Getting a head start on September

Paul Norton, principal at Kings Monkton School in Cardiff, explains how they are using this time to prepare students for their next steps

For those preparing to move on from year 11 to sixth form, we have re-written June’s timetable entirely, with all pupils starting work on their A-level choices, which they chose back in November.

We’ve invited these pupils back to school early to start their courses, giving them a head start on September. We’re also helping those who are not returning to our sixth form or not planning to study A-levels the opportunity to sit an additional finance qualification to enhance their CV.

For our pupils leaving sixth form, we are negotiating individual qualifications on a personal basis. These financial qualifications are endorsed by major banks, on topics including rents, loans and mortgage advice.

In addition to this OCN, Pearson and WJEC qualifications are being undertaken to support CV development in the work skills area, focusing on softer key skills such as teamwork and communication.

Pupils have responded very favourably to this additional support; we’ve kept up a constant communication with them to ensure we are meeting their needs.

Talking to them about their fears about moving away to university and where their biggest anxieties are, we found that simple things such as opening a bank account and keeping track of expenditure are some of the biggest and real concerns.

We found that simple things such as opening a bank account and keeping track of expenditure are some of the biggest and real concerns

Working in partnership with banks, we have been able to allay these fears and give our pupils the confidence they need to tackle these life skills head on.

Another area of concern was around accommodation and renting property for the first time. Most of our pupils also had little idea what a housing contract looked like, and what is required of them in terms of a security bond. In direct response to this we also looked at rents and rental agreements.

Our sessions helped support these questions and concerns, giving us time to develop a bespoke curriculum based on our pupils’ wants and needs. This has been a substantial benefit of the lockdown period.

Having work online already meant pupils could better manage their anxieties

We’re very fortunate because we had already put the wheels in motion for online learning back in September 2019, when we’d placed our schemes of work, assessments and class notes on Google Classroom.

The initial reason for this preparedness was to support pupils who were forced to miss school due to illness and to help pupils with ALN who may struggle to take homework notes in class.

Having work available online meant that these pupils could better manage their anxieties as well as support their independence and resilience.

With Kings Monkton School ‘open as usual’, albeit online, our pupils have had direct access to their teachers and all our online resources. This has also given our teaching team the ability to assess and discuss individual concerns and needs in a safe and familiar environment.

Little did we know back in September that every single pupil and teacher would be taking advantage of this new method of teaching and I am so proud of our teaching staff and our pupils for the way they have responded.

If I were to pinpoint a possible danger point for schools as a direct result of this pandemic, my main area of concern would be the void between GCSE and A-level learning.

The step from GSCE to A-level learning is already considerable, and without the experience of sitting an external examination, the difference is far greater. Schools and parents need to be aware of this potential gap and help fill the void caused by not completing their study for and sitting GCSEs.

My advice would be, for those able, to take advantage of this time and give your children a head start on September now. We are already seeing the benefits and growth in the pupils doing this, there’s no time like the present.

We’ve also adjusted our standard September entry date, offering immediate access to online learning and pastoral care for pupils signing up for September registry now. I’m offering informal online meetings or calls for any parents that may be concerned about this void in learning between now and September.

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