Whether or not you are in Year 10 or 11, this should be a joyful and exhilarating time; for you have almost made it to the final stage of your school education. The journey which began with those first nervous days in reception must seem like a lifetime ago to you now. Of course, this is, without doubt, the most distinctive phase of your education – one in which you are provided with countless opportunities to develop intellectually, culturally, socially and emotionally. I want each and every one of you to aim for the stars and I would encourage you to set challenging goals – both personally and academically. I want you to hold true to your dreams and resolve to make a really meaningful contribution to society. This is your time and the decisions you make now will determine the next phase of your life. It is my clear expectation that all Rossall Sixth Formers should commit to becoming the very best version of themselves and constantly strive to become ever more accomplished.
As important as your academic studies are, we recognise the need to support and nurture you in every regard. Your future lives will be determined not just by examination results and professional qualifications but by your ability to live happy and fulfilling personal lives. We want you to have the ability to forge successful relationships and live lives filled with love, laughter and a sense of inner serenity. I want you to feel ready to take on the challenges of living in the global village of the twenty-first century.
We live in uncertain times and unlike most Sixth Form Colleges, which simply provide tuition in your chosen subjects, Rossall provides a holistic experience designed to prepare you for the challenges of the modern workplace. We work hard to build your confidence and encourage you to develop those ‘softer’ skills so valued by employers.
Just recently, I attended a talk given by the Director of Marketing for Google. She observed that they have little interest in employing coders for the simple reason that machines will soon be able to code much more efficiently than even the smartest human. What they are really looking for are creative individuals capable of thinking outside the box. Future employers are looking for flexible and resilient individuals with transferable skills. In an age when most people have multiple careers, the ability to be responsive to change and adaptive to circumstances is never more important than now. That is why a Sixth Form experience should amount to much more than subjects studied and grades achieved as important as these undoubtedly are.
This is why you should engage in the myriad of activities and opportunities available to you at Rossall which include academic societies, sports teams, the CCF, Duke of Edinburgh Award, Music, Drama, debating, volunteering, mentoring and much much more besides.
So how do we know that we are getting it right at Rossall? It’s a fair question to ask? Like all other parents, I pay school fees, yes even Headmasters have to pay! What really convinces me that this is a worthwhile sacrifice is when I reflect upon the outstanding young men and women currently in our Sixth Form. I know that I will be immeasurably proud of my three young daughters if they turn out to be as impressive as our current Upper Sixth Formers, for they are confident and accomplished, interesting and interested. Most importantly they exude a generosity of spirit and an innate ‘goodness’ that will serve them well throughout their lives.
Furthermore, I reflect upon the extraordinary contribution that Old Rossallians make on the national and international stage. They are to be found in the world of politics, media, law, technology, the Performing Arts and business. They include two winners of the Victoria Cross and one Noble Prize winner (for literature). The contribution of Rossallians to the fabric of British society is immense – Rossallians have an extraordinary knack of getting on in the world and making a positive impact. If you look at our illustrious alumni – it is hard to escape the conclusion that something pretty special happens in this place.
As you are aware, this is a tremendously exciting period of development for Rossall School – especially in terms of the Sixth Form. As we approach our 175th anniversary, we do so with absolute confidence and our heads turned resolutely towards the future. It is our firm intention to be the destination of choice for all young people in this area of Lancashire and beyond because we know that we offer an outstanding Sixth Form experience – one that is set to become even better in September 2019.
● Next year, all of our Sixth Formers will benefit from a new Sixth Form Study Centre with collaborative learning spaces and university style study pods.
● All A level students will take the Extended Project Qualification. This is worth the equivalent of half an A Level and is, essentially, an independent research project.
● Teaching time in each subject will rise by 20% which will allow much more time for ‘deep’ learning and work which stretches and challenges you beyond the confines of exam specifications.
● We are introducing Politics A level and developing our Classics Department. We will now have the capacity to offer Latin A level and Ancient Greek.
● We are opening a multimillion pound Sports Hall and establishing an elite sports training programme for our most promising of sports men and women.
● I am keen that we provide credible routes through the Sixth Form for all of our students and that is why we are introducing a BTEC in Sports Science. This qualification is worth the equivalent of two A Levels and is valued by leading universities for sports such as Loughborough and Bath.
Those of you who are here will know that I have appointed a good number of new teaching staff who will join us over the forthcoming months. I am extremely excited that outstanding educators from across the U.K. want to come here here to teach you. That is, in itself a wonderful vote of confidence in our Sixth Form and provides you with an insight into how the educational vision at Rossall is making waves well beyond Lancashire and the Fylde Coast. These are exciting times and I am delighted that so many of you here today share in my boundless ambition.
It is my heartfelt desire that no young person should be precluded from studying at Rossall for financial reasons. I grew up in a single parent family and had the good fortune to attend an outstanding state grammar school and I know how the opportunity to attend a Sixth Form like Rossall truly does transform lives. I would urge as many of you as possible to sit our scholarship entrance exams and apply for our means-tested bursaries if appropriate. It is no secret that, as a school, we have decided to focus a good deal of our bursaries upon the Sixth Form because we recognise the need for us to support as many young people as possible during these vital years.
The format of the scholarship exam itself is somewhat different this year. In many regards it is much more straightforward. You will have just one interview and sit two papers. One will be a multiple choice critical thinking paper and the other will be a selection of essays titles inviting you to explore contemporary affairs or tackle philosophical propositions. You will be required to write a response to just one of the titles. It is a level playing field insomuch as it is not something that you can meaningfully prepare for. We are looking for signs of potential. During the interview process itself, we will be seeking to establish your intellectual and cultural interests. We are not looking for the finished article but we are looking for the ability to be critically reflective and engaging.
You will be aware that we offer both A levels and the IBDP here at Rossall and the ability to choose the curricular route most suited to you is an undoubted strength of our provision.
Mrs Jones, our new Director of the IB, will explain a little more about the structure of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) in a moment but just a few things to bear in mind:
1. Universities and future employers love applicants who have committed to studying the IBDP – not least because it demonstrates an impressive level of scholastic breadth and a strong sense of academic commitment.
2. Top universities make very competitive offers to IBDP students – in some instances considerably softer than the offers that they make to A level students.
3. It used to be said that the IB was for the intellectual elite, yet it is an accessible qualification that is suitable for students of all abilities. Students with comparatively weak GCSE results often excel on the IBDP – especially if they choose their standard and higher level subjects with care. It is infinitely better to come out with 34+ points in the IBDP than mediocre A level grades.
4. Increased contact time at A level means that there is now much greater parity of experience between the two curricular routes.
5. Some believe that IBDP students have to work harder than A level students. Try telling this to someone needing to achieve A*AA grades for a Russell Group university offer! Whether or not you can be motivated to work hard has little to do with your choice of curricular route and everything to do with your intrinsic motivation and hunger to excel.
What matters most is that you make an informed decision based upon our own research rather than resorting to hearsay or urban myths. We offer both routes and this afternoon I would like you to focus, primarily, upon choice of subject rather than curricular route.
As you tour the subject departments this afternoon please do take time to ask questions and chat with teachers. They and some of our current Sixth Form students are here to help you.
To conclude, this afternoon is about the future – it is an exciting day in every regard. Enjoy yourself and make the most of this opportunity. We are all here to support you during the weeks and months ahead and please do ask for support and guidance at any point between now and next summer.
Finally, in the absence of AS levels, universities are placing increasing value upon your GCSE results so it is important that you work hard to achieve the strongest possible profile of results next summer. How well you do in your GCSES will go a good way to determining the options open to you when you leave the Sixth Form in the summer of 2021.
From Mr Jeremy Quartermain, Headmaster of Rossall School