12 October 2018

College Welcomes Sara Russell as Principal

Peter Symonds College is delighted to welcome Sara Russell as Principal.

Sara joins Symonds from her role as Principal at Alton College, and brings with her 20 years of experience in sixth form education. Following the retirement of Stephen Carville in August, Sara is our 10th Principal and first female Principal.

After A levels in English Literature, History and German, Sara read History at Reading University before embarking on a distinguished career working in a range of sixth form colleges and school sixth forms.

Sara said of her appointment “I feel extremely privileged to have been appointed as Principal of Peter Symonds College; I am passionate about raising standards for all young people and providing a high quality education and well-rounded academic experience for all. Symonds’ motto, 'Counting in Ones' is the key principle which guides everything the College works towards and resonates with my commitment to ensuring that each student's individual learning needs are met, helping them to fulfil their potential and realise their aspirations.

“We are lucky to have a diverse range of students and a broad curriculum offering including A levels, vocational courses and Higher Education. My aim is to build on our extensive track record of high performance and extraordinary success to create a dynamic, forward thinking college which develops students’ confidence and provides an environment in which all have equal opportunities to succeed.”

In addition to her role at Symonds, Sara is a member of three Association of Colleges National Policy and Delivery Groups, where she contributes to the national debate on issues within the educational sector. “My role on the Association of Colleges panels allows me to act as a strong advocate for Sixth Form colleges and to ensure Peter Symonds is at the forefront of sharing ideas throughout the national education community, raising standards for all and keeping students at the heart of everything we do.”

Asked what inspires her, Sara said “Over the course of my career working in Sixth Form education I’ve been lucky to witness the transformational nature of further education. To watch young people achieve their aspirations is a powerful thing. The two or three years that a young person spends with us has a huge impact on their future and it is always a privilege to play a role in this process.

“As Principal at Peter Symonds, I feel this responsibility profoundly. I and my team are dedicated to creating a vibrant, inclusive and creative learning environment where all students can thrive and succeed.”

Charles Scott, Chair of Governors, said “The Governors are delighted by the appointment of Sara Russell as Principal of Peter Symonds College. She brings tremendous experience and energy and we are very excited to work together to continue to maintain the College’s outstanding reputation and secure an even greater future.”

16 August 2018

Remarkable Performance by Peter Symonds Students

The pass rate has been maintained at a staggering 99% with over a third of the grades awarded being at A* or A (34%). The proportion of the very highest grades (A*, A, B) is an impressive 62%.

  • A third of grades awarded were at A* or A.

  • 12% of grades were the very top A* grade – 672 A* grades overall; a truly “stellar” performance.

  • 130 students got A* in maths A level alone!

  • Nearly two thirds of A level grades were either A*, A or B: the very top grades needed to get into the best universities;

  • 69% of grades awarded for the Extended Project Qualification were at A* or A.

Principal, Stephen Carville said, “They say it takes a village to raise a child, and I am always very conscious of the contribution made by all our staff in bringing about these stellar results, but today the real stars of the show are the students: this is a truly remarkable performance by so many young people. I am immensely proud. This shows that Symonds remains the perfect place for ambition.”

Student Thomas Sharpe, one of the College’s top achievers, received four A* grades and is going to read Economics at LSE, following in the footsteps of his brother Jonty who graduated from Peter Symonds last year and is also studying at LSE. Thomas said of his success, “The news is still sinking in. I’m feeling great and so glad all the hard work has paid off. I’ve loved my time at Peter Symonds and had great teachers who offered excellent support all the way through, particularly when I decided to change subjects to one that felt right for me.”

Harry and Thomas Ashton-Key were among 27 sets of twins at Peter Symonds who received their results today, with both achieving an incredible four A* grades in Chemistry, Physics, Maths and Further Maths, and heading to Oxford to read Physics, Harry at Exeter College and Thomas at Somerville College. They said, “We’ve had a great experience at Peter Symonds with amazing opportunities – the College has been hugely supportive.”

Twins Arjun and Himmat Sohal, who both achieved three As in Chemistry, Maths and Physics, are going to the University of Bath to study Chemical Engineering. “Peter Symonds has offered us a really great learning environment surrounded by students who want to do well. There’s lots of independent learning which has been great preparation for university.”

Catherine Darlison and her twin, Henry, are both off to Cambridge, Catherine to study medicine at Jesus College and Henry to study music at St John’s College. Henry said, “The Music department are wonderful and helped me to achieve all I wanted.”

6 July 2018

National Recognition for Peter Symonds’ Student Support Services

Symonds was awarded first place at the annual Sixth Form Colleges Association (SFCA) awards in the Student Support category.

The award recognises the importance Symonds places on Student Support, the range of services provided and the dedication of the Student Support team.

Since 2016 Symonds has operated The Hub, which provides mental health and wellbeing support for all sixth form students at the College, with the goal to support students to explore independent strategies to manage low-level difficulties such as low mood, anxiety, stress and low self-esteem. The Hub forms part of a comprehensive support package for students and works closely with the Study Support team, the Student Services department, the Counselling team and College Nurse.

The Hub provides a range of services including the Hub Coordinator, who works closely with students to establish which type of support would be best suited to their individual needs. The Hub offers drop-in sessions as well as group and one-to-one support focusing on specific issues like anxiety and stress, and hosts regular visits from Haatchi the therapy dog to enhance students’ well-being and reduce their stress levels.

Julia Tucker, Deputy Principal for Students, said “The college motto is ‘counting in ones’, meaning that we treat each student as an individual who is to be valued, and whose needs we seek to meet both inside and outside the classroom. Since its establishment in 2016 the Hub has proved an invaluable source of support to our students, with each student visiting three times on average to take advantage of the services available, and it is wonderful to have the hard work and dedication of our support team recognised with the Student Support Award from the SFCA.”

Stephen Carville, Principal, who collected the award at the Annual SFCA Conference, commented “Every student deserves to reach their goals and we are extremely proud of the work our Student Support Services do to ensure those struggling with mental health issues have the support they need to achieve their ambitions.”

8 October 2018

Adult & Higher Education Celebrate Extraordinary Degree Results

111 students from PSC AHED attended a ceremony at The Hospital of St Cross to honour the achievement of their degrees. The majority of these graduands returned to education as mature students, opting to upskill, retrain or find a new direction in life. During their time at PSC AHED these students have conquered the many challenges of studying as an adult; juggling caring for young families, managing demanding work commitments and gruelling commutes to achieve the college’s most exceptional results to date.

For the first time ever 40% of students received first class honours degrees (compared to a nation-wide figure of 26%) with a further 36% receiving a 2.1. These results are testament to a pioneering approach to learning whereby students study for a degree one day a week, whilst continuing in employment. With fees rising at mainstream universities, this new approach to higher education proves to be both professionally enriching and cost effective.

The high quality of teaching offered at AHED consistently exceeds rigorous national quality requirements, and was recognised this year with a Silver award from the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF). This commitment to high teaching standards is also recognised by the student body, who recently rated standards of teaching at 94% in the National Student Survey - well over the sector-wide average of 84%.

Director of Adult & Higher Education Alex Day says, "Graduation is truly a great day for us all, in particular our students, many of whom do not have the traditional entry qualifications for university, but through determination, natural intelligence, creativity and drive manage to juggle study with work and family commitments. It is a tremendous privilege to share the joy and excitement of graduation with them".

Reflecting on her achievement, 47 year old BA Management and Business graduate Louise Harfield says, "Doing a degree through Peter Symonds AHED has completely changed my life. Going back into education was a daunting thought, but I knew I needed a degree for my own career progression. The collaboration of support offered between Peter Symonds College lecturers, Chichester University and my peers got me through the 3 year course. The innovative teaching methods made everything clear. Previously a Housekeeper, I am now an Executive Assistant for the One Acute Network, a vanguard for the Clinical Services Review Merger re-configuring the clinical services across Dorset".

47 year old mother of four Andrea Huskinson says: “I loved my degree course at Peter Symonds and did it simply to prove I could. It definitely inspired me and gave me the confidence to start a new job at a higher level. My Foundation degree in Early Years has led to me being made the Preschool Supervisor at a school in Swanmore, so I am no longer just an assistant. I am in charge.”

For many, graduation day is the beginning of a new chapter either professionally or academically. One such student deciding to continue their academic journey has been accepted to do a Master’s Degree in Real Estate Management at Downing College, Cambridge – another first for a PSC AHED graduate.

Sara Russell, Peter Symonds College Principal, said “It is an honour and a pleasure to celebrate our best-ever degree results with our hard-working and dedicated students and staff. Adult and Higher Education is an important part of the College’s curriculum offer and these results are a testament to the high quality teaching and the dedication of the staff that deliver our Adult and Higher Education qualifications. Our graduates have shown that it’s never too late to take advantages of the transformative opportunities life-long learning provides. We are so very proud of their achievements.”

17 September 2018

Peter Symonds Multiplies Cambridge Success

Former students Josh Payne, Dylan Harley, Miles Elvidge and Ilyaz Sayenko are all preparing to study Mathematics at the University of Cambridge when term begins shortly, having endured a challenging year of preparation for the entrance exams and achieving excellent results in their A levels this summer.

Peter Symonds Maths teacher Simon Dakeyne said “This is the latest in an unbroken line of excellent mathematicians from Peter Symonds College who come back each year to tell us of their First Class final degrees, and encourage our brightest students to apply and to commit to the challenge of that entrance exam.”

Paul Watson, Head of Mathematics at the College, added “The demanding process means that usually no more than one or two of our students achieve a place to study Maths at Cambridge, so to have four successful students reading Maths at this level is a real achievement and a testament to their hard work and the dedication of their teachers. We are very proud of them.”

The four mathematicians are among 53 Peter Symonds College students taking up places at Oxford and Cambridge.

16 November 2018

Symonds students participate in national meningitis vaccine study

Lower Sixth students from Peter Symonds College have taken part in a major meningitis vaccine study, which aims to test if immunising teenagers with a Meningitis B (MenB) vaccine could reduce the risk of others getting meningitis across the wider community.

A team of research nurses from the University of Southampton’s Clinical Research Facility visited the College over a 2-day period to offer the vaccine to lower sixth students. Those who took part had a throat swab taken and received the first of two doses of a Meningitis B vaccine. They will receive the second dose of the vaccine in 1-6 months’ time and a second throat swab 12 months later to establish whether the vaccine can reduce the number of teenagers carrying the meningitis bacteria in their throat.

The nursing team were amazed by the response from students and plan to return in March to repeat the study for those who were not able to take part this time round. Over 392 students from Peter Symonds took part in the study, receiving a vaccine against meningitis that is currently not offered to teenagers as part of the standard immunisation programme in the UK.

Liz Crouch, Head of Student Services, said ‘We are delighted that so many of our students have taken up the opportunity not only to protect themselves against this potentially deadly disease, but also to take part in such an important study that will hopefully lead to lower rates of meningitis across all ages.’

About the study

Funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), this is a national study involving 24,000 year 12 (or equivalent) students across the United Kingdom. All participants in this trial will receive two doses of one of these vaccines with a 1-6 month interval between each dose. These vaccines are approved for use in the UK, and can be purchased, but are not in the routine vaccination schedule for teenagers in this country.

5 November 2018

Holocaust Survivor Susan Pollack MBE Speaks with Symonds Students

The visit was organised as part of the Holocaust Educational Trust’s (HET) Outreach Programme, which uses the testimony of survivors to educate young people about the Holocaust and the important lessons to be learned for today.

Susan told students about her childhood in Hungary and her experiences in the Jewish ghetto in Vác, at Auschwitz, in a forced labour camp, and on the death march to Bergen-Belsen, from where she was liberated in April 1945. Susan went on to marry and have children, and a career as a librarian. She got a degree at 60 years old and spent over ten years volunteering for the Samaritans and at a local hospice. She has been speaking about her experiences for over 30 years.

Susan’s testimony was followed by a question and answer session and some time for a more informal chat with students.

On the importance of educating young people on the Holocaust Susan said “It’s not an easy life afterwards. It’s hard to talk about it, but if one can make a tiny dent in racist beliefs it’s perhaps an achievement. We have to confront the issue…we need each other to listen.

“Hate propaganda has the power to destroy people and we need decency, good will and moral standing to stand up and warn others of the dangers. Hate destroys not only the minority group but all of us.

“Sometimes no tears will be enough but I try to balance it with the gift of life and the opportunity to make a better world for all of us…Caring and compassion, helping others is a very enriching feeling. It’s a good life, it is a gift, and we’ve got to make the most of it.”

Reflecting on Susan’s testimony, students described her as “incredibly strong,” adding “I’m grateful I had the opportunity to hear testimony from someone who experienced it.” They also commented “It’s astonishing that she still wants to help people despite her experiences.” “It’s remarkable that she wants to recount her experiences to a younger generation and so important to continue to struggle against hate today – it’s still so relevant which is shameful.”

About Susan Pollack, MBE:

Susan was born into a Jewish family in Felsőgöd, Hungary, in 1930. Following the outbreak of the Second World War antisemitism in Susan’s hometown increased dramatically, culminating in the deportation of the Hungarian Jews. In late May 1944 Susan and her family were sent by cattle truck to Auschwitz-Birknau, before Susan was sent to work in a factory as slave labour. With the Allies advancing the prisoners were forced on a death march to Bergen-Belsen, where Susan was liberated on 15th April 1945.

After liberation, Susan found that her brother Laci was the only member of her family to have survived: more than 50 of Susan’s relatives had been killed during the Holocaust.

Susan was sent to Sweden for rehabilitation and then went to Canada where she met and married a fellow survivor. Susan has three children and six grandchildren. She now lives in London and regularly shares her testimony in schools across the country.

16 November 2018

Rugby 7s Team takes part Armistice Rugby Festival and Remembrance Day services in France

As part of Remembrance Day observances members of the Peter Symonds Rugby team travelled to Compiègne, France, to compete in the Armistice Rugby Festival over the weekend of Remembrance Sunday. The festival commemorated the centenary of the signing of the Armistice in the town where it was signed 100 years previously.

In addition to taking part in the Rugby Festival, where they finished third, during the weekend the team took part in a memorial service where they laid a wreath in remembrance of the former Symonds students, staff and the governor who gave their lives in World War I. Captain Pete Ryall and Vice-Captain James Garland read a dedication in French and English honouring those who gave their lives for our freedoms and describing themselves as ‘humbled to be part of [this] event.’

The team also had the opportunity to visit various historical sites and memorials, including Thiepval; Lochnagar crater; the Somme battlefield, where they walked through the trenches; and the railway line where the Armistice was signed.

Pete Ryall, Team Captain said, ‘The visit to the Somme evoked some emotion, especially to see exactly where events took place, and how close the German and British trenches were. To think back then we would be there, digging, fighting, dying, makes you grateful for what we have today, and what they gave us.’

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