Sixth Form Virtual Open Morning Q&A

Headmaster, Dr Huw Williams and Head of Sixth Form, Dr Alan Goodall presented our Sixth Form Virtual Open Morning on Saturday, 26th September, including a live Q&A style session.

If you missed our Virtual Open Morning, we invite you to watch the recording below.

Below is a summary of answers to all of the questions asked during the event.

If you would like to request more information or want to find out more, please don’t hesitate to contact our Sixth Form Admissions Secretary, Mrs Jane Herbert on head@yarmschool.org. You can also explore the School grounds and watch videos from students and staff from the comfort of your own home in our Virtual 360 Tour.

How do you support the transition to Sixth Form from other schools?

We understand that joining a new school is a big step and it can be a daunting prospect, but we ensure every student at Yarm feels supported and integrated into our community, even before they arrive, through a number of processes:

  • Prospective Students will be invited into School during the summer term for an induction day. They will be joined by other students new to the Sixth Form as well as some existing Sixth Formers who act as ‘buddies’ and can use this time to begin to form new friendships and familiarise themselves with the site.
  • Each Sixth Form student is allocated a tutor who they see at least twice a day. Tutors have a central role in our students’ time in Sixth Form and are there to provide help and advice along the way. The tutor group is also a group of students who form close bonds with each other.
  • Our School Houses promote social interaction through a number of sporting competitions, charity work and other events.
  • Sixth Formers enjoy a lunch with the Headmaster and the Head of Sixth Form during the autumn term.

Typically, around 20% of the cohort will be joining us from another school and so we generally find that students quickly integrate with one another. Many of the students joining us from outside of the School demonstrate an eagerness to try new things and broaden their horizons and will often put themselves forward for the leadership roles available to Sixth Form students, including the School Officers and Peer Support Mentors.

How does the House system work for Sixth Form students?

Our vertical House system allows students in the Sixth Form to develop leadership skills in a number of ways.

Every year we host a House Drama Competition which sees First, Second and Third Years from each of the four houses put on a performance written and directed by Sixth Form students. There are also a number of inter-house competitions and events throughout the year which are led by the House Captains who are again Sixth Form students. House Captains work closely with their Head of House to encourage participation from pupils throughout the School.

Our ‘Take a Lead’ programme and Peer Support Mentor Prefect opportunities are additional ways students can form and maintain links with pupils lower down the School. In the classroom, students who are excelling in particular subjects are given the opportunity to practise their communication and leadership skills by offering additional support to pupils in First or Second Year.

What subjects do you offer at A Level?

We currently offer 24 A Level subjects:

  • Art
  • Biology
  • Business
  • Chemistry
  • Classical Civilisation
  • D&T (Product Design)
  • D&T (Textiles)
  • Economics
  • English Literature
  • French
  • Further Maths
  • Geography
  • German
  • History
  • Latin
  • Mathematics
  • Music
  • Physics
  • Politics
  • Psychology
  • Physical Education
  • Religious Studies
  • Spanish
  • Drama & Theatre

Some of these you may be familiar with, some of these may be new to you. Please refer to our Sixth Form Prospectus for further information on each of these subjects.

Are there any restrictions on the combinations of subjects?

Many Sixth Forms and colleges build a set timetable and pass this over to their students who then have to decide which subjects they would like to study, ensuring they can do so without any clashes, but not being able to choose all combinations of subjects, which can be a disappointment.

We operate slightly differently and ask students to tell us the three subjects they would like to study, before we put together a timetable. On some very rare occasions we may not be able to fulfil everyone’s requests, however most of the time we are able to build a timetable that allows all of our students the opportunity to study their subject combination of choice.

Can pupils take part in sport inside and outside of School?

There is plenty of flexibility when it comes to sport and there is a wide range of participation depending on the student’s interest. Some students will take part in sport during the timetable but choose not to pursue it further, whilst others actively engage with many of the after-school clubs and activities on offer including by representing the School in fixtures and competitions.

We are also proud to have been represented locally, nationally and internationally for a diverse selection of sports including rugby, netball, hockey, rowing, gymnastics, horse riding, cross-country and tennis. There is flexibility within the timetable to dedicate the time allocated to PE/Games to your own training for sport outside of School. There is also the option to use some of this time for personal study.

How do students balance all of the extra-curricular opportunities with their A Levels?

Our students are extremely enthusiastic and often want to be involved in as much as possible and there is certainly plenty on offer for them to pursue. It can be a balancing act and is one that teachers and tutors want to help the student manage, sometimes alongside parents, to ensure their day-to-day timetable is achievable.

Whilst all of the extra-curricular opportunities are valuable, we would look to intervene if something starts to detract from the student’s learning or progression in one or all of their three A Levels. Every student is different and we take this into consideration when offering advice and support.

Generally, we find that our students have a good grasp on their capabilities and time and have the time management and organisation skills needed to establish and enjoy a good overall balance.

Do you offer Outdoor Education?

We do have a busy and varied Outdoor Education programme here at Yarm. We have two full-time members of staff who run the department who organise and run a range of trips, expeditions and tasks such as rock climbing, canoeing, ghyll scrambling, mountain biking, hiking and camping. We also have a purpose-built outdoor classroom on site, in the woods where children learn bushcraft and outdoor skills.

As pupils move through the School there are opportunities to take part in more demanding excursions and trips to help pupils build skills and confidence and further explore particular areas of interest within outdoor education.

We also offer the Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award which proves extremely popular year on year. Many of our Sixth Form students go on to complete their Gold Award soon after leaving and a good number actually complete it whilst they are still here with us. 

Are there any trips available to Sixth Form students?

There are a number of trips available to Sixth Form students, both exclusively and linked with the Senior School, across a range of our subjects, activities and clubs. From international sports tours and outdoor education excursions around the UK and abroad, to politics trips to Turkey and physics weekends away in Geneva, there are a broad range of opportunities.

Are there any social events?

The School organises some large scale events for Sixth Formers including a Sixth Form Dinner and a Leavers’ Dinner, both of which are held in the Princess Alexandra Auditorium. The Headmaster and Head of Sixth Form also host a lunch for each of the Sixth Form tutor groups at the start of each year.

Within the Houses, Heads of House and students also organise ‘Sixth Form only’ meals and activities outside of School.

Do Sixth Form students have access to all of the School’s facilities?

Yes. Depending on what the student is involved in, they may use all of our facilities on a regular basis. Read about our range of facilities. 

Do Sixth Formers attend assemblies?

Yes. Each week students in Fifth Year (Year 11), Lower Sixth (Year 12) and Upper Sixth (Year 13) will attend an assembly together and will also attend a separate weekly whole school assembly.

Some of these assemblies will be run by the Headmaster, the Head of Sixth Form and other members of staff, however students, often in Tutor Groups, will also take part in presenting on a wide range of topics they are interested in, recent examples including global deforestation and the Gold DofE expedition.

What is the food like?

Our fantastic catering team provides a daily menu of brilliant-quality food each day. As well as a varied selection of delicious main meals, pupils are offered soups, pastas and jacket potatoes. There is also a salad bar, the option to make your own sandwich, and a dessert station including fruit.

What careers support do you offer?

The Careers Department is very active at Yarm and offers each pupil the opportunity to discuss in detail where they see themselves going and what their next steps may be.

Whilst A Level subject choices are important in what students might do next, they are not everything. Every student is on their own journey and we strive to support them in making the right decision for them.

We have a team of Careers Ambassadors in School who liaise with students and discuss the different careers they may be interested in. Our Sixth Form Tutors are very experienced and work closely with students as they consider their next steps and, in nearly all cases, their university applications, with proactive support and guidance on hand to help students identify courses and develop their personal statements, and interview practice for all students in the Upper Sixth including mock MMI practice for students wishing to apply for Medicine, Dentistry or Veterinary Medicine.

Students benefit from at least 30minutes of contact time with their tutors each day during tutorials and this time is often allocated to general advice as well as 1-2-1 advice about the UCAS process. We also subscribe to several helpful online tools which support students in researching different universities, courses and careers.

Every two years our Careers Department holds a large careers convention which attracts a range of universities and employers into the School and allows Sixth Form students to engage in valuable conversations with people in areas they are interested in pursuing.

We also host a number of smaller career cluster events which bring experts in specific fields, such as computer science, finance and banking and the civil service, into School to talk to our students. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, these events are being held online via Zoom webinar.

What was your remote learning provision at the start of lockdown?

We worked exceptionally hard during lockdown to ensure all of our students had everything they needed to continue their study and maintain progression.

Students had access to Google Classroom for each of their subjects and teachers populated this space with content tailored to the context of remote learning. Additionally, students continued to benefit from 1-2-1, personalised feedback as they would have done if they were in School.

Whilst remote learning and lockdown posed many challenges and was a disruptive event for most of us, students benefited from an acceleration in learning specific skills such as independence, time management and organisation.

As we look forward, all of our pupils are going to receive a personal Chromebook which should help us facilitate any future lockdowns should they be on the horizon, and this will include live streamed lessons where appropriate and valuable to promote ongoing progress.

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