Thursday, 12 September 2013

Do not be worried about "standing out"

“And what is good, Phaedrus,
            And what is not good _____
            Need we ask anyone to tell us these things”.

            Robert M Pirsig, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”.

Yesterday at around 4.00 p.m. (Monday), I found out that I had lost a very close friend of mine after a short but serious illness.  I felt very upset and numbed by the experience and I could not help reflecting on our friendship as I cycled home.  To compound my reflective state, I had a puncture (another) outside the same farm as the previous week.  I thought about our conversation, 10 days ago, when I visited him at his home in Stafford.  As he sat in a wheelchair, he quizzed me about our results, enrolment and successes in his beautiful Irish accent.  The two of us have worked together for almost 15 years and he has certainly been a source of inspiration to hundreds of students and myself.  I told him about our outstanding results at A2, AS and on our BTEC courses, the high increase in the number of top grades at A* and the success of our Oxbridge and medics.  As I informed him about the growth of our College, the new building that is being constructed and some of the superb staff that we have appointed, he smiled in that knowing way, which was his style.  It is interesting that our fortunes are followed in different parts of Yorkshire, the rest of the country and even in Europe and the States.
            John Maynard Keynes once said,
            "When I see objective data I change my views.  What do you do?" 

This is poignant because one of our "partner organisations" in Hull has been advertising in the local press and claims to be the best sixth form college in Hull.  Apart from the fact that it is not even a proper sixth form college but an 11-18 school, the data would not support the fact that it is anywhere near the best.  That combined with offering mini iPads to entice students in the sixth form would appear to be a little desperate.  But enough about that, what about us and what can we offer? 

            Just plain "outstanding teaching".
            Brilliant student outcomes:           
            Excellent results at A2 (99.6%); AS (94%); A* - B grades at 49%+;
            Superb support;
            An abundance of trips and visits;
            Exceptional facilities.

Questions about the outcomes of students are always poignant and worth seeking answers to through the plethora of (sometimes deceptive) marketing and publicity material.  So many new students - it is wonderful to see you all coming in in the morning, getting used to greeting me with a wonderful smile on your faces.  I have been particularly impressed by your willingness to come up with solutions at lunch and break times, finding nooks and crannies for shelter and comfort.  The new building will be ready later this term and should provide more space and additional facilities.  My advice is to be patient because the new provision will certainly be worth waiting for.

On Monday lunchtime, I went out to see the large number of students and staff participating in team trials: 60-70 boys and 50 girls playing football; 40+ girls playing netball; 40 boys playing rugby and over 30 students practising basketball.  What an amazing turnout – no wonder that PE is so successful at our College.  It got even better; as I went searching for one of our music staff, I found myself in the Theatre where nearly 30 students were rehearsing a song in preparation for their auditions for Little Shop of Horrors. 

This is only the first full week and I know that other enrichment sessions: choir; jazz band; debating; Law Society; medical careers; the Maths Olympiad, will begin later in the week.  I cannot help feeling that this reinforces our message about our College,

            "The more you put in the more that you will get out". 

I can only reinforce this message and urge all of you to get involved in things, be enthusiastic, do not be worried about "standing out" and continue to smile.

Seeing all of you and witnessing the efforts of our magnificent staff certainly makes me so happy and able to escape from the sadness of losing my wonderful friend.  I know that he would have been so proud of you.  This blog is dedicated to Sean Hayes - Rest in Peace dear friend.

            "It's not time to make a change….
            Just relax, take it easy.
            You're still young (but)
            I know (you) have to go away".

            Cat Stevens, "Father and Son".