7th June 2017
This time last year, I was just beginning my GCSE’s.
I had been revising for months already, and I really thought that those exams were most important hurdle I would have to face for a while. A year on, I now know that, despite not being the biggest hurdle in my educational career, it was certainly worth putting in the effort as it got me to where I am today.
St Brendan’s is really different to being at secondary school. It may be a lot more work (A message to all the year 11’s out there: 3 or 4 A Level subjects are much harder than 11 GCSE subjects, you have been warned), but the college is supportive to all students, with a variety of support networks, so it never gets too overwhelming. There is a huge emphasis on independent learning, giving students far more freedom in their studies, whilst still having support from your subject teachers. Everyone at St Brendan’s, both teachers, tutors and other members of staff are there to ensure you reach your full potential whilst making sure you have an enjoyable two years here! But there are some other pretty huge differences that make me glad I made the choice to go to sixth form college as opposed to a school sixth form.
It surprisingly makes a huge different not having rowdy year 7's in the library when you're trying to revise!
No Younger Year Groups
I think the best part of St Brendan’s is the fact that all students are between the ages of 16-18. There are no younger year groups running around and crowding the corridors, meaning the environment feels far more mature. It’s probably one of the main reasons that students decide to attend college as opposed to stay on at sixth form. It surprisingly makes a huge difference not having rowdy year 7’s in the library when you’re trying to revise! The environment feels much more suited to adult learners, and paired with the campus-like layout, it almost feels like a small university. Not having to share the space with younger students can make the whole A-Levels process much less stressful, which is always a positive!
Ditching the school tie
Another cool aspect of college is not having to wear a uniform. I honestly really disliked the time and effort schools spend making sure everyone’s uniforms were perfect. Here, students have the ability to express themselves and their individual style. I was pretty worried at the beginning of the year that having to find something to different to wear everyday would be really hard, and everyone would secretly be judging what I wore. Fortunately, no one actually cares what you wear to college because everyone is too wrapped up in their own lives to notice what you are wearing! It sounds cliché, but every student is in the same boat. After a few weeks, practically everyone defaults to jeans and a t-shirt! Although, it is nice to see the variety of styles and colour in the corridor, as opposed to a sea of grimy grey blazers.
It sounds cliché, but every student is in the same boat.
Alongside the emphasis on independent study at college, there is more freedom in terms of spare time and time management. There are no school bells at college, meaning you are in charge of your punctuality and attendance. It gives students more of a responsibility for their education, preparing us for the real world of schedules and deadlines. Also, in college your timetable will not be full of lessons, and many students have ‘free periods’ that they can choose how to spend. They can be used to revise, socialise, take part in enrichment opportunities and more. Unlike some other sixth forms, students at St Brendan’s can leave the campus entirely and spend their time offsite, either in the surrounding shops or restaurants (The McDonalds down the road is certainly a popular destination!), which again makes you feel like you are in charge of your time here and, in my opinion, it feels much more enjoyable and less claustrophobic than secondary school did.
A Modern Vibe
In terms of facilities, St Brendan’s is a bright and modern campus with plenty of study spaces and other cool areas to enjoy. There is something for everyone, a theatre for the drama students to rehearse and perform in, a gym that is open to both students and teachers, a library with a huge range of fiction and non-fiction books, and much more. There are two lovely cafes that are great to socialise and study in as well as having a great variety of food available. For the first few weeks of being a student here, it genuinely felt like there was something new around every corner. There is no shortage of places to go and spend time. Of course, each department’s facilities are just as modern, and each teacher is specialist to their subject, meaning they are very knowledgeable in their field. You are expected to call teachers by their first name, which was very weird for me at first, but eventually I realised that it makes you feel like you are on more of an equal footing in the classroom, which makes interacting with your class and contributing to the lessons much easier and more enjoyable.
Lastly, there are so many enrichment opportunities in college. There are lots of societies that I don’t think you would find in a typical secondary school. Every student has allotted free time at the end of the day on a Wednesday to take part in enrichments if they wish. There’s lots to get involved with, from student union, to PRIDE, to multiple sports teams – there is so much on offer! Of course, if you don’t see anything that interests you, you can work with the college to set up your own society to get people involved with. It’s a great way to meet people, and it was a great way for me to get to know some of the second years and get tips from them on how to survive the next two years. It’s also a great way to build your CV and gain experience!
So, there are some of the ways that St Brendan’s is different to how secondary schools are. I cannot stress enough how happy I am with my decision to come here. It really feels like a bridge between school and university, and the college really emphasises all of the different pathways you can take after finishing your A Levels, and offers a ton of support. I’m really looking forward to my next year here, and whatever comes next!