Rough Notes – October/November 2016

Although we are only just over half a term into the new academic year, autumn is very much about moving up and moving on. Students in Years 11, 12 and 13 are beginning to think more seriously about examination preparation but they are also looking forward to their next steps, whether it be the sixth from or university. At the other end of the spectrum, applications are currently being processed for the September 2017 Year 7.

Woodroffe is regularly oversubscribed and we always receive far more applications than there are places available. However, in the past couple of years, something strange has been happening: despite growing numbers at our open days (over three hundred families this year), the number of first choice applications has been falling. One can’t help but note the irony here: as the school becomes more successful, there are fewer applications for places. Why is this? Essentially, it seems, that parents are seeing our success and assuming (wrongly quite often) that if they don’t live in the catchment area, it isn’t worth applying. Clearly this is something we need to address – and that can only be done by encouraging people to apply whatever their circumstances.

At the other end of the school, applications are rising for sixth form places. Most Year 11 students who want to study A Level stay at Woodroffe because they recognise the degree of support they will receive. They are also aware that our academic reputation grows steadily from year to year. We are regularly one of the most successful sixth forms in the county and our results are distinguished not only by pass rates but by consistency across departments. Most sixth forms have a combined strong A Level and weaker A Levels courses; Woodroffe, however, has a consistently strong offer across all departments, an achievement recognised in the recent Durham University ALPS (A Level Performance Systems) data which rated progress in virtually all areas as good or outstanding. Moreover, as national data sets move from measuring attainment to measuring progress, Woodroffe’s star will continue to rise. Similarly, the drop-out rate here is very low compared to other sixth forms.

Recent changes have meant that we now have a fully comprehensive suite of courses to offer potential sixth formers, including 22 A Levels, six AS Levels, Core maths, the Extended Project Qualification, and GCSE re-takes in English and Maths. In addition, this year we branched out successfully into BTECs and we now offer the three A Level equivalent Sports Studies qualification. Next year, we are going a step further in offering a BTEC in Forensics, a course we expect to be very popular indeed.

The sixth form now has around 200 students and this allows us to offer all the key A Level students would wish to access. Because of our size, there are some combinations of subjects we can’t offer (but this affects only a handful of students each year) but as the sixth form grows more choice will become available. What we can offer, however, is superb individual support and an unrivalled extra-curricular programme. Moreover, students don’t have to spend hours on buses or trains to get here.

Our current sixth formers are also thinking about the future and I am pleased to say that the university offers are rolling in. Recent successes in securing places at Oxford and Cambridge (two last year) have started a trend and we have five strong applications lodged already this year. This is in addition to applications to some of the best academic institutions across the country. Students are fully supported through what can often be a very daunting and complex process and it is often only at that point do they really appreciate the decision to return to Woodroffe.

It is also worth noting that the Woodroffe sixth form is attracting more and more students from other schools. Not only are they drawn here by the range of courses (very few places, for example, continue to offer subjects such as Music Technology, Classical Civilisation, Drama etc.) but by the school’s reputation for welcoming and supporting students from other schools. Above all, they know they will be well taught.

A time for moving on, yes, but also a time for sticking with it and getting involved and, as you will see from the contents of this newsletter, our students are fantastic at getting involved.

Dr Steward