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!
The Easter holidays are done and dusted and we enter the summer term with a distinct chill in the air. The main message to our students in this short half term is that it’s business as usual with the focus on being exam ready. Teachers are really good these days at making sure all the material has been covered in time so it’s then a case of fine tuning in preparation for the examination season. This means different things to different students so we make sure that each individual has a chat with their tutor over the next two weeks to see how we can help make the next few weeks profitable and stress free. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m interested in any way which will make a person feel better about the challenges they have to face and we have explored a number of these in tutorial time. For some it might be some mindfulness and relaxation sessions (which we will explore more in the coming weeks), for many it will be keeping up their regular sporting, music, gym and other hobbies and for others it will be that hour’s reading a day which keeps them on an even keel. Whatever it takes, keep doing the stuff that makes you happy!
We’ve got the National Citizenship Service coming too present to our year 12 students on Friday. They’ll be offering our students the chance to take part in their summer challenge programme which gives them the chance to work alongside students from other schools delivering a community project. This all kicks off with a residential experience which develops all kinds of personal development and leadership skills and it is ridiculously cheap. Well worth a try. It’s this sort of thing which not only stands out on your CV but also offers genuine enrichment to your life.
The best book I read over the holiday was Sabine Durrant’s ‘Lie With Me’ and I’ve recently started Maggie O’Farrel’s latest which has got off to a great start. I’ll report back soon on that one.
Parents’ evening was very much as I described last week; a mainly positive experience for all involved with the focus on collaboration. With the Easter break coming up at the end of this week it’s important to be clear about what needs priority in terms of consolidation and revision. It’s something of a different experience for our year 12 students with the new examination system, as the AS exams have largely gone to be replaced by a two year linear course. There will still be rigorous internal exams and these are important in two ways. First of all they will require the students to learn subject matter and approaches to examinations and this will have the knock on of embedding learning for next year. Secondly they need to be passed to progress on to year 13!
The approach of Easter always makes me reminisce about my grandparents’ in their small village of Cymau in North East Wales. It was an annual Easter break to go and stay with them and I’ll be revisiting some of the flavour of these in assemblies this week. In many ways it’s a slice of social and cultural history which literally belongs to another era – my grandfather (or Taid in Welsh) was born in Victoria’s reign and spent 51 years in coal mining. He was one of fourteen children and didn’t have a phone or a television until he was in his 60’s. We’ll see what the students make of it.
Three of our students took part in the Cambridge University Sixth Form Law Conference last week and had a great time. They stayed in Cambridge colleges for three nights and had a varied programme which included lectures by leading academics, workshops with practising lawyers and a debate in the world famous Cambridge Union. At least one of the students who attended has decided that a career in law is now a top priority.
‘Line of Duty’ is as compelling as ever and Jason Watkins didn't last long did he? How can Roz Huntley keep the investigators at bay for four more episodes? And the epic interrogation scenes have started; the one last night was ten minutes long and it's good that TV drama is still prepared to risk that sort of language and nuance rich drama.
The blog will now take a break for a couple of weeks. Happy Easter to students, parents, teachers and anyone else who stumbles across the site.
The clocks have gone forward and the sixth form is remarkably quiet this morning; the students are here but their body clocks have not quite adjusted and the volume has been turned down. Quite nice really.
We’ve got parents' evening this week and I like to think that they are more constructive affairs than of old. Students and their parents seem more open to advice and guidance and we think a lot more carefully about how individuals can be supported and encouraged. Of course I won’t pretend that some students simply need to take study more seriously and work harder; for a period of time during my A levels I was one of these. I can still remember the sinking feeling at parents’ evening with my dad making notes in stony silence and the one after my A level mocks was particularly painful, leading to an enforced period of house arrest. It turned out ok in the end but I did need the harsh realities pointing out to me. I often remind students that we are all (students, parents and teachers) heading for the same goal which can broadly be described as success and happiness but I know that this partnership can sometimes suffer amidst the ‘sturm and drang’ of adolescence. We tend to get there in the end.
My visit to Pinewood Technologies was another eye – opener. They provide car dealerships with computer systems which will manage pretty much every aspect of their operations and I heard some great stories about the progression school leavers have made in the company. People tend to think that it’s just about software and code but they have openings in sales and marketing, account management, customer liaison, business development and so on. Their employee benefits look particularly good too and it’s great to see a company working with its workforce to enable a work life balance. I’ll certainly be encouraging our students to have a look.
We also had our old friends from Clare College, Cambridge over last week. As ever they were supportive of our students and managed to dispel some of the myths about applying to the best universities in the UK. As I’ve suggested before universities work very hard to get the brightest and best young minds regardless of background and that there should be no barriers to those who wish to access the very best universities. We will always do all we can to promote and support this at The Coleshill School.
Just a couple of reminders about events coming up. The remarkable Outward Bound offer (5 days of activity in glorious Snowdonia for sixty quid all in) closes this week. We are asking for expressions of interest to begin with and will narrow down applicants by looking at their school record across all areas.
Next week sees the visit to The University of Birmingham for all of year 12. I posted about this a fortnight ago but it bears repeating:
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.
Now the Six Nations is over I can move on to one of the few things I watch on television apart from sport. ‘Line of Duty’ resumed last night and I think it’s as sharp as ever. The twists in the last few minutes were superb. Midlands’ actor Jason Watkins stole the show for me; can’t wait to see how this cliffhanger resolves itself. That’s Sunday evening sorted for a few weeks.