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billyelliotA schoolgirl from Gad’s Hill School, Higham has got her first taste of stardom after landing a role in a hit an internationally award-winning West End musical.

Thirteen year-old Zara Gilhooly started performing in smash-hit Billy Elliot the Musical at the Victoria Palace Theatre this month as a ballet girl, alongside the central character of Billy in Mrs Wilkinson’s ballet class. Mrs Wilkinson’s ballet girls feature throughout the show as the children’s ensemble, accompanying Billy on his dancing journey.

Zara, from Meopham, said she was “absolutely loving every minute” of the experience.

The talent dancer has been performing from the age of three, joining her current dance school, the Robyn Academy, Gravensend at the age of 10, winning a number of competitions including the prestigious ‘Most Promising Dancer’ trophy at the Beckenham amateur dance festival.

“It was so nerve-wracking waiting to hear if I had got the part,” Zara said.

“I really love dancing and performing and this is just such a good opportunity – I’ve never before performed in the West End and I’d love to make it my career when I leave school.”

When asked what her school friends thought of Zara’s star turn she said: “They think it’s cool and I hope a lot come to see me in it.”

Zara’s Headmaster, Mr David Craggs said: “If Zara doesn’t land a performing arts career, I would be very surprised. It is obvious that Zara has talent. We’re all really proud of her for winning the part in a top London musical. The future looks very bright for Zara.”

Based on the Oscar nominated film, Billy Elliot the Musical is an inspirational story of one boy’s dream to realise his ambitions against the odds. Set in the North East of England against the background of the historic 1984/85 miners’ strike, Billy pursues his passion for dance in secret to avoid disapproval of his struggling family.

Multi award-winning Billy Elliot the Musical had its world premiere at the Victoria Palace Theatre on 31 March 2005 and has now been seen by over 9.5 million people worldwide.

Billy Elliot the Musical features music by Elton John, book and lyrics by Lee Hall, is directed by Stephen Daldry with choreography by Peter Darling. The production features scenic design by Ian MacNeil, the associate director is Julian Webber, costume design is by Nicky Gillibrand, lighting design by Rick Fisher and sound design by Paul Arditti. Musical supervision and orchestrations are by Martin Koch.

LISTINGS INFORMATION BILLY ELLIOT THE MUSICAL

Booking until: Currently booking until 16 May 2015
Theatre: Victoria Palace Theatre, Victoria Street, London, SW1E 5EA
Box Office: 0844 248 5000
Tickets: £20.70 – £68.70 (to include a £1.20 theatre restoration levy)
Performances: Monday – Saturday at 7.30pm
Thursday and Saturday matinees at 2.30pm
Website: www.billyelliotthemusical.com

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Please find below a statement from Cllr Mike O’Brien, Lead Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services at Medway Council, following an Ofsted report for Warren Wood Primary, Rochester.

“We acknowledge what Ofsted has said about the school and had already started making improvements before inspectors visited. Ofsted noted the positive effect a new leadership team of Anne Costidell and executive headteacher, Sian Williams, had already made at Warren Wood.

“It is important to note the hard work done in such a short space of time by the new leadership team to further improve standards at the school. We acknowledge that there is a still a lot of work to be done and that the ineffectiveness of the governing body, which has now been disbanded, led to the school’s current Ofsted criticism.

“The positive aspects picked up by the inspection team will be built on and there is a real determination at the school by its current leadership to drive the school forward from here. Inspectors said the team have already had a positive impact on pupils, staff and parents by putting strategies in place to improve teaching and pupils’ behaviour.

“They also noted in the Early Years Foundation Stage, children make good progress because the teaching is engaging. Inspectors observed the new staff in Reception were using well-structured activities to help children make good progress. The recent well-planned teaching of phonics in the Early Years Foundation Stage prepares children well in their literacy skills, the report said. Pupils say that since the arrival of the new leadership team, they feel happier to come to school and feel safer.

“The majority of parents who completed an online questionnaire believe that behaviour and safety are better now with the new leadership team. Teachers and their assistants are positive about the recent improvements to the school.

“The Ofsted team said that as a result of a new behaviour policy, there has been a sharp improvement in pupils’ behaviour overall.

“Parents opinions have been sought on a wide range of subjects and parents have indicated the current leaders work well with them. Things are changing for the better at the school on a daily basis and expectations are high as the new leadership team is already starting to see the benefits.

“I will not accept bad teaching in our schools and I am confident Warren Wood, under the new leadership, is now heading in the right direction.”

walking bus stop signIt’s all aboard for children in Medway as the number of youngsters using the Walking Bus service doubles. Almost 1,500 youngsters now take part in the project – up from 734 previously – and there are 47 active routes.

The Medway Council scheme is a fun, healthy, and safe way of travelling to school. Powered by good, old-fashioned legwork, the children and volunteers walk in a group along a set route, picking up or dropping off ‘passengers’ at specific ‘bus stops’ on their journey to and from school.

The rise in users was boosted with a ‘Hedgehog Hike’ and ‘Social Netwalk’ event during International Walk to School Month where 17 schools in Medway took part. Portfolio Holder for Front Line Services, councillor Phil Filmer, said: “We’re delighted more and more children are taking part in this scheme.

“It’s a great way for children to get to school, helps encourage them to be safe on the road as well as having health and environmental benefits.”

A walking bus can be easy to set up and must have a minimum of two adults per route (often staff or parents); an adult ‘driver’ at the front of the bus to and a ‘conductor’ at the back of the bus, ensuring that a ratio of one adult to every six children is met.

Younger children and babies transported in pushchairs or buggies may join the walking bus if accompanied by their parent or carer.

To find out more about individual schemes in Medway, email travel.safety@medway.gov.uk or visit http://www.kmwalktoschool.co.uk/

In a separate success, Medway Council has now issued 40,000 reflective tags to schoolchildren to help them stay safer on their journeys to and from school. The tags, which can be attached to backpacks, bags or on clothing, helps make children visible in headlights up to 150m sooner and it makes children up to 15 times more visible in daylight. Community wardens have helped deliver the tags, which were funded by the council’s Public Health department.

Figures released today show schools in Medway are narrowing the achievement gap between disadvantaged pupils and other pupils.

Performance at Key Stage 4 shows that in Medway, there has been an increase in the percentage of disadvantaged pupils gaining 5+ GCSEs at grades A*-C including English and mathematics, up 1.8 percent to 38.8%.

That closes the gap from 30% in 2012 to 28.5% in 2013.

cllobrien.jpgIn 2013, the overall Medway figure for the percentage of pupils achieving 5+GCSEs at grades A*- C (including English and Mathematics) has been maintained at 61%. That means Medway is above the national figure of 60.6%. Lead Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services at Medway Council, Councillor Mike O’Brien, said: “We have much to celebrate in Medway schools with further evidence of a continuing improvement.

“Figures only show part of the picture and don’t always reflect the hard work being done by teachers and pupils but today we can congratulate all those involved for showing Medway schools are really going places.

“That’s not to say we will take these figures for granted and the hard work will continue.
“But this is fantastic news and I would like to say well done to all our young people who have worked so hard to achieve this with their dedicated and hard-working staff.”

Key facts and figures:
Medway Performance at Key Stage 4 and Key Stage 5

• The number of pupils at the end of Key Stage 4 has increased by 2.3%, from 3168 in 2012 to 3242 in 2013.

• In 2013, the overall Medway figure for the percentage of pupils achieving 5+GCSEs at grades A*- C (including English and Mathematics) has been maintained at 61%.

• The number of pupils entered for all English Baccalaureate subjects increased by 68%.

• The percentage of Medway pupils achieving all English Baccalaureate subjects increased from 14.7% in 2012 to 18.6% this year. This represents an improvement of 3.9% and exceeds the 2012 national figure of 18.4%.

• Almost all Medway state funded schools saw an increase in the percentage of pupils achieving all English Baccalaureate subjects.

• Both of the Medway LA maintained secondary schools had successful results.

• The number of pupils at the Howard School at the end of Key Stage 4 increased from 219 in 2012 to 238 in 2013. In the past year, the Howard School maintained it performance level for the number of pupils achieving 5+GCSEs at grades A*- C (including English and Mathematics). Their figure of 62% was the same as last year, and exceeded both the corresponding Local Authority and national figure for 2012.

• The Howard School also saw a remarkable increase in the percentage of pupils achieving all English Baccalaureate subjects. Their performance improved from 1% in 2012 to 20% in 2013.

• In 2013, St John Fisher Catholic Comprehensive School increased the percentage of pupils achieving 5+GCSEs at grades A*- C (including English and Mathematics) to 47%, up one percentage point from the previous year. The percentage of pupils achieving all English Baccalaureate subjects also saw a notable increase from 2% in 2012 to 8% in 2013. The school also showed significant gains at Key Stage 5.

• Robert Napier is the most improved for 5+ GCSEs at grades A*-C including English and mathematics, with figures increasing from 31% in 2012 to 47% in 2013.

• Medway has reduced the achievement gap between disadvantaged pupils and all other pupils. There has been an increase in the percentage of disadvantaged pupils gaining 5+ GCSEs at grades A*-C including English and mathematics, up 1.8 percent to 38.8%, thereby closing the gap from 30% in 2012 to 28.5% in 2013.

• The percentage of Medway disadvantaged pupils achieving the English Baccalaureate has also increased by 1.6%

Picture1On Friday (13th December) Gad’s Hill School, Higham held a poignant official unveiling of its Kindergarten, The Jennie Marsh Wing, coinciding with the School’s annual cross country run.

The multi-million pound wing, named in memory of the former Head of Gad’s Kindergarten and Junior School, Jennie Marsh, who passed away in 2009, was opened by the Headmaster David Craggs, pupils and staff past and present and Jennie’s husband and daughters.

Mrs Marsh, who joined the Headmaster in campaigning for pupils to vacate the historic and increasingly fragile 18th century house of Gad’s Hill Place – which the School has used for teaching since the 1920s – died in May 2009, aged 58, after a short battle with cancer, leaving behind her daughters Sallie and Alison and her husband of 37 years, Malcolm, who also taught at the school.

(Photo left to right, back row: Former pupils join Gad’s Hill School Headmaster David Craggs, Alison Marsh, Malcolm Marsh (centre) Alison Marsh, Head of Gad’s Kindergarten and Junior School Fiona McPherson, with current pupils.)

Jennie travelled a long, varied and eventful journey from Zimbabwe, where she was born and raised, to Kent where she settled nearby in Wouldham. She devoted the remaining nine years of her life to the children and community at Gad’s.

During the unveiling ceremony, Headmaster of the school for three to sixteen-year-olds, Mr David Craggs said: “In September 2000 Jennie joined Gad’s as a temporary class teacher. It was soon apparent that she was not only a first rate teacher, but someone who possessed a huge amount of experience and had the qualities required to help drive Gad’s forward over the next few years. Within six months Jennie had become Head of Juniors and Kindergarten and helped to form the school it is today.”

He added: “She was loved by all students and staff, and there are many who feel that she had a profound impact on their lives.”

It was no coincidence that the unveiling ceremony was held on the same day as the School’s annual cross country run as the entire Marsh family – Jennie included – are keen runners.

It was in fact Malcolm, Jennie’s husband, who, alongside the Headmaster, came up with the concept of the run some ten years previously. As a special request, Malcolm – who travelled all the way from his home in South Africa for the special ceremony – Sallie and Alison Marsh were asked to run round the school field with the Kindergarten children, as Jennie would have done while teaching at Gad’s. Malcolm later presented awards to the winners of the Kindergarten, Junior and Senior School race winners.

Headmaster, Mr David Craggs, who took part in the race alongside a number of other staff, said: “While running about in the wet and cold is not to everyone’s taste, making sure our youngsters are fit and healthy is just as important as ensuring they can read and write and perform math’s to a decent level, a belief both Jennie, myself and Malcolm shared.

“Malcolm was especially pleased that so many years on, our pupils still brave the elements in a lesson that that teaches youngsters about the importance of teamwork by encouraging them to run the cross country on behalf of their school house – something his wife believed in. It’s a fantastically fun – although muddy! – outlet for all and we thank the Marsh family for joining us.”

This week an email flooded in to our office with a couple of photographs attached. The email was from a lady that lives in Australia, now that’s a big place so to narrow it down a bit, Perth. The lady that sent the email and the photographs is Jean Williams (nee Wall) and she is looking to catch up with class mates from her school days before she and her family emigrated to Australia in 1978. Please have a look at the images and see if you are in them and contact the office on 01634 780041 or email us using office@peninsulatimes.co.uk if you would like to get back in contact with Jean. Click on the image to see a larger version

1946/47 class at the Primary School now the library

1946/47 class at the Primary School now the library


Wainscott school calss of 1952/1953

Wainscott school class of 1952/1953

Cllr Mike O,Brien

Cllr Mike O,Brien

Letters have today (Friday, 4 October) been sent out to families informing them if their child has been deemed selective after taking the Medway Test last month.

In total, 2,430 children registered to sit the test, with 2,357 children actually sitting it.

Of those children that sat the test, 1,842 are Medway residents and 515 are from out of area.

Nine hundred and eight two children have been assessed as suitable for admission to a Medway Grammar School as a direct result of the test itself.

Six hundred and eighty seven Medway resident children achieved the minimum score. This represents 23 per cent of the total Medway cohort for this year group of 2,962. Read More

ApprenticeshipA number of local businesses looking to recruit new staff will be setting up shop at the Pentagon Centre in Chatham this week for the Medway Jobs and Apprenticeship Fair 2013.

The event, organised by Medway Council and Job Centre Plus, takes place from 10am to 3pm on Thursday, 26 September on the first floor of the shopping mall.

It builds on a highly successful jobs fair held last year attended by more than 1,700 jobseekers resulting in 100 jobs being secured and many others helped to get their career ambitions on track.

A number of local employers from across Medway and the rest of Kent will have stands as well as employment support agencies, offering advice on training and skills to help people back into work or find a new career.

That includes the council backed Employ Medway service, based in High Street. Chatham which offers courses and one-to-one support for people who have been unemployed for some time.

Jobcentre Plus will be on hand to provide information on how both employers and jobseekers can benefit from the Wage Incentive scheme, work trials and work experience. Read More

Medway Council’s ‘ambition to improve standards for its young people is universally acknowledged by its schools, a letter from Ofsted states.

The schools’ regulator made the comments in a letter to the authority following a focused inspection which included visiting a very small number of the area’s schools.

This inspection, which took place in June, and involved Ofsted going to ten of Medway’s 100 schools, was to ask their opinion of how they work with the council on school improvement. Read More

A top team of education experts will run Chatham Grammar School for Boys after Ofsted today (Tuesday September 10) announced the academy has been put into special measures – despite 95 per cent of pupils gaining five or more A* to C grade at GCSEs this year, including English and Mathematics.

Denise Shepherd, the Executive Principal of The Rochester Grammar School Trust, has become interim Executive Principal of Chatham Grammar School for Boys. Stuart Gardner, the Principal at The Rochester Grammar School, becomes interim Principal.

The Rochester Grammar School, is one of the highest achieving in the country, and was ranked second nationally for GCSE results in 2012. The Rochester Grammar School is also a National Support School and a National Teaching School with a successful track record of supporting other secondary schools both in Medway and in other local authorities. Read More

With students across Medway today opening up their envelopes and eagerly finding out the results they achieved in their A level exams, Medway Council issued the following statement More

Road safety st john fisherMore than 200 pupils at St John Fisher RC School have been working on their road safety understanding and abilities. The Year 7 and 8 pupils have been working with Medway Council’s Road Safety Team and Kent Police PCSO Rowan Cornwall on a number of activities and discussions. For many students, starting secondary school provides the first opportunity to independently travel to school. More

RichardIII-blogpostTwo Medway pupils will be treading the boards this summer with a professional theatre company. Kent-based Changeling Theatre Company open-air tour of Richard III comes to Rochester Castle on 10 July and Upnor on 31 July and 1 August.

Ashley Stevens and Jacob Clarke are playing the princes in the tower at the Rochester and Upnor performances after successfully auditioning earlier this year. Ashley, who turns 16 next month, lives in Lordswood and has just completed his GCSEs, including drama. He is looking forward to performing in Medway with all the cast. He said: “I’m not sure acting is something I want to pursue because at the moment I need to concentrate on my A’ Levels studies – including drama. I’m really grateful to Changeling Theatre Company for giving me this opportunity. More

lollipopLollipop men and women from all over Medway gathered to mark 60 years of safer road crossings.

The School Crossing Patrol service at Medway Council marked the anniversary with a giant coffee morning at Gun Wharf, Chatham on 15 April, inviting 20 school crossing patrols to join in the celebrations. More

More than a half a million pounds is being invested in local nurseries in readiness to offer a thousand additional places for two year olds in Medway by 2014.

Around 50 pre-schools are set to expand under the new scheme and a small number of new nurseries will be developed in areas where high demand is forecast. More

Students from Invicta Grammar School in Maidstone, Kent will become real-life engineers for on Thursday (April 18) when they research, design and build solutions to real engineering problems. More

Nearly 97 per cent of Medway’s primary aged children have been offered one of their preference places at secondary school, new figures show.

Families across Medway will shortly start receiving news of the school their child has been offered for September 2013 with letters being posted by first class on National Offer Day, Friday, 1 March. More

St James’ CE Primary School, Grain is helping students develop their skills and knowledge needed to stay safe as a young pedestrian.

Much to the delight of Medway Council’s Road Safety Team, St James’ School recognised the need to champion road safety to its pupils, staff and parents. The school has enlisted the expertise of the council’s Road Safety Team – as Su Ormes, Principle Road Safety Officer explains: “We initially supported the school with a pilot walking bus launch, during International Walk to School Month, in October. Since then we have made return visits to deliver lessons – making sure they were fun and interactive.
“With very little road safety adverts appearing on TV these days, we made sure the children understood the green cross code and were comfortable with what they should be looking and listening for while out walking.“

The Safer Journey Officers managed to deliver lessons to the entire school – providing around 140 students with indispensable road safety knowledge. Officers also met with parents to introduce the pedestrian awards (PAWS) in the hope they would continue teachings and assessments of their child’s skills outside of the school gates.

Headteacher Ginny Wilson said: “We are eager our students understand their responsibilities and role as a pedestrian. For them to understand now, the benefits of wearing bright/reflective clothing or the reality of seeing a car travelling 30mph breaking and stopping distance – measured out on the playground – stands them in good stead to keep our future road users safe.”

St James CE Primary School also managed to scoop the top position in the recent Golden Boot Walking Challenge, beating 23 other schools. If you would more details about the services available from the Road Safety Team visit http://www.medway.gov.uk or call 01634 331710 or visit http://www.facebook.com/saferjourneys

A talented cadet from Meopham is riding high after her squad was crowned Best UK Team at this year’s Uniformed Services Show Jumping Competition, Woolwich, beating 12 experienced mounted units from the likes of the Military Intelligence, Royal Logistics Corp and Police.

Sophie Green, 14, who attends Gad’s Hill School, Higham won one of four places on the UK Combined Cadet Force (CCF) team, after beating 25 riders from all over the country in a selection competition at the home of the Light Cavalry, Windsor, in early October. More

Cliffe Woods Primary are running a back to school Disco on Sept 22nd, have some fun and relive the 80’s and 90’s, you will also be helping a local school improve the facilities for its pupils.

Cliffe Woods Primary School PTA – “Back To School Disco”
Saturday 22nd September, 7.30pm-11.30pm at Cliffe Woods Community Centre
Our new Adults Only Event with classic 80s and 90s songs from the disco; retro sweets and snacks on tables; and optional fancy dress! Re-live your youth in style!
Tickets only £7.50 per person until 12th September – Tickets MUST be bought in advance*

Tickets available from Kimberley Evans 01634 222510/07957 326239
or email evanskimberley@hotmail.com

*Tickets £10pp after 12/09/12.
There will be a limited amount of snacks on tables so please eat dinner before you come!

Spring break is fast approaching and Medway’s children’s centres are getting geared up for a fun filled holiday. From bonnet parades to Easter egg hunts, arts and crafts and a visit from the farm, there’s plenty to keep little ones entertained, rain or shine. There are 19 Sure Start Children’s Centres across Medway. To find out more about your nearest centre and what’s on offer there, visit http://www.medwayfisd.com or call 01634 335566.

Monday, 2 April:
10 to 11am: St James’ Children’s Centre starts the holiday off in traditional fashion with a favourite messy play session at the centre, High Street, Isle of Grain, 270341.

1 to 3.30pm: Easter arts and crafts at Brompton Children’s Centre, Brompton Westbrook Primary School, Kings Bastion, 844152.

1 to 3pm: Get active with an Easter themed sports day at Kingfisher Children’s Centre, Kingfisher Drive, Walderslade, 335850.

Tuesday, 3 April:
12.30 to 2pm: Under 1’s Easter play at All Saints Children’s Centre, Magpie Hall Road, Chatham, 338833.

1 to 3pm: Tiny tots Easter play and crafts at Kingfisher Children’s Centre, Kingfisher Drive, Walderslade, 335850.

Wednesday, 4 April:
10 to 11.30am: Get dressed up and join in the Easter parade for children between 2 to 5 years old at Lordswood Children’s Centre, Lordswood Lane, 333670.

Thursday, 5 April:
11.30am to 2.30pm: Coo at the lambs, chickens and cute farm animals at Riverside Children’s Centre, St Edmunds Way, Rainham, when the mobile farm comes to visit.

(The farm will also visit Wayfield children’s centre, 10.30am to 1.30pm on Wednesday, 11 April and Saxon Way Children’s Centre, 10am to 12.30pm on Thursday, 12 April.)

1 to 2pm: Beady eyed toddlers are invited to this year’s Easter egg hunt at St James’ Children’s Centre, High Street, Isle of Grain, 270341.

Tuesday, 10 April:
1 to 3pm: Messy play at Oaklands Children’s Centre, Weedswood Road, Walderslade, 333820.

Wednesday, 11 April:
1.30 to 3.30pm: Head out on a bunny hunt with Temple Mill Children’s Centre at Broomhill Park, Strood.

Thursday, 12 April:
11am to 1pm: Get cooking at Bligh Children’s Centre fun with food session, at the centre, Bligh Way, Strood, 336220.

2 to 3pm: Easter egg hunt and activities at Miers Court Children’s Centre, Silverspot Close, Rainham, 236974.

Friday, 13 April:
10am to 12noon: Green fingered toddlers will be heading to the garden for a planting and growing session at St Helen’s Primary School, Church Street, Cliffe.

Medway Council’s Cabinet have agreed proposals for the Medway Test to be undertaken in primary schools for the majority of children, rather than in independent test centres. More

There are just a few days left to have your say about school admissions arrangements in Medway.

Residents have until on 5pm this Friday, 13 January, to give their views as part of a public consultation which started last November. More

Schools are out and as families settle into the Christmas holidays, parents are being reminded that the deadline for responses on a public consultation on school admissions arrangements is approaching. More

The 2011 Medway Governor of the Year was announced at a ceremony on Saturday, 26 November. More

Primary school pupils in Medway are really going green as they’re learning how to grow their own vegetables and helping to clean up the community.

The youngsters from St Mary’s RC Primary, Greenfield Street, Gillingham, have created their own vegetable garden and are now getting practical lessons in environmental science. More

A total of 27 schools in Medway took part in this year’s Golden Boot Challenge with Burnt Oak Primary being declared the overall winners – for the second year. More

Staff, pupils and parents from Gad’s Hill are capping off a tremendously successful year in style, when terms such as ‘excellent’ and ‘outstanding’ were used to describe the Higham school in their latest inspection report. The glowing inspection results have come in the same year that Gad’s Hill was named as the country’s top independent by the BBC, The Times, The Daily Telegraph and in the Government’s School League Tables, as well as eighth best school overall when including state schools.

Inspectors who visited the school, which caters for boys and girls aged three to 16, last week (29th-30th November) said the quality of leadership and management at the school – which is led by Headmaster Mr David Craggs – is excellent. The assessors from the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) also said in their report that “the quality of teaching is good with some excellent features” and that pupils’ overall achievement was ‘good’. The inspection also found that the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) at the school provides good quality education and care, and the quality of its leadership – run by Head of Kindergarten and Junior School, Ms Fiona McPherson – is outstanding. More

Students and staff from the Hundred of Hoo School will once again be showing their support for the armed services by undertaking the third annual sponsored walk to the Cenotaph. More

There’s just one week left for parents to apply for their child’s secondary school place online. More

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