could scream.
My wife emerged from the kitchen, flour dusted across her apron and up to her elbows. ‘Good evening, dear,’ she trilled, joyful at the prospect of Christmas. I backed away in abhorrence – how could she be so oblivious to my overwhelming disgust? We had been wed 10 years yet she never seemed to realise how much Christmas troubled me. Perhaps because I buried my fears deep within the furthest crevice of my tormented soul, despite them still distracting my thoughts to the dark place, I never wanted them to stay.
As December crawled by, my world grew darker and more abysmal. Memories, which I’d tried to forget, crawled past my mind’s eye and tinted my existence a murky grey shade of unbearable. Drink became my only way to stay sane. Clutching my drink one day, in a bar that had seen better days, I was staring dejectedly out of a cracked window and watching the sky darken as night inched closer. My eyes were beginning to glaze and I was falling into sleep when I saw her – the woman who had shattered my life into fragments of despair.
Fifteen years before, I’d stood proudly at the altar on Christmas Day, staring into the beautiful face of my newly-wed wife. Her face shone with all that was good; I’d never been so in love with anyone. We spent all of Christmas Day dancing and I was happier than I’d ever been. A year later, on Christmas morning, I found her lying with her head in the fireplace. A knife had been plunged into her chest and she was scarred beyond recognition. I was distraught and was in no mental condition to attend her funeral. Drink dominated my life then as it did now; my days were spent drowning my sorrow with alcohol.
I saw her face; my blood froze and my heart stopped. Perfect, uncharred, like the day I’d married her. I pressed my face against the filthy glass and gawped at my angelic first wife. She drifted effortlessly down the street until I could no longer see her and I slumped back on my stool with disbelief. She was dead – I had seen her corpse! My eyes brimmed with tears; I had been pining for her since her death, despite my marriage to my current wife.
“You reek of alcohol,” uttered my wife, voice so little as to be scarcely audible. I pushed her roughly from my path and stormed to my study. I heard her sob behind me but I didn’t react – her tears no longer pained me. I rifled through the drawer I kept locked and located the photograph I desired; I stared at my face, beaming at my new bride. I was smiling so wide that it was excruciating to see, and my mind inevitably drifted to the image of her body which had been scarred into my brain. My eyes brimmed over.
Over the course of this abhorrent December, I grew ever more unsettled and fearful. As Christmas Day crawled closer, the visions grew worse. Every night the dreadful spectre would stand at the foot of my bed – pointing a knife at my current wife and smiling serenely. I lay awake, suffering silently, as she gripped the blade and I grew despairing. Had I never remarried, perhaps I’d be the happy and carefree man I was when I stood at the altar for the first time. My wife pleaded to that I tell her what troubled me, but I could not force out the words. I spent my nights drinking.
On Christmas Day, I staggered home after drinking all night. A body was oozing blood in the hearth – and I laughed out loud as I saw the face. I stumbled nearer and smiled gratefully as I recognised my newly late wife, despite the burns blackening her features. My woes, my stresses – all gone at the expense of one life. I could not see the apparition of my first wife and it pleased me to be alone. I heard a sound that I had heard twice before – the tolling of wedding bells, and again, I laughed aloud. I danced jerkily around the room, oblivious to the blood on my hands from the woman I had murdered.
I pen these lines in an attempt to ease the guilt, which has weighed on me for the past week. The initial ecstasy of being free from the haunting was quickly replaced with terrible regret. I understand, now, that there is no way I can be happy in this world without my first wife, who I murdered all those years ago. I will now end my own life in the same way in which I murdered both of my wives.
The flames dance enticingly. The blade glitters an invitation.