5 February 2019

Record number of Oxbridge offers for Symonds students

Students at Peter Symonds College are celebrating a record number of Oxbridge offers, proving once again that the college is the perfect place for ambition. A total of 62 students from 31 different secondary schools have received offers from Oxford and Cambridge.

This remarkable achievement means that the College is one of only two state institutions ever to have secured over 60 offers of Oxbridge places in one year.

Principal Sara Russell said, “This is a truly remarkable performance by students at a non-selective state Sixth Form College and we are delighted to share in our students’ success. Many of them will have been working towards an Oxbridge place for several years and it is fantastic to see them succeed in their ambition.

“With competition for places at Oxford and Cambridge notoriously fierce this is a real achievement for our students and a testament to their hard work and the dedication of their inspirational teachers. We are extremely proud of them.”

Peter Symonds’ specialist Oxbridge tutor, Sabina Labrow, added “I am delighted that we have been able to support students from such a wide range of backgrounds through the demanding application and selection process. Their teachers and tutors are very proud of their hard work and the way in which they have taken advantage of the many extension opportunities we offer. These students have gone above and beyond their 'A' level studies in order to demonstrate their suitability to study at Oxford or Cambridge university.”

Peter Symonds’ specialist Oxbridge tutor, Sabina Labrow, added “I am delighted that we have been able to support students from such a wide range of backgrounds through the demanding application and selection process. Their teachers and tutors are very proud of their hard work and the way in which they have taken advantage of the many extension opportunities we offer. These students have gone above and beyond their 'A' level studies in order to demonstrate their suitability to study at Oxford or Cambridge university.”

Kalpana Shenoi, who stepped down as the college’s Oxbridge Co-ordinator just before Christmas, said, “This is a record-breaking number of Oxbridge offers, our highest figure ever.

“At Peter Symonds, we have a college-wide ethos of raising aspirations. Behind this success story is a huge team effort from teachers, administrators, Careers staff and the college governors as well as our senior team.”

Student Maya Berglin, who has an offer to read English Literature and Language at Oxford, said “I am really excited and grateful for the opportunity I’ve been given – it feels very surreal. I definitely have to thank the staff who have taught me over the past two years, helping me to improve, as well as my tutor, for getting me through the whole process.”

Peter Symonds, with a pass rate of 99%, is the top sixth form college in Hampshire for students achieving the ‘golden AAB grades’. 367 students were awarded these last year. Overall 1,603 students progressed to university, with 612 students accepting places at the top ‘Russell Group’ universities.

Peter Symonds is a non-selective state sixth form college and one of only two state institutions listed in the top eight contributors of students to Oxford and Cambridge nationally in a Sutton Trust survey. Since 2000, an average of 47 Peter Symonds students per year have been offered places at Oxbridge. At any one time, there are over 150 ex-Symonds students studying at Oxford and Cambridge.

14 February 2019

Careers Day brings together industry, services and education professionals to inspire students

The Careers Department held a College-wide Careers Day dedicated to increasing students’ awareness of the opportunities available to them in the future. Over the course of the day over 170 talks and speed networking sessions were delivered by leading industry professionals, local employers and organisations to help students explore future career choices.

Symonds students had the opportunity to listen to and meet experts from a wide variety of different industries and organisations, including the Army, RAF, Royal Navy, paramedics and police officers; producers and editors; leading figures in IT, Law, Finance and Banking; medical and veterinary professionals; university lecturers and a member of the team from Naomi House Children’s Hospice, among others.

Alongside talks students had the opportunity to take part in interactive ‘speed networking’ sessions, with representatives from various sectors spending some time answering questions about their career area and helping students develop their employability skills. RAF representative Anil Chauhan, who took part in the Armed Services networking event, said “It’s a great chance to raise awareness of different career opportunities in areas students may not have considered previously; to remove the mystique; and for students to see that their ambition will drive where they go.”

The talks and networking events were spread over five sessions with students expected to sign up for at least three sessions. Nearly 200 visitors participated in Careers Day, with talks ranging from Air Traffic Control, Advertising, and Film Production to Pharmacology and becoming an Entrepreneur.

Speakers included University of Southampton Oceanography lecturer Dr Simon Boxall, who appears regularly on television speaking about climate change; Senior Parliamentary Aid Owen Millward; and producer Dean Baker of Hardy Son and Baker.

Student Alex Nicholson, who is hoping to study medicine, attended the Medicine and the Ambulance Service talks and found them invaluable. “Gaining knowledge from an individual doing the job has given me a much better understanding of the role than reading about it in books or online,” he said. “I could ask specific questions and deepen my understanding. Their information has broadened my enthusiasm for the career I’m interested in and helped me focus on the route I can take to get there.”

Paramedics Katie Collingwood and Richard Miller delivered a popular talk on careers in the Ambulance Service and said “Students were engaged and interested and really took part. We hope it inspires them. Ten years in we still love this job and it would be great to encourage that passion in a new generation.”

The Careers Department event had a strong industry focus, allowing students to learn from employers about work, employment and the skills that are valued in the workplace.

Debbie Mahoney, Head of Careers at Peter Symonds, said “The day was a great success and due to a fantastic response from a broad range of speakers students had the opportunity to investigate career paths that may interest them. We wanted to ensure business and industry was well-represented, enabling students to learn from employers, as well as plenty of information on higher education to challenge any preconceived ideas and demonstrate the full range of options our students have ahead of them.

“We’re extremely grateful to all the speakers who gave up their time to take part.”

21 January 2019

Impressive number of conservatoire places for Music students

Music students at Peter Symonds College are celebrating winning an impressive nine places at prestigious conservatoires around the UK.

Music students from Peter Symonds have been offered places at a number of leading conservatoires including the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, the Birmingham Conservatoire, the Royal College of Music and the Royal Academy of Music. Four students have been awarded their places on full scholarships.

Student Freya Mackenzie commented ‘I feel very honoured to have received an offer from Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. As I play the violin, getting offers and opportunities is very competitive as so many people play. I feel a mixture of relief and pride that all my years of hard work have paid off, as well as extremely excited to start off my professional career in September!’

Double bass player Georgia Sims added ‘Studying at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama is such an exciting opportunity at an excellent institution. I feel incredibly lucky to have the chance to study there and it has been a dream since I was in secondary school. It has felt like I have achieved one of my life goals and I cannot wait to attend.’

Rachel Platt, Head of Music at Peter Symonds College, commented: ‘We are incredibly proud of our students’ successes. Competition for conservatoire places is extremely fierce and this achievement reflects our students’ abilities and their hard work. The talent, commitment and dedication that they have demonstrated will stand them in great stead for their next chapter.’

16 January 2019

Symonds student visits European Parliament on ALDE Programme

Peter Symonds student Mojo Akinyemi recently spent time at the European Parliament as part of a scheme organised by the Alliance of Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament (ALDE). Eleven member states sent two student delegates each on a trip to meet MEPs, journalists, NGOs and representatives from international companies such as Facebook.

The students visited the House of European History, took part in a human rights workshop and spent some time with MEPs from various European member states. They met with a number of NGOs and participated in a roundtable with three journalists based in Brussels, were they discussed the impact of fake news. The students rounded off the week with a visit to Facebook Brussels and mock debate session at the European Parliament Visitors Centre.

Commenting on the trip, Mojo said “It not only gave me an insight into a political institution I knew quite little about, but it also gave me the opportunity to meet so many brilliant people from all over Europe. It has made me reassess how I think of Europe and was an inspirational experience - I am now determined to learn another language!

“The trip gave me a much deeper insight into how the European Parliament functions. Learning about the democratic process is so important and I wanted to understand how people with different objectives and national interests work together. I am thrilled to have been a part of it.”

11 February 2019

Students benefit from Symondians' project grants

Twelve students taking the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) have received grants from The Symondians’ Association to support them in the development of their projects.

The Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) is an additional qualification equivalent to half an A level. It is a flexible award allowing students to work to their strengths, by giving them the opportunity to choose to either produce a dissertation, an investigation report, a performance, an event, a design, or an object.

The Symondians’ Association have supported students working on EPQ projects for a number of years, and for 2018-19 generously doubled their previous grant, awarding a total of £1000 towards the cost of projects undertaken by the students. Individual grants ranged from £30-£130.

The Symondians’ Association, founded in 1911, provides a focus for ex-pupils/students and teachers to keep in touch and meet at a series of social and sporting events. The Association also works with the College to provide support for specific departmental initiatives and occasionally individual students.

The students’ EPQ projects were completed in December 2018. The students whose projects benefited from The Symondians’ grant met with representatives of The Symondians for a lunch where they displayed their finished projects and explained a little about the process to those present.

This year’s projects included a project on cymatics, the physics of sound, by Alex Sermon, and an automated greenhouse built by Harry Hopper. Fiamma Franchetti Bond used bee produce to create a range of skincare products and Izzy Howard set up a fashion business producing ethically sourced t-shirts promoting consideration of the environment.

Commenting on the EPQ process, Katie Scratchley, who produced a painting based on polar graphs for her project, said “It was a challenging process but it’s given me a boost for university. My EPQ increased and developed my skill set and has given me a deeper love for my subjects.”

Sabina Labrow, who coordinates the EPQ programme at Peter Symonds, said “EPQ gives the students the opportunity to become the experts. It develops a wide range of skills and enables students to really connect with a subject or topic. The range of projects completed by our students never fails to impress and amaze, and we are grateful to the Symondians for their support.”

Adrian Barnes, Chair of the Symondians’ Association, added “The inventiveness of these students’ projects is impressive but I was also impressed by how they presented them with aplomb and style. Credit should also be given to the staff and parents who supported them through the process.”

Undertaking an Extended Project improves students' skills in time management, academic writing, referencing and critical analysis. In previous years, over 80% of Peter Symonds students have achieved A*, A or B grades in their Extended Project.

Students often choose a project topic related to their future studies at university or their career aspirations and the qualification is valued by universities and employers.

20 December 2018

Dance exhibition showcases talent and supports teen mental health

Peter Symonds College’s Dance Department held its annual dance show in Varley Theatre, allowing students to showcase their skills. The show included performances from first and second year A level Dance students, a piece from the Peter Symonds College Dance Company and a performance as part of a student’s Extended Project Qualification (EPQ).

The pieces by the Dance Company and EPQ students both targeted issues around teen mental health issues but in very contrasting styles, and in support of this a collection was held in aid of Young Minds – a local teen mental health charity – raising over £100. The College frequently works with Young Minds and their support to its students is invaluable. Commenting on the EPQ piece Behind Our Eyes one audience member said ‘This piece was so beautiful. It had me in tears. Thank you for making it about issues that people hide. It was so touching.’

Dance student Jack Warren, said ‘Behind Our Eyes is a piece that addresses the stereotype of teenagers as careless and unapproachable, but rather than combating this stereotype, it simply sheds some light on the reason why it has some truth. Mental health doesn't just mean actual diagnosable things, it could just mean the effects of events on the mind. Science has proven the volatility of the teenage mind, and I wanted to make this piece so people couldn't ignore this fact. This piece means a lot to me because it's so relatable, and I feel like the message I'm sending out when I dance it resonates with a lot of people in both good and bad ways, I don't mind which.'

Dance teacher Trish Harris said of the show ‘this is always an exciting opportunity for the students to share the work they have been creating this term. Each class has been learning and choreographing material in the style of the practitioners that they have been studying such as Matthew Bourne, Akram Khan, Richard Alston, Bob Fosse, and Christopher Bruce, allowing the students to share a variety of styles, techniques and music. It was an action packed evening with music from The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Tchaikovsky and experimental accompaniment, and our students all delivered superlative performances.’

11 March 2019

Leading cellist judges Symonds Young Musician Festival Final

Five students from Peter Symonds College Music Department competed in the Outstanding Performances Classical Final of the College’s Young Musician Festival.

William Bruce, Head of Strings at Junior Guildhall and Sub-Principal Cellist of the English National Opera, adjudicated at the recital and awarded the Christes Hospitall Shield for the best performance.

The performers were Sam Booth on the Cello; Juliette Ashman, Voice; Lydia Jones, Piano; Jonny Green, Clarinet; and Morgan Taylor, Trombone. Performers were accompanied by Samantha Carrasco, Head of Keyboard, who organised the festival. After deliberation, Mr Bruce commended Morgan and Juliette for their performances before awarding the shield to Jonny for his “spritely, fun, well-shaped piece which satisfied both head and heart.”

Commenting on the recital, Mr Bruce praised all the performers and said “Today’s performances reflected a natural, nurturing atmosphere, evident as soon as I walked in. The Music Department has an incredibly positive ethos which makes for a fertile bed for talent like this. All the performers played with a natural, warm engagement.”

The recital was sponsored by the Christes Hospitall School Foundation, represented by Michael Vokes, who described the recital as “a set of amazing, spirited performances.”

Rachel Platt, Head of Music, added: ‘We are so proud of our performers, and with 10 conservatoire places and 18 university places awarded to our second year A level students this year it’s a record-breaking year for the department.’

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