Despite the infamous line from one of our senior politicians that “people in this country have had enough of experts”, it was a real pleasure to host a visit from Mike Nicholson last week.
Mike is the Director of Student Recruitment and Admissions at the University of Bath, having been the Director of Undergraduate Admissions at the University of Oxford for 8 years before that, and in a similar role at University of Essex for 8 years before that. He is an engaging speaker and, you might say, a real expert in his field. He was at Truro School to talk to our Sixth Form team and tutors about the current university landscape and I was delighted to use the opportunity to host teachers from other schools and academies in the area.
What took me a little by surprise were Mike’s comments about the growing need for what he called Student Transition Services. Too many students, many with strings of A grades, are simply not ready for the demands of university life; they can’t cook, they don’t know how to budget, not sure how to do their laundry, and not able to recognise their need to engage with the university counselling service for support and guidance. My chat with Mike left me feeling reassured because, over the years, we have been steadily enhancing our sixth form offering such that our school leavers are best positioned to be the ones offering peer counselling services, not seeking them.
Mike’s visit came shortly before the release of the Department for Education’s league tables which position Truro School Sixth Form as the leading co-educational A-Level provider in Cornwall for both the average grade received and percentage of students achieving AAB or higher in at least two facilitating subjects. I am very delighted with the results but strongly believe that what we offer at Truro School is much more than a statistic. The aim of our Sixth Form is to provide students with a balanced education; one that considers academic environment as important as character development and personal support (as illustrated by the diagram below).
Most of our sixth formers undertake our in-house delivered 16-week peer counselling programme known as ACHE (Advice, Care, Help, Empathy). This helps them to develop skills to better discharge their responsibilities as prefects and role models, but perhaps the greatest benefit is to themselves, their sense of self-awareness and self-worth. Added to this, all of our sixth formers learn to cook in our amazing new cookery school, are taught the rudiments of managing a budget, basic first-aid and other life skills. It is also our mission to ensure that every student who leaves school has a healthy relationship with physical exercise as an essential part of a balanced lifestyle.
This year we introduced vertical tutoring into the sixth form, mixing lower and upper sixth form groups. Judging by the busy use of the sixth form common room by the whole cohort, this has certainly helped to create a convivial sense of community. It is also right that sixth form school life achieves a good balance between structure and freedom, the latter so craved by 17 year olds, the former so needed for their wellbeing. To this end, giving students a chance to express their preference for the form tutor who would be a mentor over the two years has been a popular move.
I’m inclined to continue taking advice from experts as we seek to be ever more effective in providing a springboard to the future for each individual.