Headmaster's Blog

posted 30 May 2014, 05:47 by Laura McDermott   [ updated 30 May 2014, 07:16 ]

It has been a while since my last blog despite me promising last time that it wouldn't be! The last couple of months have been actioned packed as usual; this blog will cover some of the various events and activities which have been going over the last half term or so.

When I last wrote it was immediately before the opening night of Wyrd Sisters. Putting on a drama performance was a move away from our usual approach of musical productions. After seeing the calibre of the performance and the opportunity this provided for drama students I am pleased we made this decision. What supported this even more was the spring concert. Miss Byrom and her team, supported greatly by Joe Sivell (Yr 11), put on a fantastic evening. The theme was a ‘night at the Musicals’. The number and quality of students who performed that night, as well as the staging of the hall, gave the event a professional feel. There were many excellent performances but for me personally it was pleasing to see the 'next generation' of performers coming through. Next year when 'the musical' returns I will be looking forward to these two fantastic departments combining their talents once again. Miss Aniff announced on Friday that next year’s musical will be We Will Rock You; I know this was met with rapturous applause and much excitement from the students!

Our international programme has again been busy. The Italian exchange went well where our students hosted their peers from a Rovigo secondary school. Our students were involved in the Comenius Project 2014, funded by the British Council (where Mr Hesketh is now a Schools Ambassador) and visited the school in Rovigo where they are working on a joint project on architecture. We recently hosted students from Charlemagne College in Holland in the next phase of the project. Our partnership in Euro Schools Net 2000 is now entering its fifteenth year and as a founding institution within the group, I am really pleased we will be holding the anniversary AGM in September. The opportunities these exchanges and projects offer our students is incomparable to that offered by other schools as we are the only UK based school taking an active part in both programmes.

There have been a number students who have done something of particular merit recently that deserve special mention:

·         Congratulations go to Victoria Kerr (Yr 11) who after finishing in second place in the Under 21 category of the London Open Judo competition is now high in the GB rankings for the sport. This is a fantastic achievement, she may miss this year’s Commonwealth Games but I wouldn't bet against her representing England in the future!



·         I was recently invited to watch Alex Beer (Yr 11) play as part of the Nation Youth Wind Ensemble. The concert was highly enjoyable and I was pleased to see one of our students taking part in such a prestigious event alongside students from some of the most famous independent schools in the country. I took my father along with me and he thoroughly enjoyed it as well.

·       Joe Brown (Yr 9) had all his hair shaved off in order to raise money for the Farleigh Hospice; I feel it really reflects well on an individual when they choose to do something of this nature to support others. If you wish to contribute to Joe's fundraising please visit his Just Giving page at https://www.justgiving.com/Joe-Brown2.



·         I must also mention Jenna Sendall (Yr 13) who is due to do a skydive in July for the Birthmark Support Group. This is a charity very close to Jenna as she was born with three haemangiomas (large birthmarks) and has had a lot of treatment over the years to remove them. To contribute to Jenna’s fundraising please visit her Just Giving page at www.justgiving.com/Jenna-Sendall.



·         The final student I must draw attention to is Poppy Oldroyd (Yr 11) who secured an additional work experience placement at BAE Systems; these experiences are some of the most sought after opportunities in the country and for a Newport student to secure one is brilliant. Well done Poppy! 

In the penultimate week of term a group of students took part in Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution world record attempt to teach the largest online cooking lesson. The group of students from Years 7 to 9 supported Jamie’s attempt as they made the Rainbow Wrap. Some great images of the event can be viewed on the following link http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/Saffron-Walden/SLIDESHOW-Newport-Free-Grammar-School-students-get-their-aprons-on-for-ex-pupil-Jamie-Olivers-Food-Revolution-Day-20140517122631.htm.

It is always pleasing when we can support the endeavours of past students (irrespective of how famous they may be) and more importantly when they can support us in some of our work. To aid this process the Academy and the Old Newportonians Society have joined a programme called Future First where past alumni can sign up and be made aware of current events as well as offer to share expertise or experience with students. Past alumni can sign up by visiting the following link; https://networks.futurefirst.org.uk/former-student/newport. This is a really positive step in linking the past and future of the Academy together.

Whilst thinking of the Old Newportonians I must mention the annual hockey, cross country and football fixtures which was held recently. All fixtures were very competitive with the 'ONs' winning the hockey, the Academy winning the cross country meaning a last minute goal in the football to the Academy, sealing a 3-2 victory, gave the school bragging rights on the day. I must admit as the football referee I was the worst person on the pitch! Mr Grindrod's winner was a good goal (his first was a miss kick) however the stand out goal came from Charlie Smith (Yr 11) whose screamer from outside the box could have graced any premiership ground. I know the hockey was equally competitive, Clare Wyatt (Yr 13) commented on how well she felt the girls had played against a team compiled of Saffron Walden Hockey Club first team players. I agree, their three goals demonstrate how many of them may well follow in the footsteps of their ON counterparts. Special thanks must also go to Mr Gamble and Mr Almond for taking part in the cross country.

The 1st April this year marked the first anniversary of me becoming Headmaster of Newport Free Grammar School. I was asked recently to reflect on my first year at the Academy and the progress made in bringing about the necessary improvements. I will draw this blog to a close with a few thoughts and key moments reflecting on my time here so far.

One of the first things that struck me when I started at the Academy was the dedication and commitment of the staff, students and parents. It has been necessary for me to make some significant changes over the year and there has been a general sense of support from the school family. I believe it is this ethos and sense of community which will ensure Joyce Frankland Academy, Newport goes on from strength to strength over the coming years.

I must acknowledge the work the middle leadership group had to put in to achieve their classroom observation qualification. This has resulted in improvements in standards in the classroom. It is perhaps ironic that the first people to sit an exam this year were teaching staff not students!

In terms of students there have been more occasions than I could mention where they have made me proud to be their Headteacher, I hope my blogs help you share in some of these moments. To those students who I have missed out I apologise, the oversight is mine it has nothing to do with your achievements. There are however some stand out achievements which I think really symbolise what it means to be part of Newport. In a recent A level drama production the Year 13 students wrote and performed a play based on the fictional society depicted in the George Orwell Classic '1984'. The torture scene where Luke Smith (Yr 12) tried to drown Becky Jones (Yr 13) was by far the best bit of drama I have seen in my 17 years of teaching. The commitment Luke, Becky and Phoebe Watts (Yr 13) showed to their work, for me, demonstrates just what our students can achieve when they put their many talents and abilities together with a common focus.

Another key part of the Academy is our students’ ability to have a voice and express themselves and their views. This is best illustrated by Lily Church (Yr 11) whose GCSE art piece centred around the consequences of the actions of Tony Blair. It demonstrated not only her considerable skill as an artist but that sense of civic responsibility that Dame Joyce Frankland mentioned 426 years ago. In the same room Kate Robinson (Yr 11) produced a sculpture which was so moving and personal it reduced some members of staff to tears; the fact that students here are so comfortable sharing their thoughts and opinions speaks volumes for our Academy community.

My personal highlight, which was a truly exceptional moment for me, was Clare Wyatt's (Yr 13) response at speech day when she was awarded with a school prize. The way she spoke was truly inspiring to all who heard it. How she conducted herself demonstrated exactly why she was chosen to be the Head Girl. Her successor next year will have a hard act to follow. I wish her and all the other students who are leaving us this year all the best for the future.

There are many more great moments and achievements which I could mention, ranging from the performance at the Royal Albert Hall to the hockey pitch, as well as much of the outstanding work going on in classrooms but this blog is long enough already! I am sure the results attached to the work mentioned will reflect our continual strive for academic excellence as well.  

In terms of moving forward I must make it clear that this year has very much been about getting processes and structures in place to allow the Academy to grow and improve. In some cases further changes are needed. I am not yet totally happy with the academic review process and have been working with a group of parents on improving it. The Parents’ Forum meeting on 22nd May went through many of these changes and the new Academy staffing structure which will come into effect in September.

I am pleased to announce the new school crest. Thank you to all those people who participated in the vote. I am very pleased to say that the vast majority of the votes selected the updated version of the current logo which I hope you will agree is a fitting crest for the Academy which is respectful of the heritage of the school and is a tribute to Dame Joyce Frankland.

It is fair to say that there have been significant changes since April 2013 and there are more that will come into effect at the start of the new academic year. Whist change is often uncomfortable and sometimes resisted, particularly where an institution is steeped in such history, it is necessary in order to ensure that the school goes from strength to strength. I think we have all been a little guilty at times of focusing too much on the last 426 years of the school. Whilst the history of Newport is so important to the school community as a whole, for the sake of the current students we need to focus on the next few weeks to try and get the best out of the current exam cohort, we also need to focus on the next few months to bring this school year to a successful close; for the sake of existing and future students we need to focus on next year, the next five years, ten years and so on. Great institutions aren't just about the past they are also about the future. I am committed to making the Academy the best it can be for the young people of Newport and I hope together, we can make it great and strong enough to survive for another 426 years!

I have thoroughly enjoyed my first year here and am looking forward to many more.

 Gordon Farquhar

Headmaster's Blog

posted 19 Mar 2014, 09:47 by Laura McDermott

I will start with an apology as it is a long time since my last blog, I assure you that has nothing to do with a lack of activity around the Academy, there just hasn't been a spare second in the last month. I am sure you will agree that this year is flying by, but I am pleased to report that the efforts and contributions that our students are making are, as always, at the forefront of what we do and the difference we make.   

The Sixth Formers held a really successful Charities Week and have really ‘led the charge’ in demonstrating just what can be achieved with a lot of planning and a shared effort. From fancy dress to leg waxing our post 16 students put together a programme which was both varied and inclusive to all, whatever your interest. I personally must confess I prefer playing netball to having my legs waxed but it seemed a small price to pay considering the money our students were making for charity. I know those students who bought themselves a sixth form slave also made the most of the opportunity, as did those who used the rose delivery service on Valentines Day. Cake sales went through the roof so I imagine the start of Lent is a relief for all of us who found ourselves going cake crazy! Most impressive of all was the volume of food donated for the Bishop’s Stortford Food Bank. When the van came to collect the donations, it took a fair time to transport the food from its store upstairs in the sixth form centre to the van. Not only was this evidence of the Sixth Formers’ hard work during the week but it also demonstrated to all that even in an area as fortunate as the one we live in there are people who are struggling to feed themselves and their families. I am really pleased we were able to help in a small way and would urge people to continue to make further food donations to the food bank. Please contact the Bishop’s Stortford Food Bank directly for more information on 01279 656634 or mionegoldspink@hotmail.com (Mione Goldspink) or 07949 618007 (Norma Symonds).

There are too many photos to print them all but I have included a few...


As many of you will be aware our year 13 music group featured on Radio 1 as part of an Access All Areas series to better inform the public about how radio works. Georgia Arundell, one of the team, describes the experience;                                                       

We applied along with over 1000 people to spend an hour in a Radio 1 studio, and we got to the final 32. In half term, we went to the Radio 1 studios in the BBC Broadcasting House in London to record an hour of us singing together. We were given a producer to help us, and then we were able to take a copy of our recording home.”

On Wednesday 26th February at 9pm on Radio 1 and 1xtra, an hour long show was broadcast of some of the things that were recorded in the Access All Areas studios, I am pleased to say our students’ performance was one of the selected pieces. Well done to all involved and thank you to DJ Trevor Nelson for his kind words to our students. 

This passion for music is shared with those students in the rest of the Academy. I was invited by Louise Byrom, Head of Music, to be the judge of the Newport X-Factor final. The four finalists did a fantastic job and demonstrated that the standard of singing will remain high at Newport for many years to come. Well done to Maddie White, Alfie White, Haydn Watts and overall winner Danny Coburn.

On the sports field Newport Students have again represented us all well. This time we have taken our Netball teams on their annual tour to Liddington. The tour resulted in second place for the year 10 team and third place for the year 11, 10b and year 9 teams.  In total 43 girls from years 8-11 attended the tournament at the PGL site near Swindon and the girls and staff had a fantastic weekend with some great games of netball played on Saturday and Sunday. 

We have also recently recognised Foundress day where I personally found some inspiration from one of our former Headmasters and Dame Joyce Frankland herself. Kenneth Hall who was the Head between 1981 and 1990 spoke at the Old Newportonians’ church service. Some of his comments made me review what I was going to say during the assemblies the following week. I went back to Fred Thompson’s history of the school and took the opportunity to read the will written by Dame Frankland. At a time where I have spoken about the Academy’s identity and what we stand for beyond the classroom, what I came to realise is that by looking back to NFGS’s more recent history I had missed the obvious, our history starts way back in 1588! Everything about what we stand for is right there but with a vision which perhaps has got a little lost in the passage of time. The fact that a widow in Tudor England not only had the foresight to set up a school for the good of our area but build in a means to let the school develop and grow over time is incredible. I am now surer than ever that adopting her name as the school’s name next year is the right thing to do. Students will be working over the summer term on how we are going to raise the profile of some of that vision and celebrate what we have always stood for a little more.

I write this as I wait for the opening curtain on the second night of this year’s drama production, Wyrd Sisters. It is an adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s exciting classic, Discworld. The play is a change from Newport’s tradition of fantastic musicals giving the school’s numerous talented actors a chance to show off their abilities (a musical will return next year). The cast is drawn from years 8 to 13 and is packed with talented actors and actresses who have given their own time during lunchtimes, after school sessions and even weekends to rehearse for the show. Head of Drama, Raeesa Aniff has said it is Macbeth like you've never seen it before, and probably never will again! There's a wicked duke and duchess, the ghost of a murdered king, some rather simple soldiers, actors and strolling players and a whole kingdom in trouble! The excitement would not be complete without Nanny Ogg, Magrat Garlick and Mistress Weatherwax, Pratchett's most fantastical witches! My next blog will include a full review of the production and photos. Those who saw it on the opening night included Pratchett fans who had travelled all the way from Ipswich! They commented on the quality of the production, as did our friends from Chrishall Primary School who came for a special primary show and drama workshop. My thanks go to all involved.

I will finish with a couple more photographs. A student in year 7 recently asked me if the flooding was really so bad that the Academy had to close. Below are two pictures of the dell at the back of the mansion block (during the flood and after). Much to the disappointment of the PE department I had not commissioned a new pool on the site of the old one! I am sorry for the disruption caused by closing suddenly on the day but student safety, including getting to and from school, will always be the deciding factor.

I assure you my next blog will be posted in a more timely fashion than this one was. Thank you for your continued efforts and support. 

Gordon Farquhar

Headmaster's Blog

posted 22 Jan 2014, 08:52 by Laura McDermott   [ updated 19 Feb 2014, 15:12 by Ollie Blake ]

The Christmas holidays seem like a distant memory now but I hope you all had a pleasant break and I wish you all a happy new year. The spring term is a crucial term for all our students and staff, whether it be moving on from a good start in new courses in years 7, 9 &12, or making choices about how to move onto the next phase of your education for year 8, or putting in the final work to gain the best possible results in years 11 & 13.

Our middle leaders have had a successful autumn term where they passed an externally credit course on their ability to develop teaching in others, as I stated in my recent parent letter we are now moving into the next phase of using those skills to raise standards across the Academy. I believe this is the most challenging term in the year but is also the most rewarding as the hard work really starts to pay off and we all see how we are achieving our goals.

The Academy is, as always, so much more that a series of challenges and benchmarks to gauge performance. What gives us our identity is the sense of community, mutual support and enrichment activities we get involved with. I must say a special thank you to Meghan Troy in Year 9 who gave me some delicious festive cakes on the last day of term. Thank you Megan, it was very thoughtful of you. It really was a great final week of term with the students at the heart of what was going in, thank you again to all those involved in the carol service at the church, reverend McLeod and I are both keen to re-establish this event as one of the Academy's annual events. The efforts and participation of the students demonstrated just why that is totally the right thing to do.

Life at the Academy has been exceptionally busy since the start of term, particularly from a sporting point of view. Congratulations go to Hudson Rees-Jones in Year 8 who has been selected for the Arsenal Elite youth football training squad. You may have seen on the news this week that Arsenal has the best success rate of all the premiership teams so the future certainly looks bright for Hudson and perhaps he will be the next of our long list of Old Newportonians who gain national and international recognition. I look forward to hearing him share his experiences at a future speech day!

The Old Newportonians continue to support the Academy; I thank them on behalf of us all for the kind donation they provided to support the under 16 boys hockey team as they played at the National Indoor Hockey Finals recently. They were the only state school to reach the finals which is a fantastic achievement for the Academy. Sadly they missed the top spot but played very well being the only team to take points off the eventual champions. To put this in context the teams they played were made up of students who were on hockey scholarships in some cases worth £30,000. Well done gentlemen we'll take the title next year I'm sure.


We now have a resident author in the Academy. Mrs Smith disproved the old theory of 'do as I say not as I do' by writing a novel last year. Her book ‘End of the Pier Affair’, part one of The Secret of Aldwych Strand series, has been published and is now available. Having teachers who can inspire pupils has always been a strength at Newport but to have one who is prepared to really demonstrate her love of English and History (and Doctor Who) in such a high profile way adds another dimension and experience we can share with pupils as we encourage them to 'step out their comfort zone' in their creative writing.

I mentioned two students and their work in history last blog I am pleased to say this has promoted a response from other departments. The current year 11 students were the final year group able to enter their Maths GCSE early in November before the government changes to GCSE entry come into effect. Once again those students demonstrated why I believe this policy is wrong, they delivered a 100% pass rate with the vast majority of students attaining the highest grades possible, an improvement on last year’s cohort! Well done all.

Mr Roberts, head of English, not wanting to be outdone passed me an exceptional piece of work by Ellie Oakes in year 8. At the end of last term, Ellie’s class were asked to complete an inspirational speech for their peers. Ellie’s work was entitled ‘The Real Heroes’ and it questions why we hold certain individuals in high regard. Ellie says that true heroes are the men and women who give selflessly of their time and do not expect reward for their heroic deeds. This really resonated with the message given during speech day by major McGill but to come from a student so young with such maturity really was both amazing and inspiring. As Ellie has said, “we all have the ability to do heroic acts”, let us ensure that we carry this mantra forward and deal with whatever life throws at us in a heroic way. If we approach this term with that in our minds those choices and challenges I have mentioned will easily be overcome.

G Farquhar

Headmaster's Blog

posted 16 Dec 2013, 07:02 by Laura McDermott   [ updated 19 Dec 2013, 01:48 ]

Last Thursday saw the final event in our school calendar which I had yet to experience, Speech Day. It was fantastic to see so many students receiving prizes and great to catch up with those students who have returned after their first term at university. Major Mac McGill, the second in command at the Wimbish Barracks, was the guest speaker and I believe the points he made and examples he gave were indeed an inspiration to us all. For me however the night had one stand out moment and that was the acceptance speech that Clare Wyatt, our Head Girl, gave after receiving the Lucy Burnell Prize which celebrates the memory of her friend by recognising a student who contributes to the community. To receive any form of recognition is, at times, difficult. To have to speak about it when it is in memory of someone you knew must be truly difficult. Claire demonstrated exactly why she was chosen to be the Head Girl and, without wanting to sound patronising, I was very proud of her.

On many occasions in this blog I have picked out individuals for their sporting, musical or artistic endeavours (in fact I will be doing a lot of that later) but what I am yet to do is pick out some truly outstanding academic achievement across the other subject areas. Thanks to Mr Hesketh, the teacher of a thousand Christmas ties, I am now able to do just that for History. Gemma Francis and Eleanor Hampson wrote very moving ‘letters home from the trenches’ as part of their WWII history studies; their imaginations and use of emotive language was remarkable particularly when you consider the level of research required to really bring their letters to life in the manner they did. Considering these young ladies are in year 8 I am genuinely excited about what they will be producing by the time they are in year 13.

On Thursday 28th November the PE department was visited by Mike Mullen, a previous BMX Freestyle World Champion, through the Sky Sports Living for Sport scheme. The day was organised by Mr Grindrod so that the selected pupils could experience a range of activities relating to leadership skills and striving to succeed, as well as an hour long BMX session in the sports hall with Mike himself. The day was a great success, with the twenty six pupils involved thoroughly enjoying the whole day. They were able to hear about the barriers that Mike had to overcome, and how he rose from being a child who wasn't good at mainstream sports in school, to being a World Champion in one that he loved. The Sports Prefects and PE Learning Leaders have already begun using their leadership skills around the school, helping with the inter-house tournaments and delivering sports sessions to their peer groups. Mike will be returning to Newport in the New Year to deliver year group assemblies about his experiences as a World Champion, and to meet with our Sports Prefects and Learning Leaders again.

Our Hockey teams have notched up another notable achievement. This time it is the under 16 boy’s indoor team who went a stage further than the equivalent girls team and won the East of England finals. The team will now be the only state school who have made it to the England finals which will be played in Croydon in early January. At a time when there is a lot of press coverage about how much public schools do compared to the state sector, I am looking forward to Newport students challenging that miscomprehension on the sporting field. Most importantly I know the lads will have the full support of all our hockey playing students including the thirty county level players we have produced this year. I must thank the whole PE department but particularly Mrs Anderson and Mr Scott for the time and effort they put in to make this happen.

Another department who have gone a level beyond the norm in terms of extracurricular provision is the music department. For most schools and academies the choir performing at the Royal Albert Hall is the pinnacle of the year, not so for Miss Byrom and her team. Our musicians have literally performed everywhere across Uttlesford and the South East in the run up to the Christmas period. The phrase ‘smashing it everywhere’ was used by one student to articulate their varied success, and whilst Mr Roberts and the English team may not appreciate the grammar I think it probably does sum up both the level of performance and commitment in one simple phrase. The musical events culminated at the University of Cambridge Music Hall last Tuesday night not only bringing the students’ efforts to a mighty summit but also keeping alive the longstanding link with Gonville and Caius. At this point I would also like to acknowledge the many parents and staff who have attended all these events and who make our participation possible.

Mentioning history students is not the only first for this blog as I am actually in a situation where there are some parents I need to mention and thank directly for the contribution they have made to Academy life. I will start with Doctor Hillary Binns who is giving up her time to assist one of our most aspiring year 13 students, Louise Baker. She is preparing for her interviews to study medicine next year and Dr Binns’ support could make the difference for Louise.

As you are aware we have been trying to raise awareness about e-safety recently and Mrs Shickell has provided me with contact details for a theatre group who will hopefully be coming to the Academy next half term. We are always happy to hear about contacts, support and experiences that will benefit our students through parental connections or their professions; please follow Mrs Shickells' example and let me know about them.

Finally on the parent front I must mention the Newport Parents Association who have raised a truly phenomenal sum of money through their various events and fundraisers. This small group of parents have a raised in the region of £5000 this term alone to support projects within the Academy; they have made an massive impact and we are all thankful for their efforts. The NPA are always keen to recruit new members so if you can, please get involved. I can personally say that Davis Watts, the chair of the NPA, is one of the parents who made me feel really welcome when joining the school. One of the best parts of being the Head at Newport is being part of the community which I believe is the beating heart of the Academy; these particular parents have added value to all our children and represent a large number of similar parents across all year groups.

It has been a long half term for us all and I would like to take the opportunity to thank you all for your support and efforts. As an Academy we are working to move things forward and continue to improve into 2014. Our middle leaders are now qualified in supporting teaching through observation and advice, all teachers are involved in a coaching programme designed to improve their already high standard of practice in the classroom. We have more student prefects and mentors than ever before and they are starting to make a difference in the areas they have chosen to support. Members of our site team worked until 3.30 am during the recent power cuts to ensure the Academy stayed open and you as parents are clearly doing more to both support and challenge us. Rev Neil McLeod is working with our students as we reintroduce the Christmas service at Newport church this week helping us forge better community links and the Old Newportonians continue to promote the Academy in a way only they can. It is clear to me that being in it together is what makes Newport unique.

On behalf of the Leadership Team and Governors I would like to thank you all and wish you an enjoyable break and prosperous 2014.

G Farquhar

Headmaster's Blog

posted 14 Nov 2013, 09:23 by Laura McDermott

Whilst it may seem a distant memory when I last wrote the blog, it has been a period of extraordinary activity and commitments from students, staff, and parents. The Academy has been represented everywhere from the Royal Albert Hall to the muddy fields of Essex, in areas as diverse as performing Shakespeare and United Nations Association quizzes. For me it is the involvement of so many members of our school community in these events that make Newport such an enriching and exciting place to be.

The Newport Parent Association organised the 425th Anniversary Ball which was held at Quendon Hall on Saturday evening. The evening was a huge success, including a charity auction hosted by David Watts the NPA chair raising around £4000 for the Academy. The association really do put in a lot of time and effort for these events and it was fantastic to see so many parents and local representatives attend. Alice Watts, Georgia Arundell, Leo Hartley, Bryony Dale, Rebecca Jones and Phoebe Watts all performed at the event and literally blew the guests away; their performances were at a professional level in every sense. Fortunately the sight of me in a kilt did not put them off too much!

On Sunday morning the Academy participated in the Remembrance service at St Mary the Virgin Church, Newport. It was a sombre occasion but the students were excellent ambassadors of the school in the local community. Both myself and Paul Gray, the chair of governors, attended and we felt that the students made a lasting impression on the rest of the congregation.  

Mrs Aniff led a team of year 9 students in performing A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Mumford Theatre in Cambridge on Monday night. The students involved closed the event, where a number of schools and sixth form colleges performed. Our students really took to this and for a number it was their first attempt in front of a ‘live’ audience. Also in front of a live audience were our choir who made up part of the Essex choir at the Music For Youth, Youth Prom. This event was hosted at the Royal Albert Hall and thanks to the exemplary behaviour of our students they were selected to be the members of the 600 strong choir who were front of stage. These types of opportunities at top venues really do make a difference and I would continue to encourage students and staff to take them up every time they can. I know Mr Hesketh and Mr Cudjoe never thought they’d be performing at the Albert Hall but from where I was in the audience they got as much out of the event as the many students involved and demonstrated they can dance along with the best of them!

On the sports field the under 14 girls’ hockey team won the Cambridgeshire championship to secure a place in the East on England finals which is being played in Bedford as I type, please check out twitter for results. The Year 7 A team just won the Bishops Stortford and District hockey tournament and the B team came third demonstrating a strong future with Newport as the forefront of Hockey performance in the area. In addition to this, the year 8 boys’ rugby team are on a roll at the moment. Having beaten SWCHS in their super 12's tournament, they have gone on to secure back to back victories against Forest Hall School and Helen Romanes School. This is all down to their dedication to training and consistently turning up to games.

Mrs Dunlop continues to support sport in our wider community and organised a highly successful junior cross country event. We saw two hundred junior boys and girls from the eight primary schools linked to us attend for the annual cross country event. All the children had a great time in the mud and the rain and the three winning teams will be representing the Newport family in two weeks time. Mrs Dunlop and some of our students will be there to support them of course.

Four year 12 students, Megan Stiles, William Simpson, Florence Garnham and Lydia Michaelides, participated in the annual James Strachan Cup. The competition took place recently at HRS. The competition, which included a quiz on the current affairs and the work of the United Nations, was hosted by the Saffron Walden Branch of the United Nations Association and our students finished in a reputable second place. My thanks go to Mr Kennedy and Ms Howell for their support in this event.

One of the factors that make me most proud of our Academy is the way in which we try to reach out into a wider community.  A large number of our staff are again taking part in the Movember event which, whilst making current photos look like they were taken in the 1970’s, importantly raises awareness of prostate and testicular cancer and its impact. This kind of attitude and approach is demonstrated by all our students in many ways.  I received an email from a Yr 7 student, Lorcan Gough, who is having his hair cut this weekend to support the Ethan Rees Linwood Memorial Fund, a local charity set up in memory of a former classmate of Lorcan’s who was tragically killed in a car accident.  This charity aims to support vulnerable children in our area; you can find more by visiting http://ethanrees.org/. Many schools and Academies do events similar to our non uniform day for Children in Need but what Newport students do so well is stand up and get people to take notice of the less publicised, smaller things which rely so much on local support . I am exceptionally proud of the fact that our students know how much we value their activities beyond the Academy and can rely on our support in their endeavours.

Whilst I rarely use the blog to make comment on political or local issues outside of the Academy spectrum, I feel in this instance I need to make an exception. Proposed cuts to Youth Services include Essex County Council no longer funding a license to run the Duke of Edinburgh Award. The cost of this will then fall to individual schools to try and find, as well as providing a staffing infrastructure to support quality delivery. This cut, which will be in the region of £11,000, will profoundly impact on our ability to partake in a scheme which has benefitted NFGS students for the past thirty years. We have an illustrious history of taking students through the scheme and in doing so, providing them with some outstanding opportunities in both the local and worldwide community. In fact a group of our students are going to India for twenty eight days during the summer in order to help build greenhouse facilities in a deprived community in the spirit of the DofE work undertaken in Nepal during 2012. I do not think that the people in charge of cutting this part of the budget have thought through the wider consequences of their decision and I implore you all to look into just how many things for young people in Essex are being affected and let your feelings be known to your local councillors. A loss to the facilities and opportunities for teenagers is, in my opinion, not a sacrifice to make if we want to show how we value them. When I look at the young people in my school, I am optimistic about our country’s future; I know you share this optimism so we should not let them down now.

Year 11s students and parents please remember to come along to the Sixth Form open evening on Thursday 21st November between 7pm and 9pm. I look forward to seeing as many of you there as possible.

Gordon Farquhar

Headmaster's Blog

posted 8 Nov 2013, 08:30 by Laura McDermott

I have intentionally delayed my blog this week because of the shear volume of activities going on over the next few days. The blog will be published at the beginning of next week in order that I can collate photos and reports of all the events. 

Thank you in advance to all the people involved in these activities. 

Gordon Farquhar

Friday 18th October 2013

posted 18 Oct 2013, 09:05 by Laura McDermott   [ updated 23 Oct 2013, 04:23 by Ollie Blake ]

Headmaster’s Blog

As we progress toward the autumn half-term, Academy life continues at a fast pace!

We have the Academic Review week coming up next week so it is a busy time for everyone concerned. This review week will be the first of three opportunities that parents will get to specifically discuss their child’s progress. Targets are going to be set for each student to work towards and I hope this will assist in further driving improvement in achievement across the Academy. I am really pleased that we are able to give students specific targets this early in October. Thank you to those who have commented on how we might be able to improve the system moving forward. I am always keen to receive parents’ feedback on these types on matters.

Looking back at some of the events of the last couple of weeks, the AS Applied Business group attended a Human Resources Workshop at Colchester Zoo. Students were given an interactive talk about the recruitment process, as well as training and staff motivation at the Zoo. As part of the workshop they also got to look at actual job applications for the role of a reptile keeper and were challenged to decide who they would interview and what questions they would ask. Out of the five covering letters and CV's they were given, the students chose the two that were actually interviewed for the role and they even guessed which applicant was eventually offered the job! The students were fantastic and we all had a great day! They also squeezed in time to visit some of the animals and dress up like some too! I am sure some fantastic coursework will now follow...

The Technology and Art departments are working with History to design and make some "archaeological sandpits" for use in the primary outreach programme. They will be used to "dig for treasure" with students at Newport Primary School. This is a fantastic opportunity for future students to get to know the Academy at an early stage and demonstrates our commitment to the community.

I hear that the Business Club is in full swing. Students are engaged in the Real Business Challenge which is a competition encouraging entrepreneurial spirit.  Year 9 and 10 business students are being fully engaged and highly enthused about the prospects of winning this competition. The competition challenges students to tackle a business task set by Cocoa Cola.  We have approximately eight groups of students vying for the title to represent Newport at the regional and national final if successful. They have to create a new brand of juice drink and persuade Cocoa Cola that this will be a viable investment.  More details can be found on the following link: http://www.therealexperience.co.uk/the-real-business-challenge/

I am really pleased to hear that the library is teeming with students reading and working at lunch and break time. I hear that there is a waiting list of students keen to help out as library assistants. This is excellent news! Giving one’s time in a voluntary capacity is such an important life skill and I am please that so many students are so keen to help out in this way.

I want to thank all students this week for their contributions to my extended assemblies in the hall. It is important that as we move the Academy forward the views, ideals and principles of our students are absolutely at the heart of what we do. The comments and contributions have both helped steer my thinking and reaffirmed my belief in the calibre and principles of our students. Whilst this was going on, our middle leaders were taking part in Effective Classroom Observation training in order to help them to further develop the teaching in their departments. I know they are all looking forward to their exam in November!

Finally, special mention must go to a previous member of the school who was the head of history and deputy head, Fred Thompson. He taught at the school between 1937 to 1975. Mr Thompson celebrated his centenary this year. I had the pleasure of his company at the Old Newportonians’ cricket match in the summer and it is great to see he still has his legendary sense of humour. Many people at the annual dinner reflected on their memoires of Fred.

Have a good half-term break and I look forward to seeing everyone refreshed and roaring to go in November.

Gordon Farquhar

Friday 4th October 2013

posted 4 Oct 2013, 08:04 by Ollie Blake   [ updated 4 Oct 2013, 08:05 ]

I am really happy to be writing the blog this week from Aguilar de Campoo in Spain where I am attending the Euronet 2000 International Teaching Conference with Graham Hesketh and former head of Newport Free Grammar School, Richard Priestly. We are determined to continue to develop our international links and see community relationships flourish in their widest sense. This commitment will enrich many aspects of the Academy curriculum. For example, congratulations to Andrew Draper, Will Simpson, Daniel Holmes and Devon Oakley for getting through the school’s selection process to represent Canada and Croatia in the forthcoming Students’ League of Nations Conference in Geneva in December; more on that to follow in the first edition in 2014.   I also understand that there are still a few places left for the Italian exchange for Years 9 and 10 from 9th to 16th December. The trip provides a wonderful opportunity to visit the Alps and Venice and experience school life in a small town just before Christmas. Please contact Mrs Strong or Mrs Barrett for details.

Life in the Academy continues at a pace and last week saw not only many more prospective parents touring around the school during working hours but also our Academy Leadership Team “Question Time”, the Year 7 and Sixth Form settling in evenings and our Open Evening.  A big thank you goes to all the tour guides and also to my fellow speakers at the Year 7 event; Tilly McGiffen, Maddy White, Grace Eldrett, Holly Felstead, Jessica Flook and Louis Bratley.  They spoke wonderfully about their experiences of starting at the school.  As an Academy, we are extremely keen to ensure that we open as many channels of communication as possible and give parents the opportunity to discuss their child’s progress. As has been stressed on numerous occasions, I urge you to contact your child’s tutor or subject teachers sooner rather than later if you have any concerns. You will soon be receiving your appointment time for the Academy’s first academic review week and I really hope that we can begin the ongoing and productive dialogue about your child’s achievements and areas for improvement; reviewing these regularly rather than just providing a yearly snapshot.

A review of sporting achievements over the last fortnight yet again confirms that our pupils are both talented and determined. Interform cross country has been going on all week in PE with Year 11 taking part in a charity cross country event.


The Under 18s competed in the Bishop Stortford and District hockey tournament, coming top of their pool.  We played against Birchwood in the semi finals, beating them 7.0 to go through to the final against Hockerill. The final score was 6.0 to NFGS! A convincing win! 

Newport Family Girls Football Festival saw forty girls in Years 5 and 6 take part in a football festival hosted by the Essex FA. The girls spent a wonderful two hours learning new football skills and playing games. I look forward to many of the girls joining us at the Academy in the future.Rugby coach Alan Wells, who is a director of a company called LMC, has kindly donated £1500 to NFGS to purchase new kit for the senior ruby team. We are very grateful for the generous donation that will not only benefit the current rugby players but all senior players for years to come. 

We are pleased to announce that the school has for the second time been awarded the Artsmark Gold Award from the Arts Council England. This is a national award which recognises the schools' excellence in the arts and cultural provision. The assessment evaluated the quality and opportunities within our arts provision in all art forms. The assessor was impressed with the variety of extra-curricular activities on offer at Newport, the number of external-links with outside arts agencies and the high results in the arts subjects at GCSE and A Level. He commented that the students involved in the assessment procedure were fantastic advocates for the school and the arts provision that is offered here.  For example, rehearsals continue in the music department for the forthcoming Music for Youth Project which will see approximately ninety pupils perform with schools from across the region at the Royal Albert Hall.

The Drama department’s extra- curricular activities have soared recently. Midsummer Night's Dream rehearsals are in full swing for the performance at the Mumford Theatre. Wyrd Sisters, next year’s whole school play, has been cast and rehearsals will commence next week. Auditions start for the Christmas Panto, Cinderella, this Friday for Yrs 7 and 8, and Drama Club has drawn in a whopping 48 students in just Yr 7 alone thus far!

The Year 10 Art trip to the British Museum was really enjoyable and a great success. The students are currently studying different cultures in art and were able to see a variety of artefacts related to their chosen theme. Students were complimented for their work by the general public and were a real credit to the school. The work produced was fantastic and we look forward to seeing how this is developed in the classroom.

Looking at some of our other achievements, special mention goes to Claire Wyatt (Head Girl), Keely Edwards (Deputy Head Girl), Daniel Holmes (Deputy Head Boy), Hollie Anderson, Georgia Arundell, Millie Smith, Yasmin Knott and Jenna Sendall who undertook an adventurous trip into the Snowdonia National Park sleeping wild in the mountains for a couple of nights as part of the gruelling qualifying expedition for their Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. I am very proud of these members of the Sixth Form who demonstrated good spirit and determination at all times. They are fantastic ambassadors for the school and we should all celebrate their achievement.

I would also like to mention four girls in Year 8, Bronwyn Evans, Erin Topping, Poppy Smith and Sophie Armstrong, from the Carver Barracks who undertook a sponsored silence to raise money for Help the Heroes. They have so far raised in the region of £500 for this fantastic cause. Well done girls, I know it was particularly difficult for Erin! 

Upon my return from Spain, I am looking forward to attending the 112th Annual Dinner of the Old Newportonian Society. This will be a particularly special event given that we are in the 425th anniversary year of the founding of the school by Dame Joyce Frankland. The school has such a rich history and I truly believe that with continued hard work, dedication and commitment by all concerned we have an even brighter future ahead of us. 

Gordon Farquhar 

Friday 20th September 2013

posted 20 Sep 2013, 09:21 by Gordon Farquhar   [ updated 20 Sep 2013, 09:21 ]

It has been an exceptionally busy time for the Academy in the past fortnight. Our students have now got into the swing of their new timetables and it is pleasing to see so many of them taking on extra responsibilities and activities this year. There are two unique factors to our Academy which contribute to our identity and community. The first is our location in Newport which, for many, is not a logical site for a secondary school of 1000 pupils. I have spent most of the week guiding prospective parents around our extensive site, into lessons showing them just what being part of Newport offers. I have also been meeting with resident groups in the evening to see how we can better support village life. What has struck me most about these conversations is how, although many of our students travel into the Academy from the surrounding towns and villages, once here they are all part of ‘Newport’ and are proud to represent it. That is something as an Academy we must never lose. The second factor is our history, 425 years on from our foundation, through Joyce Frankland, I believe we still demonstrate our relevance and vision towards the importance of learning. We are fortunate that whilst some of our buildings have been here for centuries, the calibre of what goes on in them is still thriving. It has been a pleasure to take guests into (so many) lessons and seeing the positive impression being given. That is down to the hard work of both students and staff and a combined work ethic which will help us to continue to develop.

Once again students have represented us in a variety of ways in the past week. Today Mrs Aniff has posted, on Twitter, a picture of our students who are working on the Mid Summer Nights Dream project in Cambridge. Yesterday, our first team in Hockey beat a touring side from Chile in a thrilling match. What was most impressive was the representation within our team of students from all Key Stages, against a team of mostly sixth form aged students from Chile. Whilst this was going on, our musicians were taking part in a performance at The Henry Moore Foundation. I am told we have been inundated today with members of the audience who were ‘blown away’ by the calibre of our students and rang to congratulate them. It seems to me that whether on the sporting field, the theatres or the classroom being part of Newport is something powerful and worth being proud of, I certainly am!

As always I am drawn to what many of our students do away from the Academy in their life. Two of our students have again demonstrated skills and success beyond anything we teach here but which reflects on us all. Elizabeth Sivell baked both a honey fruit cake and honey and raisin scones which won categories at the Essex County Show. At a time when baking has risen (no pun intended) in popularity this is indeed an achievement and shows how diverse the talents of our students are. Shakila Ullah this week received a letter from David Cameron citing her contribution to raising awareness of the benefits of free school meals for children over the past year. It is another example of how our students ‘step up’ to the mark when they see an issue that concerns them and do something about it.

Whilst I have not posted a photograph this week I hope you recognise that there are so many I could choose from to select one would be unfair. I spoke in the press when I started about Newport being a sleeping giant which was going to wake up. The events of the last fortnight, I believe, demonstrate that not only is that the case but it is our students who are leading the way.

Gordon Farquhar  

Friday 6th September 2013

posted 6 Sep 2013, 08:08 by Gordon Farquhar   [ updated 9 Sep 2013, 00:55 by Ollie Blake ]

Welcome back to what promises to be an exciting year for Newport. Personally, I am really looking forward to the journey we will take this year and the experiences we will share. The thing that struck me most with the return of staff and students is the sense of optimism and purpose that everyone has.  We must harness that this year and continue we drive our Academy forward and provide the best opportunities for our students.

It is clear that Newport has been represented all over the world this summer, I have spoken to students who have visited everywhere from Bournemouth to Bali and it was great to hear some of their experiences. We have students who won Bronze medals in International; athletics events, others who are going through the international selection process in there sports and a large number of students who have taken part in music ensembles over the break. Several students have been involved in voluntary work on both a local and national level.  However, for me, one student who has stood out is Gabrielle Goody. She is a member of our student council and has been campaigning for a number of years about the road safety in her area. Gabrielle has written to everyone she can think of to raise awareness for her cause, including the Queen and David Cameron. She was pleased to show me the letter from Essex County Council confirming that they are now resolving the roundabout safety by her house to her satisfaction. Gabrielle is an example to us all and I believe she encapsulates what our foundress Dame Joyce Frankland was striving for in producing young people “whereby they be good members of the Common Wealth”.

Within the Academy we have upgraded some of the facilities to provide a better environment for learning. We now have an exclusive Post 16 area where our top students can make use of wifi facilities in a modern atmosphere to support their learning. We are also starting to develop our use of social media to support our work. I personally have become a twitter convert this summer as it allows me to access a wide range of information and share it with the relevant people. Please feel free to follow me (@farqsnewport), it is not my personal account but an Academy one and will show an insight on the articles and issues that help us steer the Academy, as well as sharing some good news.

Of course the key events we have over the summer are results days. It was fantastic this year to see so many of our students achieving the top grades. In yr 13 all of our students who wanted to, met the criteria to accept offers at university with 25% of the group going to the ‘Russell Group’ universities. The others are now taking up to opportunities and apprenticeships which will take them onto the next chapter of their life. The GCSE results also demonstrated that as an Academy we outperform national expectation.  The number of students exceeding expected progress in both English and Mathematics was over 10% above national figures. Numerous students achieved only the highest grades and the day itself highlighted to the staff present exactly why we chose teaching as our profession.  They are, as always, looking forward to the challenge of raising our standards even higher this year. Below are some photos encapsulating the days as the Head Boy and Head Girl received their results.

Finally I would like to share a few issues which have come up over the break. There will be a Parents meeting on 24th September where the leadership team will be talking through priorities and direction for the Academy this year. We are also making some changes in how information is shared and how we use homework across the Academy.  A handbook for parents explaining Academy policies and procedures will be available to download from the website very soon. We’ll inform you by parent mail when it is available. As an Academy we are working with the parents affected by the bus service in from the Dunmow and Thaxted area, if you experience any problems with this service please let Mary Wilcox (mary.wilcox@nfgs.org.uk) know.

I will finish by reminding you of the responsibilities of my senior team as we did make some changes last year.

 Michael Hodgkiss Deputy Head Academy Performance
 Kay Turner  Deputy Head Academy Improvement 
 Mary Wilcox  Assistant Head Behaviours and Safeguarding
 Lizzie Allen Assistant Head Teaching and Learning
 Barbara Draper Business Manager

Of course in the first instance please always contact the form tutor.

Gordon Farquhar  


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