What does a successful Sixth Form look like now?

3rd December 2020

We recently hosted the webinar ‘What does a successful Sixth Form look like now?’ with Simon O’Connor, Director of Deira International School in Dubai, and Alps Director of Education and Product Development, Sue Macgregor.

Simon O’Connor has worked with Alps for over 10 years in many schools both internationally and in the UK. Simon was formerly the Headteacher of Jumeirah College in Dubai, where he worked on achieving HPL world-class accreditation and has also been involved in the HPL outreach programme.

In the webinar, Simon and Sue visit a range of discussion points focused on the obstacles that schools and colleges, as well as staff and students, are facing during the pandemic. These include, how schools and teachers are helping students with the transition from Year 11 to Year 12 and from Year 12 to 13, whilst creating and maintaining a successful Sixth Form.

“If someone has said to me a year ago as a Head that you would have to run my school with 30 staff off, that would seem nonsensical and yet they have stepped up, they are doing it and they are doing an amazing job!”

Simon describes the pandemic impact on Deira International School.

All around the world learning and teaching has been extremely challenging for students and teachers, with remote learning taking place across the latter part of last Academic Year. When restrictions were lifted and students were eventually allowed back into school, things were certainly different. Staff at Deira International, for example, had to adhere to almost two hundred additional protocols which made normal teaching impossible. The organisation of teaching at Deira will be reflected in schools around the world. Classes are split into three different groups. The first being a socially distanced group that sit in front of the teacher in class wearing masks, the second a group that are in a classroom next door receiving a live feed and a third group that are at home entirely online.

“What is being achieved is absolutely remarkable”

Simon and Sue went on to discuss how the HPL methodology can help to bolster student independence, a crucial factor in successful remote learning and wellbeing. HPL is based on the foundation and the understanding that it is not just the scholars that can achieve the A and A* grades. It fosters the culture that all students can aspire to those top grades. This doesn’t necessarily mean they will get this by the end of their school career, but as they progress in life, the HPL philosophy is designed to embed the positive skills and attributes necessary for them to succeed. If you ingrain that culture in a school, it becomes an incredibly powerful force that will encourage students to want to achieve because they know it is possible.

Simon describes some of the key skills that he has found to make a real difference to students: empathy, strategies to solve problems, the recognition that they have to work hard, and those of reflection.

Towards the end of the webinar, a Q&A session was held where attendees could ask Simon questions about topics covered in the webinar.

Below are some examples:

1. Which intervention strategies are most effective in raising student performance across KS5 especially for those that aren’t where you want them to be?

“I think one of the most effective strategies is peer to peer support. Year 13 students working with Year 12 students. Especially those who may not have been on track historically, able to talk to the students that are not on track currently, I think that is very effective… We have talked about students working independently. One of the first things I have always done is to remove the word free from a student’s timetable and turn it into an independent study, to really emphasises that you may not have a class at this point but you are expected to work during this time… If I had to pick the most effective it would be the peer-to-peer support.”

2. What do you find is the most impactful method for getting students to be those motivated learners rather than independent?

“The most powerful motivation is self-motivation. For me, it has always been about explaining to the students the impact of the work that they can do if we help to build their horizons… Students need to have an ambition to what they are heading for and I think it is about unpicking what that is and helping them to understand how this education will enable them to do that. Very few students will say that they are not interested in their future…”

3. What are some of the most efficient strategies? What gets you the results fast in the context of getting students into an independent and motivated mindset?

“It is important is high-quality teaching… it is about supporting teachers to enable them to deliver the best lessons they can. I have yet to meet a teacher in over 25 years of teaching and working in schools that doesn’t have the very best intentions for their students…”

‘Alps helps teachers focus on where they really need to be.’

4. Three quick tips to support your staff?

a. Run a ‘temperature check. Regularly ask how they are. How are you out of 10?
b. Make sure your teachers are properly resourced.
c. Try and remove as many obstacles as you can to enable your teachers to do the best job they can. Be a snowplough in front of your teachers.

‘We want a student in the Sixth Form to be independent, to be working not on their own but have that independence there, drive and understanding for them to be able to work in an environment where they are mutually supporting each other.’

With more than 200 schools attending, this has been one of our most popular webinars to date. If you would like to watch the full webinar, click on the video link below:

“We used Alps at KS4 and KS5 at Jumeirah College and it’s worth saying one of the first things I did when I got to Deira was to bring that in here as well. It enables you to have that focus about where students are, what the next step is and for middle managers and senior managers, it gives complete clarity as to where students are. It is really really powerful.”

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