Making informed choices

This term our attention has been focused on the Year 9 options process. The options evening this week was a good opportunity to meet with students and their families to discuss the choices that they are making as they seek to personalise their curriculum for years 10 and 11. As I said to the assembled parents, carers and students in the hall alongside Mrs Dawes on Wednesday evening, the aim of the whole process is to provide as much information as possible, so that students can make good decisions about their next steps.

The same philosophy governs our whole “choices” programme – whether it be advice and guidance to Year 11 students making decisions about post-16 education; or sixth formers exploring their options for higher education through universities, apprenticeships, employment or gap years; or the wider careers inspiration, advice and guidance programme that covers all our students; the aim is to ensure that our students are well-informed about their choices, so they can make the right decisions for them.

An example of this was our “Careers to Curriculum Day” for Year 9 students on the day after options evening this week. Year 9 students followed an adapted timetable to learn more about how the subjects they follow on their curriculum apply to the real world of work. From the applications of maths to climate science, the use of economics and law, the life of an actor, product design, illustration, journalism, financial trading, medical ethics and food sciences, our students got to think about how their classroom work could serve them in a future career.

This was supported by our annual Careers Convention on Thursday evening. We welcomed representatives from businesses both local, national and international to the Academy. We had employers including Airbus, GKN Aerospace, Rolls Royce and Taylor Wimpey; Civil Service Careers and HMRC; the Army, Royal Navy and Border Force; the NHS and St Monica Trust; Virgin Atlantic and Easyjet; the Met Office, Thatchers, Wessex Water, the National Grid Electricity Distribution, Burges Salmon, Motorbodies Weston and more. They were joined by further and higher education providers including colleges, apprenticeship providers, and universities with the aim of raising student aspirations, broadening their horizons, and encouraging them to think about what may be possible in their future.

Throughout their time at Churchill, students also have access to the Unifrog system. Unifrog helps young people find and apply for the best opportunities for them after school. It gives students a wealth of information and tools to use to help them navigate the array of options open to them. From interest and personality profiling, to information about a wide variety of careers and education pathways, Unifrog also gives students a space to record their wider activities to build a profile of their skills and competencies. This can help to guide them as they consider their next steps, by enabling them to reflect on what they are good at and what they enjoy – not just in their lessons, but beyond.

All this is just scratching the surface of our careers inspiration, advice and guidance programme, led by Mr Morgan and coordinated by Mrs McGonigal. We do our very best to make sure that our students’ choices about their next steps – whatever and whenever they may be – are informed, thoughtful and the best possible choice for them.

Should everyone study maths to 18?

In his first speech of 2023, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that he was looking at plans to ensure that all students study maths in some form until the age of 18. It’s fair to say that his announcement was light on detail. He did not say what this would look like; he did not say what (if any) qualification students would be studying towards; he did not say how this would be delivered. Even more worryingly, he did not say who would teach it: there is already a shortage of maths teachers nationally, and the government has missed its own target for recruiting trainee teachers (not just in maths) year on year.

His announcement also seemed to lack a rationale. Currently, students who do not get a grade 4 or above in GCSE maths are required to continue with the subject until they get the grade 4 – so these students already do maths post-16. Many students take A-level maths or further maths in the Sixth Form – it is one of the most popular subjects on offer. And still more students take Core Maths, a level 3 post-16 qualification designed to provide students with mathematical, statistics and data skills that they will need for study in most subjects and for future employment. This is a really popular option for students at Churchill to support the mathematical content of subjects such as geography, sciences, economics and others.

All of these students already take maths post-16. So, the Prime Minister can’t be talking about them. He must, instead, be talking about students who have already achieved at least a grade 4 in maths – so they have proved they have a good grasp of the subject and are able to perform at a good level – but have decided not to take it further. These are competent mathematicians who have opted not to continue with the subject, and decided to specialise in a different area instead. Why would the Prime Minister feel that this group of students should have to continue with a subject they have “passed” and decided not to take further?

There is no question that maths is important. Nobody would seriously argue that students should be able to drop maths at the age of 11, or 14. It seems perfectly reasonable that all students should study maths, English and science until the age of 16, then decide what to specialise in. There is also some logic to the idea that students who do not pass maths or English at GCSE with at least a grade 4 should continue to study the subject, as the skills of literacy and numeracy are so important to future success and underpin the ability to access so many other subjects and fields.

There will always be a point in the education journey where young people opt for a more specialised, tailored curriculum. In the English system, young people make their first options at 14 for Level 2 qualifications (including GCSE), then specialise further at 16 Level 3 qualifications (including A-levels). Lots of other countries do things differently, with greater breadth or greater specialisation at earlier or later stages. The case could be made that children in England specialise too early, and that we should carry on with a broad curriculum for as long as possible. But, if you want to gain a deep understanding of a subject, you need to spend time on it – and that means specialising. And there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything!

There are plenty of experts in curriculum giving serious thought to a better way of providing breadth and depth in our qualifications system up to the age of 18. The National Baccalaureate Trust published a report in May 2022, following a year-long consultation, with a fascinating proposal for an alternative to our current examination system. ASCL have published proposals for a passport-style qualification in English and maths to take away the cliff-edge pass/fail of GCSE grade 3 and 4 in those subjects. Way back in 2004, the Tomlinson Report proposed wide-ranging reform of 14-19 education to provide a unified framework for curriculum and qualifications – but the Labour government of the time did not have the courage to implement it. If Rishi Sunak wanted to look, there are plenty of credible, thoughtful and workable policy options out there.

I suppose we should be grateful that this Prime Minister sees education as a priority – something that has not been the case for his predecessors. We might have hoped for policies to address a consistently underfunded education system facing an existential recruitment and retention crisis, industrial unrest, serving a cohort of young people working hard to overcome the legacy of the pandemic in a fractured and frightening world where global temperatures continue to rise…but no. We got “everyone needs to do maths till they’re 18” instead. For me, it just didn’t add up.

Welcome back assembly: why our words matter

In this week’s assembly, I welcomed our students back after the Christmas break. After a quick reminder of our behaviour expectations, Mrs McKay and I focused our assembly on the key topic of ensuring that our Academy community is a safe and inclusive one.

My part of the assembly focused on the way we use our words. I was inspired by talking to our Year 11 House Captains, who said that one of the things they wanted to concentrate on during their their year in post was on language used by their fellow students which can offend, upset, provoke or disturb them. This echoed the work of last year’s inclusion and diversity group, who presented to our Trustees on the impact that micro-aggressions can have on students’ feelings of belonging and inclusion.

There are occasions when students use words deliberately to be unkind, to upset others, to provoke them, or to offend. This is always wrong. But we can also use words thoughtlessly or carelessly, and we can offend, upset, exclude or alienate others through our ignorance or lack of consideration. Perhaps we didn’t fully understand the language we were using, or its implications, or perhaps we didn’t think carefully enough before opening our mouths. We need to be clear that this is just as problematic: our words can hurt, whether we intended them to or not.

I therefore asked our students to use the “THINK” acronym above – and to “THINK” before they speak. I used a little bit of audience participation to demonstrate this principle in the assembly. A willing volunteer from the audience donned the important safety equipment, before attempting to squirt all the toothpaste out of a tube as quickly as possible (Stuart were the best at this so far, with a time of just under 7 seconds). The second part of the experiment saw the volunteers try to put the toothpaste back into the tube. This proved much more difficult.

The experiment was designed to show that squeezing the toothpaste is like blurting something out without thinking about it. It’s easy to do – the work of a moment – and actually feels pretty good in that moment! But once it’s out, there’s no putting it back, and any attempt to do so actually creates a worse mess than you started with.

It’s also important to think about the way we “speak” online. Mrs McKay has already spoken to students this year about the importance of e-safety, but we often see how people “say” things online they would never say in person. I used this quote from the film The Social Network to demonstrate this principle:

Our words – or the images, videos, gifs and emojis we post, and the posts we like, re-post and share – define us online. Employers (including schools, under new safeguarding guidance) conduct checks on candidates’ online presence, and there are plenty of examples of thoughtless online behaviour landing people in trouble – including losing their jobs.

As well as the risk to ourselves of thoughtless online behaviour, the damage to others can be significant. Words can hurt just as much – if not more – delivered online than in person, and there is a lot of evidence to suggest that people will “say” things online – often to complete strangers – that they would never dream of saying to someone’s face. This means that we should all be even more careful with our behaviour online, as you never know the damage that you could be doing.

Mrs McKay concluded our assembly with a reminder of the things we all need to do to make sure our Academy stays a safe, inclusive environment, and how we can all work together to make sure that Churchill continues to be a supportive community – for everyone.

Christmas at Churchill 2022

There are many fantastic Christmas traditions at Churchill – and this year we have added a couple of new ones into the mix! Firstly, hats off to our Hanover House Captains, who organised a whole-school non-uniform day on Monday with donations to food banks instead of money for charity. The Academy community responded with characteristic generosity, bringing in over 800kg of donations which were delivered on the same day to the Weston Foodbank Warehouse. Well done team!

Students remained focused and attentive in lessons, as we ran up towards the last day celebrations. The Sixth Form outdid themselves with their traditional fancy dress parade and revue.

The main school enjoyed celebrations and competitions within their houses, as well as making the trip to local churches for our Christmas assemblies.

The annual Headteacher’s Quiz also went down a storm – congratulations to winning tutor group SRS and the winning house: Stuart. If you fancy a go yourself, you can find the quiz here.

Merry Christmas!

Books I have read in 2022

This has been a bumper year for books! I have really enjoyed exploring new works by familiar authors, as well as some by writers new to me. Here’s my rundown of some of the titles I’ve found particularly exciting in 2022 – have you read any of them? Let me know if you do, and what you think of them – there’s very little I like more than talking about books!

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

This was a simply wonderful book! Bonnie Garmus’s novel tells the story of brilliant chemist Elizabeth Zott, battling against sexism and social prejudice in 1960s America. Along the way, she accidentally becomes a hugely popular – if reluctant – TV chef with her show Supper at Six, as well as a rower and a mother. The novel also features the most amazing canine character I’ve ever read about.

The novel deals with themes of grief, identity, and a search for truth, all in an arch, wry style which keeps a vein of light in amongst the darkness. The odds are stacked against her – but Elizabeth Zott never gives up.

Gone by Michael Grant

I love a good young adult dystopia, and Michael Grant’s Gone series had me gripped this summer. Set in the fictional town of Perdido Beach, California, the story begins when, without warning, the town is suddenly surrounded by an impenetrable dome which seals it off from the outside world. Inside the dome, every person over the age of 15 has vanished – “gone.”

What follows is reminiscent of Lord of the Flies, as the young people attempt to survive without adult supervision. But there’s a sci-fi twist, as several of the young people begin to develop strange superpowers – the ability to cancel gravity, to create visions, to heal, to teleport and to shoot light from their hands. Are the powers and the dome connected? And what lurks at the bottom of the abandoned mine?

Michael Grant doesn’t pull any punches in the pages that follow. His unflinching style takes in mental health issues, violence, religion and sex; and although it’s a young adult series, there are some horrific moments of brutality and gore. If you can manage those moments, it’s a thought-provoking, page-turning read. I enjoyed it – and devoured the other five books in the series (Hunger, Lies, Plague, Fear and Light) as hungrily as a flesh-eating caterpillar.

To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara

Hanya Yanagihara’s previous novel, A Little Life, is one of the most unforgettable books I have ever read. I was really excited to read her follow-up, To Paradise – and although I wasn’t sure what to expect, it certainly wasn’t this! The novel tells three separate stories, all set in and around the same building in Washington Square Park, in Greenwich Village, New York. The stories – set in fictionalised and imagined versions of America in 1893, 1993 and 2093 – all feature characters with the same names, weaving themes of love, loyalty and family through the ages.

It’s a novel of breath-taking ambition and scope. The characters didn’t quite land as memorably as those from A Little Life, and I found the fact that they were all called the same names a bit confusing. Having said that, the story was compelling and bold, and the sheer imagination of the invented pasts and future was staggering.

Fire and Blood by George RR Martin

I am a big Game of Thrones fan – both the books and the TV series (except the last season – the less said about that the better). I was very excited about the new House of the Dragon TV series this autumn, and stole this book from my eldest son to try and catch up on the history of Westeros from the arrival of Aegon the Conqueror, through the Dance of the Dragons and beyond.

The story is told through the voice of an imaginary maester of the Citadel, attempting to piece together the history from sources of various reliability and bias. This is almost as much fun as the story itself, with its dragonlords and warrior queens, scheming, intrigue and corruption. The narrative voice gives an extra layer of realism to Martin’s fantasy world, and you still find yourself rooting for the various horrible (and occasionally not-so-horrible) characters who live there.

I found myself reading along with the events of House of the Dragon, and enjoyed both the book and series equally fantastic.

Pine by Francine Toon

I didn’t know what to expect from this book. I didn’t know the writer (I later discovered this is her debut novel) but my daughter had read an extract and I was intrigued. I was rewarded with a spooky ghost story, coupled with a murder mystery, set in the freezing, snowy wilds of the Scottish highlands.

The story is told through the eyes of Lauren, a young girl trying to manage the trials of growing up. She lives with her father, Niall, who has turned to drink in the absence of Lauren’s mother, who disappeared a decade earlier.

Mysterious figures appear and vanish, doors lock and unlock, and stones arrange themselves into patterns. When a local teenager goes missing, the mysteries and secrets in this small rural community assume a frightening urgency.

I found this story haunting and compelling in equal measure. I’ll look out for what Toon writes next!

The Promise by Damon Galgut

I always like to see what the Booker Prize judges see in the novels on their shortlist – and especially those they choose to win each year. Damon Galgut’s The Promise was a gem of a read. The novel spans four decades as the Swart family gather for four successive funerals at their farmstead in Pretoria, South Africa. Ma Swart, the mother of the white family, makes a promise to the black woman who has served her family on her deathbed – that she will own the house and land she has lived in. As the years roll by, and South Africa changes in the background, death takes further members of the family and the promise goes unfulfilled.

The younger memories of the family, Anton and Amor, reject the old, racially segregated South Africa their white family stands for, breaking with the past with a determination to right the wrongs of their predecessors.

What struck me most about this novel was the free-flowing prose style, which flows and follows the thoughts of the characters in twisting flights of fancy and imagination. The plot frequently hangs suspended and unresolved as the characters’ thoughts take us on pages-long detours – but, in the end, it is Amor’s story that stayed with me.

The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell

Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet was one of my favourite reads of 2021, so I was really looking forward to her next novel when I unwrapped it on my birthday this September. This novel, set in Renaissance Italy, is shaped around the lady described by the callous and powerful Duke in the Robert Browning poem “My Last Duchess.” O’Farrell wonders who this Duchess might have been, how did she end up being the Duke’s “last” Duchess, and who painted this portrait that now hangs, behind a curtain, in his gallery?

The result is a compelling character – Lucrezia – herself a gifted artist, whose impassioned and ferocious inner life is rendered all the more powerful by the fact that she has to hide it to survive, before and after her marriage to Alfonso, Duke of Ferrara. She is an unreliable narrator, so you are always left wondering whether her perception of events and characters around her is accurate or not, as she is never in possession of the full picture.

I found O’Farrell’s style in this novel even more spectacular than her previous work, with the passages early in the book describing Lucrezia’s wedding some of the most stunning I have read this year. The narrative is controlled with a subtlety and deftness of touch of a true genius, the imagery is rich and layered, and I could feel the heat of the seventeenth century Italian sun beating up at me off the pages. Brilliant.

Christmas Concerts 2022

Despite the fact that my TV has been full of Christmas ads since what feels like mid-October, it’s the Churchill Academy & Sixth Form Christmas Concerts that always mark the start of the festive season for me. The tinsel-wrapped instruments, a few festive tunes and (of course!) the nativity story told in song by the massed Junior Choir all help bring the Christmas cheer. It’s the first time I allow my Christmas jumper an outing (I have a new Taylor Swift themed number for 2022!), and our Academy tree is always decked in reception once the concerts have taken place.

One of my favourite things about this year’s Christmas Concerts was the growing role of student leadership in the performing arts. The show was compered brilliantly by Year 13 students Lois and Will, and the acts included orchestras led and conducted by students, playing music arranged by students. We had a sneak preview of next week’s Year 7-9 production of Grease – the musical, which is completely led by our Sixth Form performing arts students – direction, choreography, musical direction, and organisation. I was privileged to be backstage this year, to see the backstage crew running an exceptionally tight ship under the direction of Year 13 student, Megan. And, of course, the 200+ strong Junior Choir were singing songs written by our youngest students, choreographed expertly (and enthusiastically!) by Sixth Form leaders Oliver and Mair.

Our comperes beyond compare backstage at the Christmas Concert

It wasn’t too long ago that singing in schools was limited by public health guidance, which severely disrupted our ability to run choirs and ensembles. We are delighted to see the music performance pathways opened up again, with the new Soul Band wowing the crowd and the Year 7-9 choir making a beautiful sound. Instrumental music continues to be a strength, with two orchestras, Concert Band, flute group, our Brass Monkeys brass group, a saxophone quartet, Jazz Band and the Sixth Form Band all giving great performances, alongside solos from the three finalists from the Junior Young Musician of the Year earlier this term: Lucas, Emilia and the overall winner, Olivia.

We were pleased to pack out the Playhouse for two nights – even though FIFA had scheduled the England vs Wales World Cup tie to clash with the first night – and we hope that audiences were left as uplifted and festive as our staff and students were. I’m still singing the incredibly catchy Junior Choir songs…and I’m sure I’m not the only one!

72 Weeks: going back to New College, Oxford

Over the October half term break, I was delighted to be invited back to New College at Oxford University. I studied English Language and Literature at New College between 1993 and 1996, before going on to train as an English and Media Studies teacher at Nottingham University in 1996-7.

The Chapel of New College, Oxford

New College is, ironically, one of the oldest colleges at Oxford University. Founded in 1379 by William of Wykeham, it was “new” at the time and the name has stuck!

I was invited back to record a podcast called 72 Weeks – so called because that is the average length of time it takes to study for an Oxford University degree (three terms of eight weeks over three years). The podcast brings together two people with a connection through New College, or Oxford more widely, to discuss their experiences and how it has shaped them, in the hope of “demystifying” the Oxford experience and encouraging more people, from more diverse backgrounds, to apply.

With ex-Churchill student Sarah in the gardens of New College, Oxford, October 2022

It was my great honour to record the podcast with Sarah, who successfully gained a place to read Chemistry at New College from the Sixth Form at Churchill in the summer of 2022. Just three weeks into her Oxford experience, Sarah was already thriving and getting her teeth into some serious Chemistry, as well as playing in the College Orchestra and working to start up a New College Ultimate Frisbee Team! It was lovely to hear Sarah reflecting on her first few weeks at university, as well as her time at Churchill and how that had prepared her for the experience.

Sarah (and classmates!) visiting New College in October 2019

Exactly three years earlier (almost to the day!) Sarah was part of a group of twenty three high-attaining Year 11 students that I had taken to New College to help them begin the process of thinking about university applications. We had no way of knowing, at the time, that it would be one of the last school visits we did before the pandemic hit, and that these students would not be able to sit their GCSEs the following summer. But Sarah spoke, in the podcast, about how the experience of spending the day at New College helped her to think: “why couldn’t I study here?” and to visualise herself as part of the community. The visit was one small part in helping her along the way of aiming high and putting her application in. Exceeding her offer of A*A*A? That was down to excellent teaching, a love of her subject, and buckets of hard work from Sarah herself!

One of my great driving passions throughout my career, and especially as a Headteacher, is to encourage students to aim high. The elite universities are not, and should not be, the exclusive domain of the independently educated – but the only way the balance of representation is going to shift is if more state-educated students apply. I’m delighted to say that the trends are positive, and I will do all I can to ensure that this continues.

You can listen to the conversation Sarah and I had with Daniel Powell, Outreach and Marketing Officer at New College, at the link below – or search for “72 Weeks” on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or your favourite podcast platform. I hope you enjoy listening as much as we enjoyed recording it!

Student Leadership Conference 2022

Last Friday, we held our first Student Leadership Conference at the Food Works SW centre on the outskirts of Weston-super-Mare. Following pandemic disruption, it was great to finally realise the vision of this event, which was a great success!

Lancaster House Council outside Food Works SW on our Student Leadership Conference, Friday 11th November 2022

In total, almost ninety student leaders were able to join us in the plush conference meeting rooms of the Food Works SW. On the agenda was a morning of training, to help our student leaders understand more about their role and to build their skills and confidence in delivering on their leadership ambitions. This included sessions on understanding the concept of leadership, and thinking about the best ways to bring about change, as well as training on communication skills and team building.

The afternoon session involved the House Councils working with the Heads of House to develop their plans for the year ahead. These sessions were about taking the theory from the morning and putting it into practice. What did they want to achieve? And how would they go about achieving it?

It was a full day of challenging thinking and participation, but our student leaders rose to the occasion and showed their commitment to their roles. I feel confident that, with their leadership, the Academy will continue to go from strength to strength.

Remembrance 2022: remembering to remember

This week, Mr Slater and Mr Waller have led assemblies on the theme of remembrance, reminding us of the importance of this annual act during the two minutes’ silence at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

The assembly began and ended with a reading of John McCrae’s famous poem, In Flanders Fields, with its poignant plea from “the dead”:

To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
        In Flanders fields.

We were reminded of how Remembrance Day, and the two minutes’ silence, began in 1919 to remember those who had lost their lives in the First World War. Since then, the act of remembrance has expanded to include all those who have sacrificed in conflict, so that we may continue to live in freedom.

The poppy itself was a symbol of peace, as the bright red flowers began to grow from the churned up lifeless battlefields of France and Belgium within days of the ceasefire in 1918. Mr Slater and Mr Waller reminded us of the work of the Royal British Legion, who are supported through the purchasing of poppies for remembrance. The Legion supports former members of the Armed Forces and their families to cope with the impact of their service, which can often be life-changing. Their work, in support of those who served, and their families, is truly remarkable.

We were also reminded to remember those who are sometimes forgotten – those non-white, non-British servicemen and women who gave their lives for our country in the two World Wars. These people made sacrifices for a country they had often never been to, thousands of miles away, so that we can live in freedom today. For example:

  • Tens of thousands of East Africans were drafted into a non-combatant Carrier Corps to support the British campaign against the Germans in Africa during the First World War. By October 1917, almost 29,000 of them had died.
  • A South African Native Labour Corps provided some 70,000 personnel for service in both Africa and Europe, 616 of whom died when their ship, the Mendi, sank following a collision in the English Channel on 21 February 1917.
  • During the Second World War, some 90 West Indian men serving as aircrew with the RAF were decorated for bravery, including 64 DFCs and 7 DSOs
  • 90,000 West African soldiers travelled more than 6,000 miles to fight in the Burma campaign against the Japanese in WWII
  • By the end of the Second World War the Indian Army, with a strength of over 2.5 million, had become the largest volunteer army in history, and had served on three continents

W e also reflected on those who make sacrifices for us today, in peacetime. The heroic healthcare workers who saw us through the COVID-19 pandemic; the armed forces and emergency services who turn out whenever there is need; those volunteers who give their time and energy to help make our communities better places. You don’t have to give your life for your effort to be remembered.

Finally, our students were asked to think about three things as they mark the two minutes’ silence on Friday:

  • Think of something/someone who has sacrificed something for you
  • Think of something/someone who has sacrificed something for this country
  • Think of something/someone who has sacrificed something for our world

Thank you to Mr Slater and Mr Waller for a really powerful assembly. This remembrance day, who or what will you remember?

The School Sixth Form

I attended an 11-18 school, where the Sixth Form was a natural extension of the main school. At the end of Year 11, it was a smooth transition for me to straight on to the Sixth Form: I knew the teachers, I knew the school, and my friends were all staying on. It made sense!

When I moved into Year 12, however, I was struck by how different the experience felt. The relationship with the teachers shifted significantly: there was still a clear professional respect, but somehow it felt more personalised and connected. The only teacher from my school days that I am still in touch with (thirty years later!) is my A-level English teacher.

I also found a new niche in the Sixth Form as a student leader, working with groups of younger students both in English but also in Drama, where I ended up in charge of the technical theatre team to design and operate lighting for school productions. Whilst I had already been interested in teaching, this experience of working with younger children to help them achieve and deliver a project together really firmed up my career plans.

This is why, in my teaching career, I have always taught in 11-18 schools which have a Sixth Form attached to them. There is something about the presence of the Year 12 and 13 students in the school community that creates a tangible sense of destination and aspiration for our younger students: the Sixth Formers are positive role models. And, for the Sixth Formers themselves, there is that sense of the familiar but also the distinctly different that provides a natural extension of their 11-16 education, on the same site and with the same staff, but seen through a new lens.

There is also the added incentive of A-level teaching, which I have always found fulfilling. The depth, breadth and challenge of the additional subject knowledge required to teach at advance level brings additional subject expertise to the faculty. I have always found that this strengthens the teaching in the main school, as teachers know and teach the next steps beyond GCSE, enabling further stretch and challenge.

We are really proud of our Sixth Form at Churchill. As with the main school, we put achievement at the heart of our provision – but we recognise that an education is about more than just the exam results. That is why the wider offer which being part of a school can provide – leadership and enrichment opportunities, involvement with the community, and the extended curriculum – is so important to us, and such a strong feature of our Sixth Form. The video below really captures how our Sixth Form students feel about this:

2023 Sixth Form Video

We are a Level 3 Sixth Form, offering A-level or equivalent qualifications. The minimum entry requirement to get into Churchill Sixth Form is at least three GCSEs at grade 5 and above and at least two GCSEs at grade 4 and above. Many of the courses also have subject-specific entry criteria. We strongly believe that the vast majority of our main school students can reach the threshold to access this provision, but we also recognise that there are other destinations locally which provide strong alternatives. We provide detailed careers and application advice for students interested in progressing to colleges or other providers for vocational, technical and other post-16 offers: our primary interest is ensuring that students get to the right destination for them. However, if students meet the entry criteria and want to study A-levels or the other Level 3 qualifications we offer, we believe that there is no better place to do it than at our Sixth Form.

This week, our current Year 11 students have had a taster experience on our “Be A Sixth Former For A Day” programme, ahead of our Sixth Form Open Evening next week. We would urge all Year 11 students – whether they currently attend Churchill Academy & Sixth Form or not – to come and find our what our Sixth Form has to offer. We look forward to seeing you!