Welcome to the Sixth Form blog/news page. I will post on here at least every Monday and more often as the occasion demands. It’s not a formal site as such and will not replace official announcements and letters but its intention is to reflect on sixth form experiences and events, to keep abreast of good practice in Post 16 education and to alert students and parents to opportunities now and for the future.
I know students have plenty of work to do in their A level subjects but I have an impassioned view that it is what they do beyond that which can often make the real difference in personal development, employability and fulfilment. So you’ll hear plenty on here about those opportunities.
Just to kick off I’ll mention three of my favourites:
TED talks is an online video library of thousands of talks on a huge variety of subjects. Always interesting, usually challenging and often entertaining.
Future Learn offers free online courses from universities and specialist organisations. I’ve done two so far and several students have taken them up. Have a look – they’re brilliant
Reading books makes a difference.
Have a great 2017!
There’s always a time in March when all of a sudden the promise of spring seems to gather momentum and become a promise rather than a distant hope. That time was last week for me and, although todays rains were rather persistent, we are definitely into the lighter nights and Mark Twain’s words ‘It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want — oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!’ have a particular resonance.
More prosaically, the forthcoming Easter holidays always have a whiff of the impending exam season. It’s the time for revision timetables and counting the days down to the first exam. We’re looking at revision in tutor time this week and next to try to share tips that actually work, but the bottom line is that without the initial and underlying graft, revision won’t be much good! I am forever sharing the old maxim ‘the harder I work, the luckier I get’ which has been variously ascribed to Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Goldwyn and Gary Player. Whoever said it first, there is an obvious slice of truth in the saying. There are lots of good sites which support revision but a good deal is just common sense. Do the work your teachers ask you to and, if you want to excel, do a little bit more. This site:
offers pretty sound basic advice. We also looked at the age old problem of procrastination and there’s no simple answer to this beyond ‘just do it!’
We’re also looking at elements of mindfulness. This has caused some controversy recently. Sir Anthony Seldon, the education guru, has called for ‘stillness sessions’ in schools and more than one secondary school has compulsory mindfulness sessions on the curriculum. The US Marines have mindfulness sessions before combat and Cambridge University is researching into how mindfulness can combat stress. However, Professor Frank Furedi has described it as a fad in an infantilising culture, suggesting that on the one hand we want students to be resilient and accepting of setback and on the other we mollycoddle them the minute we fear they are under pressure.
Whatever the reality we are trying it on a small scale if only to remind students that there can be a world without the clutter and buzz of mobile phone communication and social media. The ping of the notification is now the soundtrack to a lot of family, school and office life. So we continue to have our silent reading sessions and we will be exploring a few more mindfulness techniques. If you’re interested, have a look at this TED talk.
I’ve made contact with another local company and I’m visiting Pinewood UK at their Birmingham Business Park to find out more about their software business and the potential opportunities for Coleshill Students. I find it really refreshing that businesses are reaching out to schools, doing their best to match student talents to their particular needs.
My Six Nations phrase last week was ‘wounded Irish pride’ and they certainly seemed to have the greater will and bite in Dublin on Saturday. The less said about Wales v France the better. Thanks for indulging my rugby comments and I will return to the theme during the Lions’ tour.
Another busy week for sixth formers where I was reflecting on the opportunities that we try to create for our students in terms of extra - curricular activities and preparation for the next step beyond the sixth form. I mentioned recently that year 12 have been working on a Higher Education research module in tutor time and I’m looking forward to seeing what answers and ideas they have come up with.
In conjunction with this we are running two events before Easter so that students can visit a university campus and see for themselves. The first is next week at The University of Warwick. I drove through their campus last week and it’s mightily impressive and growing every week, it seems. There are a couple of spaces left on this trip.
The week before the Easter break I have booked all our students in year 12 onto the ‘Make Your Move’ event at The University of Birmingham. This event consists of a wide range of presentations, exhibitions and seminars all based on the world of higher education, apprenticeships and employment. We’re treating it as an open day so students will be making their own way there and deciding which parts of the event to sign up for. For those who don’t already know, there is a station at the University of Birmingham.
I’m also very excited about The Outward Bound project and I have confirmed with them this week that I will be taking twelve students to Aberdovey in September. I took some students there about thirty years ago and the trip – and in particular its effect on students – remains very clearly with me to this day. It will be a superb experience for those who are able to go.
Another interesting six nations weekend. On Friday night The Wales v Ireland clash was thunderous in its intensity and one of our students was at the Principality Stadium to witness it. She’s Solihull born but has lived in Wales in the past and tells me she has always chosen the daffodil over the rose. It’s always interesting how and why we form national allegiances and what are the forces or influences that drive this. On Saturday England finally found the form that has been hitherto hidden and were rapier like in their dismantling of Scotland. So the title is theirs but there will be some wounded Irish pride wishing to make a statement next week.
Last week I finished yet another remarkable book by Sebastian Barry. It’s called ‘Days Without End’ and it’s magnificent!
Last week I finished off the interviews for external candidates at Kingsbury and Wilnecote and what a breath of fresh air it was. All the applicants were really well prepared and all presented themselves very effectively. We are regularly told that students don’t have soft skills because they are relentlessly drilled for examinations and turn into automata. This certainly wasn’t the case here; well done to all and keep those handshakes firm! We really look forward to working with these students next year and to anyone out there who is still wondering what to do for sixth form, yes we are still accepting applications.
My other highlight was visiting Expeditors International a freight handling company based at Hams Hall. An ex student, Leigh Trevis, is their training manager and he addressed an assembly a few weeks ago. As a result of this I took two students there on Friday to look at what they did and to learn about apprenticeship opportunities which are coming up. The adjective ‘fascinating’ doesn’t really cover it; it’s an amazing enterprise and it’s great to learn exactly how some aspects of freight shipping tick over.
My last piece of news today relates to the sixth form twitter feed on @Coleshill6th4m. Every Monday I post a book recommendation and I’m trying really hard to get sixth formers (and anyone else for that matter) to physically pick up a book and explore what’s between the covers.
Every sixteen books I produce a poster which I hope will reproduce satisfactorily on this blog.