30th March 2020 - A challenging month...
COVID-19 UPDATE #5
I have written to parents/carers and our students regularly over the past few weeks as we continue to change how we work in line with Government advice and in response to your feedback. Please see below my latest update and how you can contact the school during this period of school closure.
Last week was the first week we have delivered lessons to our students from our homes. Thank you to those of you who have provided us with useful information about this work and how it is has been received. We have responded in the few areas we needed to by adjusting deadlines and making instructions more clear. Thank you also to those of you who have liaised directly with your subject teachers, who have submitted work on time and who are now working with the feedback you have been provided. An excellent start (or continuation!).
I am pleased to hear you are all keeping in touch with your teachers and other colleagues through their emails and that you have found the staff contact details, posted on the website and dashboards, very useful.
Online learning will continue next week, week commencing 30th March, and then we will be signing off for the Easter break. We will return to you on Monday 20th April.
Year 13 Students
We have been informed by Ofqual that they will issue guidance during early April on how A Level, BTEC and other Level 3 grades will be calculated following the announcement of the national cancellation of exams. As soon as they release their plans we will update you on how any decisions will affect students at Durham Sixth Form Centre alongside university progression.
Prospective Year 11 Students
The recruitment team informs me they have had very positive conversations with you over the telephone and that many of you have already visited the school through one of the many opportunities we have previously provided, so many of you do not feel you are missing out too much on the visit and tour. It is a shame we have had to cancel our April Open Evening, however in the circumstances it is absolutely essential we do.
After the Easter break we will be publishing, on our website, your pre-enrolment tasks. This is earlier than usual; we have brought it forward following many requests from yourselves and your schools to provide you with work to prepare you for A level study.
Should you have any other enquiries please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org. We are updating our Frequently Asked Questions page with responses to the enquiries we have had to date and will continue to do so during the period of school closure.
Thank you for your continued support and understanding.
March 2020 - A busy month!
Despite February being the shortest month, our staff and students have managed to pack in lots of useful trips and events! Students have just returned from a non-stop week of skiing in Norway, including indoor skydiving and night skiing. Science students have taken part in an “Operating Theatre Live” event - a programme for aspiring doctors, which included sessions on patient care, infection control, anaesthetics and principles of anatomy including dissections of the head, neck, thorax and abdomen (of a pig). BTEC Sports students have been attending community-based cookery sessions run by Jamie’s Ministry of Food at the Beacon of Light in Sunderland as part of the nutrition topic of their studies. As part of a rolling programme of exhibitions within the Visual Arts Centre, our Foundation Art Diploma students have also hosted an exhibition, entitled “Chaos Collective” to showcase their artistic talents.
With mock examinations behind us, we turn our attention towards post-18 options for our students. The first step was our Year 12 Parents Careers Conference last month where we hosted guest speakers including representatives from local universities and apprenticeship providers, notably BA, Siemens, GSK, PwC and KPMG. A series of talks was offered across the evening, covering areas such as applying for university and apprenticeships including NHS, police and engineering options, student finance and the local job market. In TSP sessions, our Academic Mentors are working with students each week to look at different careers options and pathways for the future, whether that be university, apprenticeships or jobs. For our Year 13 students, UCAS offers and apprenticeship interviews are coming through and our Careers, Progression and Aspirations team is at hand as always to offer assistance.
This coming month sees Politics students taking part in the European Youth Parliament North East debate and a trip to the Theatre Royal Newcastle for our Dance students to see the Rambert Dance Company perform. Both our Dance students and Performing Arts students are performing here in our own theatre in events on the evenings of the 10th, 18th and 19th March - tickets are available via Eventbrite if you would like to come along and support them.
We look forward with anticipation to the TES Awards toward the end of this month, where we will find out if we are “Sixth Form College of the Year” for 2020. We are thrilled to be shortlisted for the third year in a row for this prestigious award. I will report back next month with the outcome.
February 2020 – Top fifth of schools in England for A-levels...
With the release of the School and College Performance Tables in mid January we have once again been in the privileged position to have much to celebrate. Congratulations to our students for topping the tables in A-level, Academic and Vocational courses against other local schools, sixth form and FE colleges. A fantastic achievement and to remain once again above the National Average in all three areas for value added (the progress a student makes from their individual starting point) is again absolutely fantastic news. Well done to staff and students for their drive, ambition, continued hard work, dedication and commitment.
- Our A-level results are above the national average and in the top fifth of schools in England and third in County Durham for VA measures.
- Students’ grades and points for A-level are above both the County Durham average and national average.
- Students’ points and grades for their best 3 A-levels are also above the national average.
- Our Applied General results (broad vocational qualifications) are above the national average and are top in County Durham for these measures.
- Students’ grades and points for Applied General are above the County Durham average and national average.
- Our Tech Level (occupational qualifications) grades and points are above the County Durham average and national average, and third in County Durham for these measures.
We are thrilled to be shortlisted again in the Tes Awards 2020 for the third consecutive year as finalists in the ‘Sixth Form College of the Year’ category. These prestigious awards celebrate the achievements of exceptional schools and colleges across the UK and we are delighted to receive such a high accolade and recognition of everything we strive to achieve for our students here at Durham Sixth Form Centre.
As we come toward the mid part of the academic year, this last month has been a busy one with us hosting another Criminology Conference, a national training event run by our staff for Criminology teachers across the country. Our Performing Arts students have been visiting local primary schools to perform pieces as part of the “Theatre for Children” unit of their assessment; our Sport students visited Sunderland’s Beacon of Life for healthy eating sessions as part of the nutrition unit of the BTEC; and our Creative Media students have been busy recording fully functioning multi-camera productions in the TV Studio of our new Digital Media Centre.
In another busy year for Oxford and Cambridge University applications, we would like to congratulate our Year 13 students who have been offered a place in September. We wish them, along with all of our Year 13 students, much success in their A-levels later in the year.
For Year 12 parents this month, we are holding a Parents Careers Conference on Wednesday 12th February from 5-7.30pm where local universities including Durham University and Newcastle University will be offering talks, alongside multinational companies such as Siemens, PwC, KPMG and GSK. This is the perfect opportunity for parents to find out more about the opportunities available either in Higher Education or alternatively in the form of jobs and higher and degree level apprenticeships for students post-18. Our Year 12 students will also soon be covering careers topics in their TSP sessions with their Academic Mentors which will continue into the summer term.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to once again promote our Parent Matters information, published with parents in mind, to both celebrate and communicate important events in school and out of school. It is always a delight to read and informative too.
January 2020 - Happy New Year...
Happy New Year from the staff, students and governors at Durham Sixth Form Centre.
Looking back over the last term, I would like to take this opportunity to thank staff, governors, visitors and our wider community for the commitment they have continued to show to our students at Durham Sixth Form Centre. I would also like to add a special thank you to the Durham University Student Mentors who have invested so much time in supporting our students, and to our Academic Mentors and teaching staff for assisting our students in their university preparations and UCAS applications. As a Centre which is dedicated solely to teaching and supporting 16-19 year olds, this is a key time to support students with the additional expertise we have to offer including the expert guidance and advice from our award-winning Careers, Progression and Aspirations team.
With the autumn term and Year 13 mock examinations behind us, we are now looking forward to the coming months. We start with our Year 12 mock examinations which begin on Monday 20th January. Assemblies are being held during the first week back to prepare our students fully for this first-time experience at post-16 level. Our all-important Subject Consultation Evening for Year 13 takes place this month on Thursday 23rd January, when Year 13 parents are invited and encouraged to meet subject staff to discuss progress and final exam preparation. Year 12 Consultation Evenings follow soon after on Thursday 27th February and Thursday 5th March. As always we value the opportunity to work with parents and would encourage all of our parents to make appointments.
Last term saw a wide range of new clubs and societies starting up, including Comedy Club, Band and Singers and Tabletop Games, alongside already-established groups such as the Student Council, Charity Committee and Debating Society, to name but a few. These provide not only the opportunity to mix with new people and make new friends but also offer important extracurricular activities for personal statements and CVs in the future. This new term is a good time to sign up for something new!
As we focus our efforts on working towards the summer exam season, we wish you all a happy and prosperous 2020.
December - One term on...
It is hard to believe that the first term of the academic year 2019-2020 is nearly at an end.
Thank you to Year 12 parents who joined us at one of two Parents Consultation Evenings over the past two weeks. Attendance for both evenings was extremely high. We are appreciative of the opportunity to talk with parents and report on progress to date. We received lots of very positive feedback from you on both nights, again thank you for taking the time to share with us your thoughts and experiences.
The month of December brings our first mock examinations, which are scheduled to begin on Monday 16th December for our Year 13 students. Timetables have been distributed and sent home in good time. Year 12 timetables will follow soon. Their mock examinations start in the new year, week commencing Monday 20th January 2020.
Onto other news,as part of the tenth anniversary of Lumière, Durham Sixth Form Centre recently hosted the “Are Atoms Alive?” installation in collaboration with Ocubo and Storybox. Our Arts students were given the unique opportunity to work with these talented artists to shoot a short film for this very special event, which was then displayed across nine screens on shipping containers within our grounds, taking viewers on a thrilling journey from galaxies to cells dividing in our bodies. A range of other exciting events has also recently been open to students including several workshops with PwC and EY, a Dance City session for our Dance students, the chance to attend an Oxford Masterclass for Aspire students and opportunities to take part in the National Bar Mock Trials and Maths Olympiads amongst many others.
Our award-winning Careers, Progression and Aspirations team has once again been working hard to offer a wide range of careers talks and sessions to students in both Year 12 and Year 13 this half term. This last month has seen a significant increase in our UCAS applications for Year 13 students wishing to progress to university. Students have been working closely with their teachers, academic mentors and the Careers, Progression and Aspirations team to ensure that personal statements are competitive and professional. Additional support for Oxbridge and medical/veterinary applications has and continues to be provided. Applications for apprenticeships are also very busy and underway, as we continue to offer extra sessions and guidance for students following this pathway, including a recent visit to the Apprenticeship Fair in Newcastle.
I continue year on year to be inspired by the hard work, effort, enthusiasm and passion of the students, staff, partners and parents of our community at Durham Sixth Form Centre and am always proud, privileged and honoured to be part of it. We are now looking forward to 2020 and seeing our students flourish, grow and endeavour to succeed further.
We wish you all a very Happy Christmas and peaceful New Year.
November - Launch of our Digital T Level and the Durham Mathematics School...
Welcome back to all of our students and their families as we enter into the second half of the autumn term.
There have already been many opportunities this term for students to enrich and broaden their studies, including the option of signing up for one-to-one mentoring with Durham University students; Drama and Performing Arts students have visited the Theatre Royal for a performance of An Inspector Calls; Accounting students have been able to compete for the prestigious Henry Smith Award and a group of History students has visited Auschwitz-Birkenau as part of the Holocaust Educational Trust UK programme.
We are also proud to announce that our Music Department has been nominated and supported by Durham Music Service to become a Music Mark member, in recognition of the value that we place on high-quality music education. Congratulations also to our Year 12 student, Trinity Robinson, who has recently been named as one of the fifteen Foyle Young Poets of the Year 2019 from 6,000 entrants from around the world.
This last half term has also seen the launch of our Digital Production, Design and Development T Level which will be available to students from September 2020 as an alternative to the traditional A Level/BTEC study pathway. This qualification, equivalent to three A Levels, has been developed in collaboration with employers to meet the needs of businesses and prepare students for work, by offering a mixture of classroom learning and on-the-job experience in industry.
Looking further ahead, we are also thrilled to announce that we are working with the Department of Education and Durham University to launch the Durham Mathematics School, a new flagship post-16 school, which is planned to open in September 2022. More information can be found online at www.durham-mathematics-school.org.uk.
Year 12 parents are invited in this half term for progress reviews with subject teachers at our Consultation Evenings which take place on Thursday 21st and 28th November from 4pm to 8pm. As we move ever closer to Christmas, mock examinations are approaching, with Year 13 examinations beginning on Monday 16th December and Year 12 examinations a couple of weeks after the Christmas break on Monday 20th January, both for one week.
We wish our students every success and to support them in their revision, there are two extra study days planned for Friday 29th November and Monday 2nd December. Please also be aware however that Year 12 Criminology students have formal assessments on these days.
I look forward to my next update which will be in December, sharing the varied activities and achievements of our students and staff during the latter part of this second half term.
September - Durham Sixth Form Centre Shortlisted for the Investors in People Awards 2019...
A big welcome to all of our new students, parents, families and colleagues and students returning into Year 13 and 14. What a wonderful start to a new term. Lots of new faces, energy and enthusiasm coupled with bright blue skies in early September.
In August 2019, our students at Durham Sixth Form Centre once again achieved excellent exam success. Over half of our A-level entries achieved grades A*-B and our Average Point Score per student was above both National and Local Authority averages. Furthermore, our vocational courses also had tremendous success, with 95% of entries at Distinction and Distinction* level, again, well above National and Local averages. Our students have done especially well given the changes to examination specifications over the last couple of years which have seen significant changes to the A-level qualification.
We are also delighted that once again well over ¾ of our Year 13 students not only progressed into higher education and university but also achieved their first choice, with a high rate of success for our Oxbridge applicants. Students who decided to go onto apprenticeships have done so with equal success and have secured some of the top national apprenticeships. This is a tremendous accomplishment and achievement by all of our students and staff. Well done, all of the hard work and effort was worth it.
From such a fantastic start we are now once again looking forward to the new academic year which I am delighted to say will also bring with it lots of new and exciting opportunities and challenges for our students. We are thrilled that our new Digital Media Centre has now opened its doors, housing a further eighteen classrooms, including a TV studio and cinema room plus a modest Cafe area and high-quality conference facilities.
Before I conclude, I am also very proud to share with you that Durham Sixth Form Centre has been named as a global leader in how we support our people to do their best work and go home feeling happier, healthier and stronger.
Achieving Investors in People Gold accreditation earlier this year was amazing. Now being shortlisted as a finalist in the Gold Employer of the Year category in The Investors in People Awards 2019 is an even more fantastic achievement and something which has made us feel really proud. Investors in People matters to all of us and that is why being selected as a finalist is so special.
I look forward to reporting further on our achievements throughout the year.
August - Results 2019...
I am delighted to report that students at Durham Sixth Form Centre are celebrating success today following the publication of A-Level results, marking yet another year of excellent academic and personal achievements. This includes a 100% A-level pass rate, with the average A-level grade of a grade B- and over half of students having achieved a grade A*-B.
Vocational results are also very strong with 95% of students achieving Distinction*-Distinction grades, which is on average, a Distinction* grade.
A total of 131 A* and 597 Distinction* grades have been awarded.
June 2019 - Last words for the academic year 2018-2019...
As we near the end of the academic year I would like to take time to thank our students and parents for their continued hard work and support. 2018-2019 has been a truly memorable year, one which started with excellent exam results from the previous year. We have delighted in so many successes including national recognition in the arts, media, sports and sciences; we were both privileged and honoured to host many visitors, lectures and colleagues from the DfE this year and have been humbled by the determination of our students in their endeavours to raise money for those less fortunate
As we break for the summer I have outlined both in writing and in our end-of-year assemblies our arrangements for examination results day on Thursday 15th August. Year 13 results are released at 8.00am. Re-enrolment for our current Year 12 students takes place during the week commencing Monday 15th July.
For our new students joining us in September, enrolment begins on Tuesday 27th August and we look forward to meeting you all again during this period. You will have received a letter outlining the arrangements for enrolment, should this not be the case please ring us on 0191 383 0708 or alternatively email at email@example.com and we will be pleased to help. If you haven’t already applied for a place to study at Durham Sixth Form Centre this September, it’s not too late. You too can contact us in the same way.
Thank you once again to all who support us and work with us at Durham Sixth Form Centre. We have had a wonderful year and hope once again to see great results this summer and watch our students progress to some of the top universities in the country and overseas. We look forward to welcoming our current and new students in September and wish our Year 13 students prosperous futures in the next stage of their lives.
April 2019 - TES Awards finalists for “Sixth Form College of the Year”!
March has proved to be the busy month we expected for our students and staff and I would like to take a moment to update you on the most notable successes we have seen. Most recently we have been thrilled to reach the final of the Tes awards for the second consecutive year in the category of “Sixth Form College of the Year”. It was wonderful to celebrate the achievements of so many exceptional schools and colleges around the UK at this illustrious awards ceremony and although a runner up, we were delighted to receive such a high accolade and recognition. Well done to Huddersfield New College, who won the category - we hope to be back again next year, third time lucky!
Our Golf Academy students have played extremely well at tournaments in Musselburgh and Cupar across March and as a result, both teams have qualified for the national finals. I would like to congratulate everyone involved in this fantastic achievement and look forward to following their progress in the summer months. Congratulations also go to our team of Year 12 Politics students who shone at the recent European Youth Parliament North East regional finals, where the team debated skilfully on subjects including Gibraltar post-Brexit and returning artefacts to their home countries. Based on their strong performance, our team was selected to proceed to the national finals in Liverpool - well done everyone and good luck for June!
Our Arts department has been running a multitude of events and activities throughout March, including two performances, “An Evening of Dance” and “The Greatest Show- a variety performance” in our theatre for family, friends and the public. There has also been a Year 12 Art Exhibition in the Visual Arts Centre, giving our talented Art students the opportunity to showcase their work with us so far. Our Drama and Theatre Studies and Performing Arts students have been working on a project with the Unfolding Theatre group, alongside Durham County Council and the Gala Theatre, to explore young people’s hopes for the future and create a short film to record their responses. Finally our Music students have been to watch a performance of the Magic Flute at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle as part of their A-level studies.
Our focus on careers and progression for our students continues, with our Next Generation Engineers visiting Hydram and Aviation and Renewable Energy Academies locally and a group of our most able students spending time at King’s College, Cambridge to find out more about studying at Oxbridge. Looking ahead to next month, our Careers, Progression and Aspirations team is organising a Year 12 FutureChoices event where students will sign up for sessions, including talks by young inspirational speaker, Hayden Taylor and professionals in their field. There is also the opportunity for Year 12 students to book a place to visit the Tyneside higher education exhibition organised by UCAS at the Utilita Arena in Newcastle, which takes place at the end of April.
With so much going on, both staff and students will most definitely be ready for the Easter break, which will soon be upon us. We break up on Friday 5th April for two weeks and one day, returning on Tuesday 23rd April, by which point many of our students will be well underway with revision and finalising coursework, ready for the crucial summer term ahead of us.
March 2019 - A busy month!
Despite February being the shortest month with half term week in the middle, our staff and students have managed to pack in lots of useful trips and events! Our Year 12 and 13 Sociology students had an exciting visit to Media City in Manchester to find out more about the media topic of their A-level studies. The day included visits to the set of BBC Breakfast, Mastermind and BBC Radio 6, and students even bumped into a celebrity too! Law and Criminology students have spent three days down in London visiting the Houses of Parliament, the Supreme Court, the Old Bailey and the Royal Courts of Justice as well as taking part in a Jack the Ripper tour and seeing a West End show.
Back at Durham Sixth Form Centre, Criminology students have been able to join an after-school club to find out more about the agencies and processes involved in investigating the (luckily entirely fictitious!) murder of Mr Hill, one of our Criminology teachers. As part of a rolling programme of exhibitions within the Visual Arts Centre, Year 13 arts EPQ student Sophie Nimmins has exhibited her photos of the Syrian community in Durham, exploring the everyday lives of refugees, and our Foundation Art Diploma students have also hosted an exhibition, entitled “Exhibition 22” to showcase their artistic talents.
With mock examinations behind us, we turn our attention towards post-18 options for our students. The first step was our Year 12 Parents Careers Conference last month where we hosted guest speakers including representatives from local universities and apprenticeship providers, notably three of the “Big Four” companies. We were particularly pleased to see several past students return with their new employers —Natalie Bowmaker with EY, Thomas Colwill with KPMG and Katie Almond with PwC. Hearing how all three are seizing the opportunities open to them in their new roles working for these prestigious international companies was very motivational for our current students and their parents. In TSP sessions, our Academic Mentors are working with students each week to look at different careers options and pathways for the future, whether that be university, apprenticeships or jobs.
For our Year 13 students, UCAS offers and apprenticeship interviews are coming through and our Careers, Progression and Aspirations team is at hand as always to offer assistance. We have recently held interviews for a number of local companies including Concision, Medi-inn and Durham County Furniture Help Scheme, who are looking to offer long-term digital placements to our students. A number of roles have now been appointed including social media assistants, research assistant, creative assistants, web development and graphic designers, all offering excellent work experience.
This coming month sees Politics students taking part in the European Youth Parliament North East debate and a trip to the Theatre Royal Newcastle for our Music students to see the Magic Flute. Our Next Generation Engineers will once again be out and about, this time visiting the Aviation School and renewable energy facilities at Newcastle College as well as local company Hydram Engineering, following visits to NSK and Nissan this last month. Finally for our intrepid students, training for the Duke of Edinburgh Silver Award begins to get them ready to head off on their expedition later in the year.
We look forward with anticipation to the Tes Awards toward the end of this month, where we will find out if we are “Sixth Form College of the Year” for 2019. We are thrilled to be shortlisted for the second year in a row in this prestigious competition and I will report back next month with the results.
April 2017 - Outstanding...
I am both delighted and proud to report in my April update that Durham Sixth Form Centre; our students, staff and partners, have been recognised as 'Outstanding' by Ofsted. We are a thriving, aspirational 16-19 school in the heart of Durham City, who is also in the top 12% of schools and colleges nationally for academic results according to the DfE Performance Tables. Our 'Outstanding' grading is a great achievement and recognises the hard work and dedication of our school community both in the classroom and beyond. Well done and well deserved.
As our students are only too aware final coursework deadlines are looming and AS formal examinations commence mid-May (A-level commence early June). Both students and staff are focused, determined and gearing themselves up in preparation for what lies ahead.
Colleagues continue to support students academically with various drop-in sessions, revision classes and intervention sessions throughout the summer term and I am delighted to report student uptake so far positively reflects their ambition, drive and motivation to succeed. In addition the extra sessions on presentation skills, public speaking techniques, debating, discussion and wider reading are also proving to be as popular as ever.
I will leave you with a quote highlighted by our students from Tutor Group 32K which may support us in our reflections:
"I run on the road, long before I dance under the lights. I hated every minute of training, but I said: Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion." Muhammed Ali.