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!
Straight into a meeting this morning with Marie Stephenson from Academy Training Services. We’re working with Marie and others from the B46 – an independent networking group in and around the B46 postcode – to give our sixth formers an edge when they move on to the next step at University, in training or in employment. Marie and I share a lot of similar interests in terms of the development of young people and she is putting together an exciting programme for our students which will form part of our Enterprise, Employability and University week in June where students will be working with a number of our partners from local businesses as well as a number of Universities. They will also be visiting the UCAS convention at the NEC. More on the programme for the week when we have firm details but it will be a great experience in helping student develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes for their future paths. You can have a look at what B46 do by following this link:
I’ve also arranged a visit from the World Challenge organisation who offer young people the opportunity to travel to far flung places to develop their perspectives and help others along the way. My own daughter is taking students from her school to Swaziland this summer with World Challenge so I’ll find out exactly how good the experience can be.
I was talking to students last week about the local elections/West Midlands Mayoral elections. (It depends which side of the boundary you live as to which you voted in) I’m a great believer that young people should use their vote and we do try to give them an introduction to the electoral system and the political parties within that. We also run our own version of question time where we try to steer debate to significant current affairs whether local, national or international. It should be an exciting time voting in your first general election and we need to make sure that students have an idea of what they are voting for.
My book recommendation is a bit of a blast from the past. I’ve always loved the American author John Irving and I’m currently reading his latest. But if anyone wants a big book for the summer you could do worse than try ‘A Prayer for Owen Meany’ which blew many people’s socks off when it was first published in 1989. Give it a try.
I was really impressed with the way that our students came back after the Easter holidays and slipped seamlessly into study routines. I think back to my sixth form years and seem to remember that we didn’t quite study as relentlessly or as effectively and I reflect on the relative lack of pressure, certainly in the first year of study but I suppose a teenager’s life is very different in most respects from someone who studied O and A levels in the 1970’s! I was discussing music with my own children this weekend and inevitably I was drawn into the trap of dismissing much of their contemporary taste, telling them that the 1970’s was indubitably better in so many ways. They put me in my place quite spectacularly.
The Sixth Form football XI had its second outing of the season last week and went one better than last time by securing a 2-2 draw at John Henry Newman School. Having fallen a goal behind the lads struck back to lead 2-1 only for JHN to equalise with the very last move of the game via a cruel deflection. Again there was lots to credit in the display and it made me think about the sometimes uncredited talent that shows itself in the sporting arena. I saw some superb leadership, lots of effort, loads of resilience, obvious teamwork and many other qualities – and this is apart from any footballing ability. I think that sport can have a huge part to play in developing young people and we’re trying to find ways of doing more of it in the sixth form.
I’m spending this week interviewing, for a last time, all of our year 13 students before they go off on their next adventure. There is an interesting mixture of destinations with a mix of universities, apprenticeships and local employers and we’re having a look at what needs to be tweaked before the exams and giving advice on student loans and accommodation. We’re also meeting as a year later this week to finesse details for the end of term (and end of era, too) celebrations with the final assembly and the leavers’ ball. I still refuse to call it a prom.
The good folk from the National Citizenship Service scheme came in last week to present to year 11 & 12 about the opportunities on their summer challenge programme – it’s a fantastic way to have fun, develop skills and give something back. You can find out more on:
The latest book recommendation is Maggie O’Farrell’s This Must be the Place described by The Independent as ‘an absolute delight, the kind of book that makes reading that most self-indulgent and intoxicating of pleasures.’
And how good was Line of Duty?
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.