Welcome, parents and prospective students, to an insightful interview with our Head of College, Barney Durrant, as he offers a comprehensive overview of the Sixth Form provision at St Lawrence College. In this candid conversation, Mr Durrant shares his vision and commitment to fostering a dynamic and enriching learning environment for students entering their Sixth Form journey. With a focus on academic excellence, personal development, and the unique opportunities our Sixth Form offers, this interview provides a down-to-earth understanding of the transformative experiences awaiting you both as a student, and as a family, at St Lawrence College. Join us as we explore the essence of our Sixth Form.
Q: How would you describe the relationship between teachers, students, and parents at this school?
A: Ultimately, the cornerstone of our educational community is the relationship that exists among parents, pupils, and the school. This triad is often likened to a triangle, and I firmly believe that when we have the support and collaboration of both children and parents, children can truly achieve their utmost potential.
We couldn’t encourage our students to excel without the unwavering support of parents. Our relationship extends beyond academics. We deeply value parental involvement in school events, be it concerts, plays, sporting competitions, or art exhibitions. This sense of community enriches our school experience.
Q: Can you share some specific examples of the school’s commitment to academic excellence in the Sixth Form program?
A: The Sixth Form experience isn’t solely about academics; it encompasses a holistic approach to education. While academic achievement is a core focus, we also prioritise the overall development and well-being of our students. Our commitment extends to aspects such as socialisation, community engagement, and acts of charity and service. Specifically in the academic sphere, we offer a diverse range of elements such as the London Institute of Banking and Finance qualification and the Extended Project Qualification.
We understand that preparation for highly competitive university courses, like those at Oxbridge or in fields such as medicine, dentistry, and veterinary science, requires special attention. Thus, we have established a Competitive Courses Group. This group meets regularly to provide interview preparation, deliver presentations, and even organise visits, such as the trip to Cambridge, to give students a sense of what these prestigious institutions entail. We aim to expose our pupils to a broad range of opportunities, inspiring them to aim high and supporting them in their pursuit of excellence.
Q: In your opinion, what sets this school apart when it comes to preparing Sixth Form students for higher education or their chosen career paths?
A: A fundamental aspect of our educational approach lies in the way our school is structured. We are not merely an institution focused on churning out exam results or top grades alone, although we consistently achieve outstanding results, with exceptionally high value-added scores. Our primary emphasis revolves around nurturing well-rounded individuals. While academic excellence is certainly vital, it’s not the sole dimension of success. Yes, achieving As and A*s is a part of the equation, as these grades open the doors to universities. However, it’s equally imperative to identify the right course for each student. Our student body is incredibly diverse, hailing from various international backgrounds and exhibiting a wide range of academic abilities and experiences.
Moreover, our approach extends beyond academics; we place great emphasis on the social aspect of education. Preparing students for university life entails equipping them with essential social skills, empathy, and an understanding of living in harmony with others. Here, the boarding community plays a pivotal role. Whether a student is a boarder or a day pupil, the boarding environment nurtures an understanding of diversity and the importance of collaboration for the collective good.
Q: What aspects of the school’s culture and community make a positive impact on students?
A: The sense of community at St Lawrence College is not just a standard claim; it’s something truly distinctive and palpable. This becomes evident when parents and prospective students walk through our gates. It’s a feeling that I experienced when considering joining as the head of the school, and it’s a feeling that continues to resonate. From the moment you enter, there’s an overwhelming sense of warmth, friendliness, and community. People greet each other with genuine smiles and politeness, not because they feel compelled to do so for newcomers but because that’s simply the way we are here. It’s a part of our school’s ethos, and it’s what makes us special.
Q: What resources and facilities does the school offer that enhances your ability to deliver quality education to Sixth Form students?
A: One of the charming aspects of St Lawrence College is the harmonious blend of tradition and modernity. As a boarder, you might start your day in the historic main building or your Boarding House, walking down to a breakfast that unfolds in a Dining Room with an enchanting, almost Harry Potter-esque atmosphere. The Chapel, too, stands as a splendid example of traditional architecture.
However, just five minutes away, you’ll find our state-of-the-art 500-seat theatre, a recent addition to our campus. Within the last decade, we’ve also introduced the STEAM Building, a modern marvel housing art, science, and design technology over its two floors. This facility, about five years old, boasts generous space and cutting-edge amenities.
This interplay between tradition and modernity is mirrored in our sports facilities. We have an international standard water-based Astroturf for hockey and exceptional pitches that rank among the finest in our region.
Q: How do the school’s Christian values contribute to creating a nurturing and inclusive environment for students?
A: It’s important to emphasise that our school is inclusive, welcoming students of all faiths and those who may not adhere to any specific faith tradition. This commitment is often summarised as being a school “of all faiths and none,” a phrase many are familiar with. However, at the core of our ethos is a strong Christian foundation.
Central to this Christian ethos is the belief that all individuals are created in the image of God, and deserving of respect, love, and care. This foundational principle informs our approach to education and community life. In parallel, we have developed a social vision statement, crafted in collaboration with our staff and students, which describes our community as one characterized by kindness, positivity, and respect.
Q: Can you discuss any special programs or initiatives that demonstrate the school’s commitment to holistic development for Sixth Form students?
A: In our Sixth Form, as in all levels of our school, we continue to offer opportunities for participation in the Combined Cadet Force (CCF). This extends to the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the Army, allowing students to explore and follow their interests in these areas. In the younger years, all our students participated in CCF during their third year, and they achieved their bronze Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) award in the fourth year. As they progress, students have the option to simultaneously pursue CCF and DofE, often working toward their silver or gold DofE awards by the time they finish the Sixth Form.
Beyond the standard curriculum, our school provides a wide array of opportunities in sports, arts, drama, music, and more, characteristic of a high-quality independent school. Leadership development is also integral to our approach. Our students have opportunities to serve as mentors, assist younger pupils with academics, help children with reading at the Junior School, and even referee Junior School tournaments. These experiences, both informal and formal through positions like Prefects and Heads of School, contribute significantly to the holistic development of our students into well-rounded individuals.
Q: How does the school foster a sense of belonging and community spirit among Sixth Form students and staff?
A: Working at St. Lawrence is a truly unique experience, and what sets it apart is the palpable sense of community that permeates every aspect of this school. When you step through our gates, you can’t help but feel the warmth, care, and compassion that define us. This sense of community is something that prospective pupils, current students, and parents have all remarked upon.
One of the key factors contributing to this feeling is the school’s size. St Lawrence is a medium-sized school, which means that everyone knows everyone else. All the staff know every pupil, and the pupils know each other. This creates a family-like atmosphere that you wouldn’t find in larger institutions, where individuals can easily become anonymous. At St Lawrence, you are seen, known, and supported by a close-knit community that is dedicated to helping you thrive.
When our students leave St Lawrence, we don’t just want them to have achieved academic success or excelled in extracurricular activities. More importantly, we want them to be well-rounded individuals with a profound sense of well-being.