We have always prided ourselves on our rigorous post-16 pathway process and on 27 November 2017 our Student Head Team took the lead on a new pathway event with a difference, one pioneered by students for students. As Year 11s worked their way around tables in the Examination Hall, they heard about the differences between IB and A Level courses and the benefits and demands of different subjects. But instead of Heads of Faculty or teachers delivering these important messages, it was fronted by those who know what it feels like most; the students themselves and this was all suggested and managed by our Student Head Team.
Within our Post-16 Pathway Programme there are nine separate events running from September 2017 to March 2018, all geared to give Year 11 students, and their parents, a thorough understanding of the IB and A Level pathways, plus subject specific information. In the past, this particular event has been faculty-led. Subject teachers and their Year 12 and Year 13 student representatives would present from their classrooms to a series of captive Year 11 audiences who would carousel around all the subjects.
This year, the Head Team went to the Senior School Leadership Team with some compelling reasons to change the format to an event run by students for students, without faculty staff. They had thought through how it would work, from how Year 12 and 13 student representatives would be chosen (Heads of Department would nominate) to how Year 11s would get the most out of the event, for example hosting all subjects in one room so they would be free to lead their own discovery.
The week beforehand, the Head Team attended the Year 11 assembly to brief them on what to expect, including what subjects they might want to explore that would be new to them and questions they might want to ask. The event took place during the first period on a Monday morning. Both sets of students did an incredible job – those who gave advice and those who sought it. There was a real hubbub in the room. Conversations were natural and personal with interactions quickly moving from the generic to address individual interests and concerns. Advice around assessment, difficulty, challenge and enjoyment was freely and honestly given – and accepted more readily!
"I was able to compare the different syllabuses for A Level and IB (standard and higher) within one subject table. The Sixth Form students had their laptops open and went through things with us." Elsa Bauer, Year 11
"It was great to see examples of past papers, particularly for science, and to get more in depth advice. I gained some new insight into how universities might view A Level subject choices that overlap." Zachary Davidson, Year 11.
"The English table had arranged their reading materials in a huge tower! It was an impactful way to show what would be expected of us. What helped the most was their honesty – they told us the hard parts and the good parts of what they are studying at the moment. We were able to ask questions we might not have felt comfortable asking the teachers." Maria Cucala and Elsa Bauer, Year 11.
"It led me to consider a subject I didn't know much about before – Philosophy – and a different kind of degree, PPL (Politics, Philosophy and Law)." Maria Cucala, Year 11.
"We were so impressed by the students who led the event and the enthusiasm from Year 11 about what they got out of it. And we don't think it will stop there – happier students make better progress – and I'm sure Year 11s will now feel more comfortable approaching the Sixth Form students informally for advice. It is also something we could consider, in a more structured format, for the Year 9 GCSE options process." Robert Randall, Assistant Headteacher.