The long awaited day of chemistry had arrived. I stood gathered outside the minibus with nothing but my lust for science and some jam sandwiches in my bag. The coach trip was long but scenic, with lush British countryside and a few hamlets along the way.
We pulled up at the school. It looked like something off a fantasy novel, like that Harry Potter one I picked up at Waterstones. We rolled up the long drive, every one of us dwarfed by the large football and rugby pitches. We managed to catch a glimpse of the school building; it was grand and old fashioned, with a gigantic wooden door. After 10 minutes of getting lost we had managed to crawl into a parking space and disembark our vehicle. Everyone mustered in the car park and watched in awe as five tennis courts came into view. I started to wonder whether my jam sandwiches were any match for the cooked lobster that they may serve at this school. We were led into a glass hall where we were given badges with our names on. I looked at my badge and realised that they had spelt my name wrong! Now at this point I had already realised that I spell my name absurdly and I carried on unaffected. We were shuffled from courtyard to courtyard and through a library until we eventually reached the theatre, where the lecture would take place. We then sat down in the upper rows.
Our first lecture was about carbon structures. We were taught about the structures of carbon on a molecular level: How graphite is made up of carbon sheets whilst diamond is made of a more pyramidic structure. Afterwards, we were taught that people have broken down the graphite sheets into a single sheet, known as graphene (which won the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics). Graphene is a sheet of interconnected hexagons of carbon atoms. By adding a few pentagons between the hexagons, this structure can be shaped into something with the same geometry as a football. This is called Buckminsterfullerene or a ‘Buckyball’ (named after the architect who first used these structures: Buckminster Fuller). We also learnt that this type of structure has been used for architecture all around the world. They were used in the construction of the Eden Project and Science World, Vancouver, plus many more.
After the lecture we were invited for a complimentary lunch, which we gobbled down before going exploring in the adjacent courtyard. Our next lecture was the ‘Science Behind Breaking Bad’.
Once again, we sat down in the upper rows of the theatre. I grabbed my trusty pencil and prized notepad and without warning we dived straight into the world of Breaking Bad. We discovered that methamphetamine was created by the Japanese in the late 1800s as a stimulant for soldiers. It was also used in the 1950s as a slimming treatment. We also learnt about:
After we had indulged ourselves with enough scientific knowledge to satisfy a small laboratory, we headed home.
For more on the chemistry of Breaking Bad, have a look at The Royal Society of Chemistry website
Dane Court Grammar School recently hosted a surprise visit by the acclaimed actor, film star and gay rights campaigner Sir Ian McKellen. Sir Ian came to Dane Court in his role as one of the founding members of the charity Stonewall. The charity campaigns for equality on behalf of lesbian, gay, bi and trans people. One of Stonewall’s principal aims is to educate as many young people as possible about the importance of equality.
Dane Court has been working with Stonewall for the last two years, raising the profile of equality within the school. This project has been supported by Stonewall's ‘Train the Trainer’ programme; so far three members of staff from Dane Court and another ten from other local schools have successfully completed the programme. This training gives staff the tools, resources, strategies, and confidence to go back their schools, train other staff and immediately challenge any homophobic issues that may exist in the school and local community.
Sir Ian McKellen captivated the whole school as he talked candidly about his life experiences. The students were then given a unique opportunity to ask Sir Ian questions. These questions showed impressive levels of the maturity and empathy that Dane Court is so keen to develop within its students. Before he finished, Sir Ian treated the students to an inspiring performance of part of one of William Shakespeare’s lesser-known plays, Sir Thomas More, a hugely relevant piece with its references to the plight of refugee migrants.
A select group of students was able to spend time with Sir Ian to explain the progress Dane Court is making in addressing issues of equality. Sir Ian was delighted with the progress that has already been made and was most impressed by the school’s commitment to tackling prejudice of all types.
There was a fantastic buzz around the school from staff and students alike, with many comments being shared in school and online.
Eleven year old student Lauren Gutridge had a particularly special encounter with Sir Ian. Lauren, who has a hearing impairment, said “When Sir Ian McKellen was talking about Stonewall I couldn’t hear what he was saying, so I got my radio aid and asked him if I could put round his neck. I was a bit anxious as to how he would react when I told him about my hearing disability. He was really understanding and whispered to me “Don’t worry what other people think.” then I said, “I won’t.” Then he told the whole school that having a hearing disability doesn’t mean that you should be treated any differently. The whole school cheered and that made me feel ecstatic. Then he kissed me on top of my head and hugged me and told me that I was special and that really touched my heart.”
One member of staff remarked, "What a wonderful experience it was to meet Sir Ian today. It is something the students will remember for ever - and the staff for that matter! I thought he spoke brilliantly and I was very moved by what he had to say; he was so relaxed and really connected with our students."
Visit the Stonewall website
Dane Court is celebrating its extraordinary rating in the Sunday Times ‘Top 200 State Secondary Schools’. The table measures the percentage of students gaining A* and A grades at GCSE and the percentage of students gaining A* to B at A level or equivalent. Out of nearly 3,500 state secondary schools, Dane Court came 98th equal in the whole country, beating other Kent grammar schools, such as Invicta Grammar School (112th), Highworth Grammar School (151st), Maidstone Grammar School for Girls (159th), Barton Court (171st), Sir Roger Manwood’s (174th), Maidstone Grammar School for Boys (180th), Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys (191st) and Dover Grammar School for Girls (194th). Simon Langton Girls came 228th and Chatham and Clarendon House came 292nd.
Paul Luxmoore, Executive Head of Coastal Academies Trust, said ‘This phenomenal achievement is proof of the effectiveness of the International Baccalaureate. Dane Court students are competing with and out performing students in some of the most selective schools in the UK. We offer the IB precisely because it gives our students a massive advantage. Young people from Thanet are easily outperforming those from towns like Tonbridge and this will, in turn, lead to offers from the better universities and better job opportunities in the future. Dane Court is punching well above its weight and that is an achievement that the whole of Thanet should be proud of.’
Andrew Fowler, Dane Court’s Headteacher, said ‘This brilliant result is no fluke. It is the result of very hard work by a hugely talented and dedicated staff, as well as the commitment and intelligence of our wonderful students. I am immensely proud of their achievement and determined that we should perform at an even higher level next year and into the future.’
The International Baccalaureate Diploma requires students to study six academic subjects, including an extended essay, a course of the Theory of Knowledge and 150 hours of community related work. Students must study a foreign language, Maths, English and at least one science. The IB Careers – related Programme requires students to study at least two IB subjects, as well as a vocational subject, together with a very well designed and flexible core that links these areas of study together. There is increasing evidence that universities and employers prefer the IB to A levels because it offers a broader range of study and develops students who are more resilient and self-reliant.
This year, IBDP students studying Ab initio Japanese have begun correspondence with students attending Kitakyushu National College of Technology in Fukuoka in Japan. Pen pals were assigned to each student, and started by sending an introductory letter in Japanese to said partners, before receiving a reply in both English and Japanese. We have found it very beneficial to our studies because it gives us sufficient practice in reading and writing Japanese outside the classroom. This will continue for the present students until next year as the next line of students begin their pen pal project.
One of Year 13 ab initio Japanese students says “I like the idea. It is enjoyable because it’s different to writing in exams. It’s also helped me with using sentence structures, using extensive vocabulary, and reading Kanji characters”. Some comment on how, “It’s fun to communicate with Japanese people abroad.” Others have also expressed interest in questioning their pen pals about their different culture and lifestyles, stating that, “It was enlightening; I enjoyed communicating with someone from a different culture as it helped me better understand the culture.”
Having initially started from an idea presented by one of the students in the previous year, there are high hopes that this will be an activity for all Japanese Ab Initio students to participate in for years to come. If possible, this sort of correspondence could lead to future exciting developments for IBCP students studying Japanese and culture.
A group of Dane Court students, comprising both years 11 and 13, visited Middle Temple, London on the 22 September 2015 for an advisory talk with successful environmental law barrister Alex Booth. Departing promptly at 8am on Tuesday morning, flasks of warm tea in hand, we were fully prepared for the coach journey ahead that would take us ever-closer towards an enlightening day at Middle Temple; one that promised us an intriguing glimpse into the world of law and successfully endeavoured to teach us what it truly means to be a member of the bar.
After a journey rife with excitement and an air of ever-increasing anticipation, we finally arrived at the Inns of Court in which Mr. Booth practices. After a relaxing and informative walk around the gardens and grounds surrounding the various buildings in which the chambers were situated, we felt sufficiently refreshed and eager to learn more about the profession that so intrigued us. Upon entering the luxurious building a sense of awe was instilled in us, perhaps even coupled with a slight sense of intimidation in those of us unfamiliar with such grandeur. Even the cloakrooms in which we deposited our coats and bags upon arrival seemed pristine.
With anticipation, we followed Mr Booth into a traditional and welcoming space that provided the pleasant offer of an assortment of comfortable armchairs that presented an optimum view to absorb the informative talk that we were eager to receive. Alex Booth began by informing us of the positive and rewarding aspects of being a barrister, he went on to explain, however the workload that such a profession would encompass, highlighting both the effort that we would have to put in our education and after qualifying as a practicing barrister, and the paths which we would have to take to reach our goals.
He also gave us insight into some of the cases that he has undertaken and how to deal with emotional strain , particularly in relation to dealing with a client with whom you feel perhaps more hostile towards and the importance of giving everyone fair representation, therefore finding aspects of their case with which you can relate. However, importantly, he talked of the extreme exhilaration that comes from winning a case which is often preceded by a great deal of hard work.
The whole group walked away from the talk with significantly opened eyes as to how the justice system works and were given an insight into one of the more simple elements of life as a barrister by eating in the dining hall. This particular room appeared to harbour paintings on all walls which rather eerily followed us as we ate our hearty meals of steak and chips that were kindly provided for us as part of our tour.
With our stomachs sufficiently full and satisfied we were able to take a wander around the London Supreme Court, where we had the wonderful opportunity to take a glimpse inside some of the many empty courtrooms and experience the setting in which many barristers make their cases.
To finish off our trip we took a stroll through Covent Garden in small groups, taking the opportunity to look around quaint shops and market stalls and perhaps buy souvenirs of the experience. When the time to depart the city arrived, each and every student felt more knowledgeable about the profession of law and when stepping onto the coach we all felt the impression the trip had made upon us sink in and wondered as to what our future careers might hold.
Dane Court Grammar School is celebrating another year of outstanding GCSE results: 97% of students gained at least five GCSE passes at grades A*-C. 46% of students gained 5 or more grades at A*/A. Among our outstanding students, Gowri Satish achieved 10A* grades and 2 As, Charlotte Butler, Sally Warren and Malgorzata Plichter gained 9 A* grades and at least two further A grades; Sally Warren also scored one of the highest marks in the country in her Further Mathematics GCSE. Banisha Aktar, Sam Nicholson and Lauren Palmer-Jones each gained 8A* and at least 3 further A grades. Other top-scoring students included Niharigah Arulampalam, Adele Atkins, Evan Usher, Bradley Garrod, Elly Harvey, Sophie Mallett, Becky Ward, Vita Welcome and Amod Shrestha, all of whom gained between 9 and 12 A* and A grades. Science results were again extremely impressive, with 87% of students gaining A* and A grades in Biology, Chemistry and Physics.
These excellent results mean that the large majority of students have secured the grades they need to progress to high-achieving sixth-form International Baccalaureate courses at Dane Court. Head of School Andrew Fowler said, “these superb results reflect the hard work of the students and the wonderful support they have received from their teachers and parents. A number of students have overcome great personal hardship, and I congratulate them on their success.” Sarah Snaydon, Assistant Headteacher, said “we are enormously proud of all our year 11 students, many of whom have achieved at the highest level. They and their teachers have worked incredibly hard to achieve these superb results.” Chair of Governors Dr Virginia Austin commented, “Governors are intensely proud of the achievements of students and staff at Dane Court.”
Student Gowri Satish said’ I am so over the moon, when I saw my results I couldn’t believe the number of A*’s. I am pleased that all my hard work paid off’
Banisha Aktar said ‘I am really pleased particularly with my Product Design and Physics results as I found these subjects particularly challenging. I never thought in a million, trillion years I would achieve results like these.’
I am writing to let you know about some changes to our school timetable and to the school day, starting in September 2015.
Many of you will already know that GCSE examinations are being reformed, starting with English and Mathematics. Students presently in year 9 will take these new Maths and English examinations in May and June 2017. Students presently in year 8 will take new examinations in all subjects in May and June 2018. These new examinations are designed to be more demanding and to test students’ knowledge and understanding across a broader range of topics. Details are being published by examination boards as the new specifications become available. I will give details of how to find out more in our next electronic newsletter and on our website in June.
|Dane Court School
Day Times 2015-2016
|Period 1||08:40 – 09:40|
|Period 2||09:45 – 10.45|
|Break||10:45 – 11:05|
|Period 3||11:05 – 12:05|
|Period 4||12:10 – 13:10|
|Assembly||13:10 – 13:20|
|Mentoring||13:20 – 13:35|
|Lunch||13:35 – 14:20|
|Period 6||14:20 – 15:20|
In order to accommodate these changes, we intend to make some small adjustments to the amount of time spent on each subject within our curriculum, giving a little more time to English and Mathematics each week. We have also decided to change from six lessons of 50 minutes each day to five lessons of 60 minutes each day. The total lesson time is unaltered, but the most productive part of the learning time – the middle of the lesson – is extended, and the amount of time spent changing from one lesson to another is reduced. As a school, we are confident that this change will enhance the quality of learning. This change has caused us to make some alterations to the school day times (see right).
From the first day of Term 1, Friday 4 September 2015, the school day will start at 08:40 and end at 15:20. Stagecoach, who run the buses, have told us that this will not pose a problem for bus times, and that they will issue new timetables in due course. After-school activities will start at 15:30, as they do at present.
There will be four lessons in the morning and one in the afternoon. The new lesson times include 5-minute movement time between morning lessons, as at present. A copy of these new times for your notice board appears at the end of this letter. Mentoring will take place on a rota, as it does presently, a few students meeting with their mentor each day. Most students will therefore be able to have lunch at 13:20 each day. A range of food will be also available at break time. Break will be at 10:45.
To give us enough flexibility to timetable the longer lessons, from September we will also operate a two-week timetable, made up of Week A and Week B. The two weeks will have identical lesson times, but the balance of lessons may vary slightly from one week to the other. For example, a student in year 9 may have three English lessons in one week and four in the other. We will help students to be clear about which week is which, with suitable notices in student planners and on the plasma screens around school. Many of us have had positive experiences of two-week timetables, as teachers, as students and as parents; any confusion is usually short-lived and easily overcome, but we would ask for your support in making sure students are clear about which week is which.
The first day of the year for students will be Friday 4 September. This will be Friday from Week A. The first full week, beginning Monday 7 September, will be Week B. The weeks will then alternate, the pattern continuing after each holiday. For example, Term 1 ends on Thursday 22 October 2015, in Week B; term 2 begins on Monday 2 November, in Week A. Term 2 ends on Friday 18 December 2015, Week A; Term 3 begins in January 2016 with Week B.
From September, year 10 students will find a ‘new’ subject on their timetable, called ‘Identity, Culture and Education’ (‘ICE’ for short). The aim of this subject is to offer a broad-based two-year enrichment course, designed to encourage and challenge students to think about issues of vital importance in twenty-first century Britain. This course will make an important contribution to students’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural education, and will include taught lessons, discussions, debates, visiting speakers, and practical sessions. ICE will form part of a coherent programme of thinking skills and enrichment, starting with Thinking and Reasoning in year 7 and moving on to Theory of Knowledge and Approaches to Learning in the sixth form.
There will be an opportunity to find out more about the developments I have outlined in this letter on Wednesday 24 June at 6:00pm. You will also be able to ask any questions you wish. All are welcome.
Finally, I would like to mention how very impressed I have been with the attitude and behaviour of our students during this examination period. It has been very good to see the vast majority of them taking the exams seriously, and also taking the opportunities at break and lunchtime to relax and socialise. Thank you for supporting them – and us – so well at this time.
With all good wishes
Mr A T Fowler
Head of School