The Spring Newsletter is prepared for students and their parents/carers - and aims to provide important information, guidance and advice, review recent activities and highlight a number of forthcoming events and dates.  Parents/carers and students should note the specific dates and arrangements that are relevant to them.

Parents/carers are also advised to regularly visit the College website (www.colchsfc.ac.uk) to keep up to date with College arrangements, activities, and important communications.  The website includes a ‘News’ section which provides magazine style reports of a range of student activities.  Students are also reminded that they are expected to check their Virtual Learning Environment Facility (Moodle) and College emails at least twice daily for key communications. Moodle provides regular careers/progression/HE/employment updates, and guidance and communications regarding College dates and activities.

Reporting Student Progress - In November all Year 1 students and their parents/carers had the opportunity to attend a subject-based Consultation Evening following the Autumn Progress Review process for all students.  Progress Reviews, including preparation of Reports for Year 2 students and completion of Mini Reviews for Year 1 students, are currently taking place.  The Year 2 Reports will be distributed to the relevant parents/carers and students in late February.  The Mini Reviews for Year 1 students have been published for students on Friday 14 February.  The Year 2 Reports will be made available on Go4Schools - with the links emailed to all Year 2 students and also to all parents/carers for whom an email address has been provided.  This release is likely to be on Thursday 27 February.  Paper reports will be posted home for those parents/carers who do not have or have not provided an email address. 

Looking forward, further reports will be prepared for all Year 1 students in June – following the completion of the Year 1 Internal Exams and Assessment programme in May.  A Year 1 Parents’ Consultation Evening is scheduled for Tuesday 2 July. 

If there are issues regarding student progress, or other issues which could affect academic progress that parents wish to raise, as appropriate, please contact your son’s or daughter’s Personal Tutor or Senior Tutor or other relevant senior staff. 

Encouraging and Supporting Independent Study - The Easter break period is, of course, a very important time for all students for independent revision programmes prior to the forthcoming public external examinations (for Year 2 A level, GCSE, IB and Applied General courses) and also in advance of the May Internal Assessments (for all Year 1 A level and IB courses). There will also be a number of subject specific revision classes and workshops offered to students in the Easter vacation period – primarily for those taking public exams in the Summer Term.  Details of this programme will be posted up on Moodle before the end of the Spring Term - and relevant departments will also be communicating the detail of the specific revision and workshop opportunities they will be offering to their students.  

The College Library, including the independent study and IT facilities, will be open for students to use every day during February Half Term week (the Library will be open, Monday to Friday, between 9am – 4pm).  The Library will also be open for a number of days within the forthcoming Easter break period (detail will be communicated to students next half term).  

Where individual students wish to use very specialist College equipment, facilities or materials in any vacation period, i.e. where there are safety or supervision or security issues which means there is a requirement of a specialist staff presence (for example in Product Design or Media Studies), any requests to teaching staff to use specialist facilities must be made well in advance. Teaching staff will generally then need to liaise with senior staff to consider whether an arrangement can be made – which will generally require arranging additional specialist staffing supervision.  This will therefore not always be possible on vacation days - but can certainly be explored.

As well as the Library and related study facilities available to students within the College, some of the University of Essex study facilities are also available for our students to use, if they wish.  The University of Essex permits our College students to use their Library as “walk-in” users.  Students need their College ID card and another form of ID with their name and address on it (e.g. bank statement). When arriving at the University Library, students need to ask to be a “walk-in” user, this will enable them to use the reference onsite.  College students will not be able to access the university intranet network but they will be able to plug in and use their own laptops as standalone machines. Further details can be found at: libwww.essex.ec.uk/WalkinUsers/walkin_users.

Achievements, Activities and Competitions - Many congratulations to the students who have received Jack Petchey Achievement Awards in this academic year: Ellie Rogers, Dan Williams, Xavier Drury, Todd Shepherd and Charlotte Branch. They have all received a framed certificate and £250 each towards providing resources at College and were invited to attend the regional Jack Petchey Awards Evening held at the Mercury Theatre.  The students were recognised for the variety of their very positive contributions and achievements at the College.  

The College entered a team for the 2019-20 National Senior Team Maths Challenge competition with the Eastern Region event held in Ipswich in November. Our team consisted of two 1st year students (Abbie Gossage and Matthew Pyall) and two 2nd year students (Arlo Morris and Tom Hanmer).  They took part in three rounds of challenging mathematical problem-solving, which required a high level of mathematical ability, teamwork and communication. Despite some very stiff competition from 17 other schools and colleges from across Suffolk and North Essex, our team won the regional competition by a significant margin and so earned a place in the national finals.  In the final, held in London in February, the team again excelled – and finished in the top 10 of the state sector schools and colleges across the country.

Two groups of Physics and Maths students have been very successful in the 2019-20 Weizmann Safe Cracking Competition.  This national competition requires students to use principles of physics to design and build “uncrackable safes”. Our teams competed very well in the regional competition - one team, ‘Prism Break’, winning and therefore achieving a place at the national final which was held at Dulwich College on 9th February.  The team achieved a top ten place.  Ohm’s Arcade comprised of Finegin Dowd, Jay Prior, Kian McGuinness and Tom Prince, and the team which competed at the national final, Prism Break, comprised of Ben Mayne, Matthew Pyall, Gabriella Witkowska and Adam Romano-Critchley.

It has been a successful year for students competing in the British Physics Olympiad. This year, eleven students took part in the prestigious national competition and achieved very strong results.  James Parkinson, Arlo Morris and Tom Hanmer all received Silver Awards. Nella McCann and Szabolcs Barandi received Bronze 1 Awards, whilst Tom Nicoll, Taylor Blackwell, Jude Rowlands and Michael Anthony all received Bronze 11 Awards. Callum Brown and Abdul Mohaimin both received commendations. 

A large number of students have also competed in recent Chemistry Olympiad and Biology Olympiad competitions, the outcomes of which are due to be released at the end of February.

College Council - Our newly elected student College Council Executive, and their committees (Charity, Social, Sports, Arts, Culture, Science and Environment), have been in post since the start of term.  They have organised a series of student activities – with many more planned for the period ahead: 

The Arts and Culture Committee have recently organised arts and crafts workshops where they prepared a series of Jackson Pollock inspired pieces – including some superb hangings which were subsequently displayed on the Concourse. The Committee are also strongly focussing on promoting inclusivity in their activities this year and are also planning to make a photo-booth facility for use by students.  Looking forward, the Arts and Culture Committee will organise an Arts and Cultural Festival for June/July and they are also planning a cultural conversion event this term.  A very active Charity Committee have collected bags for Colchester Food Bank and arranged activities and fund raising for ‘Smile of Aaron’, Autism Anglia, Beacon House, The Haven Project, Air Ambulance Essex, RNLI, Mercury Rising, activities for World Cancer Day (and more specifically also Breast and Prostate Cancer and Brain Tumour Research Charity, St. Helena Hospice), Muslims in China, East Anglia Children’s Hospice and MIND.  They are also working with the Sports Committee with regards to Sports Relief Day in March and the group have also worked to support our Friends not Foes group who support local asylum seekers.  The Charities Committee worked with the Environment Committee to raise funds with regards to those affected by the Australian bush fires and, in conjunction with our Eco Society and Conservation Group continue to work with Essex Wildlife Trust.  We support a number of projects on or near the College site – including supporting the Peregrine Falcon’s nesting in ‘Jumbo’ and the making of swift boxes in 2019 to hopefully attract a swift colony in 2020.

The Social Committee were involved in a variety of Valentines Day activities and are planning to organise the purchase of hoodies for Year 2 leavers.  The Sports Committee activities include organising a dodgeball competition.

Regular reports on a range of the College Council activities are posted on the College website ‘News’ section. 

Safety - We have provided students with more advice about managing the risks as they become more independent. Recent tutorials have covered on-line safety and how to avoid criminal exploitation, as well as healthy relationships. There is a new section of the College website, aimed particularly at parents and carers, under the heading, “Safeguarding” where you will find contact details, information and advice about a wide variety of issues, from young people’s mental health to the recent phenomenon of “money mules”.

College Friends - The College Friends are pleased to report that they have recently used monies raised from their fundraising activities to offer financial support to a number of students to help with the cost of attending HE and employment interviews. They also intend to offer financial support to further enhance independent study facilities at the College.  This resource support is particularly appreciated at a time when there have been enormous cuts in the levels of Government resourcing of 16-18 education in school sixth forms and colleges throughout England and resources available are increasingly limited.

Term Dates - A summary list of forthcoming ‘Key Dates’ for the second half of the 2019-20 year, has been included at the end of this Newsletter.  The ‘Term Dates’ for the current academic year, and also for the forthcoming 2020/2021 academic year, are posted on the website – link:  https://www.colchsfc.ac.uk/termdates/.

 Summary of Some Important Summer Term Exam, Assessment and Teaching Arrangements  

Year 2 IB students - Summer Examination and Study Leave begins on Tuesday 28 April at 4pm

Year 1 A level and IB students - The Internal Assessments and Study Leave period begins on Wednesday 6 May at 4pm. 

Year 1 IB Internal Examinations and Year 1 A level Internal Assessments take place from Thursday 7 May to Friday 15 May.

Year 2 A level students begin their Public Examination and Study Leave at 4pm on Wednesday 13 May.

The Year 1 IB ‘Activities Days’ take place between Wednesday 20 to Friday 22 May - activities planned include a United Nations Conference, a TOK visit, an International Mindedness Day and the Group 4 Science Project. 

All Year 1 A level and IB students return from Internal Examinations and Assessments at 9.05am on Monday 18 May - initially for a 2-Day Programme of action planning and progression activities and briefings (Careers, Employment, HE).  To add more detail, during the 2-Day Programme a choice of 300 talks will be available, from which each student will choose 13 sessions to attend.  Employers, Apprenticeship providers, Universities and Higher Education representatives, Gap year providers, volunteering and citizenship organizations, former students and College teaching staff will all deliver sessions. Year 1 Students will all be able to choose sessions to explore careers or courses in which they are interested, and begin the start of planning for progression after they complete their studies at the College. 

Teaching for all subjects re Year 1 A level and Applied General Extended Certificate courses then resumes on Wednesday 20 May and will continue until the end of Summer Term (last day of teaching is Wednesday 15 July).

Year 2 A levels students should note that the Government agency framework for the national public exam timetable for the summer period 2020 is such that the majority of A level examination papers/sittings are scheduled for the period between early and late June.  There are however a few A level exams scheduled for the late May period (detail of the Summer 2020 public exam timetable is available on Moodle).

Year 2 A level ‘Leavers Day’ is scheduled for Wednesday 1 July 2020.

A Careers HE and Employment Fair was very recently held at the College, (Thursday 13 February) with over a hundred exhibitors relevant for progression including universities, employers, apprenticeship providers, representatives from ‘Year Out’ and volunteering organisations.  The event was very well attended and received.  It provided a particularly useful research and information opportunity for all Year 1 students and also for those Year 2 students who have not finalised their progression plans for next year, or beyond. 

A Careers and Guidance Preliminary Information Evening, HE and Employability Skills, for parents of Year 1 students, was also recently held (on Tuesday 11 February) – and as outlined earlier, the 2 day programme in May for Year 1 students has a very strong careers, HE and employment focus.  On an ongoing basis, careers information is available to parents/carers and students via the website and to students via Moodle, the Careers Bulletins and also through the daily Student Bulletin.

Year 2 students - Over 1000 of our current and former students have now applied to UCAS for prospective future entry (2020 or 2021) to university degree courses or degree apprenticeships.  Many students who have applied have now had all or most of their responses from the universities to whom they have applied.  However, there are still some students awaiting university responses as some university course admissions tutors wait until late March before they make some or even any ‘offers’. 

Where students have received more than two ‘offers’, and therefore have choices to make regarding which two offers now to hold, they are generally advised that their second ‘insurance offer’ should be both lower than their first ‘firm offer’ – and the insurance offer is realistically achievable.  For the most competitive courses, universities are unlikely to be very flexible if students do not achieve the required ‘offer’ grades and students should hold a realistic ‘back-up’ offer as their second ‘insurance’ offer.

The College has been informed that Student Finance Service for England national facility will be ‘open’ from approximately late February/early March (students will be notified when it is ‘up’).  Students who are planning to take up a university place in 2020 can then apply via www.gov.uk/studentfinance. We recommend that the application be completed as soon as possible after the facility opens - and certainly before the 31 May 2020 deadline.

Any student who needs HE related or employment/training or wider careers guidance and advice should contact the College Careers Department or their Senior Tutor for help.  The Careers pages on Moodle, the Careers Bulletin and the Student Bulletin provide updated employment information on an ongoing basis.  A good number of Year 2 students have already submitted applications for employment, training or apprenticeship appointments as well as, or instead of, Higher Education applications.  If students are thinking about apprenticeships and/or employment and training, now is a key time to be looking out for vacancies and undertaking research and gathering information.  Appointments can be made with the Careers Department (room 113) for further information and help. 

Please note that for all 2020 leavers, support and guidance from senior and specialist College staff will also be available in the mid to late August period following the release of A level results on Thursday 13 August.  The notification of university admissions decisions, via UCAS, is also on Thursday 13 August.  Help, guidance and support to students from specialist College staff will be available through the Summer Term, including the period immediately after the release of IB results on Monday 6 July.

A Higher Education (‘refresher’) Briefing, including a summary of 2020 HE financial arrangements, specifically designed for parents of Year 2 students, has been scheduled for the evening of Wednesday 1 April. The briefing will also outline information relevant to HE applicants through the summer period and will also give students and parent guidelines as to how generally students need to proceed in August following the release of examination results. Invitation letters will be sent out to parents/carers in March.

Year 1 Students - An Essex area UCAS Higher Education Exhibition will take place on Thursday 18 June (9.30-3.00pm) at the University of Essex, Main (Wivenhoe) Campus.  Students can book a place through the UCAS website.  The College of course held a very similar l Careers Fair event at the College on 13 February (see earlier section).

A Year 1 Parents’ Consultation Evening will be arranged for Tuesday 30 June and the evening will also provide an opportunity to attend a Higher Education Finance Briefing, for 2020 HE entry cycle.  The briefing will also include an outline of how we support students through the HE/UCAS application process.  There will be a choice of attending either an early evening or a mid-evening briefing.

In addition, an evening briefing for parents/carers of students considering applying to Oxford or Cambridge Universities will be held in early July (date still being finalised) with Admissions Tutors from Oxford and Cambridge presenting.  The College ‘Oxbridge’ programme recently started with a briefing meeting for all students potentially interested in applying to Oxford or Cambridge University for 2021 or 2022 entry (Wednesday 12 February) - and there will be further opportunities for any students who missed this to be briefed after the Half Term break.  There is also an opportunity available for students with continuing interest to visit the University of Cambridge on Tuesday 17 March - primarily designed for those potentially interested in applying to a college at Cambridge or Oxford but who have not otherwise made an individual and more specific arrangement to visit an Oxford or Cambridge College open day or conference or subject open day.  Three former students who are studying at Oxford or Cambridge will also return to provide a briefing to interested students on Tuesday 24 March. The College Lawyers, Pre-Teaching and Medics (for Medicine, Dentistry, Veterinary Medicine or Physiotherapy) programmes have been running through the year and provide substantial support and guidance to students interested in progressing into these specific professional areas.

Examinations and Assessments - All Students - Many A level, IB, Applied General Certificate/Extended Certificate and GCSE students have, or have had, important practical assessments, assessed work or project work requirements, in specific subjects, during the Autumn and Spring Terms.  For a good number of students there are important coursework deadlines or practical assessments arranged over the late Winter and early Spring period.

Entries for A/GCSE and Certificate/Extended Certificate external summer examinations have now all been made to the public examination boards.  Students were given their provisional personal Statements of Entry in January - and were asked to check and confirm these provisional entries including any resit entries – and to liaise with their Personal Tutor or Senior Tutor or Exams Department, as appropriate, where there were issues.  Students were also asked in the Autumn and early Winter period to communicate any learning support issues relevant for exam and assessment arrangements for Summer 2020.  (Students were also informed and reminded on several occasions during the Autumn Term that the relevant Government agencies and exam boards have significantly drawn forward the deadline date for all applications for exam access arrangements for the Summer exams and assessments – and the deadline has now passed).

Individual public exam timetables for A level, Applied General and GCSE, with full detail, will be distributed to students, via their Personal Tutor, and also available on their Moodle accounts (My Examinations section), shortly after the start of the Summer Term.  If any issues or detail relating to exam arrangements emerge students should urgently contact the Examinations Department.  If students currently wish to look at the broad detail of the Summer public exam programme to identify when their specific examinations will be taking place, they can view the College website (Exams Department link), or ‘Exams Information – Moodle’.  Year 2 IB students will also be given their individual timetables for their May IBO public examinations at the start of the Summer Term. 

As all exam entries have now been made and, in line with Government guidelines, students are reminded that if they now choose to withdraw from a subject or fail to complete assessed coursework or practical assessments or if they do not attend examination sittings, they will be charged the relevant qualification entry fees. It is not now possible for the College, or the Government, to gain reimbursement of the public funds committed to supporting the entries made for the Summer exams and assessments from the examination boards for ‘withdrawals’ or non-completion of coursework or non-attendance.

The College strongly advises that all students involved in forthcoming external exams and assessments plan to give adequate time to prepare effectively for their forthcoming external public examinations, and also for completion of any remaining projects, coursework and practical assessments.  Students should also carefully plan and use the remaining time very carefully.  Productive use of the Easter break for revision and preparation is very important.  To ensure that students achieve their full potential in public examinations, we strongly recommend that all A level, Applied General, IB and GCSE students involved in forthcoming public examinations discontinue any part-time employment for the period from late-March (at the latest) until the completion of their individual summer examination programme. 

IB results will be released on 6 July.  A level and Applied General Certificate/Extended Certificate results will be released on Thursday 13 August and GCSE results are released on Thursday 20 August.

Sport - We have had a very busy and successful programme of sport, fitness and competing.  Some brief reports:

The College squash team, managed and coached by Tim Barrott, have successfully reached the next stage of the National Schools Competition. Before Christmas the College squash team played in the regional qualifying event. The team was superb, winning all three matches quite comprehensively. Despite the College team winning all fixtures, on a technicality they scored fewer points overall than another team and initially were disappointed technically not to have qualified for the next round. However, England Squash determined that the College team were to progress to the next round – which is on 27th February to be held in Aylesbury.

The 1st XI football team continues to be fully committed to training and play with endeavour and enthusiasm each match. They are continuing to develop as a team, however injuries and illness have resulted in less success in the league than would have been otherwise achieved.  The 2nd XI team have played a good number of fixtures – and enjoyed matches against strong opposition.

The first netball team are currently in 4th position in Division 1 of the Association of Colleges (AoC) League. Their most recent performance was an excellent 47-43 win against St. Joseph’s School, who had beaten the College earlier in the season.  The second netball team are currently in 2nd position in Division 2. A narrow defeat to East Norfolk Sixth Form College is their only loss this season but there is a second fixture against East Norfolk on 26th February - so we are hoping that a win in this match could see the second team return to the top of the table.

The 1st XV Rugby team are currently top of The AoC East Division One League on points difference to Hills Road.  The team has also qualified for the Semi-Final of the Essex Cup - where we play The Colne College on 26th February. The coach, Tim Grimsey, reports that players who have been consistently performing well include Ben Collar, Harry Plester, James Raine, Ralfe Donnelly, Ferg Crallan, Nathan Elmer, George Welsh, Matt McCormack, Ali Clack and Will Amner. The team have been playing some very attacking rugby all year with the stand out performances being against Barking and Dagenham, where the team won 74-24, and Saffron Walden High School.

The Basketball squad are third in the AoC table with three games in hand of the second-place team and are certainly looking to finish at least second in the table.

The women’s volleyball team are through to the AoC National finals, for a residential weekend at the University of Nottingham in April, after winning the Eastern regional tournament back in October.

We also have two badminton players, Imogen Parks and Ama Wellahewage, who have qualified for the National AoC competition finals to be held at the University of Nottingham.

Performing Arts - Many congratulations to the large group of over 50 students who were involved in a very successful musical theatre production of ‘Urinetown’ in the Autumn Term.  The production was really strong – and received a very good review in the local press.

Both year groups of the Performing Arts course have their final practical exams and performances in February.  The Certificate exams took place on Thursday 30th in the Drama Studio to a packed crowd.  The audience really enjoyed the students’ presentation of their final practical work, which included musical theatre items by Stephen Sondheim, Jule Styne and Rodgers and Hammerstein; dance work adapted from Chicago by Bob Fosse and Kander and Ebb and drama work by Brecht.  All the students rose to the occasion and performed extremely well.

The second year Extended Certificate pieces were performed on Thursday 13th February.  Their works ranged from Cats, Chess and Phantom of the Opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Miss Saigon and Les Misérables by Schonberg and “Teechers” by John Godber.  The second year students will also be performing their devised practical exam pieces on Wednesday 6th May, as part of their assessment for the Extended Certificate.

The Drama and Theatre and IB Theatre students are going to see the new production of Durrenmatt’s classic play “The Visit”, with a theme of revenge and justice, at The Royal National Theatre on February 27th.  The production is directed by Tony Kushner and stars Lesley Manville in the lead role of Claire Zachanassian.  “The Visit” is a set text for A level students this year and this is a fantastic opportunity to see the play in production.

The year 2 students are busy rehearsing their final practical exam pieces for the externally assessed exam on March 31st. There are a wide variety of pieces being performed from Steven Berkoff to Noel Coward. All who would like to come along and support the students on their exam day are than welcome.  There will be a running order published nearer the time but the performances will run between 9am and 5pm in the College Drama Studio. Please contact Diane Johnston for more information johnstond@colchsfc.ac.uk

The Music Department’s Spring Concert will be taking place on Thursday 5th March and will include exciting performances from the College ensembles and also solo performances from the music students. The concert will begin at 7PM in the drama studio and tickets are £5 or £3 for concessions and students.

A very successful Battle of the Bands competition was recently held.  Heats in College culminated in the final held at Colchester Arts Centre.  The 6 bands who performed gave very high-quality performances.  Many thanks to the students, parents and friends who supported this very successful evening. 

2020 KEY DATES:

February Half Term                                                                    Monday 17 to Friday 21 February

HE Finance Update Briefing [Yr2]                                              Wednesday 1 April

Easter Holiday (incl. Easter Bank Holidays)                              Monday 6 to Monday 20 April inclusive

May Bank Holiday                                                                      Friday 8 May

Progression Activity – 2 Day Programme Event [Yr1]               Monday 18 and Tuesday 19 May

                                                           

Examinations, Internal Assessments and Study Leave:

IB [Yr2] Study Leave starts                                                        Tuesday 28 April at 4pm

IB External Exams start                                                             Tuesday 5 May

Yr1 Internal Assessments and Study Leave                              Wednesday 6 to 13 May inclusive

Yr1 IB Internal Exams                                                                Thursday 7 May to 15 May

Yr2 A level Study Leave starts                                                   Thursday 14May at 4pm

A level Teaching continues                                                        Wednesday 20 May

Yr1 IB College Activity days                                                      Wednesday 20, Thursday 21 and Friday 22 May

Half Term                                                                                   Monday 25 May to Friday 29 May

Non-Teaching Days – Induction                                                Tuesday 23 June and Wednesday 24 June

Parents Evening                                                                        Tuesday 30 June

A level and GCSE Leavers’ Day                                               Wednesday 1 July

IB Leavers’ and Results Day                                                     Monday 6 July

Last day of Term                                                                       Wednesday 15 July

 Release of Specific Examination Results:

IB [Yr2]                                                                                     Monday 6 July

A/Applied General/EPQ                                                           Thursday 13 August

GCSE                                                                                       Thursday 20 August