The headteacher’s column with Mark Ronan

Mark Ronan, headmaster at Pocklington School.
Mark Ronan, headmaster at Pocklington School.

Moving up to sixth form is a huge and exciting step, one which allows students to study the subjects they enjoy in greater depth and to make decisions about the future.

Sixth form is also a time to develop the life skills we need to succeed in the world – and this is every bit as important as academic qualifications.

We measure our sixth form success in terms of helping each student become more mature and independent, and take the right next steps for them.

We measure our sixth form success in terms of helping each student become more mature and independent, and take the right next steps for them.

Whether they are going straight into the workplace or moving on to further education, young people need the resilience, adaptability and confidence to stand out.

They also have to be able to think creatively, work in a team and handle responsibility.

A tall order, perhaps – but I think the best approach to helping young people achieve that aim is very simple: help them create the right individualised study and co-curricular timetable, and the rest will fall into place.

Whether they have their sights set on university, a vocational course or entry straight into the workplace, every single 16 to 18 year-old is a powerball of potential which, as teachers, it is our privilege to guide.

Whatever their aims, sixth formers should have personal, one-to-one support, including interviews with specialist advisors, to help them make the right choices.

Students who enjoy their courses grow in confidence and achieve better grades.

Schools should offer the widest possible academic programme, with a depth of teaching expertise to match.

To that end, at Pocklington School we now also offer BTEC courses in sport and digital publishing; specialist work-related qualifications which combine practical learning with subject and theory content.

Employers tell us the rapidly-changing workplace means traditional qualifications are no longer enough.

Many careers still require specialist knowledge and the focus evidenced by rigorous academic study, but applicants also need to show they can communicate well, think on their feet and adapt to change.

The ability to work as part of a team is crucial. Employees who make their mark are confident enough to contribute and take the lead, but are also open to new ideas and willing to encourage others in working towards a common goal.

These skills are developed through extra-curricular activity – which, incidentally, also helps preserve the health and wellbeing of sixth formers during what can be a stressful time. We are extremely fortunate to have the facilities on our 65-acre campus to accommodate a dizzying variety of co-curricular activities.

Whether students enjoy sport, music, the outdoors, drama or debating, there is plenty of opportunity to shine.

We also hold inter-house challenges, which help students to develop their ability to work within a group, with all the discussion and compromise that involves.

At Pocklington School, we measure our Sixth Form success in terms of helping each student become more mature and independent, and take the right next steps for them. Our effectiveness in recognising individual talents and nurturing them towards the right pathway is reflected by the fact that this year 88% of our students achieved entry to their first choice of university and 8% into their second choice.

Sixth form is a time to enjoy being stretched and challenged – outside as well as in the classroom.

Students who throw themselves into both areas of school life are most likely to leave it having not only achieved their aims, but also well-equipped to make their mark on the world.

l Pocklington School’s Sixth Form Open Morning will take place on Saturday 18 November at 9am.