Presentation the key to success

Mike Fielding

If it's important, pay attention to it," is one of those management maxims that can seem too glib to be useful. But if students' achievements are important for a school, then finding ways to celebrate them can have an impact on both the ethos and the marketing.

One important way we have developed is the "Presentation Evening" in which parents are first entertained by a kaleidoscope of the activities successfully undertaken by their children and then applaud the presentation of special awards. Because we believe in all students achieving, both parts of the evening involve students of all abilities and interests.

Two of these evenings are run each autumn term: one for years 10 and 11, the other for years 8 and 9. The presentations reflect work done in the previous school year, which is why there isn't one for year 7. Tickets are always in huge demand.

Staff and students work on suitable presentations. There is always a piece from each subject area plus more general items like the Brittany trip or the work of the school council.

The first task is to select the work and then decide on the presentation format. For this, students can be very imaginative. This year, a piece about the history of maths and famous mathematicians was done hilariously to the Alan Partridge spoof TV show formula. others were described in song, verse, drama or straight presentation using flip-chart or overhead projector.

Once the initial work has been done with the class teacher, the performers have a couple of rehearsals when they iron out all the technical problems of running order, lighting, equipment etc. This usually develops the kind of hysteria reminiscent of rehearsals for the Royal Variety Performance.

Until a couple of years ago, the evening was compered by a staff member; now students do it all themselves and witty introductions have become an expected part of the performance.

While these preparations are going on staff are making recommendations for prize-winners from each year group. The prizes - Pounds 5 and Pounds 3 vouchers this year - are provided by our Parents and Friends Association and are given for all subjects, plus special progress and community service.

A small panel sifts the nominations and produces a final list which contains as many students as possible. Three years ago, there was a procession of the highest fliers receiving all the awards, so now we ensure no one gets more than two - then we can celebrate the achievement of the many rather than the few.

Prize recipients are warned beforehand to ensure they (and their parents) are present on the night, although they are not told what their prize is for. This means we can keep some surprise for the actual event.

Photos are taken for display on our Good News board and in the local press, and this year we made a video.

The effect of the evening is to send children and parents away with the message that doing well is important for everybody. Taking part in the presentations or getting an award boosts young people's confidence, and there is never a shortage of eager participants.

As a marketing exercise it is difficult to measure the outcome but spreading the news beyond the school that we think what children do is worth paying attention to must have some good effects.

Mike Fielding is principal of The Community College, Chulmleigh, North Devon

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Mike Fielding

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