Back in the Sixth Form

Final year students spent a day at Carmel College, a large Sixth Form College that Edge Hill works with, to find  out more about teaching A level RS, and what life is like in a Sixth Form College, including the compulsory Ethics and Values lessons for all students.

The day began with us being privileged to join in the staff briefing. This was quite unlike briefings in Schools, and much more like a school assembly. It was held in the college theatre and led by the College Principal. Sarah gave a ‘Thought for the day’ and there were a number of other announcements about events going on, special services and some encouraging words about ensuring that teaching staff are not working too much, with the mantra #50isplently suggesting that a working week of 50 hours (including time at college and working time at home) is a maximum.

We then observed Sarah teaching an A level Buddhism class and were surprised that it began with a period of silent reading after which the students were invited to talk briefly about what they had read and what they had learnt.
There was then a key word test on 12 Buddhist terms. These were then peer marked and scores recorded. Students were to work on the terms that they did not know.
Students were then reminded about an upcoming file check and guided as to what was expected.
Next was a kahoot quiz testing how well the students had engaged with their prescribed reading from last lesson which had been posted on the students’ VLE. Sarah was able to use the answers to set relevant homework questions in the future.
There followed a discussion about hagiography in the texts of the Buddha’s enlightenment, and then groupwork on the hagiography of the four watches of the Buddha. At the end students were given a practice question to do at home. The students have a WhatsApp group chat which they shared the question.

After a break in the staffroom we had a tour of the college, meeting the pastoral tutor team and Foundation provision, where post 16 students with learning difficulties are educated in a practical way, with some vocational courses. We also got to see the canteen, the chaplaincy and the whole college.

Sarah then talked about some of the differences between a school sixth form and a sixth form college. She highlighted the way hat the college is trying to develop in their students a ‘Carmel Mindset’, trying to develop independent learners who make progress towards high achievement at A level, based on the VESPA model.

Nathan, a former graduate of our course, then talked about how to survive the NQT year. Some students were pleasantly surprised that it was possible to do the NQT year in a Sixth Form College. He also had some wise advice about not taking the ‘reputation’ of a school too seriously, as sometimes a school with a bad reputation can be a great school to teach, or do a placement in.

After lunch we got to observe and take part in more lessons.  In the A2 class there were over 20 students who were working on the philosophy paper. The lesson began by students selecting a lollipop stick that had a philosophical question on it to discuss. Glen then took in the essays that students had completed over the weekend and then introduced students to the Westphal essay. As part of this we were able to contribute brief sections on scholasticism and deism. In Lexy’s AS Philosophy class we helped the students reconnect with the learning they had been doing focussing on Hulme’s criticisms of the teleological argument. Whilst in Glen’s AS RE lesson we gave brief overviews of the three central Buddhist concepts of dukkha, anicca, and anatta. It was interesting to see how he used the material of the subject content about the social setting of the Buddha to teach the academic skill of note taking in a cohesive way.

We were also able to observe and take part in the Ethics &Values lessons, which are compulsory core RE lessons which all students at the College take part in. Nathan was teaching issues involved in IVF, whilst Heather was asking pupils to think about the ethics of France’s burka ban.

“Really Useful in terms of seeing how sixth formers are taught”

You can see more photos from the day on Flickr.

“It made the idea of teaching in a college not as daunting”