The A Level Debate: Is three the magic number?

By Rob Hastings, Director of Sixth Form at Ipswich High School for Girls The uncoupling of AS from A Levels has posed lots of questions for sixth forms across the country especially when it comes to whether students are best off studying three or four A-Levels. A recent Daily Mail headline reported on Jonathan Godfrey’s (Chairman of the council of the Sixth Form Colleges Association) stance that students should take four, or even five A Levels in the Sixth Form as keeping their brains busy is the key to A Level success. In my experience, it is not necessary to study more than three A Levels to achieve success. Ultimately, the vast majority of our students are studying A Levels in order to get a place at the university of their choice. No university makes an offer of admission on the basis of four A Levels; all offers are made on three including Oxford and Cambridge. Bristol University, for example, states that they look at three A- Levels and the eight best GCSE grades as a measure of academic achievement [...]

2018-02-21T09:18:33+00:00 February 21st, 2018|

Full STEAM Ahead

Around this time last year, I wrote a blog that analysed what it meant to be a dancer in an educational setting. I discussed the value creative subjects had on the curriculum as a whole; what skills it gave our students in terms of moving on not only in to Further and Higher Education, but also eventually into the world of work. It seems that not a day goes by where I do not see an article about the power of creativity and how it plays a vital role in both developing young people’s transferable skills, and what is also a thriving industry from an economical point of view. Creative Industries careers currently account for 1 in 20 jobs; contributing £84.1 billion a year to the UK economy. By 2020, these figures are expected to show that Creative Industries will be one of the top three areas of employment in this country. The children of today will be doing jobs that do not even exist yet. You may recall a huge government push for pupils to study STEM subjects (Science, [...]

2018-02-09T15:58:41+00:00 February 9th, 2018|

Ipswich High School at the British Schoolgirls Ski Race 2018

Last week, seven Ipswich High School pupils took part in one of the ski team’s biggest races of the year, the British Schoolgirls in Flaine. The A team consisted of Kathryn B., Annie S. and Maddie S. The B team consisted of Florence E., Sophie E., Alice T. and Elizabeth M. For the entire B team this was the first time they had raced on snow before. We had two days of training with a coach from Kandahar race team, Ash Breeze. We trained on giant slalom gates regular ones. Some of us had never skied giant slalom gates, we all thought it was great fun. On Monday it was time to move on to the racing. The first day was the giant slalom, with time for a quick free ski in the middle. We recorded some notable results from this race. Annie came third in the U16 category and third overall. Kathryn came second in U18 category and eight overall. Maddie came 66th overall and 24th in her category. This meant that the A team had come  second overall [...]

2018-02-05T11:23:35+00:00 February 5th, 2018|

A Level and GCSE Performance Tables

The GCSE and A Level performance tables for 2017 were published recently by the Department of Education showed that Ipswich High School is the top performing school in Suffolk for facilitating A Level subjects. ‘41.4% of students achieved AAB or higher in at least two facilitating subjects’, widely seen as a benchmark for selective universities, including Oxford and Cambridge. Facilitating subjects include A Levels in Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Maths and Further Maths, Geography, History, English Literature along with Modern and Classical Languages. Russell Group Universities (a group of 24 leading UK universities) in their “informed choices” brochure recommend A Level students opt for facilitating subjects at A level. “If you take three facilitating subjects, you’ll have the largest number of degree courses to choose from further down the line – all the courses which require one or more of your subjects as well as those which have no specific subject requirements. Taking two facilitating subjects will also keep a wide range of degree courses and career options open to you”. Cambridge University colleges, for example Trinity College state on their [...]

2018-01-30T14:38:06+00:00 January 29th, 2018|

Supporting our Year 11 Pupils Post Mock Examinations

We are all very aware that our Year 11 pupils are sitting exams in many newly reformed GCSEs in the Summer, but we can take confidence in the fact that the results in the exams sat last Summer in the new English and Maths GCSE did not differ significantly from the “old” GCSEs. This is a message I want to reinforce with our Year 11 pupils and parents. This week, Year 11  received their GCSE mock exam results from their subject teachers. Whilst there will be a sense of trepidation, as you might expect, we are all mindful of reminding our pupils that these are not their final exams. Mock examinations are an excellent way of encouraging pupils to review work as well as immersing them in the anxiety of sitting in an exam hall; this is all towards the ‘greater good’ of preparation for their final GCSE examinations. As our pupils, collect their results, which realistically are variable at this stage, the emphasis now needs to turn to: ‘What do I need to do next?’ and ‘How I am [...]

2018-01-29T14:35:33+00:00 January 26th, 2018|

Art – Learning the Value of Failure

When visiting artist Douglas White spoke recently about his working process he triggered a conversation about the value of failure.  Describing how he set out to make a series of small figurative sculptures using wax he explained to the pupils how he was frustrated because they were not working.  Discarding them into a slop bucket of warm water, he left the studio in a huff and went for lunch early.  When he returned he discovered the wax had formed a beautiful crust on the surface of the bucket.  This then became the basis for a successful series of abstract pieces, and later a work currently on show at the Saatchi Gallery, London.  Ultimately, he was successful because he recognised that he had an idea superior to his initial intentions. The concept of accidental discoveries is not new.  Alexander Fleming’s ability to recognise what had occurred whilst he was away from his messy laboratory over the Summer holidays, resulted in the discovery of penicillin.  As he describes, “When I woke up just after dawn on September 28, 1928, I certainly didn’t [...]

2018-01-30T10:34:22+00:00 January 25th, 2018|

The Benefits of Taking an EPQ at Sixth Form

Year 11: Thinking Ahead - How To Enhance Your University Application- What is an EPQ? Why is it Beneficial? How is it Valued? During several parent presentations last term, I mentioned both the HPQ and EPQ, but only briefly. Parents of pupils of all ages afterwards asked me what an EPQ was and why it was beneficial. This has prompted me to write a blog for Year 11 parents and pupils. What is an EPQ? An EPQ (Extended Project Qualification) is an additional qualification that can be taken alongside A Levels and, here at Ipswich High School, we recommend our Year 12 students take three A Levels and an EPQ, in preference to taking a fourth A Level. There is however one exception to this, which is where our strongest Mathematicians take Further Maths as a fourth A Level, which we do recommend. Students who pursue this combination can of course complete an EPQ if they wish to. At Ipswich High School we recommend our A Level students complete it in Year 12, completing it ready for full submission in [...]

2018-01-11T13:17:21+00:00 January 8th, 2018|

Boys Do Better When Outnumbered By Girls Recent research publicised this month in the journal School Effectiveness and School Improvement revealed that boys do perform better when they are outnumbered by girls; specifically, where there are at least 60% girls in a class. This conclusion was arrived at by analysing PISA data from 8,000 mixed gender schools across 33 different OECD countries. The positive academic attributes of girls such as higher motivation and concentration levels positively influences boys. Venturing towards a “diamond structure” is an exciting change. As we made our announcement, a timely article came out in The Telegraph “Are diamond schools the future of education?” which highlighted the academic success seen in New Hall School, which adopted the model twelve years ago. In the same article, there was also a mention of another school in Dorset, Leweston School which is planning to introduce the diamond model for STEM subjects in September 2019. There are other schools that currently follow the diamond model all across the country, including Clifton High School in Bristol and Berkhamstead School in Hertfordshire. Ipswich High School is therefore not alone. Diamond [...]

2018-01-25T12:06:42+00:00 December 19th, 2017|

Ipswich High School – The Best GCSE Results in Suffolk 2017

I was delighted to see that we had moved up 65 places compared to last year in the list of national independent school rankings position. The Sunday Times’ “Parent Power”, publicised earlier this month, showed that when looking at Ipswich High School’s GCSE results for last summer that we had the highest results in Suffolk. Furthermore, there was only a 2% difference in A*/A rate compared to the hugely selective Colchester Royal Grammar School in Essex (Ipswich High School had 70.3% A*/A rate, whereas CRGS had 72.3% A*/A). Our excellent results are without a doubt a testament to our bespoke curriculum, our dedicated teachers and hardworking pupils, who throughout their education have access to excellent pastoral care (as evidenced in our ISI inspection result from March 2017). The decision to teach GCSE from Year 9 and offer an ‘enhanced curriculum’ to stretch and challenge pupils beyond their lessons has certainly paid off. Ipswich High School nurtures the development of learners who not only perform well in exams, but also have a genuine love of learning and an intellectual curiosity. Our [...]

2018-01-11T11:35:49+00:00 December 14th, 2017|

Becoming the female Junior Freestyle Kayak World Champion

A month ago I left England for the official ICF Freestyle Kayak World Championship in Argentina and returned this week with the title of female Junior Freestyle Kayak World Champion. It is difficult to describe the feeling of such a success in words. My goal was to win the title and there was not one minute outside of school that I did not dedicate to training both mentally and physically. The journey out to Argentina was tricky. The plane returned back to Heathrow for an emergency landing with the pilot dumping fuel and Emergency services were waiting for us on the runway. Twenty four hours later we started again and arrived in Chile to travel across the Andes to Argentina. The border had been closed for a couple of days due to snow. The abundance of wildlife and breath-taking mountains are images I will never forget. On arrival in San Juan I volunteered with the other GB juniors to visit local schools in the area and encourage kayaking. One school was an independent school mad on sports who are visiting [...]

2018-01-11T11:37:08+00:00 December 13th, 2017|