In February 2014 Teesside High School unveiled its brand-new Sixth Form block. This state-of-the-art, two-storey building is in a spectacular location, with classrooms overlooking the treetops of our extensive wooded grounds, and a terrace with café-seating perched above the River Tees. Inside, the look of the building combines a streamlined, modern style with the comforts of underfloor heating and the latest technology. Pupils provide their own iPad, and creative and forward-thinking teaching methods ensure these are used frequently and effectively. Classrooms are well equipped and laid out for the more informal, seminar-style of teaching and learning that best prepares Sixth Formers for university. There is a large and comfortable common room, a quiet study room, a big conference room and a well-equipped kitchen, as well as other smaller work-spaces which allow pupils to read and study in their own style. The separate identity of the Sixth Form helps High School students to feel they have graduated to a pre-university environment, where the ethos is distinctly different and expectations are high. It also works as a reassuringly self-contained base for newcomers from which to get to know the school.
Our aim is for pupils to work hard and play hard. Specialist teachers encourage small groups to make that tricky transition from GCSE to A-level by claiming responsibility for their own success, and giving effective and detailed feedback, so that mistakes and failures are part of the learning process for both teacher and pupil. Our motto means we encourage a positive and flexible outlook, and value all aspirations and ambitions, whether academic or vocational. We have a firm expectation that pupils will undertake 5 hours a day of independent study, and our dedicated tutors ensure that the highest standards of academic rigour are met. This year is producing some fine potential medics, lawyers and engineers, and a third of all UCAS applicants have unconditional offers from universities. We demand a lot from our high-fliers, and we help them rise to meet those challenges – but we are not a faceless corporate giant or an exam-factory, turning out clones whose only interest is grades and marks; we value the quirky, the individual, the original thinker and the intellectual rebel, and we help pupils channel their energies in creative and constructive directions.
In 2014 our Sixth Form won the Northern Echo’s prestigious Class of the Year award for their extensive charity work. As well as an amazing midsummer ball for leavers, we have pastoral days with outdoor team challenges and trips to ice-skate, we hold barbeques and summer parties. Sport is an integral part of the curriculum in both Upper and Lower Sixth and fosters a great spirit of teamwork and competitive drive. The two year groups make a Sixth Form that is a perfect size: big enough not to be cliquey, small enough to be friendly rather than faceless. Pupils take on responsible roles at the head of our House system, and start to make a significant contribution towards the public face and running of the school: working towards Duke of Edinburgh awards; setting up and running companies as part of the Young Enterprise Scheme; running the Debating Society; functioning as Subject Prefects; mentoring younger pupils.
As young adults, pupils are encouraged to reflect on current events and controversial issues in PSHE, to express their opinion coherently and concisely and to make themselves valuable and thoughtful members of society, capable of exercising imaginative sympathy. We realise that this is their spring-board into a hectic and sometimes chaotic adult life, and as well as developing the necessary psychological resilience to encounter the wider world, we also provide practical preparation for student life as pupils learn to cook and to balance a budget, as well as taking part in seminars led by the Police and Fire Services, and financial advisers. As the Upper Sixth prepare to move on, our highly experienced UCAS tutors guide them every step of the way; from initial university choices and Oxbridge taster day visits, to mock interviews, drafting personal statements and arranging work experience with professionals in relevant fields. We have the time and the dedication to unravel the complexity of each individual, to have those conversations, both in class and in tutor groups, which encourage and enable the kind of intellectually curious, analytically-minded, articulate individual who is engaged with contemporary thought and sympathetic with the wider world, that every university, every employer, every thinking human being will value.