The ‘ethos’ of an organisation or other entity refers to its prevailing atmosphere, climate or mood. ‘Ethos’ is sometimes rendered as ‘spirit’: in the context of Bloomsbury International School Hatyai’s Sixth Form, it is best conceived as a distinctive flavour and character and the tone and feeling it projects. Fundamental to the ethos of Bloomsbury International School Hatyai’s Sixth Form are a sense of responsible adulthood, the encouragement and attainment of academic excellence, opportunities for personal growth, leadership and responsibility and the development of academic and life skills. These facets provide the basis both of its unique character and of the range of services, facilities and prospects offered to its students.
Bloomsbury Sixth Formers are accorded special privileges and treated as young adults rather than as children; in return, they are expected to demonstrate an appropriate degree of responsibility and maturity. To assist them in mastering and exhibiting these qualities, the school provides various support and advisory services to guide students and assist them in refining skills that enable them not only to succeed in their academic studies, examination performance and university entrance ambitions but also to prepare for the wider challenges and opportunities presented by the career, social and personal choices available in today’s globalised world.
A central element in the ethos of Bloomsbury’s Sixth Form revolves around the importance of striking balances. The school seeks to weigh respect for the rights of young adults in a fair, reasonable and effective manner against the requirements of academic and personal discipline all students need. It also aims to balance the inculcation of subject specific AS/A Level knowledge against the broader skills and experience needed for students to become well-rounded individuals and mature citizens (with the challenges, opportunities and benefits this entails).
The fruits of this approach are seen in the way Sixth Formers demonstrate an enhanced confidence and sense of responsibility and a growing awareness of the wider world and of issues that transcend the narrow experience of younger students. These skills are generally accompanied by the development of sufficient intellectual confidence and curiosity to ask ‘Why?’: a penchant for doing this is sometimes depicted as lying at the root of international education. The inclination to question assumptions, sources and authorities reflects how an authentic international school Sixth Form experience encourages in students a growth toward autonomy through an independent, critical, original and creative attitude towards topics of study in ways that enable personal views to be formed, supported and defended. On the other hand, Sixth Form students need a supportive and structured learning environment and a strong element of self-organisation to succeed. These factors represent an important counterpart to the freedom associated with the Sixth Form and reflect how freedom has to be balanced against responsibility.
The ability to reconcile the allocation of time to academic studies with participation in broader intellectual, social, cultural and community activities is one of the most important aptitudes Bloomsbury seeks to develop in its Sixth Formers. Bloomsbury regards the provision of an environment conducive to nurturing and positively orienting the changes that accompany maturation in which the relevant balances are sustained as a fundamental aspect of operating a successful international school (and one which complements outstanding academic performance in AS/A Level examinations).
Bloomsbury Sixth Formers are accorded a significant degree of pastoral support via the school’s Tutor Group system. A Tutor Group consists of a number of students (which is determined on the basis of the total number of Sixth Form enrolees in any particular academic year) and is presided over by a Personal Tutor. The Personal Tutor meets his or her Sixth Form Tutor Group together regularly; one-to-one meetings between the Personal Tutor and the Tutor Group members are also scheduled from time to time (and are made available ad hoc whenever a student reasonably requests one outside the normal routine).
The Personal Tutor acts as the school’s everyday representative to Sixth Form students and also as the latter’s representative to the school. He/she conveys school messages and announcements to students, raises issues of current concern with relevant school authorities and keeps subject teachers fully and discreetly informed about any pastoral problems or issues that may be experienced from time to time by individual students. The Personal Tutor is also the first point of contact with parents/guardians, sends reports to the latter and meets formally with them at designated times to discuss students' progress (and ad hoc whenever the need arises).
The Personal Tutor also takes an interest in addressing issues specific to Sixth Formers, such as sourcing, accessing and sharing university and career information and related event opportunities, self-management and self-evaluation skills, dealing with pressure, balancing personal, social and academic commitments, time management, relating studies to the wider world and practising presentation and advocacy skills. All these aptitudes are important for success both with Sixth Form learning and in general.
PRIVATE STUDY PERIODS
Not all periods in a Bloomsbury Sixth Former’s timetable are allocated to lessons – a situation that may appear to leave ‘gaps’ in which nothing specific is scheduled. These ‘gaps’ are in fact devoted to private study: students use them to complete reading or writing assignments, to refine and tidy up their notes, to conduct revision and to research and read around their chosen AS/A Level subjects. Private study periods form an extremely important aspect of a Bloomsbury Sixth Former’s studies, and Sixth Form teachers provide extensive and detailed guidance to students over how to use them effectively in ways enabling them to derive maximum benefit. The school regards this as an opportunity for its Sixth Formers to acquire and develop sound time management and self-management skills and to take responsibility for making and keeping to decisions as to how these skills should be applied in practice.
Private study periods are supervised by a member of staff to ensure Sixth Formers can work quietly without interruption, but choices over which precise tasks to deal with during these sessions and how long to spend on each one are left to students themselves. As Sixth Formers become more familiar with the exact requirements of their respective AS/A Level syllabuses, they generally become more confident in determining how to adapt private study periods to the latter’s contents and needs.
The guidance offered by teachers (especially at the inception of a new academic year) over how best to use private study periods is combined with advice over how to balance time spent on the homework and set work entailed by all AS/A Level syllabuses; students considering applying to enter Bloomsbury’s Sixth Form are kindly requested to note that the latter’s volume will increase significantly in relation to the amount set in their past IGCSE studies. They should also be aware that even when homework and set work are not expressly assigned, students are expected to read around and generally explore the topics that form part of their curricula.
Sixth Formers also receive guidance over which items they should bring to private study periods (e.g. assignments, textbooks, periodicals and other reading materials, note files and folders, laptop computers or tablets etc): this is to ensure that they are au fait with the practicalities of how best to use this facility as well as with its underlying principles.
COPING WITH THE TRANSITION FROM IGCSE
Managing time effectively and learning how to use private study periods sensibly and productively are among the most significant challenges confronting Sixth Formers – especially when they first enter Year 12 after becoming accustomed to a more structured IGCSE regimen. The changes upon joining a Sixth Form in academic level and style, intellectual expectations, personal responsibility etc should not be taken lightly: Bloomsbury’s Sixth Form teaching team offer students in this position a range of pastoral and advisory services to help them understand, manage and deal with the effects of these changes (especially in the early days at the inception of their AS/A Level studies when the differences will be most stark and thus potentially most disorienting).
Among the skills Sixth Formers are trained to cultivate in this regard are:
- How to relate as a Sixth Former to - and liaise with - teachers and other school staff in an appropriate, respectful, mature and adult way;
- Making and adhering to a personal Study Plan;
- How to contribute effectively to Sixth Form classes (given the latter’s generally smaller sizes than IGCSE classes and their encouragement of independent thinking and learning);
- Analytical skills;
- Time and workload management skills;
- Independent studying – its nature, practicalities, challenges & benefits;
- Engagement with the spirit and letter of AS and A Level studies;
- Note taking skills (mind mapping, bullet points, concept lining etc);
- Revision techniques (flash cards etc);
- Essay writing skills (planning, structuring, anchoring, linking introduction, body and conclusion etc; balancing word count and quality);
- Arguing coherently, structuring arguments effectively, citing authorities & marshalling evidence; considering alternative points of view;
- Advocacy skills;
- Citing sources and avoiding plagiarism;
- Self-organisation (using ‘post-it’ notes, highlighting felt tip pens, folders and dividers, diaries, weekly plans etc);
- Lesson preparation skills (refining & updating notes, preparing contributions, questions and answers etc);
- Accelerated reading skills (skimming, scanning, reading for gist etc);
- Gathering data from the Internet or media (using keyword searches etc; smart use of keywords in different combinations when sourcing data; using Sweetsearch and similar search engine resources; smart web navigation; smart organisation of web research results – evaluation, sifting and arrangement of relevant data; thinking while browsing; intelligent surfing; critical analysis of web sources (determining authorship, authors qualifications, authority, reliability or credibility, sites blending content with advertisements), consideration of how websites return results; determining helpful web sources; checking the currency of web articles, data; formulating sound web search queries; how to deal with poor search results; looking beyond initial search results; using student-friendly tools for aggregating favourite sites (e.g. Symbaloo, Diigo etc), smart use of meta-search engines (e.g. Zuula), adopting critical attitudes towards web search results or conventional engines, SEO generated (e.g. Google’s ‘fresher is better’ approach), smart browsing of search results in context without opening sites using Yolink);
- Revision, stress management and action planning skills;
- Coping with tests and examinations.
The development of skills such as those listed above represents a sensible and worthwhile investment not just in aptitudes conducive to success with AS and A Level examinations but also in abilities students will continue to refine and apply in their higher education studies and later careers.
QUESTIONS, ANSWERS & GUIDANCE
Bloomsbury Sixth Form teachers understand the specific challenges students face and are experienced in dealing with and offering advice over situations such as those indicated in the questions below:
“What do I do if I miss a lesson in Year 12 or 13?”
“I am finding the jump from IGCSE to AS Level harder to deal with than I imagined. What can I do?”
“The workload entailed by AS Level study is much greater than I envisaged. Can I drop one AS Level course?”
“I am falling behind with my work. What can I do?”
“I’m having real problems with an essay. How can I solve these?”
“I can’t find the notes I took in one of my classes last week. What should I do?”
“One of my chosen AS / A Level subjects is proving much harder than the others. Is there a solution to this?”
“I don’t feel well. What do I do?”
“I feel I am being bullied / I know someone who’s being bullied. What should I do?”
“I’ve done all my homework and set work and I have a Private Study Period. How should I occupy this time?”
“What’s the best form of equipment for me to use to organise my academic work effectively – should I opt for ring binders / lever arch folders with dividers (for storing and separating notes, subject information synopses, class handouts and computer printouts), diaries / personal organisers, stationery (including highlighting pens), calculators, dictionaries, labelled USB memory sticks and textbooks etc?”
All Bloomsbury Sixth Formers may rest assured that no question or concern they have is too large or too small for them to raise with teachers: the latter’s wealth of professional experience enables them to provide advice and guidance over the foregoing matters and any others students wish to seek counsel about.
ADVISORY SERVICE – UNIVERSITIES
Among the facilities Bloomsbury offers Sixth Formers is a University Guidance Service to help them make informed and considered decisions about the most suitable institutions and degree courses to apply for and to understand application procedures and related practicalities. This service includes the following types of provision:
- General advice about the merits, practicalities and procedures associated with applying for and gaining a university degree and how A Level studies prepare students for the latter;
- Advice over considering / choosing a suitable country, university and degree programme; sourcing, accessing and analysing relevant data;
- Help and guidance with university application procedures, drafting, compiling & improving personal statements, conducting mock interviews etc;
- Guidance over attending university information events (international education exhibitions, fairs, seminars, road-shows, lectures, open days etc) and how to elicit, interpret and use the required information;
- Guidance over how to use, interpret and apply data from international university ranking systems.
Bloomsbury encourages universities to deliver presentations about their institutions and their courses to its Sixth Formers; guest speakers are often able to answer questions in person in a way that Sixth Formers find particularly helpful. The school also organises trips for its Sixth Form students to international higher education exhibitions and trade fairs held regularly in other parts of Thailand (such as Bangkok) for universities from the UK, the US, Australia etc; these occasions are especially beneficial in enabling Sixth Form students to explore international university options and to collect information about a wide range of institutions and courses. Bloomsbury students who attend such events receive guidance in advance about how to seek and request information relevant to their future university applications from visiting exhibitors and how to make effective practical use of this later.
The school also publicises information (e.g. by means of posters displayed on notice boards, announcements made on its website etc) about other similar events in case students and parents wish to visit these privately).
Students interested in applying to UK universities
Bloomsbury Sixth Formers interested in applying to study at universities in the UK receive advice and guidance in relation to the procedures of UCAS (the University and Colleges Admissions Services: the UK’s undergraduate degree application system). Generally speaking, this service is introduced to Sixth Formers in the second term of their Year 12 studies. Students are at this time initiated into the procedures and protocols of the UCAS system and provided with a significant amount of information to help them (in conjunction with their families and other advisers) make informed university and course choices and to complete their UCAS application (a process that generally goes through numerous drafts before finalisation).
These choices are so important that students are generally given two terms in Year 12 and the summer between Years 12 and 13 to continue researching, considering and discussing them before making decisions. They also work at these times on drafting and finalising their personal statements – again, with suitable help and guidance. Once Sixth Formers commence Year 13, they are encouraged to complete their UCAS procedures at the earliest opportunity: a timescale that has merit in helping them to focus on their examinations for the remainder of the year.
Students interested in applying to US universities
BISH Sixth Formers interested in applying to study at universities in the US are provided with advice and guidance in relation to the Common Application System (which is also used by various higher education institutions in Canada, PR China and some European countries). Such students also receive guidance with and preparation for the SAT or ACT papers they generally sit in Year 12).
Students interested in applying to universities in other countries
Bloomsbury maintains a stock of information materials, online resources and other data about university studying opportunities and application procedures in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, PR China, India and other countries so that students interested in pursuing undergraduate studies outside the UK and the US are properly counselled and supported.
Advice provided to Bloomsbury Sixth Formers over their university studies and applications is linked to information about future careers – the school sees the path from AS/A Level studies to degree studies to career entry as a continuous one which is eased through proper guidance, consideration and discussion at all stages. Consequently the Bloomsbury Sixth Form library includes books, periodicals and other materials relating to particular careers (such as law, accountancy, business, public administration, healthcare, education, engineering, hospitality etc).
An associated Careers Advisory Service operated by the school via information literature, bulletins, Tutor Group presentations and talks helps to prepare Sixth Form students for the challenges, opportunities and benefits of career option consideration and choices, advises them about relevant financials, offer careers planning and counselling services and organises individual career mock interviews on request.
RESPONSIBILITY AND PRIVILEGES
Becoming a member of Bloomsbury’s Sixth Form is an honour that carries both special duties and special concessions. Sixth Formers are given the opportunity to cultivate and demonstrate leadership and responsibility by becoming prefects, a role which entails:
- Helping to supervise the conduct of younger students;
- Assisting teachers with lunchtime supervision, break-time duties and before school;
- Setting a good example and being a good role model in mature conduct, bearing, dress and courtesy and specific skills and areas such as personal appearance, punctuality, attendance, speaking English at a high standard at all times, teamwork, trustworthiness and service to others;
- Playing a leading role at special school events, such as sporting competitions, awards, assemblies and intercultural celebrations, Open House days, parents’ evenings and similar occasions;
- Assisting with guiding prospective new students, parents and other visitors around the school;
- Assisting with extra-curricular activities.
PURSUING INTERESTS, GAINING EXPERIENCE & SERVING THE COMMUNITY
Bloomsbury Sixth Formers are encouraged to develop not just academically and intellectually (important though these facets are) but also socially and holistically. Opportunities for personal growth, character enrichment and social service include:
- Assisting the underprivileged;
- Volunteering at local environmental, charitable and self-sufficiency projects;
- Contributing to the work of animal welfare organisations.
These opportunities are provided by the school in the interests of enabling Sixth Formers to appreciate connections between their studies and the wider world and to cultivate maturity and responsibility.
THE SIXTH FORM EXPERIENCE AT BLOOMSBURY
The ethos of Bloomsbury’s Sixth Form is best defined as an experience characterised by:
- An emphasis on academic excellence, intellectual curiosity and growth, balancing autonomy with responsibility and the opportunity to pursue and develop interests;
- An acknowledgment that the Sixth Form workload is demanding and requires sustained commitment, motivation and excellent organisational skills;
- The encouragement of critical assessment and self-evaluation e.g. over future higher education- and career- related research and choices;
- The allotment of various privileges;
- Increased exposure to the world beyond the school e.g. via leadership and community service / charity activities and through introduction to outside speakers and events (such as higher education fairs held in Bangkok);
- The provision of opportunities to assume responsibility and leadership roles within the school (e.g. as prefects);
- A Personal Tutor Group system that focuses on small group and one-to-one contact and provides effective academic and pastoral counselling and support, parental liaison, preparation for applications to university and opportunities for individual attention and growth;
- The development and maintenance of a dynamic, positive and happy Sixth Form culture among students who earn and enjoy the respect of their peers, teachers and all school members and who feel proud and honoured to be Sixth Form members at Bloomsbury.