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“BSFC is an inclusive college that changes the lives of students and successfully enables learners to raise their aspirations.� Ofsted December 2012

This guide is designed to answer some of the frequently asked questions by parents of students who join The Sixth Form College, Birkenhead. We hope you find it useful in supporting your son or daughter through their sixth form college experience. Introduction A welcome from the Principal


Key facts Handy contacts and dates


College information Everything you need to know


Personal and Guidance Tutors Assistant Principal (students) Subject reviews Parents’ evening Parents Portal New parents’ evening Absence Emergency closure of BSFC Student timetables Transport Safety and first aid Additional financial commitment and College Fund

Studying and courses Helping our students achieve their full potential


Course choices Time commitment Homework Coursework Examinations What to do if your son or daughter has made the wrong course choices Moving from Year 1 to Year 2 Study resources The Hub

Supporting our students A guide to the support you can expect at College


Student financial support Support for your son or daughter if they have learning difficulties or other special needs What to do if your son or daughter decides that college is not for them Advice, guidance and counselling Safeguarding children and confidentiality

College code Important aspects of the College experience Code of behaviour Poor behaviour and misconduct Suspension and exclusion Equal opportunities Complaints and appeals



Introduction I hope that you find this essential information guide helpful. You will find a range of information about some important matters, including student attendance, travel, College policies and health and welfare matters. The Sixth Form College is a very welcoming, supportive and friendly place in which to study. Students achieve outstanding results. This is due to the fact that we have high expectations of all students and staff and is also a result of the dedication and care shown by all staff at the College. We have also included guidance for students regarding what is expected of them in terms of their studies and general behaviour. In our ‘Core Expectations’ document, we’ have also outlined the high standards that the College expects of itself to ensure that students can achieve their full potential and receive the best support. We are committed to providing an environment that helps students to make a smooth and confident transition to university, further training and a future career. We value the best possible partnership between college, students and parents/carers. Communication with parents/carers is very important to us. We maintain regular contact via email and you will be asked to provide an email address as part of your son / daughter’s enrolment documentation. Please visit our website for the latest college news and information and please do not hesitate to contact any member of my staff at any time, they will be happy to help.

Kathryn Podmore Principal

Key facts Principal

Kathryn Podmore

Deputy Principal

Mike Kilbride

Assistant Principal

Kate Rigby Emma Russell

Term Dates 2013/14 Autumn Term 2013 Open:

Friday 23rd August

Registration Ethos Sessions Lessons Start

Friday 23rd / Tuesday 27th / Wednesday 28th August Monday 2nd September Tuesday 3rd September


Friday 20th December


Monday 21st – Friday 25th October

Christmas Break:

Monday 23rd December – Friday 3rd January

Spring Term 2014 Open:

Monday 6th January


Friday 11th April


Monday 17th – Friday 21st February

Easter Break:

Monday 14th April – Friday 25th April

Summer Term 2014 Open:

Monday 28th April


Thursday 10th July


Monday 26th May - Friday 30th May


College information Our experienced team of Tutors and Managers are passionate about supporting our students to achieve their full potential. Our Learner Services Team consists of:

Personal and Guidance Tutors

All students are placed in a tutor groups. Personal Tutors are an important first point of contact with parents, and are happy to discuss any concerns you may have about your son or daughter’s academic progress or general welfare. Your son or daughter will know who their tutor is from the first day of teaching in September. It is best to make contact in the first instance by email (tutor’s initials plus the standard College suffix eg. and messages can also be left at the College office (0151 652 5575). The tutor plays a key role in the organisation of the College. Tutors meet with students in tutor groups at twice weekly tutorial sessions and may also arrange to meet with students on other occasions, where required.

Managers of Learner Services

John Doherty and Gary Small are our Managers of Learner Services. They are each responsible for a team of tutors who may refer questions or issues to them regarding their students. This will usually happen if the issues remain unsolved, or are of a serious nature. We will communicate these issues with parents/carers when this is needed.

Assistant Principal (Learner Services)

Kate Rigby is the Assistant Principal (Learner Services) and oversees the work of the pastoral team. She is responsible for dealing with the most serious breaches of student discipline and she has the authority to exclude students on a temporary basis. We maintain regular communication with parents/carers, and if necessary we will speak to you directly regarding your son or daughter’s progress. In addition, there are a number of ways we involve parents in monitoring the progress of students:

Subject reviews The College will complete Subject Reviews twice a year – November and March. Subject Reviews contain information about how well students are progressing including performance, effort, conduct and attendance. The subject reviews are available through the Parents Portal (see Parent Portal section). For parents without internet access we can provide a paper copy on request. Tutors will meet with their tutees at the end of each Review period and discuss targets for improvement.

Parents’ evenings We hold regular parents’ evenings to provide an opportunity for consultation between parents, staff and students. We recommend that you attend with your son or daughter to get the most from this vital contact time. Students make their own timetable of appointments with their subject teachers and tutors. We will send a letter of invitation prior to each event. For your diary; Lower Sixth parents’ evenings take place in late January / early February. The Upper Sixth parents’ evening is held in late November.

New parents’ evening The new parents’ evening gives parents/carers the opportunity to meet their son or daughter’s personal tutor, learn more about The Sixth Form College, the courses, and also raise any concerns that they may have prior to the start of term. The evening will be held in September and details will be confirmed after your son / daughter has enrolled.

Parent Portal It is important for parents to support teachers and tutors in monitoring their son or daughter’s progress at the College. To help you do this, we have created the Parent Portal, which is an online tool that gives you direct access to your student’s up-to-date attendance and progress data. Access details to the Portal are provided to parents/carers who are named on the student enrolment form and who have provided a personal email address. Account details, including username and password will be distributed at the new parents’ evening in September.

Absence Student attendance We expect our students to be present at all lessons, and will only accept absences where absolutely necessary. This is a vital part of the College experience, and ensures they don’t miss crucial contact time with their teachers or tutors. We ask parents to support us with this, for example by scheduling personal appointments and activities outside of College time eg. dental check-ups. We record attendance at each lesson and this is uploaded onto the student’s online record, which you will have access to via the Parents Portal.


Reporting absence through illness If your son or daughter is too ill to attend College, we need to be informed as soon as possible, so that the absence doesn’t go down as unauthorised on their record. If the absence is over more than one day, please also notify the College on each day. You can call 0151 652 5575 or email Students who become ill at College are asked to report to the Student Reception. If they are too unwell to travel home alone, you will be called and asked to make arrangements to collect your son or daughter from the College. Please note, parents must still authorise student absence in the ways outlined above. We take attendance seriously and expect students to maintain a minimum 95% attendance at the College. Initially we will follow up each and every absence during September and students who don’t meet our high standards can expect to be subject to additional targets which need to be met in order to maintain their place at college. Attendance is then monitored on an on-going basis by both subject staff and personal tutors. Attendance is linked to academic performance and we value your support in our efforts to maintain high attendance. We link Bursary payments to attendance and minimum standards must be met to be entered into exams. We recognise good attendance and annual prize draws take place for those students who achieve outstanding attendance across the whole year. Thank you for your support.

Holidays in term time As a general principle we would insist that parents do not take holidays with their sons and daughters during term-time as any absence from College can have a detrimental effect on students’ studies and at certain critical times of the year can be catastrophic. The College calendar for term-time and holidays for 2013 -2014 is available on the College website under ‘Information’. We recognise however, that parents’ work commitments sometimes mean that such disruption is inevitable. If you do want to take your son or daughter out of College for a family holiday you must write to The Principal, Kathryn Podmore with details requesting Holiday Leave (two weeks is the minimum acceptable period of notice) so we can issue a form which will make clear any work that may be missed and which will need completing together with agreed deadlines. An indication of the likely impact on the student’s learning/development will also be made.

Lower Sixth end of term It is important to recognise that Lower Sixth students do not finish College after they have sat their AS exams but at the end of the academic year. Important Upper Sixth work is undertaken in the last weeks of term which must not be missed. Failure to attend will prevent your son/daughter from continuing into the second year of study in that subject, and in some cases with their entire programme of study. Under no circumstances should students be allowed to arrange holidays on their own, with friends or family members other than parents during this time. Students who do this will be regarded as having withdrawn themselves from their courses.

Absence for other reasons Absence for other reasons will of course be treated sympathetically by the College, particularly with regard to bereavement, work experience or higher education visits. We ask, where possible to keep the College notified of such occurrence.

Emergency closure of the College The College has an excellent record for staying open. However, very occasionally the College site has had to be closed for an unforeseen emergency, such as severe weather conditions. On such occasions the College Leadership Team will make every effort to inform students and parents/carers using a range of media, including the College website, social media, text messages, email and the announcements on the local radio stations (Radio City and Radio Merseyside). We will make every effort to get messages out as early as possible to avoid students having to begin their journey.

Student timetables All students are full-time students and we would expect them to be engaged in independent study in the times between lessons, tutorials and support sessions. Classes are held between • • •

9.00am and 4.15pm on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday 9.30 and 3.00pm on a Wednesday 9.00am and 2.30pm on Fridays

Please ask your son or daughter to provide you with a copy of their timetable or download a copy from the Parents’ Portal. Knowledge of the times of your son or daughter’s lessons, tutorial and other commitments is essential to enable parents to support students in their studies. If you are having difficulty obtaining a timetable from your son or daughter then please contact the College and we will ensure that you receive a copy.

Transport Full details of the various transport options are available on the College website at You will also find links to timetables and a personalised route planner.


Those students who live more than three miles from the College by the shortest walking route may apply for a bus pass subsidised by the College. Application forms are available from the Reception. The College operates a FREE shuttle bus service from Hamilton Square and Birkenhead Park and subsidised College bus services from Heswall/Pensby/Irby and Wallasey area. Full details are available at

Cars and motorcycles

There is no parking for cars on the College site for students and we would ask that those who do drive to College exercise due care and courtesy in their parking in the College neighbourhood. Students can park motorcycles in the designated areas, on a first-come-first-served basis. 7


The College has a cycle rack and recommends the use of secure 'D' or shackle locks to maximise security.

Safety and first aid College is a very safe and secure learning environment. In the unlikely event that students have an accident (or a near miss), they should report it to the member of staff in charge or to Reception. If necessary a First Aider will be contacted. Students who are feeling unwell should seek assistance from the Main reception or Student Reception. A First Aider will be called to attend to them if necessary.

Additional financial commitment and College Fund On joining the college all students are asked to contribute a once only payment of ÂŁ5 to cover their ID / Learning Card and College lanyard. Students or parents who experience difficulty paying College Fund should speak to the Admissions Team who will be happy to provide further advice and guidance.

Studying and courses The course choices at The Sixth Form College, Birkenhead have been arranged to make it as easy as possible for our students to choose a study path that suits their strengths and career aspirations. The way your son or daughter studies has been designed to help them achieve their full potential and get the most of out of their college experience.

Course choices First year students are usually expected to choose subjects in a minimum of four timetable blocks. Enrichment opportunities and tutorial will take place as part of a fifth block. This allows a significant amount of private study time, and we consider this to be a vital part of studying. Second and third year students are expected to follow courses in at least three blocks. Please note that students will not be permitted to drop below the minimum timetable commitment unless there are very strong reasons for doing so, for example health issues that are supported by medical evidence. As a result, failure to attend the full programme of study from the beginning to the end of the academic year may lead to removal of your son or daughter from their entire programme of study. All students are expected to follow the programme of study explained above, to attend their lessons punctually and to complete homework assignments as required. This is seen as part of a contract between the College and its students and parents as set out in a Learning Agreement that students will be asked to sign after their course has been confirmed. We make a commitment to our students to give them the best possible opportunities for future success. We simply ask that our students give us their commitment when they enrol on a course at The Sixth Form College.

Time commitment Most student programmes of study will include a proportion of private study time. Students may choose to spend this time out of College but members of staff have the right to insist they remain on the premises. From time to time organised tutorial activities may be arranged in their tutor consultation slots. Please note, permission to take part-time jobs during the daytime will not be given.

Homework All departments of the College will set homework, with the quantity and frequency varying depending on the subject area and time of the year. The amount of homework is likely to be greater in the second year of a course. Students should expect to study in their own time. Other activities such as part-time jobs, clubs and leisure pursuits must be fitted around this primary commitment. Research and experience shows us that students are more likely to achieve if they complete homework set by their teachers or tutors. Excessive involvement in part-time jobs and other activities can be counter-productive both in the short-term and for career prospects. The College strongly recommends that students should not undertake more than 10 hours of paid employment per week during term time. We ask parents to support us in this.

Coursework The majority of subjects involve coursework or projects, and students will receive detailed advice from subject teachers as to what is required of them, and when. It must however be recognised that students who do not complete coursework to pass standard or do not complete it within the deadline may not be entered for other examinations in the same subject and may be withdrawn from the course. If you have any questions or concerns about the amount of private study work included as part of a course, please feel free to speak to a member of staff at the College, or when attending our new parents’ evening.

Examinations The College will automatically enter and pay for students’ examinations in all of their subjects, providing they fulfil certain obligations such as attending lessons, completing work and submitting coursework on time. If students do not fulfil these conditions then they may be expected to pay their own fee if they wish to take the examination at College. If any examination is a “re-take” of one taken previously students will also be asked to pay the fee unless the whole class is preparing for entry to that examination at the same time. Students will be notified in advance of all examination dates and a copy of your son or daughter’s examination timetable is also available on the Parent Portal. If students have any problems or questions concerning their examinations, they can speak to Elaine Christian in the Examinations Office, who will be happy to provide expert, confidential advice. 9

What to do if your son or daughter has made the wrong course choices We dedicate a lot of time and effort to ensuring that we advise students correctly on which of our wide range of courses is right for them. We’ll endeavour to get this right in the first place as far as possible, because changes to student courses after September are generally not desirable as they often require considerable catching up on missed work. However, we understand that sometimes students can feel they have made the wrong choice, so we have processes in place to manage this. The first stage should be for the student to discuss the reason for wanting change with their current subject teacher. If the difficulty remains following this, they should discuss the matter with their tutor who may refer them to the Head of Subject. At this point, we will consider whether a change is in the best interests of the student. If the proposed course change is agreed, students will be asked to complete a form to be signed by the teachers concerned. A student who fails to attend a subject prior to any change of course being agreed by all parties at the College is likely to be asked to leave the College. Under current regulations it is highly unlikely that we will be able to offer students opportunities to re-sit their Lower Sixth year so it is very important that students focus and work hard as this may be their only opportunity to study AS Levels. If you would like to discuss your son or daughter’s needs directly with the College, you can call us, or speak to us at the new parents’ evening. We’ll be happy to provide support and guidance to ensure all of our students are on the right path for their career aspirations.

Moving from Year 1 to Year 2 For students enrolled on a two-year course, progression into the second year will be dependent on their achievement, attendance and behaviour. It will not be automatic. In the Spring term, department staff are asked to identify students who are at serious risk of not progressing and these students will be set targets that must be met. Students who do not meet such specified targets may not be allowed to progress to the second year of their course. If this applies to your son or daughter a letter will be sent to the mailing address we have been supplied with regarding the matter. Level 2 students who wish to apply for a level 3 course should consult their tutor for advice and guidance. Please note, progression is not automatic and they will be invited for a formal interview. Students will need to meet the entry requirements set for them. We have put this process in place to ensure that we are providing the right guidance for every student, so that they may achieve their full potential.

Study resources We have invested heavily in resources to help prepare our students for future success. The College, boasts state-of-the-art facilities and we continue to invest and develop our student resources. We have created an environment which is both conducive to work, and friendly and welcoming to help put our students at ease during their studies

The Hub The Hub is an excellent place for students to work and spend their private study time. The facility is open from 8.30am to 5.30pm Monday to Thursday and until 4.00pm on Fridays. As well as access to computers, The Hub offers free wi-fi for quiet study or internet research and project work. We have created a resource which makes studying fun, and gives the College a vibrant, positive atmosphere.

Supporting our students Student financial support There are 3 types of financial support available to students in 2013-14: 1. Guaranteed Bursary of £1,200 for students in the most need 2. Income-assessed Bursary for students who meet the College’s Bursary Criteria 3. Hardship Fund an emergency fund for students who experience short-term financial hardship who are struggling to meet costs associated with College. Any student experiencing financial hardship is entitled to apply for financial support, however there will be an assessment undertaken to ensure that support is provided to those most in need. The College will ensure that financial support is implemented in the fairest possible way to the maximum possible benefit of students who need financial support in order to succeed in their studies. For more information, please refer to the Financial Support section on the College website ( or contact a member of the Student Finance team on 0151 652 5575.

Support for your son or daughter if they have learning difficulties or other special needs The College aims to provide special support for students with learning difficulties or disabilities and enjoys the support of excellent local services (hearing, visual, psychological). An Academic support programme is now available throughout the week to offer help if students require particular assistance with basic skills in reading, writing, spelling or numeracy. This takes place in the ‘Lab’, a bespoke area to support academic achievements in a positive environment.

What to do if your son or daughter decides that college is not for them Students who are considering leaving College should be encouraged to discuss their concerns with their tutor as soon as possible. The tutor may be able to offer some helpful advice including recommending a meeting with a careers specialist, which would enable the student to remain at the College, or alternatively assist them with a different career path. However, if the decision is final the students will be referred to their Tutor to complete the formal leaving procedures. Students normally need to be present for the leaving procedures. 11

Advice, guidance and counselling Students benefit from a range of sources of advice and support. Tutors and subject staff are well placed to be able to offer advice on a wide range of academic issues. Specialist advice is also available for students from Learner Services. The College also offers a ‘Listening Service’ for students.

Safeguarding children and confidentiality The care and wellbeing of all young people who study at the College is of paramount importance. The College takes seriously its legal responsibility with regard to The Children Act 2004. Each member of the College community has an individual responsibility for health and safety. We have trained First Aiders on site at all times and access to a First Aid room and defibrillator. Please note that College staff cannot offer absolute confidentiality to students. There are clear situations when it is essential that staff share information with external agencies such as social services or the Police, for instance when there is suspicion or evidence that a student is in danger of being harmed or abused. Please contact Learner Services if you have any suspicions that a student is in danger of harm or if you are worried at all about the wellbeing of your daughter/son. Any students who are now, or ever have been, in care or students who are living independently should speak to their personal tutor who will offer practical support and advice. There may also be additional financial support for students in this situation.

College code We have a duty to all our students to provide an environment which is safe and conducive to learning. We operate a positive culture, with students and parents encouraged to contact the College if they have any concerns.

Code of behaviour The College does not intend to have a long list of rules and regulations, but expects that all students exercise common sense and consideration for others, at all times. Dress should be functional and suitable for a working environment. Clothing or accessories that are distracting, offensive or that prevent effective communication are not acceptable. Smoking is not permitted. The College site and its immediate environment is a no-smoking area. To help maintain good relationships with our neighbours students are asked not to smoke anywhere along Park Road West or directly outside any of the College gates. Mobile phones must be used with consideration around the College site. Students must switch off mobile phones during lessons and whenever in a situation of formal contact with teachers. Use of computers is bound by the College’s Acceptable Use Policy. Details of this will be made clear to students. Alcohol must not be brought onto the premises and should not be consumed by students during the College day.

Poor behaviour and misconduct The ethos of the College encourages a positive approach to study and learning and an environment in which students can settle contentedly and enjoy their work and leisure activities. A Classroom Code for behaviour will be outlined and enforced by all teachers. Behaviour which detracts from these aims and the standards achieved is actively discouraged and will be regarded as misconduct in certain circumstances. Naturally the approach to problems of attendance and academic work is different from that to unacceptable behaviour. If, without good reason, students fail to attend lessons or produce work that is set they may be subject to a hierarchy of sanctions that provide closer supervision and endeavour to get students up-to-date. Ultimately however, if no improvement is made this may result in a student having to leave the College. The College will inform parents when the cumulative effect of minor misdemeanours is detrimental to a student’s studies. In the case of more serious issues or in the event of formal sanctions being applied you can also expect to be contacted directly.

Suspension and exclusion Where sanctions have been imposed, such as being placed 'on report' or 'on contract', or receiving a reflective break fail to produce an improvement in attendance or work effort, or if a student is guilty of gross misconduct, then suspension or permanent exclusion from the College may follow. It is not possible or desirable to try to identify all types of gross misconduct but students should be aware that physical aggression or violence of any kind, deliberate damage to property, theft, substance abuse, misrepresentation, abusive and threatening behaviour, or serious misuse of social media will not be tolerated. The Governing Body of the College approve rules with respect to the conduct of students including procedures for suspension and expulsion. A copy of this document can be obtained from the Student Reception.

Equal opportunities The College celebrates and promotes diversity and equal opportunities for all. We aim to create an environment where students, staff and visitors are treated fairly, irrespective of race, ethnic origin, nationality, gender, disability, sexual orientation or religious belief. We work to ensure a tolerant environment where everyone feels welcomed and valued as an individual and that their opinions, views and diversity are encouraged. College believes that everyone has the right to be treated with respect and does not tolerate bullying or harassment in any form. Please speak to any member of staff to report suspected instances of harassment or contact the Assistant Principal Learner Services. All allegations of bullying will be investigated sensitively and appropriate action will be taken.


Complaints and appeals The College takes a serious view of the quality of its work and the explanation and presentation of its policies to students, parents and other members of the community. There are regular monitoring procedures and improvement in all matters is sought earnestly. We want your daughter/son to be very happy at The Sixth Form College - Birkenhead it is a very pleasant and friendly environment in which to learn. However if you have reason to make a complaint against the college and the service we provide then please raise the concern with the Head of Department of the area concerned as soon as possible. The member of staff dealing with a complaint will make every reasonable effort to resolve the complaint promptly. If the complaint cannot be resolved, a formal complaint, in writing, should be made to the Deputy Principal. A full explanation of complaints procedures will be available to you on request at the Visitors’ Reception.

Contact us Telephone:

0151 652 5575

Email: Web: Write/Visit:

Park Road West, Claughton, Wirral, CH43 8SQ

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