The transition from Senior School to Sixth Form is a significant one; a shift away from compulsory education as a pupil, and into student life as a young adult. Parents are acutely aware that this is the launch pad for their children’s lives in the wider world, for success at university and in employment. Meanwhile, pupils are acutely aware of the degrees of freedom, the heady mix of responsibility and privilege, of finding and defining their identities and interests, that adolescence brings. Decisions can seem overwhelming.
At Teesside High School, we are aware that emotional development is not a mechanical process, people change and travel along the road to adulthood at different rates. Our ethos is to offer markers on the way, the kind of formal structure that lets pupils stop and take stock of how far they have come, what the next stage might bring, and how to plan for it. The structure we offer also allows for a glance to the horizon; often these official occasions allow individuals to reassess what their ultimate destination might be. Our outstanding pastoral care is a constant presence on the voyage too. As your child’s schoolday “parents”, their form tutors work closely with them and with you, making sure everyone is confident and at ease.
Towards the end of Year 10, students suddenly find themselves at the top of the school, as exam classes are absent on exam preparation time. At this point we gently introduce to students the future we offer; they get to explore the Sixth Form block and hear about the route through further to higher education. Right at the start of Year 11, students have an opportunity to discuss their options one-to-one with senior members of staff, who are able to advise them about choosing A-level subjects and eventual career aspirations. These conversations continue throughout the term, with form tutors offering enough guidance to allow students both to aim high and to make informed, realistic and appropriate choices.
At the end of September, more able students visit Cambridge University for a day of very helpful seminars on A-level subject choices and applications to the prestigious Russell Group universities. Before October half-term, current Year 11 pupils, newcomers from other senior schools, and their parents attend our ‘Into the Sixth Evening’. Families can speak to each subject teacher, collect informative literature, and speak informally to current A-level students about each particular course. The following day, Year 11 students get a chance to sample Sixth Form life for themselves, as they spend a day in the life of a Sixth Form student, based in our state of the art teaching block, they can eat and relax casually whilst also attending A-level lessons in a broad range of subjects. It is a great opportunity to get a feeling for some subjects offered only at A-level, like Psychology and Economics, and pupils value these taster days enormously.
As GCSEs loom, we alter our focus, offering a complete evening of seminars and a meal, themed around “Bridging the Gap” into Sixth Form. We home in on revision skills, psychological methods of building memory, the ways in which music can consolidate and enable learning, and myriad other tips and tricks for exam success. As well as beginning to suggest the rigours and demands of the A-level syllabus, we also make clear the value which universities have for independent thinking; for interest in one’s subjects beyond the curriculum. We suggest how students can develop their own intellectual curiosity. Meanwhile, social events for Year 11 and 12, like bowling and pizza, or Royal Marines assault courses and paint-balling, start to give the two year groups a collective identity as a future Sixth Form.
By the time September of Year 12 comes around, our students are confident enough not to be overwhelmed. Instead they are at ease, informed, excited for the future and eager to engage with new challenges; secure in the knowledge that from a springboard like Teesside High School Sixth Form, the world is their oyster.