Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Mesmerised by the Quality

Untitled Document As the term comes to an end and with Christmas looming, it is worth reflecting on the past few months in terms of what we have learned and achieved.

As always, the first term is incredibly busy: for students in the first year, a new environment, getting used to new staff, a different culture, establishing new friendship groups and concentrating on a smaller number of subjects.  For returning students, the emphasis has been on planning for the next stage beyond Wyke and ensuring that the foundations are in place to achieve the appropriate grades.

As I write this, the Sports Hall, the Elm Fitness Studio and the Theatre are full of students taking mock examinations.  It is wonderful to see such focus and commitment from all of you.  Of course, all of our staff will also ensure that the mocks are used to bring about further improvements in performance and the accompanying success.

Our College has a local, regional and national reputation for achieving excellent results by whatever standards we use to make the judgements.  Therefore, it is galling for me to hear about some colleagues from schools with small sixth forms, castigating us and we have no opportunity to have a "right to reply".  We are unable to engage in any sort of dialogue and to present the objective data countering the misinformation.  As the late Leonard Cohen wrote in "Everybody Knows":

"Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich.
Everybody knows the boat is leaking
Everybody knows the Captain lied."
So stories of excessively large groups and the impersonal nature of our College are perpetuated without students having the opportunity to hear the truth.  Information about our outstanding results, our largest ever Oxbridge cohort, our applications for Engineering, Medicine, Science, Mathematics and the fact that 20% of our students went to the Russell Group of Universities, are "glossed over".  Leonard Cohen, in "Waiting for the Miracle", wrote:

"Ah I don't believe you'd like it (at Wyke)
You wouldn't like it (here)
There ain't no entertainment
And the judgements are severe
The Maestro says it's Mozart
But it sounds like bubble gum”.

It's definitely "bubble gum" and I believe that students eventually "see through” it.

Last week I went to our Dance Showcase and I was mesmerised by the quality of our dancers.  It really has moved to a different level and it is no surprise that our dancers recently returned from Liverpool with two first and two runners’ up prizes.  A definite first for us and I'm really proud of the participants. 

Tomorrow, our Christmas music concert will be in Beverley.  I am delighted that for the first time in three years we will be returning and I'm certain that it will be a wonderful occasion.  I am very pleased that so many staff and members of our Corporation will be attending to support the music provision at our College.

Finally, have a restful and fun-filled Christmas.  I look forward to seeing you in the New Year.

Jay Trivedy

Monday, 7 November 2016

"For the times they are a-changin…."

“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depths of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habits;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever widening thought and action –
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake”,
Rabindranath Tagore
Tagore wrote this about the birth of his country but it could equally apply, with its universal aspiration, optimism and hope, to the success of our College. 
Our story, too, needs to be witnessed and experienced:
  • On Wednesday, the Oxbridge mock interviews took place, with over 25 students, and nearly 30 interviews.  It made me so proud to listen to the thoughts and ideas of some of our students; your ability to think "on your feet" and to be able to articulate your wonderful thoughts.  We also interviewed a very small number of outstanding students from Kelvin Hall School.  All of our external interviewers were incredibly enthusiastic.  What was interesting was that some of them were unaware of our existence and our unique atmosphere/ethos.

  • The large number of staff and students who were involved in activities, walking, camping, dancing and map-reading during the half term break.
  • The amazing success of our teams in the Regional Sports Finals and all the results from the fixtures on Wednesday, particularly our 3rd team in Netball.

  • The incredible atmosphere that was created by those of you who volunteered during our first Open Evening.  So many of the parents commented on how much they enjoyed talking to you and your sheer enthusiasm for our College.  You are definitely our best ambassadors.
  • The willingness of my delightful EPQ group to think "outside the box".

  • The wonderful stories about your behaviour and conduct that I hear from staff who have returned from a trip.
Currently, there is a great deal of turmoil in the world and tremendous rapid change which can be a little unsettling: increase in tuition fees; linear two year A-levels; new ways of assessing what is learnt; the reintroduction of grammar schools….. Our role is to survey the landscape and make sense of so much of the nonsense.  It is crucial that you remain focused on what is important and that you continue to work extremely hard, to learn what is needed to access your dreams. 
It is sometimes difficult and unsettling when there is so much change: what will happen in the American elections; will the UK invoke Article 50; what will happen to the refugees in Calais; the role of Russia; the growth of the xenophobia; employment for young people, the growth of the National Debt… (Incidentally, so many of these are courtesy of my EPQ group).  However, it has always been thus.
Yesterday, I listened to a song and it made me really think about how change can feel threatening and that it is a perfectly natural reaction but one that we have to take in our stride.  We must not put up barriers or go into a cocoon.
"Some people stay away from the door
If there's a chance of it opening up.…
Some people see through the eyes of the old
Before they ever get a look at the young….
Some people hope for a miracle cure
Some people just accept the world as it is….
But I'm not willing to lay down and die
Because I am an innocent man",
Billy Joel
Change happens and we must all embrace it and take control.  We have all been back for at least 7 weeks and in that time, I am sure that we too will have experienced and undergone change.  During that period, it is imperative that we return to our fundamental values and our belief in education and its ability to transform all of our lives.
As the 2016 Nobel Prize winner for Literature sang,
"For the times they are a-changin…."

Jay Trivedy

Friday, 16 September 2016

A Real Privilege

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.

Jay Trivedy

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

The Best of Times

As we approach the end of an academic year, this comment from Dickens is poignant:
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us……."
- A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
A period of great change for our country and for the education system.  The outcome of the Referendum is certainly very unsettling and even the "experts" are uncertain about what this will mean.  A series of questions remain unanswered:
  1. What will happen to employment?
  2. What will the companies, who rely on exports, do in response to the falling value of sterling?
  3. Who will be our next Prime Minister?
  4. Will there be a credible opposition and who will lead it?
  5. What will happen in relation to the border controls in France?
  6. Will Scotland remain a part of the United Kingdom?
  7. Will the outcome of our Referendum trigger further exits from the European Union?

However, tumultuous changes at the macro level invariably cause changes at the micro level.  Changes to education mean that almost all Sixth Form Colleges will introduce linear A-levels.  All Sixth Form Colleges will also be deciding on whether they will and/or be allowed to convert to Academies, in the future.
Change is inevitable and our role, as a Senior Team, is to manage the change whilst ensuring that the quality of experience that you have continues to be of the highest standard.  Our role as a College is to ensure that all of you can fulfil your potential and proceed on to the next level in your careers.  The changes within the College include:
  1. The movement from six to four new faculties.
  2. New staff base rooms and accommodation for many subjects.
  3. The departure of some excellent staff to 'retirement' or the next stage in their careers.  This includes two staff who have served the College for over forty years between them and one who has inspired generations of students over the last two/three decades into the love of politics.
  4. The creation of new IT areas in response to the many requests from you for more study space. 
  5. New displays and ways to celebrate your amazing success and experiences.
  6. The appointment of exciting new staff: Business; Science; Law; Sociology; PE; Dance; Health and Social Care.
  7. The appointment of support staff so that we have a new Administration Manager, a UCAS/Careers Coordinator and a Work Experience/Careers member of staff.
  8. New catering arrangements in the Elm building.
  9. A new and exciting visit planned to enable you to experience Thailand and the opportunity to teach English as a foreign language.
  10. Changing the nature of our Awards Evening in January so that we are not constrained by the size of our Theatre.
  11. In line with changes at national level, becoming a linear College so that all of our A-levels will be examined externally at the end of two years of study.
  12. Introducing the idea of Electives for all students in their first year.
  13. Introducing a small number of new courses for prospective students.
  14. A new Student Executive that will function in a harmonious way to enhance the experience of our students.

So the year comes to an end and yet again, disappointingly, our country will not be in the latter stages of the European Championships, much like our country "choosing" to be out of the European Union.
As always, I am excited about the future of my beloved Leeds United: a new, young management team; some anticipated arrivals into the squad and a 'fresh' approach to the 2016-2017 season.  I cannot wait for it to begin.  No doubt, the Championship will be incredibly tough – some 'big' clubs have been relegated from the Premier league.  Leeds United will need to adapt.
"The snake which cannot cast off its skin has to die.  As well the minds which are prevented from changing their opinions; they cease to be mind," Friedrich Nietzsche.
Enjoy the summer.  For those who are going to 'new pastures', good luck in the future and for those returning, come back reinvigorated and ready for a successful new academic year.  Remember:
"The times they are a-changing," Bobby Dylan
"Fashion changes, but style endures," Coco Chanel 
We will continue to do what we do best.
"I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples," Mother Teresa.

Jay Trivedy

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

To Thine own self be True

The exam season is now in full flow, so it is an excellent time to reflect on the last few months and to think about the future.

I have walked around the campus on a number of occasions recently and have been amazed by your work ethic and the studious atmosphere.  All of you have found various nooks and crannies where you can focus on your studies and I can see the serious way in which you are approaching the next few weeks.  As it is the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death, I will endeavour to refer to him having been inspired by a live show that was beamed to theatres on the actual day.

"There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so," Hamlet.

Remember that however difficult it seems at the moment, it will be worth the short-term sacrifice:

"Come what come may, time and the hour runs through the roughest day," Macbeth.

It has been wonderful to have been able to respond to a request to open our Library on Saturdays.  I am delighted that so many of you have used this facility from 10.00 am until 4.00 pm.  It is pleasing that the numbers have gone up from 14 to 42 to 61 last week.  Of course, I am extremely grateful to all of the staff, particularly Karen, who have made this possible by giving up their own time.  Indeed, I am always thoroughly grateful and in awe of the lengths our staff go to, to make sure that you are well prepared for the future.

"Nothing will come of nothing," King Lear.

Last month, I was privileged to be able to watch our Women's 1st XI play in the AoC cup final at St Andrew’s Stadium in Birmingham.  It was the second consecutive year in which we have got to the final.  This is an incredible achievement for a college of our size.  Whilst we lost by 5 goals to 4 to the same team as we played last year, I felt incredibly proud of our players, our wonderful supporters and all of the parents who attended.  That combined with our boys' team reaching the semi-finals, I believe that these achievements are a testimony to our wonderful PE Department and all of the teachers and coaches who run the teams.  This line from the Bard is an apt description of what we witnessed:

"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players. 
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts," As You like It.

For me, that player was Misty Russell who was selected as the player of the final (which in itself is unusual from the losing team) but who was truly outstanding.  A fantastic role model for all of the players and supporters in the way in which she played (scored a hat-trick), the way in which she encouraged her teammates and her sheer genuine modesty.  You made us all really proud, Misty.

On Monday, I travelled with a colleague to a garden party at Buckingham Palace to collect a plaque for our College to offer the Duke of Edinburgh Award.  We are now a 'Licensed Organisation' to offer this award thanks to the tremendous work of staff.  It was brilliant to see so many Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award winners and to listen to Hannah Cockcroft, who is a world record holder and gold medal winner from the 2014 Paralympics.  Hannah astounded us all by telling us how hard she works and her motivation to ensure that she never loses a race (she has only ever lost one race).  As ever, someone who is so talented and determined was incredibly modest.

"If to do were as easy as to know what were good to do, chapels had been churches, and poor men's cottage Princes' palaces," The Merchant of Venice.

Therein lies a message for all of us!

Three weeks ago I went to listen to the candidates in the hustings for the Student Executive.  It was great to see a packed theatre and hear such interesting ideas.  It is always incredibly difficult to speak in front of your peers and I thought that many of the speeches were excellent.  The current Student Executive did a great job in organising the event and ensuring that people kept to their time limit.  Unfortunately, not everyone can get elected and such is the democratic process that many excellent presenters were unsuccessful.  I hope to meet with the new Student Executive and begin the exciting journey into the new academic year.

We are now busy planning for the new academic year to ensure that our College is ready for the next stage in our development.  This means that we have appointed new staff, reorganised some of our current arrangements and made decisions about the subjects that we will be offering, the timing and nature of our internal examinations as well as reviewing the use of our existing resources and catering arrangements.  Much of this is about trying to guess the future from a position of strength:

"What light through yonder window breaks?"  Romeo and Juliet

As ever, we continue to hear snippets of some (false) negative things said about us in some 11-18 schools.  Our response as always is:

“Fi, thy calumnies taint us not”, As You Like It
"Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows," The Tempest

Finally, I cannot resist the temptation to comment on my beloved Leeds United.  Our season is disappointingly over and my club is a shambles:

"The fault, dear Brutus, lies not within the stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings," Julius Caesar

I am really pleased about The Tigers and hope that the club is successful at Wembley for our staff and students, for the City in 2017 and for our College.

Returning to Shakespeare, my advice to you is:

"To thine own self be true," Hamlet
"Love thrives not in the heart that shadows dreadeth," The Rape of Lucrecia,

Jay Trivedy

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Thanks for a Wonderful Rag Week

As the term comes to an end and we prepare for Easter, I want to take the opportunity to thank everyone for the wonderful Rag Week: those who wore costumes, who organised events, who participated and volunteered to help.  What a fantastic week culminating in the terrifying and terrific Lip Sync on Friday.  The week was full of stimulation, fun, music, intellectual testing as well as much laughter.
What is really amazing are the number of events and activities that have been such a big part of this term:
  • Trips to Berlin, New York, Rome, Washington, Geneva, Switzerland, South Africa.
  • Success in competitions ranging from poetry recital to accountancy and sport.
  • The cross College-production of Aspects of Chicago.
  • The presence at our Rag Week of Take That, the Walt Disney team to perform The Lion King, The Spice Girls, Taylor Swift and BeyoncĂ©.
  • To see wonderful characters parading around the campus such as: Spiderman; Superman; Mary Poppins; Cruella de Vil; Harry Potter; Una Thurman; Juno; one of the Blues Brothers; Star Trekkies; Elsa; Marty McFly; Dumbledore…

Our College is so special.  You achieve outstanding results (fourth nationally out of the 92 Sixth Form Colleges for the points score at A-level), and have such brilliant experiences.
Take That's anthem, Never Forget, is so apt:
We've come so far and we've reached so high
And we've looked each day and night in the eye
And we're still so young and we hope for more…
I recently attended a Young Person’s lecture for the Royal Aeronautical Society and one of the speakers presented on "turbulence".  He made the connection between Leonardo da Vinci's sketches of turbulence in water to the impact on aircraft.  As I sit in my office to write this, I have just seen the images of turbulence in Brussels.  I am only too aware of the issues in Brazil, the impending referendum on Europe, the turbulence caused by Barack Obama's visit to Cuba and last week's budget on the reductions (now reversed) on disability benefits.  Too much turbulence can be unsettling but sometimes it is necessary, not comfortable, but productive.
The Easter period will be critical for so many of you.  How you use your time may well determine the results that you achieve and ultimately, your future.  So make sure that you commit the necessary time to ensure your success.  Be extremely determined, plan your revision and do not be tempted to 'slacken off'.  Do not be tempted by the lure of money to work part-time.  You can always do that after your examinations.  Leonard Cohen’s words come to mind,
"Like a bird on a wire
Like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried…to be free".
You can certainly become more free after your examinations but in the meantime remain focused.
Last weekend, our youngest son took me to watch "my beloved Leeds United".  True to form, after three consecutive wins, we got "hammered" by four goals to one.  However, I really enjoyed the time together and it made me realise how important it is to appreciate and enjoy "the here and now".  The balance is always between doing the hard work (which can also be fun), and doing the "extra" things that are also so enjoyable – whether it is dressing up in costume, putting on extra sessions for revision, organising trips and activities.  As always, the old adage,
"The more you put in, the more you get out"
is so true.  This is the case in all walks of life: work, relationships, friendships and performance.  There are some for whom the glass is always half-empty whilst the ones that "lighten up our lives", who energise us, are the ones for whom the glass is half full.  They are positive, enjoy the "here and now", and work so hard to make our College so successful.
I love this quote by Martin Luther King:
"If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry.
He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well".
Have a great, productive Easter.

Jay Trivedy

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Formula for Success

Welcome back and I hope that you have had a really good Christmas and that 2016 is a great year for you and our College.  As always, the New Year brings lots of challenges and opportunities.  As I have said in my meetings with all of you, it is critical that we are all focused on ensuring that everything is done to achieve success and reach our potential.  There is no magic formula for doing exceptionally well other than hard work, commitment and having a 100% attendance rate.  At our recent Awards Evening three weeks ago, there were over 30 students who received the Principal’s Award for achieving the highest grades in all of their subjects.  It is worth mentioning that almost all of these students showed remarkable commitment and worked exceptionally hard.
“I can’t give you a sure-fire formula for success, but I can give you a formula for failure: try to please everybody all the time,”    Herbert Bayard Swope.
In the last few weeks, we have all been saddened by the loss of David Bowie, Alan Rickman and Terry Wogan.  Many people have asked me how I feel about it and whilst it is sad for the people concerned and their families, they are celebrities and have had a good life.  I am more saddened by the loss of those close to us, family, friends and those who have illnesses and elderly relatives.
Bowie’s music represents the passing of an era for me: the ‘golden’ days after finishing our Finals and really relaxing by playing sport, lying in till mid-day, having long conversations with our closest friends, many of whom remain so after over 35 years.
Karl Marx in the German ideology describes the Utopian Society:
“… it is possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner…..”
Unfortunately, we have to concentrate on the task ahead for now.  For those of you who will be leaving our College in July, your time here will also represent the passing of an era; one that I hope that you will remember with great fondness, excitement, achievement and stimulation.  So focus on the here and now, push yourself and share in the tremendous activity and success all around you:
  • our men’s and women’s football teams in the national semi-finals;
  • the success of our netballers and basketball team;
  • the success of our teams in being runners-up in the law mooting competition;
  • our Gold Crest Winners in Science;
  • the wonderful offers that many of you have from some of the most prestigious universities and on the most sought after courses;
  • our College’s position as the top performing A level provider in the region in the performance league tables;
  • the visits to New York, Berlin, Florence, Berne in Switzerland, Washington and South Africa in the next few weeks;
  • the national poetry recital competition that we have been involved with;
  • the numerous external speakers in engineering;
  • the visit of the Leader of the House of Lords, Baroness D’Souza and our local MP, Diana Johnson.

Thank you too for the fabulous help that you have given during our numerous Open Evenings and Open Days.  A prospective parent asked me if you were happy and I was delighted to send him to talk to any of you.  I did emphasise that we do not tell you what to say but that nearly 200 students had volunteered on a very cold and windy day.
So make the decisions that are so crucial now, don’t wait.  Seize the opportunities that life throws your way and make the most of your time at our College.
Jo Walsh, the lead singer for The Eagles, wrote a song with the following line:
“Life’s been good to me so far…..”
I believe that it can get even better but we all have to work exceptionally hard to maintain our success.   Remember, that we all make choices:
“Each day is one step further from birth, one moment closer to dismissal.  How we travel the path is our own decision,”   Anon.
Even if things don’t unfold in the way you expected, don’t be disheartened or give up;
“…one who continues to advance will win in the end,”   Anon.
Be positive and optimistic in life and in 2016.
There is a Chinese saying, “…in the stream where you least expect it, you’ll find fish”.