As Old Palace School moved into virtual teaching mode last March, Year 12 had already started planning for their next steps after Year 13. As part of their fortnightly careers lessons they had become experts in how to choose a university, course and other post 18 options, such as degree apprenticeships and school leaver programmes. Over half had participated in an individual Career Planning meeting, providing personal advice on what next and then receiving targeted information to help with these important decisions.

Adapting to the new ‘norm’ was a challenge, especially with motivating Year 12 to continue with their planning, even though we didn’t know what the world was going to be like when they left in July 2021. By the end of April, all had received targeted advice and were then tasked with completing their research and deciding upon a degree subject. With weekly goals, they registered with UCAS and started their applications for university.

With universities and employers switching to Zoom, Teams and other online platforms, Year 12 were able to virtually attend university open days and explore their degree subjects in more detail with specially prepared Subject Tasters. Work experience was also available virtually, with one or two students taking advantage of this provision and gaining valuable insight into their sector of interest. Meeting their allocated Subject Mentor virtually in late May, the majority were able to produce their first Personal Statement draft by the end of the summer term.

Luckily, we were in school in the autumn term and, with a high number applying for Oxford, Cambridge, Medicine and Dentistry courses and an early deadline of 15th October, the research and work completed in the summer term by Year 12 was impressive. The subject support received from their individual Mentors, both in the summer term and reviewing the updated content prior to submission, was evident in the excellent Personal Statements produced.

Careers lessons continued, in a socially-distanced manner, this time preparing Year 13 for the world of work. Whilst they were receiving individual support with their university applications, they also practised interviewing and being interviewed by their peers, learnt how to network and decide which university offers to accept. Planning their end of Year 13 celebration, as part of an event management lesson, was an opportunity to collaborate, taking all opinions into consideration and exploring the possibilities.

Interviews were now all online with universities using a variety of platforms to interview potential undergraduates. Providing a quiet place to have both the actual interview virtually and, beforehand mock interviews, was made much simpler by our excellent IT support team. Being available to manage any connection issues was invaluable and reassuring to the interviewees.

Subject Mentors and Heads of Department helped to prepare individuals for their university interview, with students receiving a mock interview and then personal feedback with a subject specialist, either from personal contacts or Old Palace alumni.

Heading into the 2021 lockdown, with a few applications sent just before the 29th January deadline, over half our students have now received a decision from all the courses they applied for. Virtual multiple mini-interviews (MMI) are ongoing for our medicine and dentistry applicants, with weekly support from Dr Edwards in MedSoc. In Learning for Life last week, the ‘preparing for the world of work’ continued with a lesson on Student Finance and budgeting, key skills they will use both at university and in a future job.

Before they finish formal teaching in May, Year 13 will have their last Learning for Life session ‘Moving on’. For this we have arranged a talk by a university representative entitled ‘Enhancing Employability and Student Life’. This talk will provide an overview of the opportunities for Year 13 to enhance their employability whilst at university, and give an insight into starting university, which can be one of the biggest changes in a young person’s life.

Being able to prepare Sixth Form students for life outside of Old Palace, through both their Careers and Learning for Life lessons and with the support of the teaching staff at Old Palace, has been fantastic to witness.

We are all set up for this new virtual world and are always looking for other professions to add to this programme. We are reaching out to our parents, staff, alumni and their network of contacts to provide an opportunity for Old Palace students to meet someone who may inspire them to consider that particular field of work and also enrich the experiences we are able to offer here at Old Palace.

If you can offer any support, either yourself, family, friends, your network of contacts or even just the name of the person responsible for ‘early careers’ where you work, all will be gratefully received and welcomed.

Mrs Williams
Old Palace School, Higher Education and Careers Coordinator



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