9th November, 2012 - Sunderland Learning Hub

(from Autumn 2012 Consultation Period)
Why is Southmoor applying to have a Sixth Form?
There is very little choice of Sixth Form provision within Sunderland at present. Pupils can
either attend one of four Faith Schools or The College. There is no non-Faith School Sixth
Form choice.
Pupils in Sunderland have a significantly less than average chance of getting into a top
university. On average 8% of pupils nationally gain a place at a top university (Russell Group)
but in Sunderland this figure drops by a quarter to only 6%. We want to do something about
this and increase opportunities for young people.
Will Southmoor be able to run a successful Sixth Form?
Southmoor is an award winning school with a track record of outstanding exam success. We
plan to bring that quality of education leadership and teaching and learning to a Sixth Form.
We are confident of success.
Many of our teachers do actually have significant Sixth Form experience but we also have a
support agreement to share expertise with an Outstanding partner school which itself acquired
a Sixth Form three years ago.
What would the Southmoor Sixth Form curriculum look like?
In order to place pupils in top universities they need high grades in A Levels in what are known
as ‘Facilitating Subjects’ (English Literature, Maths, Further Maths, History, Geography,
Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Modern Languages). We would therefore base our curriculum
on this but would add a few other well regarded qualifications dependent on student choice
such as perhaps Psychology, Art or Music.
How will pupils gain entry to the Sixth Form?
At present we would plan to take perhaps about 80 Southmoor students and 20 students from
beyond Southmoor. Southmoor students would have an automatic right to stay on in the Sixth
Form if they gained GCSE grades which would suggest that they are capable of A Level.
Generally this means 5 grade A*-C with English and Maths and usually at least a grade B in the
subject that they wish to study at A Level.
What about pupils who don’t have these qualifications?
There are a range of courses and providers across Sunderland for these pupils to choose from.
We are addressing a specific need for a more academic curriculum. Sadly, even if it was our
intention we could not provide the specialist equipment and resources necessary to teach
many of the courses currently provided elsewhere.
Isn’t this curriculum a bit narrow?
Yes. But this will not be all that our Sixth Formers do. To get into a good university a Sixth
Former has to write a strong personal statement which shows a range of interests and a
willingness to take on a challenge. So in order to support this we will timetable a range of
activities during the school day, after school and sometimes in the holidays which allow pupils
to develop personally. These will include Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award, sports coaching
badges, charity and community events, etc.
We also aim to schedule into our timetable a quality Professional Placement for all students.
This will involve a block of time during the school week which would be spent in the work place
and would add greatly to the appeal of a student to potential employers as well as good
Where will the Sixth Form be based?
Our current plans involve basing the Sixth Form in our Technology Block. We have allocated
significant funding for refurbishment. We are planning a large suite of rooms reserved for Sixth
Form use alone. This would include IT facilities, upgraded Science labs, social areas and
catering facilities.
What will it be like to be a Sixth Former in Southmoor Sixth Form?
Privileged, challenging and optimistic. Privileged because these pupils will have earned their
place and they will know their worth. They will be treated as young adults and will be the
subject of envy and respect from younger pupils at the school who will seek to emulate their
Challenging because we will expect the highest standards in behaviour, motivation and hard
work. We will not be taking an easy path in the curriculum with our qualifications but our
students will know that success holds out the opportunity of real reward in future life.
Optimistic because our students will know that by our success and their hard work we will
change their lives.
What happens next?
We will spend a great deal of time on a viability study covering such crucial issues as staffing,
finance, accommodation, etc. As part of this study, we will carry out a broad range of
consultation with other schools and providers as well as the Local Authority. This process has
to last two months. It is our intention to apply for a Sixth Form by mid-January 2013 and we
would hope to have a reply from the Secretary of State for Education by around mid-April.
Will we get a Sixth Form?
We think there is an excellent chance. We feel that we have the capacity, the successful track
record and the resources to really deliver. We also know that we have the goodwill of both
pupils and parents. Despite this we can’t take anything for granted and it is ultimately a
decision for one person, the Secretary of State. However what we do know for absolute certain
is that if we cannot demonstrate sufficient support from both pupils and parents we will not
even get to the application stage. Please show your support.
What should parents do?
Please send me any comments you would like to make by e-mail (written comments are best
as they can be used to support the application). If you have any urgent questions you are
welcome to telephone me, otherwise please attend the meeting on 21 st November and you will
be given the opportunity to put your support for a Sixth Form at Southmoor in writing.
E-mail: [email protected]
(0191) 5537600
Dr. Phil Ingram