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!
Half term might be on the horizon but there’s still lots going on and we have a busy week ahead, The response from Kingsbury students was superb and I’m visiting their school on four afternoons this week to chat further to prospective students about their subject choices. It’s always an interesting balance between doing subjects you love, subjects you can be successful in and subjects which will lead you to your next step in a career or Higher Education. There are still some bizarre myths about what combinations are best at A level and that’s why these conversations are so important.
Here at Coleshill we have had our first group of students complete their introduction to coaching course. The response from the students was great and they told me that the GROW model gives them an excellent framework, not only for having developmental conversations with others but also for framing positive self - talk. Of course I tweeted about it and have had retweets from a Professor of Coaching Psychology in the UK and also from coaching professionals in Australia and the US. There must be something in it!
We’ve also had great success in the Biology Olympiad where students compete against other schools to show off their scientific skills. Elena and Jess did fantastically well to pick up bronze medals, the first that the school has won.
On Wednesday we’re welcoming the Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service to give their talk about road safety for new drivers. Statistics tell us the grim truth that 17 -25 year olds are the most susceptible to RTAs (it’s the biggest killer in that age group) so it’s important that we get the message across as they are learning to drive. The title ‘The Fatal Four’ gives you an idea of the hard hitting nature of the presentation but it’s one that is worth enduring if it can make a difference to how young people approach driving.
I think the Arts sometimes get a rough deal in schools so I make sure that my assemblies look at films, books etc alongside the business of admin and passing exams. Last Friday was my film assembly to coincide with BAFTA and Oscar nominations and it’s clear that there are some great films out there. It would be interesting to see the latest stats about cinema attendance – how much has streaming taken audiences away from the communal experience?
QA is a term increasingly used in schools. It used to mean checking widgets and apples on the production line but for us it means checking that everything is going well in teaching, marking, assessment and so on. It sounds like an onerous process driven task but it’s really much more interesting. So, for example, this week we’ve been doing learning walks where we visit classrooms to see the great teaching going on at Post 16, we’ve been having conversations with heads of departments where we hear the stories behind the data and we check students’ books and folders to see the fabulous work they are doing. When you take it all as a piece it’s great to see students and teachers working together not just to reach the goal of an examination but often enjoying the subject for its own sake.
On to Six Nations reflection and I’m still having flashbacks to Jonathan Davies’ misplaced kick at the end of the Wales England game on Saturday. Did you know that he was born in Solihull? England will, I think, go on to break the record for consecutive wins but then there is the small matter of a trip to Dublin for the title. Every year throws up so many intriguing games. What a tournament.
This week’s book is a collection of poetry, The Unaccompanied by Simon Armitage.
Last week was fantastically busy for all sorts of reasons. On Wednesday we visited Kingsbury school to talk to their year 11 students about our sixth form provision and on Friday we welcomed eighteen Kingsbury students to a mini open day which they tell me they enjoyed tremendously. We have had a number of excellent applications from external students and I will be visiting their schools for consultations in the coming weeks. It's always great to have a number of new faces in the sixth form to bring fresh ideas and perspectives and this year looks like we could be making a record number of external offers.
Some readers may be aware of the Coleshill Grammar School Trust - a charity which supports the education of local young people. We have made a number of bids to support the growth of the sixth form and have been successful with all of them so many thanks to the trust. We will be using the money in a number of ways but the key requests were for funding to support the following:
We welcomed an ex student Leigh Trevis to address our assembly last Friday. Leigh is European Training Manager for Expeditors who are based at Hams Hall and offer Global Logistics Services. Leigh told us about his interesting route to this role, showing that young people now need to be very flexible in their approaches to employment in the 21st Century. We've also arranged for two of our students to visit the company to explore apprenticeship opportunities.
University partnerships are important too and we have events in March with Warwick University and Clare College, Cambridge. More on these nearer the time.
The six nations rugby produced some thrilling stuff, even if the quality wasn't great. England scraped through, the Scots did what they've been threatening to do for some time and the Welsh eventually found the way to the try line. Stuart Hogg is the first to nail down a Lions' place!
My book recommendation this week is 'His Bloody Project' by Graeme Macrae Burnet. It's excellent!
Schools are awash with data these days and whilst it can sometimes obfuscate more than enlighten I spent a few hours with a colleague last week looking at our latest figures. When data is looked at with a genuine understanding of a student and their particular circumstances it can help us frame the right conversations to have with individuals. It’s not just about bashing students with a relentless ‘you must do better’ either; the conversations we have are often geared towards tweaking an element of study or clarifying an ambition and how it can be reached. So this week we have lots of ‘learning conversations’ going on with all of them geared to helping students maximise their potential.
Talking of potential, last week we had the pleasure of interviewing our year 11 students who have made applications for the sixth form. It was rewarding to see the diverse abilities and talents that will be coming in to our sixth form next year and when our external students are added into the mix we can look forward to a really vibrant cohort beginning in September 2017.
I’ve been talking to local employers this week with a view to developing relationships with them. It’s not just about employment opportunities; firms can help our students get an understanding of the local and global economy and can also work with us on employability in the wider sense. We already have plans to work with a number of local employers delivering sessions to our students on things like presentational skills and selling yourself to an employer. In the summer we are holding an ‘Enterprise, employability and Universities week’ with help from our friends at the B46 organisation in Coleshill.
The whole school has been holding ‘ERIC’ (everyone reading in class) sessions every week during tutor time and we’ve decided to adopt this in the sixth form. It works on all sorts of levels but my impression is that, apart from in exams, teenagers don’t often spend twenty minutes in silence with no other distractions. Some call this mindfulness and others call it peace and quiet but whatever the nomenclature, studies have shown that it leads to better mental health. So we’ll keep doing it.
As a Welshman and a passionate follower of rubgy please forgive me if I indulge a little in the Six Nations over the next few weeks. Surely England are too good or will a reurgent Ireland and a newly confident Scotland push them all the way? Can't wait.
My book this week is Julian Barnes’ The Noise of Time.