The start of this academic year has, without question, been the strangest and most challenging of my 31 years in education. Lockdown, of course gave us many tests and problems to solve. We were so sad to suddenly have to say goodbye to our second year students before the end of their courses. We embraced online learning and were pleased beyond expectation that so many students engaged positively with this and kept some sort of momentum going with their studies. But the college is all about people working together and staff and students alike missed the energy and fun of being in the same place, working towards common goals.
The national fiasco over examination results must never be repeated. The overwhelming majority of our students were happy with their results and have progressed to the destination of their choice. Every year a small number of students are disappointed by their results but this year that disappointment was made more bitter by a feeling that the cancellation of the exams had cheated them of the chance to prove themselves. In most cases it appears that students have not been put off the idea of progressing to university despite some misgivings about what that experience might be like. Employment opportunities and apprenticeships are harder to come by right now but there are sectors who are recruiting locally and, irrespective of lockdown, staff have continued to support students to achieve their desired progression route.
When the Prime Minister announced that everyone must be back at school/college in September my overriding feeling was of joy, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t also concerned about just how that could be achieved, protecting the safety of both students and staff. After two weeks of a part-time transitional programme, students are now back in the class room full-time and seem very happy about it! Of course, some anxieties have been expressed by both parents and students and I think this is mainly as a result of confusion caused by continual changes to government guidance. The notion of social distancing on college transport and in the classroom became an impossibility as soon as the instruction was issued that all students were to return. Our resources are finite, but we are utilising them as creatively as possible to maximise the safety of all.
We have taken the decision to go ahead with our Autumn Open Evenings for Year 11 students but are asking visitors to pre-book slots and follow a one-way system to manage numbers on-site at any one time. In doing this prospective students and parents will be able to experience the campus and facilities for themselves and, most importantly, meet our inspirational teachers. Expert guidance will be available about our courses and the careers they could lead to, so I hope you will book a slot and see for yourself all that we have to offer.
Principal Prior Pursglove & Stockton Sixth Form College