News and blog

From our Head of Sixth Form

From our Head of Sixth Form
I wonder how many parents reading this article now are doing the job they thought they wanted to when they were 16 or 17 years old? 
Unexpected twists

Life is never a straight line; it is full of twists and turns that take us in the most unexpected directions. It is not possible to prepare for every unknown, but at St Mary’s Sixth Form we provide opportunities for students to develop the skills they need to deal with the unexpected, and to  realise  there are  opportunities  in the world they may  not even have considered!  

 Life is never a straight line; it is full of twists and turns that take us in the most unexpected directions.

Artwork above by Cristina H-P. Year 12

This year has  been the  year of dealing with the unexpected. The Covid-19 lockdown, has undoubtedly been a tragic time but, it has also been an excellent opportunity for students to use the skills we have developed with them.  Year 13 students certainly  deserved a less abrasive end to their school years, but I am proud of the resilience, humility and good grace the Sixth Form  has shown in extraordinary circumstances. 

More than exams

Our Sixth Form journey has been made no less important by the absence of exams  or the move to remote learning  and I hope that when our students look back on their time with us, they feel proud of all that they achieved. 

Exam results should not define us and therefore the absence of exams does not define  a Sixth Form experience.  We were very lucky to have an  impromptu  Year 13 leavers’ event on the last day before the lockdown. We had speeches, dressing up and prizes. There were even tears. Students self-isolating or abroad, joined us remotely  and it was very moving to spend that time together appreciating our Year 13, knowing that we would not be able to meet in person for some time to come.   

Keep calm and carry on

Since lockdown, the ‘busyness’ of Sixth Form life has continued with learning, tutorials and assemblies and importantly, helping Year 12 to prepare for their next steps and welcoming Year 11 into the Sixth Form community. Our ability to adapt to remote learning has been quite  extraordinary. I am pleased that as a community we have been able to ‘keep calm and carry on’.

As teaching staff our priority has been to keep the Sixth Form safe, whilst maintaining their education and progress. As part of this we ran our annual UCAS day remotely this year with the help of Lancaster University  as part of our wider university preparation  programme. 

Although it is not entirely clear what university or gap year life might look like in the next few years, life will still go on, adapted or otherwise, and this has been the attitude of Sixth Form life in lockdown.

It seems a long time ago since the current crisis impacted all aspects of daily life. However, Sixth Form operated in normal circumstances for six months prior to lockdown and there is much to to be proud of from this time.   

Learning LunchInspiring futures

As befits our culture of encouraging students to try things and embrace new experiences, we have once again had an excellent careers programme this year along with wonderful work experience placements. 

Our stimulating learning lunches have involving a number of professionals including Aramide Adenaike: an ex-St Mary's deputy head girl who is currently studying postgraduate medicine at Warwick University. Aramide talked about the difficulties she had applying to medicine as a Year 13 pupil - the challenges of entrance exams (BMAT and UCAT) and interviews. She also shared her passion to care for others and how she has kept this alive, despite many setbacks, to achieve her dream of studying medicine.

Aramide motivated our Sixth Formers to believe that if they want to study medicine they should pursue their goal. There is always a way in!

Jesslyn Fung, a past St Mary's Head Boarder also shared her experience of studying chemical engineering at Imperial. She discussed her project work at the university and international renewable energy projects she has had the opportunity to work on.

Jo Cruse (who many of the Sixth Form remembered from prize giving) also visited us to discuss the positives and negatives of being a female entrepreneur in the modern world. Her new tech startup company aims to profile university experiences for students in a more accessible and interactive way.

We are grateful to all the speakers who came in to inspire us all. 

Celebrating achievements

Our students continue to achieve and impress across the board. It is impossible to include all achievements here, but I would like to draw attention to a selection.  

  • Annabelle B. was awarded the Diploma of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music in piano performance as well as a choral scholarship from Exeter College Oxford.
  • Ana W. has been selected for the International Scouts Jamboree in West Virginia and represented the East of England on the youth impact team as a jamboree ambassador.
  • Sophie W. received a prestigious Jack Petchey Award in recognition of her work with the Guides. The Award recognises young people who have gone above and beyond to achieve – perhaps when others thought they might fail. She also completed the Lions Club International Young Leaders in Service Award.  
ShakersTreading the boards

Sixth Form drama is always  exceptional, and this year has been no different.

Our Upper Sixth A Level Drama and Theatre students Isobel B., Abbi H. and Molly P. performed Jane Thorton’s and John Godber’s play ‘Shakers as their group examination piece and well as moving monologues for the external examiner, staff, students and parents.

The highest number of  Sixth Form students ever joined this year’s Upper School production of ‘Mermaids with Lizzie H. taking the lead.  There are so many more things I could add here, and we remain proud of every achievement of our Sixth Formers.  

Keeping active

This year saw the expansion of sport and PE options in Sixth Form and we readily await the opening of our Long Road facilities. Being active remains an important aspect of Sixth Form life and we were delighted to increase  the number of opportunities students had to be active this year.  

And finally ...

Sixth Form represents an exciting stage in your educational journey. It’s a time where students take control of their own path and future like never before.

Students will now begin to forge their futures beyond school, each of which will be individual and unique. There is no right or wrong direction in Sixth Form, just each individual student’s own path. Our community  is made whole by each of these amazing journeys and we thank all every student for their contribution, in this extraordinary year.   

I am proud of the resilience, humility and good grace the Sixth Form  has shown in extraordinary circumstances. 

Ruth Taylor 

Head of Sixth Form 

Return to Magnolian 2020

Top image credit: Cristina H-P, Year 12