15 August 2019

Peter Symonds College students celebrate fantastic results once again

A level and vocational qualification results for 2019 at Peter Symonds College are once again absolutely outstanding. The pass rate for A level stands at 98% with over a third of the grades awarded being at A* or A (34%). The proportion of the very highest grades (A*, A, B) is an impressive 62%.

The pass rate for vocational courses is a superb 99.5%, with 80% of grades awarded at Distinction or above.

Overall Statistics

  • A level (full) Pass Rate: 98%
  • A level Grades A*-C: 82%
  • A level Grades A*-B: 62%
  • Vocational Course Pass Rate: 99.5%
  • Distinction or higher: 80%


  • A third of A level grades awarded were at A* or A.
  • 12% of A level grades were the very top A* grade – 659 A* grades overall.
  • 127 students got A* in maths A level alone.
  • Nearly two thirds of A level grades were either A*, A or B: the very top grades needed to get into the best universities.
  • All but one of the 272 vocational qualifications undertaken were successfully achieved.
  • Over 70% of grades awarded for the Extended Project Qualification were at A* or A.

Principal Sara Russell said: “It is a very proud day for the College, the staff and the parents. But above all, it is a remarkably proud day for our students. Their tireless hard work, focus and dedication really has paid off. I am thrilled. This shows that Symonds remains the perfect place for ambition.”

Twins Chris and Patrick Lotery both achieved an incredible five A* stars, with both attaining top grades in Maths, Further Maths, Physics and the Extended Project Qualification, and Chris achieving an A* in Chemistry while Patrick gained an A* in Spanish. Patrick said, “There’s definitely healthy competition between us and we did spur each other on. We’re really pleased for each other.”

Former Wyvern student Vedanshu Mahajan, who will be taking up a place to study Natural Sciences at Cambridge next month, said, “I'm glad that the subjects I took turned out so well. I was expecting a B in Maths and got an A* so I'm really happy about that. There are no words to describe it really! I've been so lucky to have the nicest teachers that have pushed me and helped me to stay on the right path; I'm just so thankful and fortunate!”

His father, Sumeet Mahajan, added, “I'm feeling very proud of my son and very relieved, his years of hard work have paid off. Symonds has been a stepping-stone for great things to come. There have been lots of ups and downs along the way, but without the collective effort of the college staff and pastoral support he wouldn't be where he is today.”

Oliver Worrall, who went to the Henry Beaufort School in Winchester, achieved the highest grade of D*D* for his BTEC Diploma in Business, and gained an A level in Law. He said, “It was a challenge but I really enjoyed the practical applied aspects of the course and much preferred the continual assessment approach over a final exam.”

After collecting his results from the College student Robert Wolfe was heading straight to the ferry to The Netherlands to take up his place to study Economics at Maastricht University. He said, “I’d always wanted to study abroad and the Careers Department highlighted The Netherlands as a great option as universities there offer a high proportion of courses which are taught in English.” He added, “The fees are considerably less than those in the UK and it’s a great option, but only for EU citizens so sadly might not be available for British students after Brexit.”

Mojo Akinyemi from Basingstoke took an interesting route to her place at studying English at Jesus College Cambridge. “I started at Peter Symonds two years ago wanting to be a pharmacist or study law, but completely flipped my subjects. Careers and my tutor were supportive and helped me change my subjects. The College and my teachers made me realise my true passion and now I’m doing English at Cambridge!”

A considerable number of students from Peter Symonds have been offered places at a number of leading conservatoires and universities across the country. Music student Freya Mackenzie is off to study Music at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. She described herself as “Really, really happy! I was on the specialist course here, the teachers are really good and involved and there were loads of chamber opportunities as well as solo performances, which made it a lot of fun.”

19 September 2019

College celebrates a year of achievements at Awards Evening

Peter Symonds College staged its annual Awards Evening to pay tribute to the achievements of 77 students. Staff, students and their friends and families were joined by guest speaker Alex Lewis to celebrate the talents, both academic and personal, of the whole 2019 year group.

Among the audience celebrating the successes of the students were sponsors from local businesses, schools and universities, together with parents, teachers and governors.

Chair of Governors Tim Rogerson welcomed the audience to the College and praised the efforts of students of 2017-2019 and the staff who had supported them. Principal Sara Russell then gave an overview of the year, noting some of the highlights, including their excellent exam results but also their impressive accomplishments which went far wider than just the academic and included sport, activities and the arts.

Sara welcomed guest speaker Alex Lewis, saying: “We are enormously privileged and honoured that you have given up your time so freely to help us celebrate the enormous successes of so many young people, each and every one of them a member of the Peter Symonds Family.”

Alex Lewis, who was a student at Symonds just over 20 years ago, returned as the guest speaker and gave an inspirational, moving and witty account of his experience living with quadruple amputation after contracting Strep A.

Discussing the highs and lows of his rehabilitation, Alex explained that his illness and recovery sparked a desire to help people, and described how he now spends much of his time working with universities to develop prosthetics and technologies to help disabled people. He talked about his achievements since his illness, including raising £50,000 to establish a wheelchair manufacturing facility in Ethiopia, which will manufacture affordable wheelchairs and employ local people living with disabilities.

Alex told the audience “You just don’t get second chances – I am an anomaly. I’m very privileged to get a second chance and I intend to grab it. You guys going on to university, work, travel, just take every and any opportunity. Grab it, no matter how ridiculous.”

Alex concluded his talk by saying “This is a fantastic grounding, a foundation to build on. For you moving forward, you’ve had one of the best educations in the UK, and I’ve no doubt you will go on to do some incredible things.”

17 June 2019

Symonds students returning home to the remotest settlement on Earth

Students and staff at Peter Symonds College are saying their goodbyes to three students who will be returning to their homes on the remotest settlement on the planet, Tristan Da Cunha, on completion of their A levels.

Students Jade Repetto, Janice Green and Rhyanna Swain travelled from the islands of Tristan Da Cunha in the South Atlantic to Peter Symonds College in Winchester to board at the college while they studied for post-16 qualifications.

Tristan da Cunha is a remote group of volcanic islands in the south Atlantic Ocean and the most remote settlement in the world, lying approximately 1,343 miles from its nearest neighbour, Saint Helena. With a population of roughly 250, limited resources and an intermittent internet connection the islands cannot support post-16 education either in school or through online study and so students must travel abroad to further their studies.

The islands are reachable by a six-day boat trip from Cape Town, but due to the irregularity of boat departures the students have not been able to return home since arriving in Britain in the summer of 2017, as the return journey would take too long to complete.

Jade, who is studying A levels in Business, Classical Civilisation and English Language and Literature; Janice, studying A level Business, A level Product Design and a BTEC Subsidiary Diploma in Sport; and Rhyanna, studying A Level English Language and a Diploma in Health & Social Care, are the first inhabitants of Tristan Da Cunha to make the journey to Britain for their education in nearly 30 years. Janice said “My mum studied in Britain and encouraged me to grab this experience, as it was my one opportunity.” Rhyanna added “Being the first in a number of generations to come away to further my education feels like a big achievement.”

Adapting to life in the UK went smoother than the students expected. Jade said “Our expectations were based on what we’d seen on TV. I’d never got a train before, and the first time I heard one go past it sounded like an earthquake! We settled into College quickly and everyone was so welcoming we soon felt at home, but it probably took about 6 months to adapt and feel confident off campus.” Rhyanna added “I found traffic jams a bit of a shock and the numbers of people overwhelming at first.”

All three students admitted to missing their family and friends, with Rhyanna adding how much she misses the sea; “You can see and hear and smell the sea all over the island and hear the waves crashing,” and the others agreeing.

Reflecting on the experience Rhyanna said “Our house parents have been incredibly supportive, like second parents. It’s been an amazing experience to live in an environment with so many people our own age.”

Jade said “I’ve made friends for life and had experiences and opportunities I would never have had otherwise. Friends we’ve made boarding are like family and I’ve met such a diverse group of people from across the world.” Janice added “My confidence has really grown and I’m so much more independent. If I hadn’t taken this opportunity I’d have regretted it.”  

The students plan to spend some time at home in Tristan Da Cunha for a year or two before returning to the UK to continue their education, with Jade and Janice considering apprenticeships and Rhyanna a career in nursing.

Julia West, Head of Boarding at Peter Symonds, said “Jade, Janice and Rhyanna have embodied the attitude that education is a privilege and grasped the whole experience. During their time here they have created their own sense of community and we have learnt as much from them as they have from us. I’m in awe of their strength and resilience and always positive outlook. We will miss them very much.”

Peter Symonds Principal Sara Russell said “Over the last two years Jade, Janice and Rhyanna have embraced College life and always demonstrated the utmost commitment to their studies and extra-curricular activities. They’ve made a wonderful contribution to the College and we wish them all the best for the future.”

20 June 2019

Bestselling author returns to Peter Symonds College to inspire next generation of writers

Beth O’Leary, former student and author of The Flatshare, a Sunday Times top five bestselling novel, returned to Peter Symonds College to share her experience with winners of the College’s annual Creative Writing Competition.

The competition, on the topic ‘Air’, was open to entrants from across the college, and divided into Literary and Non-literary categories. First place in the Literary category was awarded to Chiara Lewis for her piece ‘Salat-al-fair’, while the winner of the Non-literary piece was Violetta Howard for her work ‘Air’.

Ahead of the prizegiving Beth described her recent experience regarding the publication of her debut novel ‘The Flatshare’ and shared her writing tips with the audience.

Commenting on the awards Beth said “It was such a pleasure to return to Peter Symonds and talk to some fellow writers. It's fantastic that Symonds are running this competition, and even more fantastic that so many brilliant students entered. Congratulations to the wonderful winners!’

The annual Creative Writing Competition is organised by teacher Isobel Simons, Head of English Language and Literature and generously supported by The Symondians Association, which provides a focus for ex-pupils and staff, and support and sponsorship for events and departmental initiatives throughout the College.

Isobel Simons, Head of English Language and Literature at Peter Symonds, said, “It's a great pleasure to have so many entrants to this popular competition. The quality of imagination and writing skill is excellent to see, and we wish all the competitors the best of luck in their future writing careers. English Language and Literature A Level has a strong focus on exploring how creative writing works technically, and it is brilliant to see lots of our students putting what they are learning into practice. We also get lots of students from across the whole college participating, even if they don't do an English A Level.”

Winning Entries

Salat-al-fajr by Chiara Lewis

  • Salat al-fajr: dawn, before sunrise

Bright inks that undulate along the theatrical colours of the sun: they are our life. The cool March breeze punctured against my bedroom window, refracting a portion of scintillating aurora lights whose beauty was like that of a precious diamond. What lay beyond my window awakened a compulsion to thank him. For the air I breathe. For the beauty of the world. For my family. As I bowed my head I said “Allahu akabar”- Allah is great.

  • Salat al-zuhr: midday, after the sun passes its highest

She said words could fly: they’re greeted by the wind, embraced in its freedom, glide inside the current and follow our infinite destinations. She told me our memories are never gone, they follow us in the air we breathe. She could hold them. As her hands lowered to her kneeled lap she inhaled. Among infinite rows of beautiful women, her beauty was of the rare kind: eclipsed behind her hijab was an ineligible element of kindness and grace deriving from her innate nature. Two brown-mahogany eyes scintillated with a glint of mischief, humour and playfulness that never seemed to escape her youth. That was my mother.

  • Salat al-'asr: the late part of the afternoon

“Although you cannot fly, God created birds in a special form so that the air can carry them”. That’s what my mother told me. Melodic words which oscillated in the air I breathed are with me now. Everywhere. Swerving, sweet winds enfolded into my living room. A simultaneous bow of our heads; my mother was beside me: “Allah take me on the right path, truthful path, the path that leads to righteous”. Compelling prayers decamp my mind into a place where love is omnipotent and all powerful. No poverty. No violence. No suffering. I lift my head: my longing is not solitary. Her face mirrored my thoughts exactly, to a world where violence is inexistent and we are equal.

  • Salat al-maghrib: just after sunset

“The air carries the birds like the water carries your ships”. Her passion for the Quran was as immense and great as a mother’s love for a child. As we walked towards the place of worship, silhouettes of birds flew home across a sky that was now magenta; their freedom was mesmerising. Theatrical coloured rays swept, along my city, Christchurch, mirroring light through her hooped gold earrings which were once her own mother’s and will one day be mine. Sometimes, her infectious smile was so compelling as to awaken a sense of pride within me. Her kindness was radiating. Steadily, the sky began to blacken and it occurred to me what I was most thankful for: my mother.

Though I prayed for love, I got hate.

“Allah take me on the right path, truthful path, the path that leads to --”. Spears of bullets. Violent to the ears. Oppressive. Suffocating. Intoxicating. Relentless. Ruthless. My thumping brain helplessly torn by impenetrable noise and confusion. A torrential thunder of infinite shotguns fired, each carrying a life with their immense yet miniscule power. Glass shattered. Walls of the mosque locked me in a state of anxiety and hysteria. Bodies rose and fell. Shrieks escaped my mouth. Tears escaped my eyes. Like a cluster of sparked plugs my arms shook, awakened by an omnipresent panic which invaded my body. Accelerating breaths began to hammer against my chest beyond my control.

Across the large death room, a death machine was held in the black, murderous hand. His finger flicked the trigger; his face indifferent, impassive and toneless. Air piloted the nefarious bullet, so light and cold, which birthed from the black hand. His aim was destructively accurate. Its point as sharp and devilish as a spear and colour as corrupt as he who pulled it. Indoctrinated by its ill-natured speed, my head traced its track.

For a moment, the world stopped.

Feeding into human flesh the bullet halted. The blood was like a river artery, feeding into the main channel which already governed the floor. As her eyelids fluttered, a wavering murmur flew into the air. I caught it. I unfolded my love into the last embrace. Reaching her last breath her heart stopped. That was my mother.

  • Salat al-'isha: between sunset and midnight

“Allah take me on the right path, truthful path, the path that leads to righteous”. I stopped. I breathed. A wound so deep is hard to heal. Behind the deep ebony feathers of the night, fifty of swirling stars dominated the sky above me. Among them, I found myself captivated by one. Its beauty was of the rare kind. Its glimmer reminded me of her smile. Its vibrancy reminded me of her strength.

I looked down. I smiled. My memories of her are never gone, they follow me in the air we breathe. I can hold them. My hands lowered to my kneeled lap; I inhaled. This time, I held the precious words which will follow me eternally. With shivering, delicate lips, she squeezed my hands, barely made a noise but I understood: “Armeena, my daughter, I love you”.

I looked at the star, then I bowed my head. Ammi A’isha, my mother, I love you too and this prayer is dedicated to you.

In memory of the families and friends of those affected at the Christchurch mosque shooting, 15th of March 2019

Air by Violetta Howard

  1. [mass noun] The invisible gaseous substances surrounding the earth, a mixture of mainly of oxygen and nitrogen.

1.1 Air regarded as necessary for breathing

Air provides life across the world, allowing plants to respire and humans and animals to breathe. When I breathe, air rushes through my nose to my lungs, filling them with life. This life is threaded through my blood, tirelessly pumped by my heart through my aorta and arteries from my head to my feet. The life carried to my head through my blood allows for conscious thought, whereas the life in the rest of my body grants me the freedom of movement. Controlling my breathing calms my mind, controls my body, and makes me aware of my surroundings through my senses. I can use the air I breathe in, twist it and turn it and expel it out again to carry my own voice. My thoughts become words with meaning; I can express my opinion and I have a voice to defend myself and others. I breathe therefore I am.

1.2 The free or unconfined space above the surface of the earth

When we have hopes and dreams, we release them up into the air through lanterns or balloons, unsure if they’ll fly true or simply into the nearest tree. But they can travel thousands of miles through the air, carrying our hopes and dreams with them and spreading them across the country. The empty air has a sense of uncertainty; we are unsure if our wishes will ever come true, but by releasing them into the air we entrust them to a higher power, and allow for our dreams to float from of our hands. When students graduate, and hopefully their dreams come true, they throw their mortar board hats into the air as an act of celebration. The air above them represents unlimited potential, their achievements are embodied by the soaring mortar boards which demonstrate the graduate’s ability to rise and achieve through life. The free, unconfined air is transformed from a space of hopeful uncertainty, to one of achievement and potential.

1.3 Referring to the use of an air craft

The first air craft glided through the air just over a hundred years ago for a brief three and a half seconds. Since then we have developed the power of flight to transport people, goods, letters and anything we can imagine on a commercial scale for hours on end. There is a certain freedom in watching the world shrink away from a plane window, knowing that soon you could be somewhere else completely different. The power of flight unites us as planet; we can bring our loved ones home in mere hours, transport international aid to countries in need and send parcels and packages when we cannot reach them. Travelling with ease also allows us to expand our minds with our horizons. Air travel aids the formation of a global community; we are able to meet individuals from around the world with contrasting cultures, share our knowledge and learn from them. We can take a little bit of our travels everywhere we go, sharing the stories of others and holding them as precious as our own.

1.4 The earth’s atmosphere as a medium for transmitting radio waves

Although we cannot see it, the air is full of technological life, specifically Radio waves tirelessly connecting us through the air across all hours of the day. When we think of radio waves, we may think of “walkie talkies” used by children during hide and seek, or music blasted from radios belonging to antisocial teenagers. However information is constantly being broadcasted through the air via these invisible signals to personal radios, televisions, satellites and other receivers. We may sometimes underestimate the importance of technological life; the same technology which can allow family and friends to hear each other’s voices across the globe also guides drivers along unfamiliar roads and ensures that planes land safely. The same technology used in children’s toys plays an essential part in rescue missions, especially in remote locations, and assists police and local authorities in keeping communities safe. The ingenuity of these signals is invaluable in keeping individuals connected, they act as criss-crossing life lines through the air.

1.5 One of the four elements in ancient and medieval philosophy and in astrology

In ancient and medieval medicine, blood was the humour that was associated with air. Although medical science was in its primitive stages, even the first physicians recognised its importance for life. Interestingly, air is not considered a traditional element by the Chinese, but the ancient Chinese had a similar concept, chi, believed to exist in every living being. Chi was thought to be a sort of “life force” or “spiritual energy” which literally translates into today’s language as an “energy flow” or “breath”. Traditionally air and life were thought to be intricately intertwined and connected, perhaps unable to exist independently. In Western astrology, the zodiac signs Gemini, Libra and Aquarius are associated with air; individuals born under these zodiac signs are thought to be particularly communicative, intellectual, clever and fair. The connection between air and the functioning of the human body, even to some extent how an individual thinks and behaves, supports the importance of air as not only a life source but also an essential part of creation and spirituality.

1.6 A breeze or light wind

The air has the power to sweep sands across deserts and throw the ocean waves, yet the same summer breeze gently flutters through your clothes brushes through your hair. The breeze carries pollen to and from flowers and provides currents for birds and bees, quietly assisting life around us. A light wind also carries the scent of prey to a predator, a chicken to a fox, thus completing the circle of life. A light wind or breeze is just as powerful as the gust of a storm or swirl of a hurricane.

2 July 2019

Former Peter Symonds student awarded Young Business Person of the Year

Former Peter Symonds 6th Form College and Adult Education student Will Harrigan has been awarded ‘Young Business Person of the Year’ at the 2019 Winchester Business Excellence Awards.

Will, a Founder and Director at River Coffee Roasters, beat strong competition from businesses across Winchester to win the ‘Young Business Person of the Year’ award.

River Coffee Roasters supplies businesses with coffee sourced and roasted directly from producers. The company has a strong focus on providing opportunity and sustainability for the producers they buy coffee from and donates a proportion of revenue to communities who could benefit from social and environmental support.

Will studied Biology, Health and Social Care and Communication and Culture at the 6th Form College and returned to the Adult and Higher Education Division where he obtained a 1st Class Honours degree in Business in 2017.

Will said “Studying at Peter Symonds, through 6th Form and Adult and Higher Education, gave me important social and academic skills that I've used to form the foundations for River Coffee Roasters. I'm very grateful to everyone who I met during my time at Peter Symonds for being a big part of my personal progression and River’s first year success.”

Commenting on the awards, Alex Day, Director of Adult Education at Peter Symonds, said “Will focussed his final year degree project on the importance and perception of Corporate Social Responsibility in the coffee industry. It is great that his research provided the foundations for development of an exciting new business. We are thrilled for his well-deserved award win and hugely proud of his success.”

The Winchester Business Excellence Awards are organised in partnership by The Hampshire Chronicle, Hampshire Chamber of Commerce and Winchester BID and are open to businesses within the Winchester District. This year’s awards were held at the University of Winchester and presented by Jeremy Edwards, with comedian Shappi Khorsandi as the guest speaker.

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