4 February 2020

Outstanding for a generation: Peter Symonds College celebrates another impressive Ofsted inspection

Students and staff at Peter Symonds College are celebrating the result of a recent Ofsted inspection which reconfirms the College’s status as an ‘outstanding’ provider, a grade the College has now maintained for an incredible 15 years.

Inspectors graded the College as ‘outstanding’ following an inspection in January, in one of the first inspections to take place under Ofsted’s challenging new framework.

Principal Sara Russell said “Peter Symonds has long had a great reputation for excellence, support and enrichment and I am so pleased these qualities come through so strongly in the report. Fifteen years as an outstanding provider is an incredible achievement and not only testament to the strong foundations of the College but also recognition of our commitment to continuously evolve and improve.

“Our students are at the centre of everything we do and we strive to ensure they are always receiving the very best education and support, both inside the classroom and in extra-curricular activities and services.”

Sara added “I’m so proud of our wonderful staff, students, governors and entire College community and delighted that the report recognises the dedication and passion they all bring to Peter Symonds year after year.”

The report praised the student experience at Peter Symonds, noting that “students are very well prepared for their aspirational next steps” and applauding the College’s “excellent facilities and resources.”

Inspectors drew attention to the College’s efforts to ensure that every student achieves their best, commending the College for implementing “a challenging curriculum that enables students to achieve and often exceed expectations” and noting that “Teachers provide high levels of support for students outside of lessons. Students value the accessibility of drop-in workshops and the one-to-one support they receive. These high levels of individual support contribute to the very low number of students leaving their courses early and the high proportion who achieve better-than-expected grades in their subjects.”

In addition, the report recognised that “students with high needs develop the confidence and resilience to enable them to become more independent…as well prepared for progression to university or work as their peers.”

Inspectors were impressed with the College’s enrichment and activities programme, noting that “Students’ participation on enrichment activities develops their sense of social justice and their roles as active citizens” and “Managers and teachers provide students with a wide range of enrichment activities that broaden the knowledge and skills they acquire in the classroom.”

“Our view is that education shouldn’t be limited to the classroom” Sara Russell said. “We have worked hard to develop and maintain a remarkable enrichment offer, with over 140 activities available to students each week, to give all our students an opportunity to stretch themselves, learn something new, develop a current skill or take some time to relax and have fun. It’s about providing a balanced, well-rounded education and great to see the benefits of this programme recognised by the inspectors.”

The College’s Governors are also praised for their role working with staff to “maintain an inclusive curriculum and supportive ethos, while still maintaining expectations about high standards.”

“We’re so pleased and proud to have been providing inspiring, supportive and inclusive education at an outstanding level for a generation,” said Sara Russell. “We know from the league tables and university progression data that our students do well here, but this inspection focused on the quality of education, not just the results. To get an ‘outstanding’ judgement lasting over 15 years is remarkable and shows just how seriously we take the business of educating young people.”

23 January 2020

Symonds students celebrate 54 Oxbridge offers

Students at Peter Symonds College are celebrating a remarkable 54 offers to study at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Students from 23 different secondary schools have received 33 offers from the University of Oxford and 21 offers from the University of Cambridge, proving once again that the college is the perfect place for ambition.

Principal Sara Russell said, “This is an incredible achievement for our students and we are delighted to share in their success. They have gone above and beyond in their studies and worked exceptionally hard, and it’s wonderful to see their talent and ability gaining the recognition it deserves.

“Peter Symonds welcomes a diverse range of students from a variety of backgrounds, and as a non-selective state sixth form we are proud of the opportunities available to all our students. Our dedicated Oxbridge tutor and experienced staff work hard to provide students who are aspiring to attend Oxbridge with the very best support to achieve that ambition. It’s very rewarding for the whole team to see so many of those dreams realised year after year.”

Former Westgate student Lauren Gargan secured an offer to study Engineering at Pembroke College, Oxford. She said “[The process] was such a lot of hard work. This time last year I hadn’t even considered applying to Oxford and here I am now. I’m really excited.”

Lara Clarke, who previously attended Kings School in Winchester and is planning to read Psychology and Linguistics at Oxford, said “It’s a really weird feeling. Oxford has been in the back of my mind for so long and I’ve spent so much time trying to desensitise myself to the process that it’s now hard to believe it’s happening.”

Sabina Labrow, Peter Symonds’ specialist Oxbridge tutor, added, “I am so proud of our hard-working students and the way in which they made the most of the opportunities available here at Peter Symonds. They questioned and debated in extra-curricular activities, they practised for entrance tests in subject workshops and they overcame their fears during practice interviews. Working with these students both in groups and individually is an absolute pleasure.”

Students from Peter Symonds have received offers to study a diverse range of subjects at a variety of Oxbridge colleges. Sabina added, “This year saw seven History students and seven English students receive an offer: a fantastic achievement given the competition to read essay writing subjects at Oxbridge. Elsewhere in the sciences, seven of our Mathematics and Physics specialists received offers whilst twelve of our Biology and Chemistry students were successful including four 'Future Medics'.”

Deputy Head of History Gilly Walker commented “This is an exceptional achievement for both the students and the History Department. The students have worked incredibly hard over the whole of their time at College, taking full advantage of all the support and enrichment available, in particular the weekly Oxbridge History discussion group.”

Student Amy Moorhouse, holding an offer to study History and Politics at Pembroke College Cambridge, added “I never thought I would go [to Cambridge] …it’s like a dream!”

Peter Symonds is the top sixth form college in Hampshire for students achieving the ‘golden AAB grades’. In 2019 1,533 students progressed to university, with 543 students accepting places at the top ‘Russell Group’ universities.

Peter Symonds is a non-selective state sixth form college and one of only two state institutions listed in the top eight contributors of students to Oxford and Cambridge nationally in a Sutton Trust survey. Since 2000, an average of 47 Peter Symonds students per year have been offered places at Oxbridge. At any one time, there are over 150 ex-Symonds students studying at Oxford and Cambridge.

13 February 2020

Symonds Young Musician Festival welcomes big names in music

Peter Symonds College Music Department held its annual Young Musician Festival recently, with distinguished visiting musicians holding a range of masterclasses and workshops. Head of Keyboard Samantha Carrasco organised the festival Monday to Thursday, and accompanied all the student performers.

The Festival started with a masterclass for the singers followed by an exciting workshop titled “You can sing but can you swing?” with Alexander L’Estrange, a British choral composer, arranger and workshop leader of international acclaim, and conductor at Carnegie Hall.

Professor Tim Barratt, Piano Professor at the Royal Academy of Music, and former Head of Piano at Dulwich College, held a piano masterclass followed by a well-attended workshop on “Performance nerves and how to deal with them”.

The Festival continued with a masterclass for brass players with Jo Hensel from the Guildhall School of Music, who also held a workshop on getting the most out of auditions, and a woodwind masterclass from Zoe Booth.

Following the strings masterclass Jesper Svedberg, Principal Cellist in the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (BSO) and cellist in the Kungsbacka Piano Trio, generously gave students some of his time in chamber music coaching and ran a workshop about life as an orchestra musician. Students from the Music Department were able to see him in action in the BSO Concert in Portsmouth that same evening. Many PSC music students are intending to train for this profession, and their progression to highly-competitive conservatoires is outstanding.

All day on Friday the focus was on Contemporary music, organised by Ted Carrasco, featuring guests Adetoun Anibi and Lewis Allen. Singer Adetoun has worked with number one artists such as Leona Lewis, Kylie Minogue, Ellie Goulding, John Newman, Kwabs and Stormzy. Lewis Allen is one of the most in demand guitarists in the world today, has toured with Sam Smith’s “The Thrill Of It All” Tour and performed with Liam Payne (One Direction), in addition to writing and recording with Mabel and others.

At the Contemporary Festival Adetoun and Lewis held solo and band workshops and a lunchtime jam session with the college Soul Band, and the day ended with an evening concert which included a set by Soul Band and featured solo vocal performances. Lewis and Adetoun performed in a brilliant final set with PSC teachers Ted Carrasco, drums, Rob Johnston, guitar, and Peter Hedley on bass.

The students voted as outstanding performers were:

  • Voice: Alexandra Knott; highly commended Amy Chau
  • Strings: Jacob Hartley; highly commended Sam Booth
  • Brass: Laura Leigh; highly commended Lauren Gargan
  • Woodwind: Amélie Budd; highly commended Jess Gill
  • Piano: Jas Arnold; highly commended Archie McMorran
  • Contemporary: Sully Wattam; highly commended Harry Peters-Gill, Emilia Tarrant

Students Amélie Budd and Letty Mader said: ‘The workshops were really helpful and all the visiting musicians gave us constructive feedback and some encouraging compliments.’

12 February 2020

Students mark Holocaust Memorial Day 2020

Students and staff from Peter Symonds College joined Winchester local Danny Habel at a talk at Winchester Discovery Centre to mark Holocaust Memorial Day 2020.

Danny spoke on the topic ‘My Family Blown Apart’, a biographical talk based on the experiences of his own family during the Holocaust. Students from Peter Symonds College provided music and readings for reflection.

During the event Jacob Hartley played ‘Affirmation’ from Suite Hebraique on the viola and Sam Booth played ‘Jewish Song’ (no 3 from Jewish Life) on the cello. Both pieces were composed by Bloch.

Daisy Hawker and Tony Kang performed ‘Lost Language’, written by students Jasmine Merriman and Robyn Hill, a ‘found’ poem created using archive materials, testimonies and other writings about the Holocaust. Cameron Hodgkinson read his piece ‘Remembering the Holocaust’ reflecting on his own personal experience learning about genocide.

Jasmine Merriman, co-writer of ‘Lost Language’, said “I wanted to be involved in this project as I believe that the holocaust is a tragedy we should do all we can not to forget, and honour with our artforms.”

Daisy Hawker, who read ‘Lost Language’ at the event, added “As someone who represents a college with such a strong ethos against hate and discrimination, it was the least I could do to honour the many lives that were tragically lost to hate. It was an honour to represent Peter Symonds College at such a moving and eye-opening evening.”

Danny said “I am very pleased that Peter Symonds students participated in this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day in Winchester. It is so important that young people are aware of the horrors of the past that grew out of discrimination and bullying.

“The quality and imagination in the work of Jasmine and Robyn and Cameron, the presentational skills of Jacob with his viola, Sam with the cello and the expressive, dramatic reading by Daisy and Tony were a credit to the college that set a moving tone for the evening.”

Please click on the following links to read the pieces performed at the event.

Lost Language by Jasmine Merriman and Robyn Hill

Remembering the Holocaust by Cameron Hodgkinson

7 January 2020

70 students qualify for AoC National Sports Championships

The College's Sports and Enrichment Department is celebrating the achievement of 70 students, who have qualified for the Association of Colleges (AoC) National Championships, to be held in Nottingham in April.

The 70 students form the largest representation from any College in the South East by a considerable margin.

Students from Peter Symonds will be representing the College and the South East in the following sports:

  • Women’s Cross Country (3 students)
  • Men’s Cross Country (3 students)
  • Men’s Golf (3 students)
  • Women’s Golf (1 student)
  • Men's Rugby Team
  • Men's Tennis (3 students)
  • Men's Volleyball Team
  • Mixed Hockey Team
  • Women's Badminton (2 students)
  • Women's Tennis (2 students)
  • Women's Volleyball Team

Samantha Jones, Head of Enrichment (Sports Teams) and Sports Co Ordinator at Peter Symonds, said “Peter Symonds College has a strong tradition of sporting excellence and the capability to send 70 of our students to compete in the AoC National Championships reflects both the sporting talent of our students and the support and time our staff devote to sport at the College.

“We are dedicated to ensuring that as many students as possible have the opportunity to compete in the sports they are passionate about at a national level and we are excitedly looking forward to celebrating their achievements at the Championships in April.”

The AoC National Championships will take place at Nottingham University from Friday 24 - Sunday 26 April.

29 November 2019

Student Lara Clarke wins Ecostar environmental journalism competition

Upper sixth student Lara Clarke has been announced as the winner of the first EcoStar competition, created by the University of Winchester and the Hampshire Chronicle to identify the next generation of environmental journalists.

Lara's article focused on the environmental campaigning of fellow Peter Symonds students Amelia Newman and Emily Wanstall and their role in the local Fridays for Future climate strike movement. Judged the outstanding entry, Lara was awarded £100 in book tokens and had her article printed in the Hampshire Chronicle.

Click here to read Lara's article or below to view a scanned copy.


27 February 2020

College Careers Day inspires students

The College recently held its annual College-wide careers day, giving students the opportunity to attend talks by experts from a range of businesses, organisations and universities.

Students had the opportunity to listen to and ask questions of professionals from a variety of industries, including the armed forces and emergency services and leading figures in journalism, IT, medical professions, aviation, finance and law.

Alongside talks students had the opportunity to get involved with a number of interactive sessions, including speed networking sessions in law and architecture and workshops from Mel Parker Point Blank Music School and Edil Quin Dance.

Joanna Beattie-Edwards, Legal Director at Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP took part in the legal sector speed networking session and said “I was delighted to be involved again in talking with PSC students to explain the different pathways to a career as a solicitor. It is always great to see the enthusiasm of those starting their career journey and this year was no exception.”

The talks and networking events were spread over the College day with students expected to sign up for at least four sessions. Over 150 speakers visited the College to deliver nearly 250 talks ranging from animation, advertising and film production to pharmacology and becoming an entrepreneur.

Speakers included a team from ITV Meridian News, including journalist and presenter Christine Alsford; film producer Dean Baker of Hardy Son and Baker; author Richard Hardie; and animator Faye Brown, who commented, “It’s nice to give something back. There was nothing like this when I was at college and I think it’s a great idea to give students a chance to investigate the range of careers available in the design industry.”

Parent and speaker Paul Pressland from 10 Ant Group Property Development added “The lifeblood of any organisation is the next generation and a day like this shows how the industry is multifaceted and offers something for everyone. If one person is gets out of today’s talk the inspiration to make a successful career that would give me great satisfaction.”

Debbie Mahoney, Head of Careers at Peter Symonds, said “We have been able to build on the huge success of the event which started last year and increase the range and number of talks available to students. Many of the visitors were parents and alumni, talking about their career journey and occupational areas. Students got to attend at least four different talks, helping to widen their knowledge and understanding of options available to them.

“We really are extremely grateful to all the visitors who supported the event and made this such a huge success.”

Student Selin Kiran said “It was great to meet professionals with years of experience who gave up their time to come and talk to us. It gave us a realistic and true portrait of the careers we’re interested in.” Toby Clark added “It was really useful for me to find out more about the career I know I want to go into, but also really useful for people who don’t know what they want to do to explore their options.”

“It was so helpful,” added student Rhia Gill. “There was such a big range of talks. It was good to speak to both representatives from universities and to people actually doing the jobs I am interested in, and helpful for planning ahead.”

This event will be followed up by the Progression Fair in the Sports Hall on Tuesday 3 March, where students will be able to attend the Fair during their study periods and breaks. There will be nearly 100 exhibitors, including universities, local and national employers and organisations.

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