Recent visitors to the school site will have seen the next exciting development on the Bennett site. We have just started construction of a new building, destined to become, over the next 9 months or so, a dedicated sixth form building. Like all construction projects, this brings with it some significant inconveniences, in particular in this instance the fact that the construction team have had to take over a large part of the staff car part. Consequently, additional staff cars are now parked along the drive on the way in to school, with the further knock-on effect that there is more congestion along the drive and potentially less space for visitors to the school to park. If coming in for a meeting or event please bear this in mind and allow a little extra time.
The governors decided to focus the school’s next building project on sixth form provision because it has been an area of need for some time. The Bennett sixth form has nearly doubled in size over the past decade, with more and more students remaining at school into years 12 and 13. This has come about partly because of rising achievement at GCSE giving access to advanced level courses post 16, and also partly because over recent years it has become clearer than ever to students that stopping education at age 16 is likely to have very limiting consequences for their chances of future success. Now, of course, we are moving into what has become known as RPA, Raising of the Participation Age, the requirement that young people up to the age of 18 remain in education or training of some kind.
The new building will considerably expand the study and research facilities available to students, and in designing the building we have looked at the kinds of study facilities which are now commonplace in universities and university libraries. The emphasis will be on computer workstations with full internet access, as this is the principal resource students at this level need to work in the majority of subjects. The current school library will remain available and books will continue to be kept there. In the new building, we have also looked to give the space a more adult or student feel by incorporating a small café facility with a space for refreshments, which will give access to an outdoor terrace for the summer months, so that students can take breaks from study and get refreshments without leaving the area. Unlike the current library, the sixth form study area will not be used by younger year groups, but will be dedicated to sixth formers. It will be staffed by a full time supervisor to ensure that a calm working environment is maintained, something which even university libraries tell us is necessary!
This term is an exceptionally short one owing to the early date of Easter this year. This means that we are working under considerable pressure with examination classes in particular to do everything we can to prepare them for their all-important forthcoming examinations. I trust that students are also focussing intensely on this as well. As ever, strong parental support through the next few months, which are very stressful and demanding for young people taking examinations, is critically important. Gentle encouragement, reassurance, provision of quiet study space, showing an interest in what is being done (even if you sometimes get told off for doing so!), availability to talk when things seem to be piling up, and so on, are all things parents need to do to support young people and give them the best possible chance of success in the summer. Bennett parents are always exceptionally committed to this.
Chatting about this with some students earlier this week, one asked me why the date of Easter varies each year. For anyone who doesn’t know, the calculation of Easter is as follows: the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after 21st March (the spring or vernal equinox, when the day and night are the same length). So the earliest date Easter can fall is 22nd March, in a year when the full moon is on 21st March and that day is a Saturday, so the first Sunday after that would be 22nd.