Ofsted: what a result!

by Edward Mather Oct 2, 2018

Well, we can tell the world now. We are OUTSTANDING!

It’s hard to express just how much this means to the whole team. There are some great comments in the report: ‘Leaders are highly ambitious for students in the sixth form’, ‘Leaders have a clear moral purpose and aim to be as inclusive as possible.’, but enough about me, what about everything else?

‘Outcomes for students in the sixth form are now well above the national average for students studying A-level courses, including disadvantaged students. Students studying vocational courses do equally well.’

‘Teaching in the sixth form is invariably very strong and often exemplary.’

‘As one student said: ‘At other colleges you’re a number; at Yateley you’re a person.’’

‘Teachers’ subject knowledge is a major strength of the provision and enables teachers to deepen students’ understanding through highly insightful and effective questioning.’

‘Students are proud to be part of the sixth form and take an active role in supporting other pupils. For example, they enjoy the opportunities to lead extra-curricular activities for younger pupils.’

I think that all covers it nicely!

OFSTED! Don’t PANIC!

by Edward Mather Feb 25, 2018

At the moment, we can’t talk about the result, suffice to say that we are happy with the judgement.

What I can talk about though is our students. The sixth formers who spent an hour or so with the inspectors displayed huge maturity. I wasn’t in the room, but the inspectors reported that they were incredibly impressed by our student’s eloquence, perceptive observations of the college and college life and their loyalty to Yateley Sixth Form. From experience, if I know one thing about my students, it is that they are ready to ‘tell it like it is’, so to hear how well they did makes me extremely proud of them.

I look forward to writing more about the result when it is published.

L3VA is out!

by Edward Mather Jan 15, 2018

What on earth is L3VA I hear you wearily ask? Well, it’s another one of those pesky school performance measures. This one is the Level 3 Value Added; Level 3 effectively means post-16 and value added is a measure of how far you move students on from average performance. Value added presumes that students will make natural academic progress from their previous attainment, and compares how far above or below the average progress you get.

You may be surprised to hear that the 2017 data was published this week: the Yateley Sixth Form L3VA score for academic performance plus +0.24 which places us in the top 15% of all institutions! What this means is that students do better with us than in 85% of the other places they could study.

We are very pleased with that!

Ranil Jayawardena MP congratulates Yateley Students

by Edward Mather Aug 17, 2017 REsults

We were very pleased to welcome our MP Ranil Jayawardena to help congratulate students when they received their A Level results this morning.

He spoke to a number of our students and was interested to hear about how the reformed qualifications had worked here, plus student's interest in the new apprenticeships that will be coming online over the next few months.

Read about more here: Ranil's visit to Yateley

Three or four?

by Edward Mather Jan 18, 2017 General

And…….we are back! Actually we have been back a couple of weeks, but there is exciting news:

We have decided to offer students the chance to study three subjects in year 12 (from September 17) where we have previously always insisted on four. Why such a change? You may well ask.

Actually, it isn’t that much of a change. We still believe in the power of four. Four is the strongest option for a number of reasons. Students can try out subjects and then decide which they will stop after AS and which they will continue. This gives them options and choice. It also gives them more UCAS points, if those matter to them, and many universities still like it; particularly in the sciences. If something goes awry then there is the option to reduce to three subjects.

The counter argument is that four is more work, which is true, and some students (and their parents) believe that by focusing on three the student will be under less pressure and will have more time to commit to their studies. Furthermore with the new linear A Levels, if studying three subjects, then the only big exams are at the end and that allows a different teaching approach. The new A Levels are undoubtedly harder too, so that also plays to the three is more manageable argument.

Now, most colleges are going fully linear with nearly everyone doing 3 subjects and no AS levels: and no other option (except an extended project in yr 13, which we do too.). We want to offer people choice: that’s what we do here, so students will be able to opt for three or four subjects at the start of year 12. Of course, I hope that the majority will stick with 4 as that’s the most powerful way to go forwards, but three will undoubtedly be best for others.

The biggest unknown for a student choosing three A Levels is the fact that there is no wiggle room. They must stick with those subjects, through thick and thin until the end of the course. It will therefore be extra important that the three subject students are ultra-confident in their subject choices. We will of course help with this; starting with our interviews in the coming weeks.

Regardless of this, there are times in year 12 when some students feel that they simply cannot continue with a subject. Sometimes they are correct, other times, with a bit of support they push on and do well. Pushing on is often more bearable if there s a contingency though, and Three-subjecters won’t have that. They must continue whatever. We can’t drop to two, so there is no other way.

This will undoubtedly take courage from the student and support from both college and parent. Despite what you may read in the press about ‘the youth of today’, at Yateley we seem to be lucky to have loads of spirit in our young people. They know what they want to do, and they reach out to achieve it and they will do whatever it takes. Three-subjecters: that’s the spirit!

(On a serious note: please get in touch if you would like to discuss the best option for you, or for your son or daughter. We would be very happy to help.)

The grim dark days

by Edward Mather Nov 25, 2016 General

It’s hard for students in November. The days are dark and cold. The nights more so. Christmas is still too far away and yet half term seems ages away too. Mocks are on the horizon. Not in full view yet, but certainly a looming presence. It is November days (and the other winter ones) that are the real engine-room of A Level study. These are the days of graft.

In cycling (of which I am an enthusiast) there is a saying about winter training: Winter miles bring summer smiles. This is referring to the practice of putting in long, cold, wet but steady rides over the winter to build up a good base for the fast summer rides. The ones where you glide effortlessly up hills in beautiful sunshine accompanied by just the sound of a sky-lark larking. Bliss. Even better if you cause pain in your mates legs of course. But none of that happened without the winter graft.

So, if we apply the same standard to A Levels, and you can, now is the time for the long cold miles. Not fun, but necessary. Much like a cold wet ride: it’s rarely as grim once you set of as you expect and you can really put in a good base for the joy that good summer results bring.

There. A cycling analogy. Cheered me up anyway.

Open Evening

by Edward Mather Oct 7, 2016 General

Well we have had our open evening. (If you missed it, please don’t hesitate to get in touch). If you were here, I hope you enjoyed it.

We ask our year 12s to act as guides and helpers for the evening, and they never disappoint. What a fantastic bunch we have. In my speech I was helped by three of our four head boys & girls and as usual they tell it exactly as they see it, and as usual they are impressive. How fluent and thoughtful can you be at 18? Very, it seems. Well done them.

Open evening always seems to get everyone thinking and I have been contacted by two students who moved away to other colleges asking for careers advice. Of course I will help them all I can, and it will be interesting to hear how they have been getting on. Even though they didn’t stay, I am proud that they regard our advice as valuable enough to come back to have a conversation. I have said all-along that we know our students well and really think about their long term options. We consider if the combinations of subjects we give them will really be useful; they are much more than a commodity. It does make me worry when basic advice is that hard to find, or holds insufficient confidence for students, when they are making such important decisions.

And now we start again

by Edward Mather Sep 14, 2016

So, we are at it again. I must say though, that we should do a 7 week summer break again! Marvellous (not sure too many parents will agree with that though!).

We had the pleasure of welcoming Elevate Education in to speak to our new yr12s this afternoon about time management: one of the areas that new A Level students really struggle. And they were excellent with some really good ideas. This session topped of a day of team building and such like to make sure that our year 12 are a fully integrated bunch. Of course they have our fresher’s party to look forward to in a couple of weeks. Many students underestimate the level of change in starting somewhere new. It’s quite a big deal for our students who come up from the main school, and something of a biggie for students going to other colleges. Ours don’t always realise that most school around here don’t have a sixth form, so have no choice but to leave. As a result I hear stories of readymade groups simply continuing at the big colleges, resulting in students making fewer new friends than our do. Worth a thought.

Results Day

by Edward Mather Aug 18, 2016 General

I have written before about results day and how calm it is these days. This year proceeded on the same path. We are proud to note that everyone who wanted places got to university: a couple needed clearing but that is all. As ever we sent people off to a huge range of institutions including Cambridge to study a massive selection of subjects including medicine and nursing.

So once again: good luck to you all Yateley-2016ers.

Within this it is interesting to note the national trends with no apparent change caused by the new AS levels aside from a large drop in entries. It will be interesting to see what happens next year with a large number of schools and colleges having had no experience of the new qualifications diving into A Levels.

We survived our Prom.

by Edward Mather Sep 22, 2016 General

So, it’s all finally over. Or at least it is for our lovely year 13 of 2016. The final exam passed on the 28th of June and on Friday night we had the pleasure of our sixth form prom. I was very proud of our leaving year 13s. They looked fabulous; sophisticated and elegant. What a splendid set of young men and women they are. They had dressed up, but certainly not in the year 11 prom mien, and let their hair down in a most enjoyable and convivial fashion. Yateley students are unusual in their willingness to be themselves and to let others do the same. But this in no way stopped the revelry.

And it’s at these events (particularly after they have been to a ‘before party’) that you really find out what they think. It’s great to hear the students real plans and to talk to them about the excitement of moving on. Many talked about having had a great time with us and they are sad to be leaving. Everyone I spoke to was full of praise for our sixth form and were universally pleased to have been part of such a tight knit group. It felt like the proper farewell that a sixth form prom is meant to be; it was one of those occasions where you could tangibly feel one era closing and another opening.

But talk to students in the cold light of day about leaving school and essentially being a ‘grown up’ and you find that the excitement is certainly tempered by an understandable nervousness. It’s a big world out there and whilst it is certainly true that there is more opportunity than ever for those able to grasp it that also makes for a daunting prospect for many. I know that they will be ok, we have spent a lot of time preparing them as best we can, and it will be very interesting to see who ends up doing what and where.

Good luck Class of 2016; you have been a great bunch.

Entry requirements are good!

by Edward Mather Jun 20, 2016 General

Transition. It’s everywhere at the moment. Our year 12s and 13s are on the cusp of the full exam season, and we are already turning attention to year 10 and starting to prepare them for making sixth form choices. Yesterday was out Year 10 Taster Day. During the day the whole year group pretend to be sixth formers and enjoy a day of sixth form lessons. The get to have their minds blown by psychology, or find their inner creative in photography. In the evening we host the parents for our pre-open evening to explain the process to them too.

One of the areas that it is hard to convince students of is the fact that, for the first time for many, if they don’t get the GCSE grades for a post 16 course the answer will just be ‘no, you cant do that course’. Students find it hard that there is no way around this, and to be fair it is really the first time for them that there are no second chances.

Of course entry requirements are there for a reason and it is certainly the case that ‘the right student on the right course’ is the most important principle of all in terms of post 16 planning. Some courses are just tough, and students need to be of a certain level to cope.

Which leads us inevitably onto A Level reform. Heads of Department are reporting that the new A Levels are much harder than the ‘old’ ones, and we will know more once we receive this summer’s AS results. Many colleges are abandoning AS altogether and only entering students for three, but this still seems to short change the student. Who can argue against four qualifications being better than three? There is certainly money to be saved by cutting students down to three subjects, but is that in the student’s best interest? Time will tell. Interestingly I have already had some year 11s saying they will go to another college if I ‘make them do 4 subjects’ on the basis that others only enter them for three. It makes me wonder what they have been told about the rationale behind it all. Let’s just avoid a race to the bottom in this one.

CAMHS referrals: by us!

by Edward Mather May 16, 2016 General

Returning to a theme from January, we have been thinking about our student’s mental health again. We can now refer students to CAMHS (an NHS mental health service for young people) rather than their GP having the exclusive right to do that job, but it leaves me wondering where it will all end. It’s great that we can refer, we have plenty of uptake for our counsellor that we employ each week, but are we really qualified for this? And what does it say about our student’s ability or willingness to access their GP if it is left to a school to judge their need for mental health help?

As of yet we haven’t had cause to refer, we usually encourage parents to have that involvement with the family doctor, and so far they have been glad of such a recommendation. Let’s see what happens when that time comes, and hope that parents support us in our referrals. Complicated times indeed.

Easter relief, for now.

by Edward Mather Apr 13, 2016 General

Ah. The Easter holidays. Spring bliss. A now retired colleague of mine once commented that the summer holidays gave one a glimpse of what life should be like. Very true indeed when compared to the mayhem of a senior job in a school. But the Easter holidays are also like a deep inhalation before the full fury of the summer exam period hits. Surf fans may remember a film called Big Wednesday. The film is set in the heyday of surfing with one of the main protagonists being sent to fight in the Vietnam War (The others avoid the draft by variously faking madness, disability and far right political tendencies). In the scene depicting the night before his departure his closest friends spend the night with him watching TV, drinking and avoiding the subject on everyone’s mind, until when dawn breaks, he has to go. The air of resignation towards the unknown is tangible. And so it will feel for students when they return for the final push to exams. It can be a great relief to actually start on the tests which have been anticipated for so long.

Headspace

by Edward Mather Jan 4, 2016 General

One of the things that we are very aware of is the pressure that many of our young people face at the moment, and for a significant number this can lead to anxiety and stress, which in turn, for some, leads to further problems and even mental illness. Mind you, I believe that current estimates put the chance of any one of us developing some sort of mental illness during our lifetime at about 25%. So perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised. One thing is certain though, it does seem to be on the up.

In response to this, as well as having our own counsellor for students to use if they need to, we are developing some resilience and anxiety training in our tutorial sessions. I think that as adults we all know that it is part of the human condition to have times when you feel anxious or nervous, and we need to equip our young people to deal with this day-to-day stress and anxiety.

For my own part, after talking to a few friends I have been trying a bit of mindfulness: my job is not without its stress! I’m good company apparently with everyone from Michelle Obama to various MPs having a go. And it’s very interesting. Early days at the moment, but I have spent 10 minutes a day for the last two weeks or so thinking about breathing and the body’s natural sensations. I use an app called Headspace where an ex-monk called Alex talks you through it all. It is certainly very relaxing and contains interesting ideas about how there is a background of calm in the brain much like a blue sky waiting behind the clouds, and the training is to do with revealing that blue sky which is always there. We will see how I progress, but I will be talking to students about that, and our recently re-started yoga sessions; oddly these are more popular during exam season. Can’t think why...

Ofsted II

by Edward Mather Dec 16, 2015 Announcement

The Ofsted report is in, and they like what we do here. Please indulge me a few quotes from the report:

The 16–19 study programmes are good. They meet learners’ needs well. The effective head of sixth form monitors learners’ progress on their chosen pathway closely.

Teaching in 16–19 study programmes is effective. In most classes, teachers make it very clear what academic vocabulary learners need to use and in what context to use it. Teachers provide learners with helpful tactics to assist them in achieving high marks in A-level examinations.

The school’s sixth form meets the needs and aspirations of its learners well, whether they plan to go on to university or enter immediately into the world of work. It provides a suitably wide range of A-level courses, as well as a smaller number of vocational options. These are overseen by the effective head of sixth form who maintains a relentless focus on ensuring learners make good progress towards meeting their challenging targets.

The sixth form is caring and nurturing. The leader makes sure learners in difficulty receive as much help as they need to succeed in their studies. Consequently, sixth formers are strong role models for younger pupils and help to run societies and additional activities. They behave well and exhibit high levels of maturity.

These are just a few of the things that the inspectors enjoyed, and I am delighted that they felt the same as we do about the importance of looking beyond just the academic side of things. As we say very often, if you head off to do the wrong sort of thing when you leave, you have wasted your time.

All in all; well done Yateley Sixth Form.
(if you would like to read the report in full it can be found on the main school website.)

Ofsted

by Edward Mather Nov 28, 2015 Announcement

So we had a visit from the inspectors this week: and a brutal couple of days it was. We don’t know the result yet, but I was pleased to be able to talk through one of the lead inspectors through everything that we do here. I had two sessions, the first really all about the numbers and the second was to do with what we try to do and how we try to get there.

It was interesting being under the microscope and was interesting to see which aspects of sixth form life the inspector was most keen to talk about. Aside from the results (she seemed happy with those) we spent lots of time talking about the wider aims of post-16 education. She seemed to like our work on ensuring Yateley is inclusive, and we have students who champion and are vocal about the rights of minority groups such as the LGBT community but also in terms of student aspiration and the very wide range of destinations that Yateley leavers go to. We send people to do all sorts of things, from Russell Group Unis (15 different institutions in the last two years) through to apprenticeships and work based futures. It all felt positive, let’s hope the result is such!

Open Evening: Thursday 24th September. 7.00pm – 9:00pm

by Edward Mather Sep 24, 2015 Announcement

Yateley Sixth Form is a place where students develop academically but also, it’s a place for them to discover who they are and where they want to be in the world. When you first set foot in our Sixth Form you will be overwhelmed by the friendly atmosphere. Where else can you pop in and chat to the Boss about university plans or big ideas? Tutors know their tutees, their plans and ambitions. Teachers care about their Sixth Formers.

At Yateley we take pride in the individual care of our students; we play to their strengths and support any weaker areas. Whatever the goal, university, an apprenticeship or a job, we know that admissions tutors and employers will pick the well qualified and interesting over the simply qualified every time. We support our Sixth Formers to develop their interests and passions. Because we aren’t huge we really know all of our students, and can provide genuine personalised provision. But we are large enough to be vibrant, exciting and offer some of the most impressive facilities in the area.

The result of all of this? Outstanding pass rates and great results. This summer over 70% of our year 13s went off to university, everywhere from Cambridge to Winchester to study an amazing array of courses from medicine to agriculture and art.

We hope you like the sound of our offer; please come and visit during our open evening, or pick up the phone to make an appointment for a tour.

Southampton Solent University

by Edward Mather Sep 14, 2015 General

I had the pleasure of a tour of Southampton Solent University yesterday, and I have to say I left feeling inspired by everything they do there. Universities are like anything else in life. There is tremendous rhetoric about who is best and which course is most advantageous, but the reality is that there is no one size fits all.

An increasing number of students are becoming inspired to study at university, which I firmly believe is a great thing. But quite a few baulk at the cost of it all, particularly those who have little family history with this sort of thing. It’s easy for graduates to extoll the virtues of a university education, but it can be alien and distant to students who have never really heard about it. In particular these often much more value-savvy individuals ask: ‘what will I get for my money?’. Heresy to ask such a question at some institutions, but one that is squarely embraced and taken on by Southampton Solent. In particular their range of courses is firmly vocational. And I mean this in the best possible way.

We were shown around by two supremely capable student ambassadors who could not have been more proud of their university, and could not have been more positive about their futures. Why? Because working with industry is central to everything that they do. Our guides were studying football studies and multimedia journalism and both had already gained lots of experience in the workplace. The sports faculty housed equipment so good it’s used by premiership teams when they can get in there, and the media course is taught in a fully-fledged news room. Great stuff.

While I have no doubt that not everyone would be happy with the status of Southampton Solent I am quite sure that for students wanting to use university as an assured route to interesting and challenging vocational course, and who see as on-the-job readiness as a crucial part of it all, Southampton Solent would be hard to beat.