Rough Notes – June & July 2017

The recent production of Little Shop of Horrors was not only superb but it is a symbol of all that Woodroffe stands for as a school.

First there is the quality.  How many schools have the skills and the ambition to present a show with such professional standards?  Students are challenged and encouraged to strive for the very best.  It undoubtedly involves hard work and commitment but the rewards are great and the learning opportunities unquestionable.

Then there is the sense of community the show engenders.  Students and staff work together across most of the year and really get to know each other.  Students learn essential interpersonal skills and, above all, they learn how to support and encourage one another.  Of course, there are rules and strict regimes to follow but these too are essential skills which students need to learn if they are to become successful in later life.

Woodroffe is all about involvement and from the very first meeting with Year 6 students we stress the need for them to join in and take advantage of the opportunities on offer. It is always great to see so many students involved in our school productions – and students from across the school, including Year 7s who are relatively new to the place.  This year there were nearly 100 students on stage and another 30 or so helping out behind the scenes in dozens of ways.

And they are learning new skills -  not just the social skills needed to make a full-scale production run successfully but specific skills: acting, singing, musicianship, dancing etc.  There are also opportunities to learn how to operate the sound desk or work with the lighting.  Some students were introduced to the art of theatre make-up and costume design, others worked on the design of the programme or learned stage management skills.

Above all there is enjoyment.  Everyone involved loved taking part – and that was clear on all the shining faces beaming out at the audience every evening.  School is about learning but it should also be fun and there is no doubt Little Shop of Horrors was fun. Moreover, events such as this will be remembered for ever.  We all know that when we think back to our own school days, we don’t remember many of the lessons but we do remember the exciting stuff we were involved in.  School productions create dozens of shared memories for all involved and these will be shared years into the future.

Little Shop also gave us a real opportunity to celebrate the arts.  As you will know, arts in schools are under threat and, in many schools, they have been side-lined to focus on the core curriculum and those subjects which will help the school to increase its standing in the DfE’s performance tables. Woodroffe students make outstanding progress in their academic studies but the arts are never neglected and it is in full scale productions we really get to appreciate the levels of participation and the opportunities Woodroffe offers its students in their engagement with the arts.  Little Shop involved acting, singing, set design, dancing and choreography, musical performance, costume design, sound management and lighting. These are all extra-curricular activities which remind us of the amazing extra-curricular opportunities available to Woodroffe students but they are also tied to curriculum subjects like Art, Music and Drama which continue to thrive and flourish against a background of austerity and curriculum cuts.

Woodroffe students have so many opportunities, there are times when we have to stop and ask, are they doing too much? Are we damaging their academic chances? And the answer is always no.  Students who take part do well.  The students who leave here to take up places at Oxbridge and other Russell Group universities are the ones who have played in teams, helped out at school events, played in bands, worked on art projects etc.  Participation undoubtedly leads to academic success; it also helps to create fully rounded individuals who are ready to face the world and excel in it.

Finally, Little Shop of Horrors would have been nothing without the commitment of the staff. Ms Cruwys-Finnigan and Mr Cullimore did a fantastic job in directing and managing the production but there were at least 20 members of staff intimately involved, staff who gave up evenings and weekends to make it such a success.  We have fabulous students at Woodroffe who want to get involved but we also have the staff to make it all possible.

So, if anyone asks what makes Woodroffe special, tell them about Little Shop of Horrors.

Here we are at the end of another incredibly successful year.  Last year’s GCSE and A Level results were once again among the best in the county, students excelled in competitions, team games and artistic endeavours all over the country, and the reputation of the school continued to grow thanks not only to our academic successes but due to our activities as a Teaching School and a Maths Hub.  As you will see from the list included elsewhere in Rough Notes, we have also kept up and extended our stunning extra-curricular offer – provision which is surely unmatched anywhere else in Devon or Dorset.  We were also delighted by the dedication and enthusiasm of our students as they entered a difficult and demanding examination season and we are confident that our their results in the summer will once again be outstanding.

Of course, at the end of the year we say farewell to staff who are retiring or leaving us and this year is quite a special year as several or our retirees have been part of Woodroffe for a very long time. Although retirement will, I am sure, be a delight for those involved, it is with great sadness that we say farewell to colleagues who have done so much for the school.  Miss Kabia will be remembered by generations of students as she has been here since 1978, both as a teacher of DT Food and as a Head of Year; Mrs Lamb-Wilson joined the English department back in 1978; Mrs Wood, our Director of Arts, joined the school as an Art teacher in 1988; and Ms Lake has been Head of English since 2001, virtually a newcomer! We are also saying goodbye to Mrs Hall, one of our Teaching Assistants, who has worked at Woodroffe since 2007 and Rob Russell who is leaving for personal reasons having joined us as an Assistant Headteacher only a year ago. Brief tributes to these colleagues can be found further in this edition of Rough Notes.

And finally, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all a happy and enjoyable summer.

Dr Steward