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!
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.
I took my Year 13 daughter to an applicant Open Day in Nottingham on Saturday. She’s coming to the point where she has to make a decision about what she will be doing next Autumn and where it will be. She will be the third to fly the nest and I often reflect on how the personal and the professional come together in this way – the advice that I give to my own children should be the same as that I give to my students.
Of course, each individual is different requiring tailored advice and the best place to start is always with research; you need to know what your options are. So with this in mind we’ll be starting to have a look with our year 12 students at the possibilities which are out there and prompting them to do the research which will make their choices easier when the time comes.
Universities now offer a bewildering array of courses (there are over 37,000 different courses at 395 different providers) and they’re all in the business of filling their spaces to maximise income. I should imagine that University marketing budgets are bigger than they’ve ever been and they are getting more imaginative at offering students incentives – or perceived incentives – to persuade them to take a place. We’ve got good partnerships with local universities such as Aston, Birmingham, Coventry and Warwick and they are very honest and fair in giving impartial advice.
We’ll start here by getting students to research what and where. Historically Coleshill students have tended to stay within the Midlands – and that’s fine – but it’s useful to point out interesting courses at, say, Glyndwr or Lincoln University. They may be little known outposts but they may have the best courses in particular fields. Research, research, research.
Apprenticeships and training courses also have complex systems and the biggest difficulty is choosing which level to go in at. Given that A levels and BTECS are level 3 qualifications it seems perverse that so many apprenticeships on offer are level 2 and require what looks like a step backwards. So again its knowing what’s out there and doing the research which is the most important thing. Partnerships are also growing with local employers and we have strong links with, for example, Sertec, BMW and Expeditors. I was also sent a link today from the Civil Service, promoting fast track level 4 apprenticeships. These look very good:
The internet is awash with advice about Universities and Careers, but the best place to start is at the official guides from UCAS and the Apprenticeship organisations. These can be found on the following links:
There will be lots more to follow on this.
For my book this week I’m going large. This link takes you to a site which lists the best 100 non fiction books of all time. Some challenging stuff here.
And as for the six nations, it’s all about Conor O’Shea’s cleverness yesterday. Creative thinking often surprises people and it took England fifty minutes to adapt. All grist to the mill of opinion.