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Nurturing Your Teen’s Career Aspirations

Many Year 11's are now deliberating over where to study for A levels and what subjects to choose. How can a school best support your teen to succeed in today’s rapidly evolving workplace?

We asked Dawn Morgan, Head of Sixth Form, at The Kingsley SchoolLeamington Spa, for some tips on best practice, ahead of their Sixth Form Experience Day for current Year 10s on June 10 2020 (8.45am-4pm). This small, creative and academically vigorous Warwickshire school’s excellent Students Careers Programme was a finalist in the Independent Schools of the Year 2019 awards.

This year university applications were at a record high with almost a third of all 18-year-olds in Britain applying for undergraduate courses – and 210,000 obtaining places. Debate continues to rage over whether reforms to university admissions are needed to abolish a system based on predicted grades. It also follows the recent explosion in “unconditional offers” and “conditional unconditional offers” where a pupil is only guaranteed a place if they list the uni as their first choice.

It can be a hugely confusing time for students and parents as universities compete for new recruits through ever aggressive marketing with many 16 – 18-year-olds wondering if uni, and the financial investment, is really for them. So, how best to advise your teenager when choosing the right university course or a different career path?

A photography student at The Kingsley School

One of the most satisfying parts of Dawn Morgan’s job as head of Sixth Form at The Kingsley School, Leamington Spa is helping girls “to shape their future” and seeing them go off and start their life. Modern careers guidance here is as much about inspiration and aspiration as it is about advice in helping pupils decide whether they’d like to study at university, take a gap year or embark on an apprenticeship.

The Kingsley School, Leamington Spa

A third of girls in Kingsley’s 2019 cohort achieved A*-A grades, two thirds A*-B and 82% A*-C with girls heading off on a diverse range of  career paths from zoology at Exeter; Speech Therapy and Economics at Leeds and law at Birmingham, to a pharmacy apprenticeship and one girl training to be a Norland Nanny – popular with royals and celebrities.

The Sixth Form Centre, The Kingsley School, Leamington Spa

A mother of twin teenage girls herself, Liverpool-born Dawn graduated in English and Politics at Lancaster University before starting out in graduate management. She quickly realised this wasn’t for her and did a PGCE teacher training course through the Open University part-time while working. She’s been teaching ever since – and clearly loves her job.

Kingsley School was a finalist in four categories at the Independent Schools of the Year 2019 awards, including Students Careers Programme, along with Healthy Eating, Student Well-Being and Effective Brand Communication.

As a result Dawn has great insight into what works well for pupils.

She said: “We recently surveyed the girls as to why they wanted to stay at the school for Sixth form and the overwhelming reason was because of the teachers. If you move it takes time to settle into a new school. We’re an exclusively all-girls Sixth Form with 60 pupils across Year 12 and 13, so class sizes are small. We offer around 25 A level subjects – for a school of our size that’s quite a big offering.

“Our girls continue to do AS levels as we believe that is a really important benchmark of success. It has a positive effect on our results providing students with ‘a positive nudge’ or reassurance that what they are doing is right.

“We offer a flexibility of choice at A levels, Extended Project Qualification and a broad enrichment programme. Girls can start with four and drop down to three or stay at four. For example, if they are certain they want to study Maths, Physics and Biology, they can have Psychology as a fourth. We’re finding a lot of girls are saying they love psychology, but do not like maths as much as they thought, so they have that flexibility of choice.”

In Years 12 and 13 there’s heaps to help girls with careers exploration and lots of handy resources in the careers section of the school website from work experience opportunities to up-to-date career happenings.

Dawn said: “Twice a year in Year 12 we take the girls to free UK University & Apprenticeship Search Fairs – these provide students with the opportunity to speak to a wide variety of universities, colleges and apprenticeship providers – as well as attend seminars on everything from student finance to UCAS personal statement and application advice plus Oxford & Cambridge explained.

“Internally internal schools careers events include guest speakers from top employers such as Jaguar Land Rover, Medical Mavericks and Explore with the Expert sessions run by our Head of Careers Sarah Bennett.

“We invite Gap Year providers into school – gap years are very popular we find, and the providers offer students a structure. We have an overseas university carousel for students considering a move abroad to study – most tend to stay but every year we have 20% of the girls who want to explore this option.

“Our student apprenticeships have included at Harrods Retail, Boots Pharmacology and Siemens Engineering.”

An Explore with the Expert session

Other Careers events include:

  • Mock interview evenings for Year 13s to prepare for university entrance
  • Higher Education Evenings for Year 12 parents – including a Q&A session with a university admissions tutor and degree apprenticeships
  • Talks by recent alumni who talk to the girls about their own career paths
  • A full enrichment programme providing guidance on CV writing, interview tips, your digital brand and employability skills
  • Dedicated careers lessons with advice on personal statements, UCAS applications and input from a UCAS tutor
  • A bi-annual careers event for Years 9-13

You only have to look at the latest school Careers Newsletter to see the vast number of events happening annually this year girls are encouraged to explore from Advertising Unlocked to Space Lates at the National Space Centre, Leicester; the Royal Television Society Midlands Careers Fair in Birmingham; New Scientist Live! London and a National Healthcare Weekend for aspiring medics in Birmingham.

The Hub

The Sixth Form Centre, across the road from the main school, is self-contained. Older students have their own little ‘oasis of calm’ which has been likened to a university campus. It includes a large Common room for relaxing, The Hub – a sociable space to chat or study – with a private study areas including two ICT suites, a fitness suite and an enclosed walled garden. The girls have a quick walk into the lovely Regency town centre when they have some free time.

The walled garden at Kingsley School’s Sixth Form Centre

Dawn says: “In Sixth Form students have greater independence and freedom, leadership opportunities and they also get the benefits of being part of the bigger school community.

“We also have an ‘open-door policy’ in the staff-room. Girls can speak with a member of staff at any point about any worries or concerns.”

A really lovely feature is the Sixth Form Bonding Day for new Year 12s, just before starting school in September, with staff and students from the year above – go-karting followed by afternoon tea at Mallory Court Hotel is a popular choice.

Enrichment is not only a break from the intense demands of A-level studies but a chance to take part in well-being activities, fitness and dance, volunteering in the local community and study skills sessions. Visiting speakers are welcoming and staff organise trips to the Houses of Parliament and London museums. Girls are encouraged to take part in Young Enterprise schemes, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and World Challenge.

Girls have an adventurous, free-spirited role model in school founder, Rose Kingsley, who was the oldest daughter of Victorian novelist and clergyman Charles Kingsley, author of The Water Babies. A colourful figure in late Victorian society she travelled extensively across America and Mexico and wrote about her experience. As she showed even back then, the sky really is the limit and you just need to “be true to yourself” (the school motto)!

One of the girls volunteering as part of her Duke of Edinburgh Award

Handy links:

The Sixth Form Experience Day 2020 for current Year 10 students will take place at The Kingsley SchoolBeauchamp Hall, Beauchamp Avenue, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, CV32 5RD on June 10, 8.45am – 4pm. Tel: 01926 425127.

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