Saturday, 31 January 2015

Webber Celebrates Number 1 Spot for GCSE & A Level Performance

Validated data from the Department for Education has confirmed students at the Webber Independent School have maintained an exceptionally high performance at KS4 (GCSE) by achieving 73% 5A*-C grades including English and Maths.  Proudly sitting in the number 1 spot as the highest performing school in the town, The Webber Independent School recorded an impressive 100% pass rate overall and hopes that its continued rise in student outcomes will  progress long into the future.

It was a similar triumph for the Webber Sixth Form cohort where 88% of students attained at least 3A*-E A-Levels, again placing them number 1 in the town and 100% progressed onto their first choice university.

Principal Sue Vig said, “We are incredibly proud of our students performance and this truly reflects the dedication shown by the children, supported by parents and of course the staff here at Webber, to their everyday learning and preparation for exams.  To be number 1 in the town for both GCSE and A Level performance is something our whole school community should celebrate.  We are privileged to share in the successes of our talented and passionate young people and I am delighted that their time at Webber has given them a sound platform to their future careers.  Congratulations to all students who’ve worked so hard for their excellent grades.”

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

The Beginners Guide to Converting a Classroom into a WW1 Trench

It’s a wonder how some 30 pallets, paper, sacking, soil and lots of brown paint could make Whiz Bang Alley, such a fantastic replica of a WW1 trench – all in 30 days! With the help of parents, Year 7, 9 and 10 Art students and staff we were able to turn a classroom into a dark and dingy area that is a recreation of a trench, home to so many soldiers during the First World War. The idea behind the design was to simulate the look, feel and even the smell of the trenches – indeed some of the material came from Mr and Mrs Dunn’s farm. The name Whiz Bang Alley comes from the well regarded 1980s WW1 comic strip Charley’s War. The trench installation looks fantastic and it was great to see Webber staff, students and parents working together on such a poignant project.

Pallets were kindly donated by parents and the main construction was assembled in one weekend with staff, parents and pupils all at hand with screwdrivers and saws to create the main trench, Whiz Bang Alley and the Officer’s HQ. Mrs Willett, Rochelle Dunne's mum built trench ladders and the dugouts; Mr Elston, Ben Elston and Mr Mott were all able to come up with a solution for almost anything required involving wood, sandbags and chicken wire: they were the engineers behind putting together the trench superstructure on the first day of construction. Mr Elston and Ben returned on subsequent days to help with securing the pallet floor and putting in the roof over the Officer’s HQ. Large quantities of hessian were used to provide door flaps, cover roofs and anywhere where there was a need to cover over the twenty first century. Mrs Staerck and Mr Marshall were largely responsible, staplers in hand, for covering the sides of the Officer’s HQ based on a superstructure made from two large office cabinets!

The original design for the front of Whiz Bang Alley

Mr Hutchinson and Mr Nash dragged in the very heavy railway sleepers from the garden for the fire steps. Mr Nash will never underestimate the work of the railway navvies ever again! We filled a sandbag with sand so that we can see and feel the real weight of one of these things, it was heavy... The other 120 sandbags used to complete the trench were filled mostly with newspaper brought in by students and parents, plus some with old bedding and pillows.

At back of the room we created an illusion of no-man’s land and constructed a ladder against one of the trench walls to enable the students to visualise what it would be like to have to go over the top of the trench into battle. Sight and sounds of WW1 were projected onto a screen made from a bed sheet pinned to the wall and 20 battery powered candles were installed to give the effect of star and candlelight.

The original plan of Whiz Bang Alley before it was built

Once the main construction was up it was time for the artists to get creative with making sandbags and scrunched up paper for the ground area above the pallet walls. Fences were made with “Hallowe'en barbed wire” to give a look of authenticity and desolation. The floor of pallets was given a wash of brown paint and then scattered with soil, sand and leaves for a damp underground feel. Silver lamps were transformed into rusty looking gas lamps and polystyrene blocks were revamped into ammunition boxes. Lighting was subdued with tracing paper covers and various WW1 memorabilia was carefully placed around the trench for the finishing touch. The blasted stumps of trees and bare branches were made from material brought in from her garden by Mrs Kirwin who also kindly donated the lamps and boxes which helped give the trench such a feel of the First World War. A number of parents gave canes to support the barbed wire pickets, others gave chicken wire without which the roofs of the dugouts could not have been made.

Our trench was completed within 30 days, by the 10th November, phew… THANK YOU to all students, parents and staff that were involved from the Whiz Bang Alley design and build team!

Ms Anacootee (Head of Art), Mrs McNulty (Enrichment) & Mr Nash (Head of History)

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Celebrating Our Feathered Friends

Students from The Webber Independent School, Milton Keynes, braved the winter elements on Friday 23rd January to undertake some bird watching in recognition of the RSPB’s Big Garden Bird Watch. Officially the event was celebrated over the weekend 24th- 25th January, so remembering what they had learnt in school, the children got family and friends involved by keeping watch on their gardens and local nature reserves to record the highest number of each bird species seen outside at any one time.

A wide selection of popular garden birds were observed as well as some rarer species, more often seen in woodland areas – students then took to the online recording survey to share with the RSPB the variety of feathered friends who had paid them a visit.

Originally launched by Blue Peter over 30 years ago, the event has grown in popularity – with over half a million people now taking part in the annual RSPB bird counting scheme, aimed to help assess and measure UK wildlife changes.

Principal Sue Vig said: “We have taken part in this observation event for a number of years which reminds our children of the importance and beauty of nature that surrounds us every day. Our popular garden guests are sometimes overlooked so the Big Garden Watch reminds us of the great variety of birds we're fortunate to see, as well as celebrating the wonderful contribution they make to our environmental wealth.”

Sunday, 25 January 2015

A-Level and GCSE Students at the BFI (British FIlm Institute)

Our French and Spanish A-level and GCSE students enjoyed a fantastic workshop about Spanish and French cinema. It was an amazing opportunity to show students the work of French and Spanish directors and enjoy a movie in original language. All students coped amazingly well with the fact that the whole workshop was spoken in Spanish and French only. It provided them the opportunity to enhance their Language skills and prove to themselves that the Language learning can go beyond the normal lessons.

Most of them agreed they want to watch some of the movies shared during the workshop. So, we will definitely find time to watch some of them!

I am very pleased to say that our students were amazing and I feel very proud to teach them!

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Watch Year 9 War Poetry Performances from the Webber's own Trench

Year 9 students marked the one hundredth anniversary of the 1914 Christmas Truce with a sustained, high quality dramatisation of selected World War One poetry, performed in and around the school's own trench construction within the Drama Studio. Several performances were given to various in house groups and classes whilst three separate run throughs were given during the Christmas Evening celebration on 15th December, for especially invited guests, families and visitors.

The dramatisation was filmed and posted on YouTube.

The overall look and feel of the readings and improvisation is deliberately one of darkness and twilight, particularly with the poems which started with the small Christmas lights as the only source of illumination. The darkness forces the viewer to concentrate on what is said before the main lights come on.

The opening poem of the sequence featured a realistically hand crafted rat and a symbolic poppy, to dramatise the key elements of Isaac Rosenberg's Break of Day in the Trenches with its haunting reflection upon the harsh mortality rate of the First World War. Following on were a simple, blunt representation of Siegfried Sassoon's Suicide in the Trenches, emphasising the shocking fate which awaited many innocent and barely capable young soldiers; a quieter and poignant reading of Charles Sorley's thoughts about the enemy, To Germany; and - as the climax - a full and dramatic rendition of Carol Anne Duffy's Christmas Truce 1914.

The participating students devoted time in and out of lessons to ensuring one of the most special and memorable contributions to school life which their audiences were privileged to share. It was fitting that those who attended the Christmas Evening took part in the traditional carol singing around the tree where Stille Nacht (the original hymn) and its English translation Silent Night were sung.

Martin Roper
Head of English

 Break of Day in the Trenches by Isaac Rosenberg

Remembering Historical Conflicts and the Impact of War

An impressive life size replica War Trench built by students of the Webber Independent School has been applauded by parents, staff and visitors alike.  The creation which combined the students English and History class curriculum from the last term, has been opened up to the public and other local schools to share with others its magnificence as well as the great depth of knowledge the students have learned as a result of its construction.

Before the School broke for the close of term, students, staff, parents and guests, gathered around the Christmas tree to celebrate ‘Christmas 1914 Ceasefire’ by singing English and German carols and listening to works from ‘The Soldier Poets, performed by Year 9 students.  Following the carols all visitors entered the Historical Conflicts Exhibition and were given a tour of the life-size Trench before finally viewing the Commemoration Wall.  

Principal Sue Vig said, “What our students have achieved is simply incredible – their enthusiasm and passion for learning about the events of the past is evidence of how by bringing learning to life you reignite an interest and desire to learn.  We shall be keeping the exhibition in situ into the next term and we would welcome anyone interested in viewing it to drop by at any time.”

Concept Mapping in Geography

When revising or reviewing topics in Geography a method often used is concept mapping. Students are given key terms, graphs, maps and photos relating to a topic and are then challenged to find and explain as many links as possible between them. This is a useful technique to use when revising a topic or developing understanding of a concept such as interdependence. This method can work well for individual revision or as a group activity. On a recent school open day students collaborated on a concept map about conflict in Sudan, the finished concept map can be seen on display in room 6.