National award win for College going ‘above and beyond’ during pandemic

Birkenhead Sixth Form College has been honoured with a national award in recognition of their measures put in place and their approach to continuing to educate young people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Sixth Form Colleges Association gave the college the ‘Covid: Above and Beyond’ accolade at their annual awards ceremony, which took place virtually this year.

The award reflects the college’s efforts to minimise disruption to their students’ education while continuing to keep both staff and students safe over the last year-and-a-half, with national lockdowns and personal safety measures impacting the running of school and colleges across the country.

Reverting to full timetables of virtual lessons for students was the first implementation for the Birkenhead Sixth Form College, as both the safety and education for the 1450 students who study A Levels and BTECs at the college were paramount.

A full programme of virtual enrichment activities, as well as using state-of-the-art software to keep students in regular contact with their pastoral tutors, was quickly established to ensure that the general wellbeing of students was maintained along with their academic work.

Mass on-site testing was also introduced before students returned after the summer holidays, and staff and student home testing has been rigorously adhered to across the board.

The college has followed all government guidance throughout the pandemic, and their systems put into place and their commitment to ensuring that students still receive world-class education has been roundly praised by parents, with one saying, “I have spoken to so many people about how fantastically I feel the whole situation has been handled by you all. Being a teacher myself, I know how much hard work and dedication it will have taken to keep things running so smoothly.

“A big thank you for all you have done to keep our daughter, all the other students and yourselves safe during these challenging times. Thank you for the time and effort put into making sure the students don’t miss out on their education. Thank you for encouraging (successfully) the students to take responsibility for keeping themselves and others safe. Thank you for everything you have done to make this difficult time a little less frightening and unusual. Just… thank you!”

Principal at Birkenhead Sixth Form College, Mike Kilbride, said, “It would be amiss of us to say that the last 18 months has been straightforward, but as an organisation that regularly rises to any challenge with ingenuity and innovation, implementing our new approach during this period has been easier than it will have been for a lot of other schools and colleges.

“The students have been exemplary, as have the staff, and to continue to provide young people with such valuable education and experiences with the limitations in place has been incredibly important, and is a testament to the wonderful teachers and support staff the college is so proud to have.”

Recognising that the current cohort of Year 11s stepping up to sixth form have missed out on a considerable amount of face-to-face teaching, the college has redesigned its entire timetable to allow every student more time with the teachers in every subject, every week.

Mike explained, “To simply ignore that young people have missed out on physical teaching time and expect them to be at the same educational level as their predecessors who have actually taken GCSE exams would be a dereliction of duty. This timetable change ensures that the students will gain the appropriate foundations in their subjects to manage the jump to A Level and Level 3 study, with the time spent with their teachers being amongst the most at sixth form level in the country, and certainly the most in this area.

“Whatever situation arises and whatever challenges we may face, we will never allow our students to miss out on an education and a range of life experiences that will set them up for a successful future. The last 18 months have proved that once again.”

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