Headteacher column: Students make important decisions

Pocklington School headmaster Mark Ronan.
Pocklington School headmaster Mark Ronan.

Many of us are grappling with new challenges at this time of year, whether it’s that new healthy eating plan or New Year’s resolutions which are testing our resolve.

But spare a thought for our 15 and 16 year-olds, who are not only gearing up for serious study ahead of their GCSEs this summer, but also have to make important decisions about their future.

Pocklington School's Open Morning takes place on Saturday 30 January.

Pocklington School's Open Morning takes place on Saturday 30 January.

The subjects they study at sixth form, and the place they choose to study them, will help shape their future careers. In some ways it’s an exhilarating time, because they’re taking over the reins, but the pressures can seem overwhelming.

Making the right choice of sixth form will lighten the load, but what makes a good sixth form? You may think that depends on the choice of subjects, but I think it comes down to something far more important: the amount of support students receive.

This is a time of transition to a new style of studying, one which requires more self-motivation, better time management and focus, as well as the confidence to become an independent thinker who thrives in the workplace.

Good pastoral care is crucial to success during this key period in any young person’s life - and I would advise any parent or student to pay particular attention to this while weighing up sixth form options.

At Pocklington School’s Sixth Form, for example, tutors take the time to get to know each individual, their strengths and aspirations, and work closely with them to help them achieve their goals. There is no distinction between our academic and pastoral support in the sense that if students are happy and confident that they’re on track to achieve their goals, they’re better able to focus on their academic work. Crucially, at no point are students on their own.

We believe this individual support accounts for our tremendous success in students securing the course of their choice. In 2015, 92% of our Sixth Form applicants got into their first or second choice of university, including 55% to the Russell Group of the 24 leading universities in the UK.

As a year group they significantly outperformed their Lower Sixth entry level expectations to produce our best ever A* to C results (92.7%).

This is the result of their hard work – but also the sustained help and advice from teachers and our UCAS and careers advice service.

The time and effort put in to making UCAS applications as strong as possible, as well as giving interview guidance and practice, CV workshops and mock job interviews, also helps give our students the edge during the highly competitive selection process.

Our success in helping students towards the course which is right for them is reflected in the fact 92% of last summer’s UCAS applicants were accepted at their preferred universities.

Teachers’ expertise and experience play a crucial part in this, and we also have a strong network of Old Pocklingtonians, as well as parents past and present, who are extremely supportive and great sources of work experience and advice.

Quite understandably, some students might not have a clear idea of what they want to do next, or may want to revise their choices in the future. This is where the broad Pocklington School education comes in.

We encourage all our pupils to think for themselves and master independent learning.

What matters most is that each student takes the path that’s right for them. Then, when choices are made and the pressure is off, they can concentrate on their day to day studying and enjoy school life.

l Pocklington School Sixth Form Open Morning takes place Saturday 30 January. Prospective students are welcome to come and have a look around and speak to staff. Call 01759 321200 to book.