The start of a new academic year is always very exciting. All of you will be returning after holidays, new experiences, results at GCSE, AS level or on the BTEC courses. For over 1000 of you, you will be making a new start. We also have a number of new staff who have started with us. So welcome to our College and to the wide range of new experiences that you will encounter. For those of you who have received results, I hope that they reflect your efforts during the last few years.
It is a real privilege to be a part of, and to see, so many happy and smiling faces. I am immensely proud to say that you are joining a very successful college where so many students have achieved such outstanding success. This is evident by the number who have progressed to the top universities, been recruited by some of the largest employers in the area and enrolled on to the most prestigious courses.
As I stood at the entrance on the first day of term, I couldn't help singing a Leonard Cohen song in my head:
"One by one the guests arrive
The guests are coming through
The openhearted many
The broken hearted few
All at once the torches flare
The inner door flies open
One by one they enter there
In every style of passion." The Guests by Leonard Cohen
So many vibrant faces, smiling, enthusiastic and open. If my EPQ group is representative, then we have a really exciting new year to look forward to.
The first day/week is always quite nerve wracking and demanding. The routine of getting up early, preparing for the next day, the transport arrangements, as well as deciding what to wear and whom to talk to. I can assure you that I too have the same feelings and anxieties at the start of every new year.
I spent a really interesting and moving weekend with members of my extended family. I met some of my uncles, aunts and cousins whom I have not seen for a very long time. It made me realise the depth and strength of familial bonds. Invariably, our conversations drifted on to educational issues (as well as football), and they duly quizzed me on some of the issues about our College. I reflected on what our College represents and the uniqueness of what makes us so special.
I am absolutely convinced that it is a combination of so many factors: the way in which we communicate with each other, care for one another, the fact that all of us work so hard to make sure that we are always student-focused and that everything we do should be to ensure that we enable you to fulfil your potential. We all have a role to play.
A few minutes ago, I walked out of my office and asked some colleagues to sum up what makes us so special in two words: our students; inspiration and dedication; a critical mass who always 'go the extra mile' (not two words but extremely powerful); our culture and ethos, intellectual curiosity…
At the moment, based upon the national statistics and information that we have, our College is in the top 12% of all A level providers. I believe that this year we will move into the top 8% of all Colleges nationally. I am confident that because of some of the changes that we have made our results will get even better. I believe this for the following reasons:
• Our staff team (teaching and support) is stronger than it has ever been since I started in 2011.
• Our new Faculty system and Progress Tutors are completely focused on inspiring and supporting every single student to achieve at the highest level.
• Our AS and BTEC results from 2015-2016 are some of the best that we have achieved.
• The new system of common standard assessments, mocks and end of year examinations will enable us to monitor, stretch and support every one of you so that you are successful.
• Our new intake of students is amazing and it makes me so pleased that you have decided to get on "the Wyke train".
Everything that I observe confirms this. On Monday over 400 of you took part in the sports trials under the supervision of our amazing PE Department and the team of outstanding coaches. It was incredible to see so many of you competing, supporting and being so respectful of each other. It is also evident when I walk around at lunchtime and it reaffirms my belief that our College is the best possible preparation for the next stage in your careers (University or employment).
At this time of year, I always remember one of my best and at times infuriating friends who was always an inspiration to students. Sadly, he passed away three years ago but as a Neil Young fan, a song comes to mind:
"Instead of cursin’ the darkness
Light a candle for where we’re goin’
There's something ahead, worth looking for.
When the light of dawn is on us
We will see what we can be
And the ancient ones can sleep an easy sleep".
Neil Young, "Light a Candle"
So the role of all of us at our 'beautiful' College is to ‘light’ the way to take you forward in your academic career and show you what is possible because it certainly is "worth looking for".
Finally, as always, I am optimistic about my beloved Leeds United and can only hope that we can have the stability that is necessary to make progress.
So to all staff and students, have a brilliant academic year, work extremely hard, get involved in College life, have fun and enjoy all that is on offer.