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A step in the right direction

Sixth Form is an exciting journey into adulthood that goes far beyond passing exams

At the start of September, it is wonderful to welcome back 5th formers as Lower 6th Form students.  They walk with an extra spring in their step as they know they are on the threshold of adulthood.  Dressed in newly purchased suits, thrilled to be out of uniform and ready to navigate the transition to 6th Form. The students sense that they are entering a defining two years in their lives and it is our job to help them grasp all the opportunities that 6th Form life has to offer.

In recent years our Senior Leadership Team and Head of Sixth Form have looked more closely at our 6th Form experience and explored in more depth what our wider aims for our 6th formers should be.  Naturally, gaining an excellent set of A-Level grades remains a central outcome, but these final two years brings into clearer focus what kind of young men and women we want our students to be when they leave us and join wider society.  Everything we do is aimed at helping them become rounded characters with an inner self-confidence but an outward modesty and resilience to make a positive difference in the world. 

We believe that it is through the choices we make that our characters are defined and this has influenced our recent decision to change our timetable so that the academic curriculum is delivered Monday to Friday.  This frees up Saturday mornings for pupils to become inquisitive learners, to go off-piste educationally and to challenge themselves and develop their characters.  We offer a programme of courses and clubs that spark new interests, explore creativity and consolidate learning.  We look to our 6th formers to initiate ideas, run clubs in their areas of interest and enthuse younger pupils.  It is incredibly empowering, not to mention impressive when written up on a UCAS Personal Statement.  Recent examples of pupil-led initiatives include launching a school radio station, holding improvisation evenings, starting an Amnesty Club and pulling together a War Memorial fundraising group.

We also champion ‘pupil voice’ here at Lord Wandsworth College.  Listening to the views of pupils is important at all ages but none more so than at 6th Form.  They genuinely have a chance to change the direction of the school and are included in many decisions from lunch menus to social media policies.  We have been impressed with the thoughtfulness and consideration they have shown and never regret including them in discussions.  

We try to combine a sense of university study within the supportive environment of a thriving College.  Students have the chance to socialise and work in a dedicated 6th Form Centre at the heart of the College.  This forms the hub of 6th Form life - there is a large social area with an open plan kitchen, a TV room and a quiet work room upstairs. There are social committees and a range of prefect bodies and house systems to foster leadership and friendship across all the years.  6th formers also have the opportunity to be involved with Duke of Edinburgh Award Schemes, the Combined Cadet Force and Community Action in the local area.

Our focus from the very start of Year 12 is to prepare our 6th formers to leave us.  Our Careers Department plays a vital role in helping them identify individual goals and make decisions about their future.  We hold our own annual Careers Fair where all students have the opportunity to discuss a vast range of possible careers in more detail.  Visiting speakers are invited every fortnight to address the 6th Form as part of our Prideaux Society.  We also offer the Extended Project Qualification to help pupils extend their study skills and enhance their overall academic profile and better prepare them for higher education and employment. 

One of the clearest indicators that 6th form life is flourishing is when a student feels suitably empowered and confident enough to deliver an assembly to their peers about something that they are passionate about. None have been more impressive than the one delivered recently by a L6th Form boy during Anti-Bullying Week, where he shared with his 6th form peers the reality of wrestling with his sexuality and sense of identity.  It was incredibly honest, moving and more powerful than anything that a member of staff could have said.  I could not help but reflect that we must be getting something right to engender an environment where he felt able to talk so openly and for the talk to be received so respectfully and supportively by his fellow students.  It was 6th Form leadership, pupil voice and self-discovery personified in one ten-minute compelling talk by a very special young man.