John O’Gaunt School News – July 2022

John O'Gaunt School is recruiting

John O’Gaunt Secondary School in Hungerford, part of the Excalibur Academy, offers small school care with big school ambition.

July News

Lots going on this month, including a great new project by our Eco Club – see here for the Swift Town Hungerford initiative and how you can help.

‘A Different Life’ at John O’Gaunt

John O’Gaunt School hosted a very special event at the beginning of June, in partnership with The Hungerford Hub. As part of the Hub’s ‘Well Read Mind’ season of events, three guests with unique life experiences were invited to share their stories with a group of Year 8 and 9 students.

Each guest represented a group in our society that is often misunderstood, judged and even discriminated against, intentionally or unintentionally. ‘A Different Life’ gave the students the opportunity to meet the people ‘behind the label’ of physical disability, neurodiversity and refugee. In circular groups, the students had a chance to listen, ask questions and then share their own experiences, honestly and without judgement.

It was a powerful and thought-provoking morning. Tori McDonald, Y9 said ‘listening to the stories had a similar effect as reading a book about someone else’s life, – you can step into their shoes – only of course you could interact and share things – and empathise for real.’ 

Jayden Brown in Y9 was very relieved to hear that Youssef, his wife and family received a warm welcome from the local community – ‘that made me feel very proud – because people can be very cruel and lazy at understanding’. Youssef and his family lived in Syria’s capital Damascus, but fled for their lives when shells were destroying homes around them. They tried to settle in Lebanon, but that wasn’t safe, and so made new lives for themselves in Cairo, Egypt. But when their eldest daughter was subject to an attempted kidnapping (a constant danger there for girls) they sought help from United Nations and came to Britain. Jayden said ‘It was humbling to hear what they went through. Youssef was a PE teacher and Water Polo Coach in Syria. It isn’t hard to imagine that any one of us could find ourselves having to flee for our lives and safety.’  

Rosie Chester, Y9 said ‘It was encouraging to hear that nothing holds these people back – whatever their situation. Dawn has ADHD and is dyslexic, but has had jobs you dream about, for The Red Cross, the Royal Navy and the European Space Agency – and she’s learning 4 different languages! Louise lives with Muscular Dystrophy but is also a counsellor and an artist and has worked in radio. It made me think how good we humans can be. How we can live our best lives.’ 

Caleb Namesansky, Y9 said ‘all the guests were very warm and funny, even though these are very serious topics.  Everyone likes to think they are inclusive and think about everyone else, all the time, but do we really? I feel like we are all better people after this experience.’ 

Youssef and Amal and Dawn with students in the library

Hampshire Book Award Judging Panel Chooses Top Book! 

The culmination of an intense period of reading ended in a joyous celebration of books for our Hampshire Book Award Judging Panel. Nine Y8 students travelled to The Costello School in Basingstoke, who were hosting one of the Hampshire county-wide events to debate and discuss the six, exciting, shortlisted books with their peers from other schools across the area. 
Run by Hampshire School Library Service, the students read all six titles and met weekly in Jog School Library to discuss them (over essential plates of biscuits). Ms Clarkson and Mrs Chester read the books along with the students and everyone had their favourites and strong opinions! Judging evaluation guidelines were based around the three Es: Enjoyment, Enrichment and Engagement. The books were Cardboard Cowboys, by Brian Conaghan, Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes, Giften by Leyla Suzan, Ground Zero by Alan Gratz, Tsunami Girl by Julian Sedgewick and Chie Kutsuwada  and Don’t Doubt the Rainbow by Anthony Kessel. 
With everyone voting on the day, anticipation was high – and Ground Zero, a vivid dual narrative about the events of 9/11 experienced by a young boy in the North Tower and a young girl in a village in Afghanistan, 20 years later, won.  Ella Maidment, Y8 said ‘it was really enjoyable meeting other readers from other schools – and the whole experience of reading books you might not normally go for was eye-opening! We’re looking forward to encouraging and supporting next year’s Y8s when they come to do this. They’re keen to follow in our footsteps and be judges too. Authors are writing what we want to read, but it really puts the power in the readers hands!’    
Some of our Judging Panel (L – R): Holly Hammond, Lottie Williams, Ella Maidment, Bella Walklet and Samantha Maidment
JoG BookVotingCeremony


First Freshers’ Fair at John O’Gaunt School – September 2021

A first Freshers’ Fair launched many exciting, new, extra-curricular clubs and opportunities for community engagement at the end of September, at John O’Gaunt School in the heart of Hungerford. The inaugural event saw lots of students visiting and signing up, from new Year 7s, just beginning their Secondary School journey, to those returning. Clubs included Silversmithing, historically accurate scale Model Making, Maths Club, Dodgeball, as well as the re-launch of many old favourites, including Choir, Band, Book and Biscuit Club, The Rookery Writers Club and The Duke of Edinburgh Awards.

Freshers’ Fair was attended by Hungerford Town Mayor, Helen Simpson, and organised by teacher Ms Deborah Arden-Hunt, who said “children and young people have missed out on so much during the course of this pandemic, so it’s really exciting and important to be able to offer these life-changing opportunities. I’m sure, in the future, our alumni will look back on their time at John O’Gaunt, and these clubs, and say ‘that was the spark that ignited my journey.‘”

Other community opportunities include the school’s strong Parent Staff Association ‘PSA Juniors’. Several of the clubs are part-funded by the PSA’s work and the generosity of local businesses, such as Jon Shatford Book Keeping. A new Hungerford Youth Council will include opportunities to work with Hungerford Town Council, The Youth and Community Centre, Town and Manor, and Church, engaging young people and giving them a voice. The school’s re-booted Eco Club will also do the same, working additionally with Hungerford Environmental Action Team (HEAT) and Eco Schools England too. Many students also signed up for a variety of roles in the upcoming production of High School Musical.

Headteacher Mr Richard Hawthorne said “There was such a buzz! It was joyful, hopeful and engaging – just what we all need to rebuild and re-establish confidence and community after this strange and disconnecting time we’ve all shared. These activities provide so much; teachers can share specific passions for their subjects and the community benefits mutually too. Students get the chance to explore the school ethos as ‘leaders and learners’, gaining confidence and new skills that build on cultural capital. It enriches their experience of school life and includes them in decision making, involvement and change for good in the community, too. It’s a wonderful initiative. I can only see this growing and growing!”


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