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!
Last week we spent a lot of time talking with every year 12 student about their mock performance and their early plans for what they will be doing when they leave in a year’s time. It was time well spent and students are really good these days at reflecting on performance and on how they can reach their goals. These conversations are a regular feature of students’ lives at Coleshill and I like to think of them as following the best features of coaching – something I have alluded to in previous blogs.
When I was in the sixth form it was simply assumed that I would go to a good university and of course the local authority gave me money to do it! I remember my English Professor saying how privileged we were to be, in effect, paid to follow our passion for three years.
Of course it’s tempting to compare education across the five decades that I’ve been involved as a student and a teacher but it is usually a fruitless task because without the cultural context it’s meaningless. And of course we live in a very different culture from the 70’s when I went off to Uni.
Whatever the case, I know that students today have a lot of difficult decisions to make about their future and that we measure what they do in exams more than ever. I also know that they get a lot of individualised support (a little blast from my past is that Jeremy Corbyn’s mum was my careers’ teacher and she handed me my UCCA form!) and that they need thsi because they have a bewildering array of choices. We will support them through these decisions with a first class programme of research and advice.
But the big event of the week was the leavers’ assembly for year 13.They have been a very special year group and we wish them all the very best as they disperse after the summer in a number of directions; some to University, some into apprenticeships and some directly into employment. A regular feature of my contributions to final assemblies is the baby picture slideshow. I ask parents to send me in the cheesiest pics they can find of their offspring as babies and toddlers and we have a giggle trying to guess who during the assembly. It’s clear that parents enjoy getting their own back for the years of pubescent and adolescent tantrums. Thank you.
Enjoy the pic below of the smiley (for the most part) leavers who, as I reminded them, are taking so much potential out there. And remember the chances are one in four hundred trillion. Ask your progeny - they will know what this means.
Last week we had our Higher Education and Employment Progression week. I suppose it’s a fancy title for what is in fact a week where students start seriously researching the next step of their development.
I was really impressed with year 12’s focus and interest; it’s quite easy to switch off at these events and mentally put your feet up after a week or two of exams. It’s great to see students becoming motivated by thoughts of their future and it makes their studies so much more real and relevant. When you know you have to achieve ABB to get into the university of your choice, study takes on a slightly different dimension. I often ask students to imagine what their doppelganger might be doing in, say, Leighton Buzzard. They want that same university place so what will you do better during the year to make sure it becomes yours?
But it’s no good just concentrating on the University sector when so many students are considering apprenticeships or training of some kind. As a school we work closely with B46 - a partnership of Coleshill businesses – to give students an understanding of the career opportunities locally. Last week we worked with Marie from Academy Training Services and Abhi from 3Twenty to give our students an insight into some of the skills the employers say that they want from school leavers. Students had a fascinating set of workshops which dealt with, inter alia, your social media profile, networking to help you progress, developing your potential, planning the next year and recognising your strengths. I’d like to thank everyone involved for making the week such a success.
We’re pretty much back to normal now with year 12 who have five weeks of normal lessons to begin getting stuck into the second year content of their A levels. Each student will have a one to one interview this week to reflect on their mocks and support their planning for what will happen beyond Coleshill.
As for year 13, they've been getting on with their final exams with a noticeably calm sense of purpose. We've remarked upon how measured they've been and can only hope that this means that everything has gone well.
They have their final assembly on Friday of this week which is always a poignant but happy occasion. How time flies!
I have to start with the news that Ian McEwan is on form with his latest novel ‘Nutshell’. Its narrator is an unborn child who hears everything going on in his parents’ lives and the result is by turns hilarious and terrifying. Think of the theme as a modern Hamlet. Irresistible!.
Thoughts in year 12 turn this week to planning for the future. We’ve got a HE and employment focus which has so far include a visit to the UCAS convention and an introduction to the UCAS process. We’ve got local universities and businesses visiting and by the end of the week our students will be well prepared to start getting serious about their applications.
We talked a good deal about the myths and legends of applications and it’s good to know that students are already planning open days this term. I’ve also seen students who used the UCAS convention superbly in finding institutions and courses which they didn’t know existed but which could turn out to be the perfect match for them. I always set students the task of finding the most obscure courses and this year has thrown up Baking Technology Management, Circus and Physical Performance, Viticulture and Oenology and The Beatles, Popular Music and Society.
I point students towards the UCAS website for most of their research and it’s brilliant for parents too but there’s nothing better than visiting a place in which you may spend three years or so.
In any case, check out the dedicated UCAS channel at:
It’s got a video on just about every conceivable topic to do with the process of applying to University.
I was really impressed with the students’ response to our talk from a member of staff from The University of Leicester. Well - mannered students are always good at giving the impression of listening but this group not only listened but also acted immediately on the advice. By the end of the same afternoon all the students who had been in the presentation had registered with UCAS and begun their applications. In all my experience this has never happened before. Well done year 12!