Years 12 and 13 are often still referred to as the ‘Sixth Form’, as in a student being described as a ‘sixth-former’, or the final two years of school being called the ‘sixth form experience’, or their base being named ‘the Sixth Form Common Room’. This dates back to the time when ‘Form’ meant class or year-group, and the first form was the first year of secondary school, ie Year 7. Whilst we never hear about a third-former these days, we still use the term sixth-form; perhaps because it refers to the combined two years post-IGCSE, and is clearly a distinct section of the student body, often with privileges such as a different uniform or dress code.
This school year represents a first for BSY as August saw us usher in our inaugural intake of sixth-form students. They will be the first Year 13 and the first ever school graduates too. What a prospect in store for them! I had the pleasure of meeting them individually and as a group last week in an online session where everybody had the chance to outline their hopes and ambitions. The fact that we were meeting online rather defines our times, but luckily the technology allows us to chronicle such meetings and so much more.
Students were able to expand on subject choices for A Level, likely future degree courses, and possible destinations for further study. Many were keeping their options open and all were in the early stages of researching universities overseas. Throughout the IGCSE course, students are cautioned that the step up to A Level is a major one, as subject content and learning methodologies begin to mirror what will be encountered at university. So, it is hard to imagine what it must be like for our young BSY vanguards to be engaging with this process entirely online, ‘remotely’ in one sense, but very much part of a collective in another (the technology again!).
What impressed me most was the calm that I heard in voices as we talked about the challenges associated with working from home, creating study schedules and researching topics from multiple sources. It was both heartening and inspiring to hear a consistent note of steely determination as each student described how they were managing and organising their personal study regime. Students provided a couple of watch-points for Head of KS5, Mr Mycroft, and Form Tutor, Mr Cook, to pick up on in order to smooth out any glitches in accessing lessons, but overall, there was a great deal of positive feedback.
We have been told, seemingly forever, that we are preparing young learners for a future where the majority of jobs don’t yet exist, and where a typical career-path will no longer proceed in a linear fashion. The focus on skills and particularly IT skill-sets, is now before us in sharp relief. I am greatly encouraged by the adaptability being displayed by our sixth-formers and our teachers as they engage with these new-found challenges, and I have no doubt that they will continue in their quest to overcome them, come what may!