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!
So to the last blog of the year and there’s still so much going on. Last Friday we had the Year 13 Ball at the Lea Marston Hotel and whilst it was something of a bijou affair, great fun was had by all. It is rumoured that the head of sixth form was seen on the dance floor.
On Monday we visited Pinewood Technology and had a tour of their headquarters and sessions with some of their employees. It’s fascinating for our students to see and hear the stories of young people in the early stages of their careers. We spoke to those who had left school at 16 and worked their way up, those who had moved from further afield in the UK, those who had worked at Pinewood on a placement year from University and one who came to study from Lithuania and found her dream job. It’s a really modern company with some great schemes to support their workforce and it looks a great place to work. The message to our students is that flexibility is one of the key attributes in the modern work place; Pinewood might be essentially a deliverer of IT but it employs people with a wide variety of skills from HR to marketing to project management and so on.
This week we are holding elections for Head Boy and Head Girl with everyone in the school having a vote. Students have been in assemblies outlining their vision and we are guaranteed to have a superb senior team in year 13 next year leading on all aspects of school life and having a particular responsibility in heading up the House Councils. Good luck to whichever girl and boy secures the most votes and has the honour of leading the student body of the school.
And so to summer. I’d like to wish all readers of the blog a happy summer holiday whatever they are doing. But I couldn’t leave without recommending a book or two and to make it easy I’m putting a couple of links below. Have a good one.
Last week we were treated to a day’s workshop with Lorna D Sheldon (www.lornadsheldon.com) who worked with our students on presentation and communication skills. Following a general presentation students were split into teams and given a challenge to create a new product out of a box of odds and ends. It was like a strange hybrid of Dragons’ Den and The Apprentice and the students’ efforts were remarkable in their imagination and innovation. Lorna rewarded some of the best performers with an invitation to attend one of her courses in Lichfield and we will be taking this offer up.
On Friday we had visitors from Pinewood (www.pinewood.co.uk) a technology company based on the Birmingham Business Park. Our students showed a great deal of interest in their Academy system – their own training and development scheme – and we are paying them a visit next week so that students can see the day to day operations of the business.
We’re just putting the last bits and pieces of planning together for our Outward Bound week in September. I’m really looking forward to the train journey which goes direct from New Street to Aberdovey through some wonderful countryside. This will be an education in itself with lots of interesting landforms and wildlife on the way. I have a particular interest in the Red Kites of Mid Wales and hope to point out a number of them from the train! They are a great success story having almost been persecuted to oblivion. In Shakespeare’s time they were a common sight over London and he wrote, "When the kite builds, look to your lesser linen’’ because of their habit of stealing clothes from washing lines.
We’ve also got the leavers’ ball (I still refuse to use the ‘P’ word) to look forward to on Friday where we are guest of the Lea Marston Hotel. I always look forward to seeing the staff throwing their shapes on the dance floor and it gives the students much amusement. It’s always a great occasion and a lovely way to say goodbye and good luck to our year 13 leavers.
I feel a little guilty for not having made any book recommendations recently so will dedicate next week’s blog to my summer reading recommendations.
The highlight of last week was our induction day where we try to give our year 11 students a taste of what life in the sixth form is like. And it’s not just Coleshill students; we were delighted to host 15 students from other schools who have expressed an interest in joining us and we believe that this figure might nudge up to 20 or so before September. The Coleshill word is spreading.
To add to this we will have 40+ students from the Deon Burton Academy joining us and they will be having their own induction session in a week or so.
These are exciting times for the school and especially for the sixth form and our next challenge will be to plan for when our numbers at post 16 top 200. It won’t be long.
The transition to sixth form is a particular interest of mine and I’m not convinced that we have a system which makes it easy. The nature of GCSE teaching has changed a great deal in recent years and the focus is much more clearly and obviously on specific exam passing knowledge and techniques. Spreading yourself over 9 or 10 subjects is really tough and it’s inevitable that some of this learning isn’t always as deep as we would like.
We know that this is the case yet some schools, teachers, parents and even the students themselves assume some that kind of existential transformation takes place in the ten weeks of students doing next to nothing remotely academic over their summer break. And just like we are told that year 6 regress at the beginning of year 7 I’m sure a decent piece of research would say that year 11 have lost brain power by the time they start year 12. They haven’t lost it entirely of course but they are just not match fit!
So what do we do about it? The first thing that we do is give students summer work for the subjects they will be specialising in – nothing too strenuous or off putting - and the main thrust in the first weeks of September is to deliver subject specific induction covering exactly how to study for the particular subject, how to take notes, how to structure an essay and so on. The other trick is to encourage and nurture independent learning and there are lots of ways of doing this. One good place to start is to see what’s out there already which is why I always promote the BBC Radio 4 website in particular. For Scientists there’s The Infinite Monkey Cage which is a pretty irreverent look at topical science stories, for English students there’s Word of Mouth for Psychologists there’s All in the Mind, for Sociologists there’s Thinking Allowed and for the Mathematicians there’s a great series called The Story of Maths. And that’s just scratching the surface…and I haven’t started on TED talks yet.
Anyway, my point is that we need to use every method we can to get students enthused about the subjects they are taking otherwise it can be a rather dry plod through a specification. After all, the subjects were chosen because students like them and are good at them!
I can’t go without mentioning the epic Lions game last Saturday morning against the All Blacks. Sets it up nicely for next week – don’t be too late for Open Morning!