Start of a new education era in Lowestoft

MEET the trailblazers – the pioneering students at the brand new �25m Lowestoft Sixth Form College.

These young people will become history makers as the first students at Britain's most exciting sixth-form development when it ushers in a new era of education in the town later this month.

They will be the first to log on to its �1.4m IT equipment, work in its state-of-the-art labs, make music in the sound-proofed practice booths – and have the privilege of setting its traditions and ethos for years to come.

These eight are among more than 400 students making Lowestoft Sixth Form College their first choice for A-levels and BTEC diplomas and the groundbreakers of a new style of education in the town.

They counting the days until they join staff selected from hundreds of high quality applications to launch the new era.

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New students have made the choice to make the daily journey from all over Waveney – not just to be part of the first intake but because sixth-form colleges get better results.

The college's vice-principal, David Gartland, welcomed the 'pioneers' on site early for a glimpse of what is in store for them when classes get under way. Their opinions were vital, he said.

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'A big part of what we do is the student voice with students representing other students. We will be listening to what you say and respond as best as we can. We will have a student council,' he said.

All the new teachers were specialists in their field teaching solely A-levels – a big difference from teaching in secondary school where they can teach 11-year-olds one lesson and 17-year-olds the next, he said.

'Our teachers are completely focused on A-level teaching,' Mr Gartland said. 'They are subject specific in the subjects our students have chosen and our job is to prepare our students for the next step, whether that is university or getting a job.'

The students all had different reasons for choosing the new college:

Aspiring medical researcher Hannah Smith was attracted by the new technology for her five A-level courses, while Daniel Bond was drawn to a specialist forensics course to take him towards his ambition of becoming a police scenes of crime officer.

Charli Cattermole, from Bungay, said she was looking for a fresh start with new friends amid the excitement of a new college, while Reece Borrett made the choice to combine his love of sport in a BTEC in sport with A levels in English and PE to become a PE teacher. The Lowestoft Town Youth player, who has played in the elite squads for Norwich City and Ipswich Town, is also looking forward to playing on the 3G football pitch and using the �40,000 worth of sports equipment.

More than �30,00 has already been spent on new musical instruments for the new music suites, including Kawai pianos, drum kits and electric and bass guitars.

Mr Gartland said: 'We have sound-proofed music booths for individual practice and a bigger one for bands and these aren't just for music students but for all students and they are all wired up to the mixing studio for music technology and media students to work with.'

Science labs had been designed specifically for demonstrations and dissections with kidney-shaped benches arranged to look inwards at a central table, he said.

Specialist features included a camera fixed in teaching areas that can be pulled down to film biology dissections and other demonstrations and send the images digitally to students' screens, he said

'This is a great thing for science and art, history and maths too. The teacher can show his or her working out to the students and they can follow it on screen.'

Sixteen-year-old Joseph Jacob looked at many sixth forms and colleges and was considering travelling far to find the right college – but found it on his doorstep.

'I chose Lowestoft finally because I was excited about the facilities this college offered. I want to be a 3-D animator and make films. I have wanted to do that forever. I liked what I heard about the college in presentations and I love that it's new and really modern. With a new college comes new technology and that's what I'm into.'

Daniel Bond, who celebrated his 16th birthday on the day he visited the site, was contemplating moving to live with his grandmother in Surrey because no college close by offered a qualification in forensics. Now he is studying the full-time BTEC national diploma in forensics – the equivalent of three A-levels.

'It's the course I wanted and I'm looking forward to a fresh start and being the first,' he said.

Katie Brewer said: 'I like the idea of being the first people in it and am looking forward to starting new things an getting involved.'

Mr Gartland said sixth form colleges offered 'added extras'.

He went on: 'We do lots of educational trips, work experience and guest speakers who come in to meet with you.

'It is a more adult environment. You can expect your teachers to be entertaining, and factual and engaging.

'It is a two-way thing of mutual respect and expectation.'

CASE STUDIES • Joseph Jacob, 16, Benjamin Britten High School, A-levels in IT, art, media and geography. Ambition: To be a 3-D animator.

• Hannah Smith, 16, Kirkley High School, A-levels in biology, chemistry, English literature, English language and maths. Ambition: To work in medical research.

• Katie Brewer, 16, Benjamin Britten High School, A-levels in art and design, sociology, English language and government and politics. Ambition: To become a fashion editor and journalist.

• Amy Lincoln, 16, Benjamin Britten High School, A-levels in art and design, photography, English literature and history. Ambition: Unsure but thinking of becoming a paramedic, veterinary nurse or photographer – alongside running her own sailing school.

• Abi McCaghrey, 16, Hobart High School, Loddon. A-levels in music, English literature, history and geography. Ambition: To be a professional cello player or teacher.

• Daniel Bond, 16, Denes High School, BTEC Extended Diploma in forensics. Ambition: To be a forensic scientist in the police force.

• Charli Cattermole, 16, Bungay High, A-levels in psychology, sociology and biology. Ambition: To own her own horse yard.

• Reece Borrett, 15, Kirkley High School, BTEC in sport and A-levels in English and PE. Ambition: To become a PE teacher.

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