Principal’s Blog – 1st July 2016

  • Cambridge Visit
  • Sports Day 2016


Non-Uniform Day

Last Friday was a non-uniform day. Students and staff raised over £1,000 for our nominated charities – an outstanding effort!

Oxbridge here we come!

At Minsthorpe there is no limit to ambition and we encourage all students to aim high. This year we have a number of potential Oxbridge students who we are hoping will continue their education at one of these prestigious institutions. To help prepare them, Alys Finch – our SCITT Strategic Lead – herself a Cambridge graduate took the students for a taster session at St. Catherine’s College, Cambridge. The students visited King’s Trinity, St John’s and Jesus College and experienced a number of university lectures before eating in the college and spending a night in student accommodation. The students soaked up the atmosphere and we hope that they will be making an application to either Oxford or Cambridge in 2017.

Sports Day

The term ‘Sports Day’ is an inadequate description of the annual spectacle that we hold at Minsthorpe. Friday July 1st was my third and it has lost none of its awe and impact for me. What starts as a fairly traditional sports event in the morning transforms into a glorious pageant of students in an incredible variety of fancy dress outfits competing in their P&A groups. Staff and students are united and it is a sight to behold from up on the banking – it is like a scene before a battle in Game of Thrones with students awash with colour, formed in phalanxes behind brightly coloured banners. Fantastic stuff!

Battle of the Somme

At 7:30 a.m., on July 1st 1916, the British launched a massive offensive against German forces in the Somme River region of France. 100,000 British soldiers poured out of their trenches and into no-man’s-land on July 1, expecting to find the way cleared for them. However, scores of heavy German machine guns had survived the artillery onslaught, and the infantry were massacred. By the end of the day, 20,000 British soldiers were dead and 40,000 wounded. It was the single heaviest day of casualties in British military history. The age of mechanised warfare had begun and the disastrous Battle of the Somme stretched into a stalemate that lasted for more than four months, with the Allies advancing a total of just five miles in that time. Every 100 yards gained was at the cost of 1,000 allied lives and mass slaughter resulted in a total gain of just 125 square miles for the Allies, with more than 600,000 British and French soldiers killed, wounded, or missing in the action. German casualties were more than 650,000. So many many lives not lived who we must remember.

Ray Henshaw

Principal’s Blog – 24th June 2016

  • Just Like Us (Non-Uniform Day Charity)
  • Berlin Wall


Oil-Ternative Prototype

In a previous blog I showed you the entry of our STEM team for the Shell Innovations Award. Sadly we did not win but have been highly commended and the judges have asked us to send our prototype models to be displayed at the Make the Future exhibition that will be held in London from June 30th – July 4th – Shell’s festival of ideas and innovation – and it is a real triumph for our students to be afforded space at the exhibition. Well done to all concerned.

Year 6 Transition

On Monday the 20th and Tuesday 21st June students from all of our primary feeders were in the college experiencing teaching at Minsthorpe. Students had lessons in English, Maths, ICT and Science and got a taste of life at the big school. The Year 6 Information Evening held on Wednesday 22nd June was packed with parents keen to hear about what Minsthorpe offers their sons and daughters. A big thanks to all of the staff and students who made all of these transition events such a success.

Non-Uniform Day

Friday June 24th was a non-uniform day and the proceeds went to the Prince of Wales Hospice, Pontefract and the diversity charity, Just Like Us. As ever, the charities were chosen by the students and I will be able to give you a total of funds raised next week.

The Iron Curtain

On June 24th 1948 one of the most dramatic standoffs in the history of the Cold War began as the Soviet Union blocked all road and rail traffic to and from West Berlin. Following World War II, Germany was divided into occupation zones. The United States, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and, eventually, France, were given specific zones to occupy in which they were to accept the surrender of Nazi forces and restore order. The blockade forced the West to get supplies into Berlin via air and a Cold War between the East and West began. Whilst the Soviets ended the blockade, the tense stand-off between the East and West continued and in 1961 construction on the Berlin Wall began – a wall that was to separate East and West Berlin for nearly 30 years. This became a symbol of the division that had developed in Europe after the Second World War. How ironic that in the week in which Europe began its artificial division that Britain goes to the polls to vote on whether to remain part of the European Union or not.

Ray Henshaw

Principal’s Blog – 17th June 2016

  • Happy Days Children's Centre
  • YTCA Teacher Training


Happy Days

Happy Days Children’s Centre was inspected by Ofsted on May 5th 2016. I am now able to tell you that the centre was judged to be Outstanding in all areas! The inspector was incredibly impressed with the provision and said "Staff are highly motivated and leadership and management are dynamic. Partnerships with parents are exemplary and they are involved in children’s learning from the start. Sharply focused self-evaluation means that there is continuous improvement in the high-quality provision." We are proud of the start that Happy Days gives to children and salute the excellent work of Terry Boughen and her team.

Another inspector calls

Minsthorpe is the lead school for the Yorkshire Three Counties Alliance School Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT) programme and we are training the next generation of teachers and giving them the chance to learn ‘on the job’. We are the hub school for some fourteen other secondary schools from South and West Yorkshire to the East Riding and our mission is to prepare and train outstanding teachers to join the system. The SCITT is also being inspected from Monday June 20th – Wednesday June 22nd 2016. It will be a while before I can tell you the outcome as SCITT inspections are different to school inspections in that there are two of them and the second inspection looks at how the teachers are doing in their first job. However, we are confident that we will get a resounding endorsement from Ofsted regarding the quality of the teacher training that we provide. Good luck to Alys Finch and her team next week.

The Beautiful Game

Of course football is not a matter of life or death. It is far more important than that. Like most of the country Minsthorpe was gripped by the Home Countries derby match between England and Wales on Thursday June 16th and many students stayed behind after college to watch the second half of the game with Minsthorpe staff. The students were a credit and acted like true fans – they were passionate in their support but also respectful of the other team and recognised good play when they saw it – even if it was from the opposition. Nevertheless, there was palpable relief when England snatched the late winner!

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free

So said Emma Lazarus in the sonnet The New Colossus in a dedication to one of the most iconic symbols of liberty of the modern age. On June 17th 1885, the dismantled State of Liberty, a gift of friendship from the people of France to the people of America, arrived in New York Harbor. In 1892, Ellis Island, located near Bedloe’s Island (which in 1956 was renamed Liberty Island), opened as America’s chief immigration station, and for the next 62 years Lady Liberty, as the statue is nicknamed, stood watch over the more than 12 million immigrants who sailed into New York Harbor. As we go to the polls in the referendum and vote to either remain or leave the EU, this anniversary might act as a timely reminder of dynamic effect that immigration can have on a country – be that America or the UK – as openness in terms of ideas, technology, goods and people are often the propellant of great civilisations. It concerns me that we seem to be entering an era of gathering closure whether it be Trump wanting to build a wall with Mexico or China’s President Xi’s nationalist campaign to reject western ideas. If we are to celebrate British Values then we ought to start with openness as that is the cornerstone of Britishness.

Ray Henshaw

Principal’s Blog – 10th June 2016

  • Belgium Half Term Trip Image 1
  • Belgium Half Term Trip Image 2
  • Belgium Half Term Trip Image 3
  • Belgium Half Term Trip Image 4
  • Belgium Half Term Trip Image 5
  • Belgium Half Term Trip Image 6
  • Belgium Half Term Trip Image 7
  • Belgium Half Term Trip Image 8
  • Belgium Half Term Trip Image 9
  • Belgium Half Term Trip Image 10
  • Residential Half Term Trip Image 1
  • Residential Half Term Trip Image 2
  • Residential Half Term Trip Image 3
  • Residential Half Term Trip Image 4


Outward Bound!

During the holidays, students at Minsthorpe are always given opportunities to take part in a variety of activities. During May Half Term over 120 students in Year 7 took part in a series of 24 hour residential experiences. The students had an action packed time taking part in activities such as blind fold trail, Frisbee, relays, tug of war, football, rounders, capture the flag, treasure hunt, egg challenge, camp fire, kayaking, abseiling, climbing and the leap of faith! The students also experienced encounters with the White Widow (the spirit of the woods) and heard the blood curdling story about the place where they stopped. A massive well done to all students that went on that trip and for the staff who supported them. One of the best year groups we have ever taken!


Students from Minsthorpe also visited Belgium over half term and visited the cemeteries of those killed in the First World War. It was a very moving experience with Courtney Harrison and Demi-Jo Hargreaves laying a wreath at the largest cemetery for the British war dead, Tyne Cot British Cemetery. James Keith, Megan Mitchell and Joe Turford laid a wreath at the Last Post Ceremony at Vimy Ridge Memorial. There were also lighter moments that included a visit to a Belgian chocolate shop and an unforgettable Minsthorpe’s got Belgian Talent evening!

The students were very well behaved and this was commented on by the coach driver and all our guides. They said the students were engaged, extremely polite and respectful. Congratulations to the students for representing the college so well and a massive thanks to the staff for taking the students on such an important trip. Also a special thanks goes to Courtney Harrison’s grandfather who provided the group with remembrance crosses from the British Legion. Each student wrote a message of remembrance and left it on a war grave. You can see why I am so proud of the students at Minsthorpe.

Let’s Go Fly a Kite!

On June 10th 1752, Benjamin Franklin flew a kite during a thunderstorm and collected a charge from the lightning strike in order to demonstrate the power of electricity. Franklin was fascinated by electricity and coined a number of terms for it that we still use today – battery, conductor and electrician, for example. He also loved writing homespun proverbs such as: "Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise." Whether or not Franklin followed this advice in his own life, he came to represent the classic American overachiever.

One of the founding fathers of the United States, he had many accomplishments in business and science and is also noted for his numerous civic contributions. Among other things, he developed a library, insurance company, city hospital and academy in Philadelphia that would later become the University of Pennsylvania. Not bad for the son of a candle maker whose formal education ended at age 10 – proof that determination will always triumph over disadvantage!

Ray Henshaw

Principal’s Blog – 27th May 2016

  • Rocket Science
  • Sleeping Student


In space, no one can hear you grow!

On Wednesday 25th May, 8.5 did the last of their measurements of the space seeds that were germinated on the ISS. The plants are looking healthy and are growing well – we await the corresponding measurements of the plants that remained on the space station. The Rocket Science project has been organised by the UK Space Agency and the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Campaign for School Gardening. It aims to enthuse young people about space and gardening and could help scientists understand more about our ability to grow food in orbit. Over a period of 35 days, the students have monitored the height, colour and leaf development of the seedlings. They have recorded their findings on a chart and will send their results to be analysed by professional statisticians and scientists from the RHS and UK and European Space Agencies. After half term, we should have the results.

The Breakfast of Champions!

GCSEs are in full swing and every morning the college provides a free breakfast for Year 11 at 8am in the Carnegie. Please encourage your sons and daughters to get into proper sleep patterns and ensure that they have good breakfast on the day of an examination so that they hit the ground running.

English Schools County Cup

Students from Years 7-10 took part in the English Schools County Cup Round 1 fixture held at Thornes Park Stadium on Wednesday May 25th. Despite the wet weather the students were well behaved, competitive and represented the college very well! In both track and field, students bagged a number of medals and the team showed great resilience and were a credit to the college and themselves. Full details of the medal winners can be found on the website – well done everybody!

The Maltese Falcon

Dashiell Hammett, the author of The Maltese Falcon was born in Maryland on May 27th, 1894. Hammett left school at age 13 and took a series of low-paying jobs, eventually landing at Pinkerton’s detective agency. He worked as a detective for eight years and turned his experiences into fiction that set the mould for later writers like Raymond Chandler. Hammett’s deadpan description of violent or emotional events came to be known as the "hard-boiled" style of detective fiction. His stories are full of memorable one liners and quotes. This, from Sam Spade – the private detective hunting for the jewel-encrusted statuette – is one of my favourites. "Hard work spotlights the character of people: some people turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don’t turn up at all." At Minsthorpe, we turn up our sleeves!

Ray Hanshaw

Principal’s Blog – 20th May 2016

  • Year 8 Science Fair Image 1
  • Year 8 Science Fair Image 3
  • Year 8 Science Fair Image 4
  • Year 8 Science Fair Image 5
  • Charles Lindbergh With The Spirit Of St. Louis


Tomorrow’s World

On Thursday May 19th I had the privilege of judging the two winners of the Year 8 Science Fair. Students from the two halves of Year 8 have been working on a major scientific development of their own choice and presented this to an audience of their peers, teachers and proud parents. Their showcases were incredible, featuring investigations on an amazing array of scientific subjects. Using models, props and visual aids students were confidently able to explain a whole range of complicated topics ranging from head transplants, rocket technology, evolution, artificial hearts, immunotherapy, antibiotics, light bulbs, eyesight and the brain! The students were incredible and a credit to the college, their parents and themselves!

7.3 are All In

7.3 are the star P&A group in the college having achieved a 100% attendance record for the week 9th-13th of May. Regular attendance at school is vital to help children achieve and get the best possible start in life. Only 12% of students with below 80% school attendance achieve five or more GCSEs at grades A*-C including English and Maths, compared to 68% for students with attendance greater than 95%. In the wake of the disappointing High Court judgement over parents taking students out of school for term time holidays, Minsthorpe is proud of these students and immoveable in its conviction that students need to be in school as every day counts.

Flight of Fancy

At 7:52am on May 20th 1927, American aviator Charles A Lindbergh took off from Roosevelt Field on Long Island, New York to make the world’s first solo, nonstop flight between New York and Paris. His is a tale of derring-do and in his small, flimsy monoplane, the Spirit of St Louis, he flew continuously for 33½ hours, having to hold his eyelids open and hallucinating that ghosts were passing through the cockpit. His flight had a massive impact on people – even the first walk on the moon does not come close – and it led directly to a boom in air travel as, suddenly, everyone wanted to fly. Lindbergh emerged from the virtual obscurity of a U.S. Air Mail pilot to instantaneous world fame and went on to become an author, inventor, military officer, explorer, and social activist. His is a story of the power of self-belief and hard work.

Ray Henshaw

Principal’s Blog – 13th May 2016

Black Cat


In gymnastics, tumbling, also known as power tumbling, is an acrobatic sporting discipline which combines some of the skills of artistic gymnastics on the floor with those of trampolining. It was developed from tumbling performances performed by entertainers from very early times but as a sport it is now codified, regulated, judged, and performed using standardized special acrobatic equipment. Oliver Watson, a student in Year 7 is an established gymnast in this discipline and has just qualified for the National Development Plan Semi Finals on 28th-29th May 2016. We wish him well. Oliver is one of those dedicated athletes who act as a role model to others and, despite training for 10 hours each week, his attendance is 99.3% and his behaviour record is exemplary. Outstanding effort, Oliver!

Character Education

Recently, everyone seems to be talking about character education – policy makers, parents, teachers, employers and young people. But character education is not a new fad, it is an idea dating back to the ancient Greeks and in particular the philosopher Aristotle. Aristotle believed that the purpose of life was to flourish and that in order flourish you must possess good character. Good character consists of having a number of virtues, but most importantly knowing what to do (and what not to) do at the right time, in the right place. Learning at Minsthorpe is organised around the 6Rs and we use these to develop character traits, teaching our young people to be resilient, responsible, reflective, respectful, reasoning and resourceful. We model character virtues by encouraging our students to behave and learn The Minsthorpe Way.

Unlucky for Some?

Friday 13th is instinctively linked to bad luck. Psychologically, for some this fear can be crippling with some people having a condition called paraskevidekatriaphobia-a phobic fear of Friday 13th. The term itself was coined by psychotherapist, Donald Dossey who tells patients "When you learn to pronounce it, you’re cured." Others grit their teeth and nervously get through the day. Many people will refuse to fly – let alone sit in row 13 – buy a house, or act on a hot stock tip, inactions that noticeably slow economic activity every Friday 13th with millions of pounds being lost as people refuse to fly or do business as normal. It is a learned fear, like so many others, in which others teach us negative taboo superstitions like not walking under ladders, keeping clear of black cats and not breaking mirrors. Superstitions are human attempts to understand – and even control – fate in an uncertain world and surviving the day unscathed can offer both comfort and structure in a world full of random and uncontrollable worries!

Ray Henshaw

Principal’s Blog – 6th May 2016

  • An Oilternative to Fossil Fuels Image 1
  • An Oilternative to Fossil Fuels Image 2
  • Sir Roger Bannister


Biomass – An ‘Oilternative’ To Fossil Fuels

In the future, we will run out of fossil fuels, and we use these to generate electricity at the moment. We need to find other reliable ways of getting enough electricity. There will be other challenges though. At Minsthorpe we have a group of students who wanted to find an energy solution that would help with all the other problems we will probably face in the future. These will include having enough space for everyone to live, not having enough resources to make things, and having a clean fresh supply of water for everyone. By 2050, fossil fuels will have probably have been almost wiped out altogether leaving us with problems if we are to generate power. This is why we could use biomass energy to power them – we already use this at the college. Let’s face it, electricity is one of our main life needs, and we won’t be able to use it if there aren’t any fossil fuels, so we need to find an alternative energy source and biomass seems to fit the bill.

The student proposal, entitled ‘An Oilternative to Fossil Fuels’ has been entered for the Shell Innovation Award for 2016. It is a brilliant idea that uses the cleaning power of wetlands to produce clean drinking water and to produce biomass materials to generate fuel to replace fossil fuels. They have explored this idea with Natural England and the college has been given a grant from Leeds University to build a working prototype of the wetland cleansing area for people in the college grounds. The challenges of global warming and sustainable living will be solved – or not – by this generation and it is great to know that we have such concerned students here at Minsthorpe who are proposing some really innovative solutions.

Year 11 Progress Files

Friday May 6th was an important day for Year 11 students as they received their Progress Files. As they approach the end of their compulsory education these files are records of their achievements to date and a place to detail their achievements in the future. This record is aimed not only to report on progress and achievements in school subjects but also to indicate the range of qualities and activities which have contributed to the general development of the student, both in and out of college and it will be useful when it comes to applying for jobs, apprenticeships or entry into Further Education.

This is the first of a number of important Rites of Passage that students will go through in Year 11 – others will include The Prom and GCSE Results Day in August. As we approach the final push for GCSEs it is vital that all students use the time left before the examinations start to give themselves the best possible start to the next phase in their lives.

The Four-Minute Mile

On May 6th 1954 at the Iffley Road Track in Oxford, England, medical student Roger Bannister became the first person in recorded history to run the mile in under four minutes. Bannister was running for the Amateur Athletic Association in Oxford against runners from the university in their annual match. He ran with two friends, who paced him, and then sprinted the last 200 yards, for a record time of 3:59.4.

His story is an inspiration to us all. Bannister was born in Middlesex on March 23, 1929. His parents couldn’t afford to send him to school, so he ran his way in, winning a track scholarship to Oxford, where he studied medicine and was a running sensation. He caused a furore in England when he declined to run the 1500 meters in the 1948 London Olympics so he could concentrate on his medical studies. He did run in the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, but finished fourth and, because of 1948, the British press scorned him. He then resolved to break track and field’s most famous barrier, the four-minute mile, a feat many believed to be impossible. However, Bannister had limited time to train as he was enrolled at St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School. So, he would run 30 minutes most days, focusing the rest of his time on his study of neurology. His story is the reason why we encourage education, hard work and self-belief at Minsthorpe – they do pay dividends.

Ray Henshaw

Principal’s Blog – 29th April 2016

  • Young Enterprisers deliver books to Pontefract Hospital
  • Chicken Cam


Charity Book Drop

On Tuesday 19th April the Post 16 Young Enterprise team consisting of Jessica Harnell, Ebony Massey and Chloe Bradshaw delivered a collection of books to Pontefract Children’s Outpatients Ward, in the celebration of World Book Day. The group had organised a book drop in the Library Learning Centre and donated them to the hospital where we hope that they will give the children hours of pleasure.

Chicken or the Egg?

Every year Nurture students from the college incubate chicken eggs and we are eagerly awaiting the pitter patter of tiny claws! The whole process is captured live on Chicken Cam and the feed runs 24/7 on the college’s learning platform, Firefly.

Rainbow Nation

On April 27th 1994 South Africa held its first multiracial elections. After years of apartheid – South Africa’s institutionalized system of white supremacy and racial segregation – more than 22 million South Africans turned out to cast ballots in the country’s first democratic parliamentary elections. An overwhelming majority chose anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela to head a new coalition government and he remained South Africa’s president until 1999. He was a great believer in education saying that "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." You can’t argue with that sentiment.

Ray Henshaw

Principal’s Blog – 22nd April 2016

  • Sport Relief Image 1
  • Sport Relief Image 2
  • Rocket Science Logo
  • Dream Team 2016


Sport Relief

In a recent blog I described the many activities that took place at the college in the week of Sport Relief. In total the college raised £2,687.00 for charity – what an incredible achievement! Well done to all the students and staff who took part and who gave so generously.

The Shine Project

Last week a number of Year 8 boys continued their work on the Shine Project. The college won a grant to use technology such as iPads and Green Screens to engage with 15 disadvantaged boys in Year 8 who had not made sufficient progress in Year 7. This time the boys have been studying the topic of ‘outer space’ through poetry and design and, so far, the majority of the group have made one sublevel of progress after engaging with this innovative project. At the end of the project we will compare the progress of this group with that of a control group, also identified in Year 7, who were matched with them in terms of ability levels.

Rocket Science

On Monday April 18th we received a number of seeds that have been in space on the International Space Station with astronaut, Tim Peake. They were planted by 8.5 who worked together as a team to make 200 labels for the seeds we have received. Over the next 35 days we will make various observations and take height measurements – using maths and science skills – to record data for the national database. The idea is to determine whether being in space has any effect on seeds and plant growth. This information will be used in the development of growing food in space for future space exploration to allow astronauts to travel further. One packet of seeds remained on the ISS and the other has been sent here to us on Earth as a control to allow us to make comparisons. It is a pity that a perennial temperate herb called Balsamita vulgaris is not part of the experiment as we could launch a new sci-fi series based on this called Alecost in Space! Sorry – bad pun! Here comes another one…

Dream Team 2016

Shakespeare walks into a tavern in Stratford. The innkeeper shouts "Oi, you – get out – you’re Bard!" Dreadful, I know – sorry. This clumsy Segway is designed to let me talk about the way that we have been celebrating the anniversary of Shakespeare’s death at Minsthorpe. You will know from my previous blogs how much we do when it comes to the work of Shakespeare and, on Friday April 22nd, throughout the day students were treated to excepts from ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and different curriculum areas explored aspects of Shakespeare’s life and work. His work is a timeless examination of the human condition, as relevant now as it was when written and we know that all the world’s a stage.

Ray Henshaw