Talking Head

Headmaster's blog at Newcastle School for Boys

December 11, 2018

Qualifications are not enough

Qualifications are not enough.  They get students to the next stage but will not necessarily allow them to thrive when they get there.  It was with this in mind that we have launched our new sixth form offer.  From September 2019, boys in Newcastle School for Boys’ sixth form will enjoy an enhanced and extended curriculum offer to help them prepare for life beyond school.  It will have three main strands:

  • Academic qualifications
  • Character development
  • Skills development/employability

Academic qualifications remain at the heart of that sixth form experience: three A levels or their equivalent.  We offer some more practically based CTEC courses as well as insisting that each of our students undertakes an independent learning project.

Many of our students already undertake the well-regarded extended project qualification (EPQ).  It is a good preparation for undergraduate study and carries UCAS points.  It also helps develop the research and referencing skills required to be successful at university.  In addition, our sixth form students will now have the further option of courses that can be accessed through the platforms offered by the Open University, Futurelearn and Coursera.  This will allow students to extend their learning and make links across subjects.

Character development is an increasingly strong feature of our school and plays a significant role in the boys and young men that we turn out.  We will expect all of our sixth formers to participate in co-curricular activities inside or outside of school.  There are also opportunities to extend their character development through mentoring or coaching younger pupils, undertaking leadership roles within school as well as completing the Duke of Edinburgh’s award scheme.

All of our sixth formers will also undertake a mental and emotional wellbeing programme to allow them to understand issues affecting their own and others’ well-being.

We will encourage all of our sixth formers to undertake a programme of service.  This is to help them understand the challenges faced by those in society who are less fortunate than they are.  It requires a genuine commitment of time and energy beyond just simple charitable donation and helps develop other qualities, including empathy, in our sixth formers.

Employers frequently bemoan the lack of key skills in young people and we are seeking to plug this gap by insisting that all of our sixth form students undertake a minimum of 30 hours’ work experience or an internship.  To become proficient in presentation and interview skills as well as undertaking a ‘survival’ skills course that will help them to be capable of mastering their personal finances and key domestic skills, such as cookery.

The result is a distinctive, compelling and relevant sixth form experience that prepares our students exceptionally well for their lives beyond school.  We want employers and universities to understand the qualities and experiences they can expect in a student who has attended Newcastle School for Boys’ sixth form.