Principal’s Blog – 15th April 2016

  • Barnsley Athletics Club Spring Open Image 1
  • Barnsley Athletics Club Spring Open Image 2
  • Public Services Passing Out Parade


The Learning Curve at Minsthorpe

When it comes to learning and teaching, Minsthorpe likes to be at the cutting edge and there is no better way of illustrating this than by describing two initiatives that are currently taking place at the college.

1. Spaced Learning

The Science team are involved with a research project led by the Education Endowment Foundation, Sheffield Hallam University and Queens University, Belfast. Spaced learning is a technique based on the principles of neuro science that have discovered that the repetition of learning, following periods of non-cognitive activity (such as juggling, skipping) strengthen the neural pathways that link to memory. Students receive bursts of intensive teaching broken up by play activities that do not demand the processing of memory. Early studies have shown that, using this teaching method, much more knowledge can be absorbed – and retained – by the brain. Thousands of students across the UK are trialing this method of teaching and their results will be compared to control groups of matched students who will be taught exactly the same scientific content – but in a traditional way. I will let you know the results of the experiment later in the year. If it works it could transform the way we teach content and facts to students and lead to much more effective revision strategies.

2. Video Enhanced Observation

VEO is a revolutionary app which uses the power of video and data for effective professional learning improvement and development in a range of sectors including education, business and medicine. The prototype was developed by Newcastle University in 2014 and it allows professionals to video, tag and review their practice using iPads and iPhones in order to build up a portfolio of best practice that can be used to teach fellow professionals as part of personal development programmes. Teachers will be able to view each others’ lessons virtually and, by using the tags, go straight to areas of good practice such as open-ended questioning, starter activities, classroom management etc. and learn from seeing effective practitioners at work. Twenty eight teachers are going to trial the app at Minsthorpe and to use this to improve their teaching practice.

Passing Out

Level 1 Public Service Students passed out at Castleford Fire Station on Friday 15th April as the final part of their Young Firefighters course. For the past 20 weeks, the students have attended the fire station every Friday working towards a BTEC Level 2 Certificate in Fire and Rescue Services in the Community. Whilst they have learnt a numerous amount of skills specific to the fire service they also have developed life-long skills such as teamwork, leadership and first aid together with work to help them with their college course. As part of their passing out parade they carried out, successfully, two drills in front of parents, fire service staff and Minsthorpe staff. They then received their certificates from the Area Manager for Wakefield and a final photo opportunity.

Runaway Success!

Two Minsthorpe students run for Barnsley Athletics Club and competed in the Spring Open meeting held at Doncaster this week. Ruby Sullivan in Year 8 ran in the Girls’ Under 15 80m and took part in the long jump, achieving a personal best in the 80m. Charlie Glennon from Year 7 competed in her first ever Track and Field 800m and clocked a season’s best time. Well done girls, an excellent effort!

Ray Henshaw

Principal’s Blog – 8th April 2016

  • Basic Skills Quality Mark
  • Look North Report Image 1
  • Look North Report Image 2


Basic Skills Quality Mark

On March 17th the college’s Basic Skills Quality provision was reviewed and I am pleased to be able to inform you that our Quality Mark status was renewed over Easter because of the excellent work that the assessor saw during her visit. The development of basic skills is vital for all students as the raising of literacy and numeracy standards are crucial for raising achievement generally. The report is glowing in its praise for the work that staff do here to raise literacy and numeracy standards and notes the supportive and attractive learning environments in the college and the excellent relationships seen between students, parents and teachers. Thanks to Sarah Adams and Lesley Thorpe for their meticulous preparation that has resulted in such an excellent tribute to the work that we are doing here.

Daring to dream

Every year we send Post-16 students on the next stage in their journey. Some to work or apprenticeships and others to higher education, with many students being the first in their family to ever to go to university. This year we have some exceptional candidates who we are hoping to support through the Oxbridge application process. One of these is Eleanor Field who has been accepted on the Oxford University Summer School to study Linguistics. It is a massive achievement just to be accepted and a credit to all Eleanor’s hard work, dedication and talent. Eleanor takes both English Language and English Literature at AS level and has been brilliant at English for a number of years. The English department have worked diligently alongside Eleanor for a number of years to ensure she has the best opportunities to succeed and I’m really pleased she will get this rare opportunity to experience the highest calibre of English study and research.

One life lost is one too many

This is slogan of the safety campaign that is being led by Police Sergeant, James Farrar who delivered a hard-hitting session on road safety to our Post-16 students on Tuesday April 5th. Most deaths and injuries on the roads involve young people and the vast majority happen to them as either car users or as pedestrians. Our students were a credit to the college in the way that they listened – and responded – to this hugely important message on how to stay safe on the roads and the campaign was the lead feature on Look North on Tuesday evening. As a college, we have lost too many young people to road traffic accidents recently and we support this awareness raising campaign completely.

Ray Henshaw

Principal’s Blog – 18th March 2016

  • Boys Rugby 16/03
  • Girls Rugby 16/03
  • Sport Relief Image 1
  • Sport Relief Image 2
  • Sport Relief Image 3
  • Sport Relief Image 4
  • Sport Relief Image 5
  • Sport Relief Image 6
  • Sport Relief Image 7
  • Sport Relief Image 8
  • Sport Relief Image 9
  • Sport Relief Image 10


Sports Relief

We have been involved with events for Sports Relief all week. Even though the Kenyans have nothing to fear, a number of our hardy staff took part in a sponsored run on Tuesday and the Wednesday saw a netball tournament followed by a football tournament on the Thursday. Not to be outdone, the students took part in running, football, rugby, dodgeball and headball competitions on the Friday. Even before the sports day Years 7,8,9 and 10 have raised £421 from payments just to take part in the events and staff and students will also have raised more money throughout the week. I’ll give you the exact total raised after the Easter break.

Rugby News

The girls team was unfortunately placed 5th out of 6 in the Yorkshire Cup Festival. However, as a team and on an individual level, the students learned some good lessons on Thursday afternoon. They really toughed it out against some big strong inner city schools. Strong performances throughout by Ella Johnson and Molly Raikes.

The boys team beat Abbey Grange in a Yorkshire Shield semi-final at home 40-24, showing character to come back from being two scores down at half time. Strong performance by Dan Allen (MOM) who ran the show in both halves.

Winding up days with toil and nights with sleep

On Friday March 18th and Saturday March 19th, twelve students from Minsthorpe students performed in the Honley Shakespeare Festival. Ten Kirklees schools, plus MCC, are putting together Shakespeare’s fantastic tale of responsibility and conflict, Henry V. The students have been working very hard on this wonderful ensemble piece and we wish them every success. Minsthorpe has an excellent reputation for the teaching of Shakespeare due, in no small measure to the dedication and passion for the Bard’s work by our very own Sal Thompson. Our work has not gone unnoticed and the University of Nottingham, Tate Learning and the Royal Shakespeare Company have involved Minsthorpe in the TALE (Tracking Arts Learning and Engagement) project that is looking at how the teaching of Shakespeare can enhance the ongoing professional development of teachers and improve the learning of their students.

Beware the Ides of March

Well, March 15th has come and gone, thankfully without incident! ‘Beware the Ides of March’ comes from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and is the soothsayer’s message to Caesar, warning him of his impending death. The Ides of March didn’t signify anything special in itself – this was just the usual way of saying "March 15th". However, as a date it now seems to be associated with an infamy that goes beyond the murder of Caesar in 44 B.C. It also saw a devastating cyclone that killed over 200 sailors in Samoa in 1889 and the abdication of Czar Nicholas II of Russia in 1917. In 1939, Germany occupied Czechoslovakia on this day and it was also the date of the rainiest day in recorded history in 1952 when 73.62 inches of rain fell on the Indian Ocean island of La Reunion. On this day in 2003 a new global health scare was reported for the very first time – a respiratory disease that had broken out in China, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Singapore and China. The disease was called Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome (or SARS). Talk about having a bad day!

Ray Henshaw

Principal’s Blog – 11th March 2016

  • Ella's BBC School Report
  • Public Services at Pugneys Image 1
  • Public Services at Pugneys Image 2


The news, just in…

On Thursday March 10th schools across the UK took part in the BBC News School Report. This is an annual news day event, simultaneously creating video, audio and text-based news reports, which are then published on each school’s website, to which the BBC also links.

The report was scripted and filmed by one of our hardest working and conscientious students, Ella, and her investigation was extremely well researched and thought-provoking. Ella proved herself to be an intrepid reporter and also carried out an interview with a young carer as part of her research and drafted the script herself in order to make it fit the newsroom format. You can see the report by visiting our School Report page.

By Sea, By Land

Eighteen Level 3 Public Services students had a day trip to Pugneys Water Park at Wakefield on Tuesday 8th March to work for a day with the Royal Marines. They undertook a series of activities including riding the waves on the inflatable rafts, scaling a climbing wall, learning about weapons and also took part in a gruelling physical training session. It was a hard, but rewarding, day working both with the Royal Marines and other schools. Because of the commitment and the quality of the students’ efforts we have been offered the chance of participating in a residential at the Royal Marines HQ in Lympstone, Devon. Congratulations to these students – they’ve earned theirs!

And now for the classified results…

Last week was an outstanding week for our football teams. Three of our teams made the Wakefield Cup finals and all three were victorious with Year 7 beating Crofton 1-0, Year 8 defeating King’s 4-1 and Year 11 triumphing 3-0 over Hemsworth. Well done to all of the players and coaches.

The Magic Bullet

On March 11th 1955 Sir Alexander Fleming, the man credited with the discovery of the life-saving drug penicillin, died of a heart attack aged 73. In truth, penicillin was ‘discovered’ by a number of people including his friend and colleague Merlin Pryce and, had he not noticed the mould and drawn it to the attention of Fleming, penicillin might not have been discovered for several years and, quite possibly, would have seen the death of thousands of soldiers during World War Two because the antibiotic was not available. The discovery also owes much to the work of other men – notably Florey and Chain – who were responsible for developing the drug and bringing it to the hospital ward.

Since the 1940s, antibiotics have saved millions of lives. However, Fleming also foresaw the problems which would arise once certain bacteria developed an immunity to the drug and the widespread and, often inappropriate use of antibiotics, has now seen the growth of drug-resistant bacteria. If resistance to treatment continues to spread, our interconnected, high-tech world may find itself back in the dark ages of medicine, before today’s miracle drugs ever existed, a time when simple things such as colds could become fatal.

Ray Henshaw

Principal’s Blog – 4th March 2016

  • World Book Day Image 1
  • World Book Day Image 2
  • World Book Day Image 3
  • World Book Day Image 4
  • World Book Day Image 5


Sweet Charity

On Monday 29th February it gave me great pleasure to present Cancer Research UK with a cheque for £857.28. The charity was represented by Lynne Desborough who explained the work of the charity to the Student Council and how the donation will help in the fight against cancer. The college raised nearly £2,000 for charity before Christmas and it shows how generous and caring our students are when it comes to helping others.

World Book Day

Thursday March 3rd was World Book Day. World Book Day is a celebration of authors, illustrators, books and (most importantly) it’s a celebration of reading. In fact, it’s the biggest celebration of its kind, designated by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of books and reading, and marked in over 100 countries all over the world. As ever, Minsthorpe marked the day with both staff and students dressing up as their favourite literary characters. The main aim of the day is to encourage children to experience the pleasures of reading a book so staff read excerpts from Chemistry by Graham Swift, in instalments, throughout the day to show students how a good story can hook the reader. The poignant tale depicts things that we can all relate to – family relationships, change, love and loss. Why not discuss the text (and its themes) with your child?

The Minsthorpe Biomassive!

Over the summer the college replaced its old, coal-fired boilers with a start-of-the-art biomass system. Biomass is biological material derived from living (or recently living) organisms. The vital difference between biomass and fossil fuels is one of time scale. Biomass takes carbon out of the atmosphere while it is growing, and returns it as it is burned. Fossil fuels take millions of years to form and cannot be replaced. Managed on a sustainable basis, biomass is harvested as part of a constantly replenished crop either during woodland or arboriculture management (such as coppicing) or as part of a continuous programme of replanting, thus taking up CO2 from the atmosphere at the same time as it is released by the combustion of the previous harvest. This allows the college to reduce its carbon footprint and switch from the use of dirty fossil fuels. On Friday March 4th to tie in with World Wildlife Day, 55 student volunteers from the college got together as part of our STEM programme to look at the issues concerning sustainability and the part that biomass can play in providing greener power for the future.

Ray Henshaw

Principal’s Blog – 26th February 2016

Daniel Britton is elected to the Youth Parliament

Landslide victory

In an earlier blog I informed you that Daniel Britton, a student in Year 8, had put himself forward as a candidate in the elections for the Youth Parliament. I am delighted to tell you that Daniel has been elected as a Member of the Youth Parliament with a massive landslide victory, polling a huge 2,391 votes compared to the 660 of the second placed candidate. The UK Youth Parliament provides opportunities for 11-18 year olds to use their elected voice to bring about social change through meaningful representation and campaigning. During their term of office, MYPs work with their MPs, decision makers, councillors and local youth groups on the issues of greatest concern to their constituents and we look forward to Daniel making a difference in our area. Well done Daniel, you have made us proud!

Walking, talking mocks!

Under this government the terminal GCSE examination has become even more important and it is vital that Year 11 students know what to do in order to achieve in the summer 2016 examinations. All students have recently gone through a mock examination period and are currently being debriefed. On Monday February 29th the English team will be taking students though a ‘walking, talking mock’. In this, students will sit in the hall at exam desks and go through an examination paper with the staff highlighting what the questions require and common pitfalls in a live question and answer session. The aim of this is to support student understanding of the questions and to increase their confidence when it comes the actual examination. Maths will be following suit in March. We will then have a second pre-public mock examination period in April 2016 to see if there have been lessons learned. GCSE examinations are now even more high stakes than ever and we are doing everything that we can to help our young people get the grades that they deserve. Sessions aimed at helping Year 11 parents support the revision process will begin in April – watch out for the dates.

Leap Year

This year is a leap year which means that we get an extra day and February 29th is a leap day. A leap year happens about every four years and people born on this day are called leaplings. Outside of leap years, February 29th is not on the calendar forcing leaplings to celebrate their birthdays on either February 28th or March 1st. The reason we do this is down to the solar system’s disparity with the Gregorian calendar. A complete orbit of the earth around the sun takes exactly 365.2422 days to complete, but the Gregorian calendar uses 365 days. So leap seconds – and leap years – are added as means of keeping our clocks (and calendars) in sync with the Earth and its seasons. Technically, a leap year does not occur every four years. There’s a leap year every year that is divisible by four, except for years that are both divisible by 100 and not divisible by 400. The added rule about centuries (versus just every four years) was an additional fix to make up for the fact that an extra day every four years is too much of a correction as leap years only happen 97 years out of every 400. The maths has worked ever since the system was devised in 1582 but it will need to be rethought in about 10,000 years’ time! So, leaplings enjoy your actual birthday and the rest of you the extra day – who knows some of you might be proposed to by your girlfriends!

Ray Henshaw

Principal’s Blog – 19th February 2016

Children's Mental Health Week 2016

Children’s Mental Health Week

The UK’s first Child Mental Health Week ran from 8th-15th February 2016 and it has highlighted the importance of – and early intervention with – children experiencing psychological difficulties. Wakefield has responded in a collective and positive way to the recommendations set out in the government’s Future in Mind report (2015). The focus in Wakefield will be to support children and young people at the earliest point in their life, at the earliest point in their problem, and support mental health and wellbeing in children and young people through prevention and awareness raising and providing an early intervention response. I am pleased to announce that Minsthorpe will be spearheading the Future in Mind plan in the South East and will host a counsellor and a primary practitioner at the college who will offer support to Minsthorpe students and to all schools in the SESKU area. Over the next five years we hope to help build up a sustainable outreach service that will help young people – and their families – live their lives in a way that nurtures positive mental health and wellbeing by providing support sooner, rather than later.


The theme of Children’s Mental Health Week is ‘building resilience’. At Minsthorpe we have been promoting this for some time through the growth mindset that we encourage all of our young people to adopt. Resilience is one of The 6 Rs that make up Learning The Minsthorpe Way. We teach our students that failure is not something to fear as it is another important learning experience and an opportunity to bounce forward from life’s challenges.

Choices, choices

Wednesday 8th February saw the Year 8 Preferencing Evening. The college was packed with parents and students beginning their options process for Key Stage 4 all asking questions about courses and qualifications. It was a busy and buzzy night with staff fielding lots of questions from parents and students alike about where GCSEs can lead to – a great evening!

I spy, with my little eye

On February 19th, 1473, Nicolaus Copernicus was born in Torun, a city in north-central Poland on the Vistula River. The father of modern astronomy, he was the first modern European scientist to propose that Earth and other planets revolve around the sun. However, the extremely dense scientific nature of his work meant that his theory was not widely circulated and it was not until the early 17th century that Galileo and Johannes Kepler developed and popularized the Copernican theory, which for Galileo resulted in a trial and conviction for heresy. Following Isaac Newton’s work in celestial mechanics in the late 17th century, acceptance of the Copernican theory spread rapidly in non-Catholic countries, and by the late 18th century it was almost universally accepted. Amazing work considering Copernicus worked with the naked eye – Galileo was the first person to look at the heavens with a telescope and he was born 20 years after Copernicus’ death!

Ray Henshaw

Principal’s Blog – 5th February 2016

Future Stars 2016 Champions

Demolition Job!

In one of the most amazing and brutal defensive displays we have seen in a long time, our Year 11 rugby students beat Malet Lambert 40-0. The Hull side boasted a Wigan Centre and an England Hooker but they were unable to stop the steamroller that is the Minsthorpe rugby juggernaut. Well done, lads!

With great powder comes great responsibility

On the evening of Wednesday February 3rd I waved goodbye to the staff and students going on the annual ski trip to Austria. This is an incredible opportunity for our young people to learn life lessons in a very different environment. Skiing involves the mastery of equipment and demands that you think ahead. It also allows young people to learn from failure, surpass their limits and achieve things they never thought possible.

And here is the news

Ella Simmons in Year 7 has been selected as the winner of the College’s entry for the BBC School News Report competition, having written a really fantastic article that was filmed for the BBC. Well done, Ella!

Venimus, Vidimus, Vicimus!

Like Caesar, Minsthorpe can say that we came, we saw and we conquered at the Future Stars competition hosted at Hemsworth Academy on February 4th. The away supporters of staff, students and parents saw our talented contestants take the first three places in a sharply contested competition against a very talented Hemsworth opposition. Alex Wood took joint third place with the Hemsworth singing duo of Sophie Haworth and Toby Hall. Second place went to Ebony Holmes who gave us a haunting rendition of Ed Sheeran’s The A Team. The worthy champion was Leah Brough with her beautiful and melancholy version of Martina McBride’s Concrete Angel. What talent we have!

Medgar Evers – an unsung hero

On February 5th 1994, white supremacist Byron De La Beckwith was convicted of the murder of African-American civil rights leader Medgar Evers, over 30 years after the crime occurred. Evers was gunned down in the driveway of his home in Jackson, Mississippi on June 12, 1963. Evers lived a life bookended by segregation. From the institutionalised racism of his childhood to the heart breaking discrimination he experienced at the hospital on his final day – dying of a bullet wound, he was initially refused treatment because of his race – segregation was a defining part of his life. But in between those bookends, he fought for change and remains today cherished as one of the foremost champions of the American civil rights movement. The national outrage over Evers’s murder increased support for legislation that would become the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Whilst a number of all-white juries refused to convict Beckwith (despite his boasting of committing the murder) Evers’s determined widow fought to see justice served and her tireless campaigning saw new evidence come to light in 1989 and a racially diverse jury convicted Beckwith for a life sentence in 1994.

Ray Henshaw

Principal’s Blog – 29th January 2016

  • Minsthorpe Soul Band Image 1
  • Minsthorpe Soul Band Image 2


Battle of the Bands

On Thursday 21st January the Minsthorpe Soul Band, featuring students from Years 9-13, took on 5 other schools in the annual Wakefield Battle of the Bands competition. Each had to perform a cover song and an original composition at the Unity Works music venue. As the battle was funded and organised by the West Yorkshire Police they requested that the original song was written to reflect an issue affecting young people in society. Minsthorpe’s song "The Risk" was composed by Meghan Clamp and reflected on the choices and decisions that young people face every day and the affect peer pressure has on difficult decisions.

In an exciting competition, judged by local celebrities and music journalists, Minsthorpe came out victorious winning the award for Best Original Song. The band loved the experience of performing at a professional music venue and are looking forward to claiming their prize of recording an EP at a local music studio.

The Soul Band will be taking part in the annual Future Stars competition alongside four other acts from Minsthorpe in their battle to against Hemsworth Academy.

Please come and support the students on Thursday 4th February at Hemsworth Arts and Community Academy (6pm). Tickets are £1 on the door.


The Year 7 boys indoor 5-a-side Football team were crowned West Yorkshire Champions on Monday January 18th. We have never before won this trophy and this really is a massive achievement.

The boys beat off opposition from Hemsworth, Kings, Airedale, Calrton and St Wilfreds to be crowned Pontefract Champions. They then defeated Kettlethorpe and Crofton to be crowned Wakefield Champions. Finally, they then represented Wakefield at the West Yorkshire event and came out champions beating Morley, Netherall, Ryburn and Mirfield.

On Saturday 6th Feb they will represent West Yorkshire in the North of England Finals at the Trafford Soccerdome in Manchester. Go boys!

Martyrs’ Day

January 30th is Martyrs’ Day in India where those who have died for the nation are honoured. The date was chosen as it marks the assassination of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi in 1948. Gandhi was instrumental in driving the British out of India. His non-violent protests and boycotts crippled England’s ability to control the populace and brought unwanted attention to one of the world’s last major bastions of colonialism.

More than anything else, historians say, Gandhi proved that one man has the power to take on an empire, using both ethics and intelligence. Other peaceful resisters such as Martin Luther King Jr. and the Dalai Lama have emulated his methods in the years since, shaking up the dynamic of world politics in the process. They have shown that change is possible without having to resort to violence.

Ray Henshaw

Principal’s Blog – 22nd January 2016

  • Year 8/9/10 Trip to English Institute of Sport
  • Year 7 Trip to English Institute of Sport
  • John Lennon and Yoko Ono


Sporting Excellence at Minsthorpe

Monday 11th January saw students from Years 8, 9 and 10 visiting the English Institute of Sport Sheffield (EIS) where the students had a tour around the facilities and were able to watch Jessica Ennis-Hill and her team in training for Rio 2016. They then received two high quality coaching sessions in athletics and boxing. The students’ behaviour was exemplary and they really did make an outstanding impression on the staff at the EIS and definitely showed our college in an impressive light.

On Thursday 14th January Year 7 students also visited the EIS and got the cook’s tour. This time they saw most of the Team GB Boxing team in training for Rio 2016, and, also the GB Disability table tennis team – also training for Rio. The students were given facts and figures about the venue and were given an insight into the excellent facilities that our local area has to offer for sport. In the afternoon the students had both basketball and volleyball training sessions followed by an eagerly awaited run around the indoor athletics track along with some races against staff. The students again showed an excellent standard of behaviour and maturity and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The Year 7s were all also invited to a summer fitness camp run by Sheffield international venues.

Thanks to Hannah Bird for organising this excellent trip and to Kevin Crewe for driving the minibus and also to one of our PE Teacher Trainees, Joe Sidebottom, who also helped with supervising the students. Our students always do us proud on visits like this.


On 22nd January 1981 the magazine Rolling Stone published a portrait of John Lennon and Yoko Ono on the front cover. Liebowitz’s now-famous photograph is all the more poignant for having been taken on the morning of December 8, 1980, just twelve hours before Lennon was assassinated and this picture is the final portrait of him and Yoko together. The actual final photo of John was taken a few hours after Liebowitz’s, by a fan waiting outside the Dakota, John and Yoko’s Central Park West apartment building. That photo captured John immediately after signing an autograph for Mark David Chapman, the man who would shoot him dead some six hour later. John Lennon was the first of the Beatles to die, and his shocking murder truly ended an era. But even though nearly four decades have passed, Lennon’s legacy lives on and on – in the music he created, in his musically talented family and in the call for world peace that he sounded, still resonating today. He may well have been a dreamer but he dared people to imagine a better world.

Ray Henshaw