17 February 2022

Impressive set of Oxbridge Offers for Symonds Students

Students at Peter Symonds College are celebrating a fantastic haul of Oxbridge offers, with 44 students recently receiving offers to study at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge.

Between them, current Peter Symonds students from 20 different secondary schools across Hampshire have received 21 offers to study at the University of Oxford and 23 offers from the University of Cambridge. Students will be studying a diverse range of subjects from Music, Maths, Medicine, English, Languages, Humanities and Sciences through to Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic.

Principal Sara Russell said, “Congratulations are well deserved by these students who have worked incredibly hard over a number of years to meet a demanding set of entry requirements.

“Students in this cohort have faced unprecedented challenges, having to very quickly adapt to remote teaching and learning alongside the additional stresses successive lockdowns have placed on their mental health and wellbeing. The focus and resilience that they have maintained to pass through a rigorous selection process and be successful in an ever-more competitive field is incredible and I am full of admiration for their achievements.

“Congratulations to them and their families, and thanks and recognition must also go to our dedicated Oxbridge tutor and experienced staff who dedicate their time and efforts to helping so many young people achieve their dreams. We are proud of the incredible things all our students go on to do and the opportunities that Peter Symonds College offers.”

Applicants have highlighted the support they received during the application process as invaluable. Lizzy Lotery, who has an offer to read History and Modern Languages at St Catherine’s College, University of Cambridge, said, “The support from my teachers at college was incredible (I have to give a special thank you to the History and Spanish departments) and the practise interviews were invaluable. I was unbelievably happy when I got my offer; it has been my dream to go to Cambridge since I can remember and it meant that all my work over the last year has paid off.”

Luca Howes, who has an offer from Girton College, Cambridge, to study Modern and Medieval Languages, agreed, saying, “For me, the most challenging parts of my application were my sample essays and the written assessment. I'm very grateful for my French teachers for helping guide me through practice papers and helping to improve my writing. Finding out I had a place was fantastic, and I am excited to go to Cambridge to study French and Italian; the opportunity to dive into these two new worlds is incredible.”

The College Music Department has a strong track record of helping students receive offers from top universities and leading conservatoires. Former Kings’ School, Winchester student, Verity Sawbridge, who has an offer to read music at Oxford with a choral scholarship to Merton College Chapel Choir, said, “Singing is very highly valued at Oxford and I’m very much looking forward to making the most of all the wonderful musical opportunities there. Although it was arduous, the application process was fascinating and strengthened my interest in music no end, encouraging me to think beyond the A level syllabus. Symonds provided great support throughout, particularly my tutor and subject teacher, Mike Gale.”

The number of students from Peter Symonds College who are offered places to study at Oxford or Cambridge is comparable to leading private and selective schools. Peter Symonds regularly features in lists of the top five feeder institutes to Oxbridge, made all the more remarkable by the fact that Peter Symonds is a non-selective state sixth form and welcomes a diverse range of students from a variety of backgrounds.

Student Phoenix Payton, who previously studied at Kings’ School in Winchester, summed up the process, saying, “Getting into Cambridge is one of those things that you don’t think would ever really happen to you. But since receiving my offer it’s made me realise anything is possible with the right mindset, hard work and support from those around you.”


10 March 2022

Peter Symonds College are Hampshire County Rugby Champions after two-year Covid break

The Hampshire Schools Under 18s Rugby Cup Final was played under the lights of Winchester RFC on the 2nd February. Just short of 200 spectators were treated to a fantastic exhibition of Hampshire Schools Rugby as Farnborough Sixth Form College and Peter Symonds College battled it out.

Fraser Doig was first to score for Peter Symonds, who followed up with a further two first half tries; Sam Nobel making the most of an assist from the team Captain Freddie Smith and Matt Smoothy using his pace and power to touch down in the corner shortly before the half time whistle. With no successful conversions the half ended with a margin of 15 points.

Farnborough brought a rejuvenated enthusiasm to the second half and were first to score closing the gap to 8 points with their successful conversation. A further Farnborough penalty closed the gap between the two sides to less than a converted try. With the game very much in the balance a line break from Player of the Match Fraser Doig gave Peter Symonds the front foot, but all to no avail as the Farnborough defence was resolute and held strong.

Reuben Singleton deployed a beautifully weighted box kick over the defence, which was chased and gathered by a rapidly moving Sam Noble who completed his brace of tries, dotting the ball down for a straightforward conversion bringing the match to the final score of 22–10.

Peter Symonds Captain Freddie Smith said, “The game was fought in brilliant spirits. To play in the first Hampshire Cup final since Covid was a special feeling, and the intensity of the game matched the determination to win from both sides. Real credit must go to Farnborough for pushing us right until the last minute, and a special thank you to the referee for keeping the game fast and free flowing, making it so exciting watch.”

Peter Symonds Head of Rugby Mike Marchant praised both sides, saying, “Both teams can be proud of their performances. Having had two years with no Hampshire Cup Final it was not surprising that there were so many who wanted to attend the occasion.”

Mike added, “I would extend a special thanks from all to the tournament sponsors Somborne IT Services, who sponsored the Under 18s 15 a side competition and presented Mike Glogg, MBE and former president of Hampshire Rugby, with the new President’s 7s Millennium Age Cup for the Hampshire Schools President’s 7s competition.”

The Cup Final was the finale to a festival of rugby which saw Brockenhurst College beat Lord Wandsworth College in the Under 18s Plate final, Queen Mary’s score in the closing moments of the Bowl Final and the Ryde School overcome a combined Itchen and Richard Taunton team in the Shield competition.

Responding to a question about the impact of Covid on college rugby, Marchant said, “We have been very lucky at Peter Symonds, every effort has been made to minimise the impact. Arrangements were put in place to ensure that we could teach to smaller numbers within the very detailed Covid guidance. We have been able to use the time to try and grow skill sets as well as enthusiasm for the game.

“We have in the region of a hundred players participating in college rugby across the Men’s and Women’s teams. They are an impressive group of youngsters who have shown a real resilience through difficult times.”

Following on from the Hampshire Cup success Peter Symonds College sent three teams to the Hampshire 7s on Wednesday 9 March, with the Men’s 1st and Women’s Blue team winning their competitions and the Women’s Yellow team coming in a close second.

Mike concluded, “We are proud that to promote Woman’s rugby and we fielded two teams on the Hampshire Schools Under 18s 7s day. It’s a first and we hope over the next decade the Women’s competition becomes as well attended as the Men’s event.”

17 February 2022

Symonds Young Musician Festival welcomes leading musicians back to College

Peter Symonds College Music Department was delighted to be able to hold its annual Young Musician Festival live on-site once more. Over the course of the Festival week the College welcomed ten eminent musicians and performers, who delivered a range of performance masterclasses and workshops in Piano, Strings, Wind, Brass, Percussion, Guitar, Drum kit and Voice.

The Festival kicked off with a piano masterclass from Paul Janes, Tutor of Piano at RNCM and examiner, trainer, moderator and presenter at ABRSM, followed by a woodwind masterclass from Chair and Head of Historical Performance at London's Royal College of Music Ashley Solomon.

Tuesday featured a workshop in brass from Kevin Price, Head of Brass and Percussion Studies at RWCMD, and a masterclass in guitar delivered by Liz Kenny, one of Europe’s leading lute players and a critically acclaimed recording artist.

Jesper Svedberg, Principal Cellist in the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (BSO) and cellist in the Kungsbacka Piano Trio, ran a workshop focusing on strings and detailing his experiences as an orchestra musician. Conductor and presenter Pete Harrison, who regularly works with many orchestras including BSO and the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, held a singing class and Ben Lewis, Percussionist with the BSO, held a session in percussion for students.

The Festival concluded with an all-day Contemporary Festival, featuring rising star drummer Jamie Murray; Ross Ewart, Guitarist & Musical Director for the likes of Emeli Sande, Rationale and John Newman; and The Voice UK 2021 finalist Hannah Williams, a major force in the UK Soul Scene who has performed with her group in major venues around the world and been sampled by Jay-Z for his album 4:44.

During the day-long Contemporary Festival, organised by Head of Pop and Jazz Performance, Ted Carrasco, Jamie, Ross and Hannah held masterclasses for solo performers, followed by band workshops. The Festival ended with an evening concert in Varley Theatre, which included a set by the College Soul Band and featured a variety of solo vocal and instrumental performances. Jamie, Ross and Hannah performed alongside staff and students who were delighted to be able to hold the first live contemporary final concert in front of an audience in two years.

The students voted as outstanding performers over the week were:

  • Piano: James Carrick-Buchanan
  • Woodwind: Matthew Jones (clarinet)
  • Brass: Vivien Canadine (trombone)
  • Guitar: Benji Dege
  • Strings: Daniel Simojoki (cello)
  • Singing: Elena Strachan
  • Percussion: Grace Lane (timpani)
  • Contemporary class: Dom Holyoake (drum kit)

Winner of the Piano Masterclass, James Carrick-Buchanan said, “I’m very excited to have been picked for the finals of the Young Musician Festival. I learnt a lot from the masterclass and it was useful to hear comments on my playing from the point of view of an external adjudicator. It was particularly insightful to meet and receive feedback from a piano tutor from the Royal Northern College of Music ahead of studying there next year, to give me a better idea of what to expect as a student there.”

Commenting on the Festival, student Dom Holyoake said, “I really liked the variety of guest judges and instructors, it felt like there was something for every musician participating and it meant everyone could get specialist feedback. Being around working musicians allowed me to ask questions relating to technique and get feedback on the areas I needed to improve.”

He added, “The concert at the end of the Contemporary Festival meant that everyone had a chance to showcase what they had learnt that day, and it also gave us the opportunity to see performances from world-class working musicians.”

Dr Samantha Carrasco, Head of Keyboard, who organises the Classical Festival, said, “It was an absolute pleasure to be able to do this years’ festival live after the very unique event of performing an online festival last year. It was a real delight to be able to once more welcome so many leading musicians to the College to share their expertise with our students, who really do benefit enormously from the advice and coaching they receive.

“We are extremely grateful to all our visiting professionals and to our sponsors, the Symondians Association and Christes Hospitall Foundation, for their generosity and support.”

Reflecting one of the additional benefits of the College’s steps towards becoming an All Steinway School, the live Classical Final of the Festival will take place in the recital space at Steinway Hall, London in April.

10 March 2022

Careers Day 2022 welcomes nearly 150 speakers

PSC Journalist Intern Emily Henson reports on Peter Symonds College's annual Careers Day:

At the end of February, nearly 150 guest speakers delivered webinars for Peter Symonds College’s annual Careers Day. Courses covered a wide breadth of topics including apprenticeships, university applications and gap years, with a range of jobs and sectors represented. Students were able attend up to six talks from speakers coming from a variety of different universities, companies and organisations such as the BBC and ITV, multiple Armed Forces branches and local businesses.

Talks on post-18 options proved incredibly popular, with speakers telling students about all the options available to them, such as going straight into a career, apprenticeships, gap years and university. A student attending a talk on careers in media said, “Hearing about all the different ways you can get into a career was really helpful, some of them I hadn’t even thought about before!” Speakers discussing university covered information about student finance, years abroad, applications and personal statements - as well as what it’s like to study subjects and the careers that they can lead to. Students were also able to ask questions and gain real awareness of their choices. Giving feedback, one student commented, “It was a brilliant experience to hear and learn about all the different career choices my A-levels could give me.”

We were lucky to have working professionals talking about their own career paths and fields. These industry-based talks were also well received by students, who said it was “Very helpful and insightful, especially hearing people’s own experiences and the tips they had for us,” and “Useful and interesting especially since I wouldn’t have been able to find the same advice on the internet.” One student who attended the Women in STEM talk said, “It was inspiring hearing about [the speaker’s] life and how she got to the point she did.”

Speaking to Debbie Mahoney, Head of Careers at Peter Symonds, the importance of Careers Day becomes even more evident: “Careers Day is an excellent opportunity for students to expand their knowledge and awareness of the options available to them after college. It is organised in the spring term to help motivate L6 students to start thinking about their next steps after college, giving them focus and goals. For U6 it helps either finalise their choices, or research options if still unsure or taking a gap year.

“Many students have commented in the feedback that it’s motivated them to start researching their options further, helped them learn more about their career options and they will now take advantage of opportunities available to them develop their knowledge further. The Careers Department always see a surge in demand for Careers Appointments in the months after Careers Day and this year is no exception.”

For the second year running, talks were all delivered virtually. This allowed for an even larger variety of speakers and topics and for around a hundred students to be watching at any time. However, the online event didn’t run without a few hitches. “Although there were some technical issues with the Zoom links for students and speakers, this was quickly managed to ensure the students experience and opportunity to listen to the talks was not affected,” said Debbie.

Careers Day was followed the Progression Fair in March, taking place in-person, where students could explore their options further. Attended by 75 organisations, the annual Progression Fair gives students the opportunity to talk one-on-one with employers and higher education providers.

11 March 2022

College Progression Fair returns to in-person exhibition

Following on from last month’s Careers Day, the Peter Symonds College Progression Fair returned as an in-person exhibition this week, enabling students to explore their post-college options in further detail.

Attended by 75 organisations, the annual Progression Fair gives students the opportunity to talk one-on-one with employers and higher education providers. Exhibitors included representatives from universities across the country, firms offering apprenticeships and lots of inspiration for gap year travel and charity work.

Commenting on the event, exhibitor Ethan Paice from Cisco Systems said, “Events like this are a good opportunity to get in front of students and talk about how we can help them. It’s important to highlight opportunities other than the direct-to-university route. There’s lots of different pathways and it’s great to be able to discuss all the options available.”

The Progression Fair was extremely popular and well attended by students throughout the day. Student Ram said, “It was very useful to be able to speak to a variety of universities all together and compare directly, helping me make an informed decision.”

Students Eve and Ruby were impressed by the range of exhibitors, saying, “The University of British Columbia is here – I hadn’t even considered going abroad to study, or realised I could combine degrees, so that’s been really eye-opening. The gap year information was interesting.”

They added, “There’s lots of variety and information on all the different ways you can go to university - for example information on companies who will pay you to do a degree. I’ve found it really motivating and accessible.”

Head of Careers Debbie Mahoney said, “It was brilliant to be able to return to an in-person exhibition this year with all the buzz and excitement of a physical event, giving students the opportunity to browse all the different options available to them. Student take up was high, with over 2000 students attending over the course of the day. We would like to thank all of the exhibitors and the Symondians Association, who sponsored the event, for helping make the Progression Fair such a success.”

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