2017: The Year in Review

2017 was another exceptional year for the College with an outstanding set of exam results (99.2% pass at A level), an innovative new College day providing up to 50 hours more teaching each year and a 10am start for students, a brand new enrichment programme for extra-curricular activities and much more. Damian Hinds, Minister of State for Employment and MP for East Hampshire congratulated the College. He said: ‘Alton College offers students first class tuition in an environment of great achievement and purpose and this is reflected each year in the College’s exceptional exam results. We are fortunate to have such an outstanding academic institution in our area preparing young people for their futures as the perfect bridge between school and employment and higher education’.

Results

Alton College celebrated another exceptional year of outstanding results with a 99.2 % pass rate for A levels and 100% for vocational courses. The national average is 98%.  More than three quarters of A level subjects achieved 100% pass rate with over a quarter of students being awarded A*-A while over 77% achieved A*-C.  100% of students passed the BTEC and Cambridge Technical Extended Diplomas, which are the equivalent to three A levels and 61% of those achieved the highest grades of three Distinction*. All students who studied the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) achieved A*-C grades with 94% achieving A*-B.  

New College Day

From September 2017 we changed the College day by adopting a new timetable. The new College day provides a better way of learning by providing better study time with increased teaching time for students (up to 50 hours per year) and longer lessons which bring academic benefits for students. The new timetable means a better use of the day: a later start means that students are ready to learn; it avoids students having periods of trapped time between lessons; it enables blocks of time for students to study, or undertake work experience, enrichment activities or part-time employment; and is more respectful of their other commitments and less ‘school-like’. The new initiative provides better preparation for the future; the longer sessions give students more time to develop their independent study skills, more time to get support and better prepare them for university and employment.

ACE

The Alton College Experience is the new programme for extra-curricular activities for students. The programme has been specially designed to provide students with the opportunity to enhance their skills and personal qualities and to give them an edge when applying for university or employment. Our New College Day and flexible timetable allows all students to work on their ACE skills alongside their academic courses. 

As part of the wide range of extra-curricular activities available to students, a group of staff and students, led by Dr Libby Smith, Curriculum Manager for Biology travelled to Dominica as part of ‘Operation Wallacea – conservation research through academic partnerships.’ The expedition ran over two weeks with the group spending their first week in a forest camp where they worked alongside an international team of academics who are collecting data on biodiversity of key taxa (birds, bats, various aquatic and terrestrial invertebrate groups) and examining the impact of invasive species. During the second week, they stayed in student accommodation in a renovated British fort where they completed a PADI Open Water dive training course, they also learned about whale research taking place just off the coast of the island. 

As part of another enrichment course, a team of Alton College students took part in the annual Citizenship Foundation Bar Mock Trial Competition at Guildford Crown Court for the tenth year in a row. The students presented fictitious cases in front of real judges, with students acting as barristers, witnesses, jury members and court personnel. This is a challenging experience that involves a lot of preparation, yet it provides an insight into criminal trials and the opportunity to meet legal professionals. 

Opportunities to develop skills outside the classroom

Unloc Enterprise 

The College has entered into a partnership with Unloc Enterprise, a programme that enables schools and colleges to inspire, motivate and develop the enterprising mindsets of young people and to encourage them to work as a team to create and explore business ideas. The Unloc Enterprise Academy Team visited College on several occasions throughout the year to lead Enterprise Days which are split into masterclasses, talks and hands-on exercises where student groups are challenged to create then pitch their business ideas in a dragons’ den style activity. They are now an integral part of the new enrichment programme offering students 12 week short courses on building business skills. http://enterpriseacademy.co.uk/

National Citizenship Service 

This year we have partnered with NCS to offer Sport and Public Services students the chance to develop their skills on residential activity weeks and days as part of the curriculum. Read more here 

STEM

More than 7200 students from around the UK took part in the UK British Biology Olympiad competition and only the top performers receive awards. The first stage of the competition took place at College and involved a two hour multiple choice exam covering material from a range of A level Biology topics. To help students in the run up to the Olympiad, bespoke and inspiring sessions were run by the Biology Department; these additional lessons covered biological topics to stretch the students beyond the exam specification.

A number of students achieved exceptional marks, and were awarded Silver and Bronze awards and others received commendations for their achievements.  

Biology students also had the opportunity to visit the Faculty of Natural and Environmental Sciences at the University of Southampton to participate in a practical session in one of their science labs. The session included activities relating to neuroscience with the emphasis on the way the nervous system controls behaviour and physiology. Student Jane Blackbourn, previously at Perins School said ‘I really enjoyed the neuroscience trip to the University of Southampton, not only as an insight to university life but also to a Biology based course. The trip was helpful in allowing me to talk to students currently studying there and understand the breadth of study within Biology so I can think about which areas I may want to specialise in in the future.’ 

Each year Alton College students perform exceptionally well in their A levels and BTECs across STEM subjects and go onto study related degree subjects at top class Russell Group universities. Here are a few examples of where this year’s STEM students progressed to after leaving us. 

Gabby Kelly, previously at The Petersfield School achieved A* in Biology, A* in Chemistry, A* in Maths and A* in EPQ and is now studying medicine at Cardiff University. She said: ‘I’ve thoroughly enjoyed studying at Alton College. The incredible facilities and experienced, supportive staff have helped me to achieve my dream to study medicine at university. I’ve been waiting for this day for years and I’m so happy!’  

Mo Gifford, previously at Perins achieved three Distinction* in the BTEC Extended Diploma in Engineering and is now studying an Apprenticeship with Cranford Controls in Alton.  She said: ‘I loved the Electronics element of the course and after completing a work placement at Cranford I was offered a job and an apprenticeship. Thank you Alton College!’ 

Paul Cumner, previously at Robert May’s School, achieved A* in Chemistry, A* in Further Maths, A* in Physics, A* in Maths and A* in EPQ and is now studying Engineering at the University of Cambridge. He said: ‘The teachers are really supportive at Alton College and the atmosphere is very welcoming. I thoroughly enjoyed studying Maths and Further Maths and the ability to choose modules in the second year meant I could tailor the course to my specific interests. This prepared me well for studying at Cambridge’.  

Another group of A level Biology students visited the University of Southampton’s Maths and Science Learning Centre for a gene technology day. Students were offered the opportunity to use a thermal cycler to carry out PCR (polymerase chain reaction, a technique used in molecular biology to amplify a single copy or a few copies of a segment of DNA across several orders of magnitude, generating thousands to millions of copies of a particular DNA sequence) and analyse samples using gel electrophoresis to develop and practice the competencies and practical skills needed for the Common Practical Assessment Criteria (CPAC) at A level. They were also able to visit the university’s Life Sciences laboratories to meet researchers, observe techniques carried out in an authentic Higher Education environment, and be inspired by engaging with cutting edge research at a leading Russell Group University.

Hazel Hobbs, previously at Weydon School said: "The gene biology trip to Southampton University was a really good opportunity! I made new friends and the experiments helped to solidify my understanding of the theory from certain Biology modules. It has helped me to decide choices for universities for my UCAS application, and see what lab equipment is used.”

University

Twenty-one Alton College students graduated with honours on two Foundation Degree courses run in partnership with the University of Portsmouth this summer.  This was the first group of ten FdEng students to graduate after studying at Alton College for three years for a degree in Engineering. All the students achieved excellent grades with six students achieving Distinctions and two students achieving merits.  In addition, Joshua Hall was awarded a prize for outstanding achievement which was presented by Diana Spoors (Director of Learning) during a special prize giving ceremony. Several of the students plan to continue their studies at the University of Portsmouth on undergraduate or Masters programmes.

On the same day eleven students from the FdA Early Years Care and Education course also collected their FdA degrees. Special mention must be made of Jo Cannings who was the only student to achieve a Distinction grade on this course across a number of different centres. This is the thirteenth year that Alton College has celebrated the graduation of students on this course and many students have gone on to careers in teaching, social work, local education advisory services or Special Educational Needs.

A group of first year A Level PE students visited the University of Portsmouth where they had an opportunity to take part in several exercise physiology tests in their Sports & Exercise Science labs. The students participated in two workshops; firstly ‘How VO2 Max is measured using direct gas analysis.’ VO2 max is a measure of the maximum volume of oxygen that an athlete can use. In this workshop, the students also discussed lung volumes and blood lactate sampling. In the second workshop, students explored using grip strength, rate of perceived exertion and limb kinematics to optimise workforce potential for climbing.

The students found the trip extremely beneficial, Lily Wilson, previously at Amery Hill School explained; 'The trip to Portsmouth University was so worthwhile! We have learnt so much valuable knowledge in only our first week of being at college. It was such a bonus to be able to be so hands on and look at things in a real life situation, it made the experience so beneficial.' 

Maths

The Maths Department this year launched the Junior Team Maths Challenge, designed to stretch more able students. Teams of Year 8 and 9s from Eggar's School and Amery Hill School worked with A level students in the newly designed challenge which consisted of several rounds including cross numbers, a shuttle round and a relay round. The challenge was collaborative with two pupils from each school on each team supported by an A level Maths students from Alton College. The success of this new initiative means that it will become an annual fixture in the College series of school liaison events.

Lucy Bayliss, previously at Amery Hill School and Sara Garanito, previously at Calthorpe Park School took part in this year’s Mathematical Olympiad for Girls. Over 1700 girls nationwide participated, with the top 25% receiving a Certificate of Distinction. Sara received a Certificate of Participation and Lucy a Certificate of Distinction getting 10/10 for one of the questions.

100 Maths students competed in the Senior Maths Challenge with 9 achieving a gold award, 31 a silver award and 29 a bronze. Roughly 100,000 students took the Challenge this year with an increase in participants from Alton College. The Senior Maths Challenge consists of 25 very difficult non-calculator multiple-choice maths questions to be completed in 90 minutes. 

The College’s top scorer was Peter Morris, previously at Eggar’s School; he scored 109 out of 125 which means he goes through to the British Maths Olympiad Round 1 (BMO1). Only the top 1000 students in the country qualify for the BMO1. A further nine students have got through to the Senior Kangaroo (SK) round, this involves the next 6000 best students, who don’t qualify for the BMO1.

Music

A group of students from the Music Department took part in the annual Southampton Solent Sound Music Festival held at Solent University. The festival saw nine colleges across Hampshire and Wiltshire enter a “Battle of the Bands” competition with a first prize of £200. Alton College entered one of the bands from the BTEC Rock and Pop music course – “Haze” comprising of Hannah Francis (previously at Eggar's School), Laura Quinn (previously at Bohunt School), Naomi Cowdry (previously at Weydon School) and Tom Pocock (previously at Bohunt School). The band played three covers that received extremely good feedback from the judges who had backgrounds in the music industry including music management and record labels.

The band ended up with the runners-up prize of £100, narrowly missing out on first place. Head of Music Andy Light said 'This was a great experience for our students to play in a professional setting. I was extremely proud of the band and their approach to the competition. They played very well and gained plaudits not only from the judges but also the other colleges.’

Art

Art students have formed an exchange partnership with Danish students from Naerum Gymnasium College which started last year whilst working on a creative brief with the Tate galleries and the Red Cross. Alton College was the first to receive students and saw 24 placed in homestays, where families enthusiastically welcomed their Danish guests, showing tremendous generosity in demonstrating a truly British style of hospitality. 

On this occasion both sets of students worked for a day in collaboration with the college’s music department to create a final installation piece based around the idea of communication. This gave the students the opportunity to work closely together in exploring the theme in diverse ways including sculpture, photography, drawing and sound. 

The first of what we hope to be many further exchange visits was highly successful, host families were extremely enthusiastic about their part in the process expressing how important they felt it was for their children to have the opportunity to spend time with young people from a different part of the world, speaking of how this has helped to fuel their own children’s ambitions to explore the world more for themselves.

Sport

Alex Scarborough, previously at Freemantles School near Woking, represented Great Britain at the 11th Special Olympics World Winter Games in Schladming, Austria in March.  He competed in the Alpine Skiing category in both slalom, for which he won bronze and Super G for which he won silver. Alex had been to National finals before and was really excited to be given the chance to compete on the world stage. He admitted at the time ‘I am a little bit nervous, but I am extremely focussed and will channel my nervous energy into racing to the best of my ability. I love skiing as there are no limits and it is such an adrenalin rush.’ He added ‘I am extremely proud to be representing my country and hope to have the chance to do it again in the future.’ 

The Alton College rugby team finished off a very successful season by winning the U18 Hampshire Birch Plate earlier in the year. They faced Farnborough 6th Form College in the final held in Southampton, winning 27-23 in a very close game. Both sides played some high tempo rugby with Alton scoring five tries, coming from Dan Napier (2), Oliver Burden, Oscar Mosley and Cameron Hamer with one conversion by Hamer. 

As part of the extensive enrichment activities and trips programme, Alton College offers an annual ski trip to the mountains in Europe. This year, 20 students travelled to Fiesch in the Swiss Alps in February half term. The students were all keen and eager to improve their technique and were up early in the mornings on the first lift, skiing all day until the light faded. Everyone made considerable progress throughout the week and came home tired and happy! In the evenings students enjoyed team games, football, basketball, swimming, a tournament evening including ping-pong, Rapidough and an evening of presentations. 

Talented Art student Imogen Horrocks, previously at Bohunt School is the featured climber on a TV advert for the new Honda Civic. She is part of the British Youth Bouldering Team and was chosen from many after audition. Imogen has been bouldering, a competitive form of rock climbing that is performed without the use of ropes or harnesses, for about six years and started locally at Alton Sports Centre. She then advanced to climbing at White Spider Climbing in Tolworth where she was coached until last year. Imogen is part of the GB team and has competed on the national and international stage. She competes in all of the three main disciplines, bouldering (climbing without ropes), lead climbing (with ropes) and speed, and one day hopes to represent the country at the Olympics.

WelcomeFest

New students starting in September 2017 from over fifty different schools across four counties were given a taste of studying and daily life at Alton College’s annual WelcomeFest event held on campus in July. The morning was designed to enable students to explore their subject areas through inspiring taster lessons and practical hands-on activities. The afternoon provided free BBQ lunch and ice-cream while current music students performed on stage for the chance to play on the ButserFest Stage at Victorious Festival in Portsmouth in August. There were also More Able and Talented talks in the afternoon, the opportunity to try out for the sports teams and the chance to talk to Unloc about our Enterprise and Entrepreneurial days and short enrichment courses. 

Martha Kingsley, previously at Eggar’s School said: Following the WelcomeFest I feel confident that Alton College is definitely the right place for me to study to succeed. The formal, structured morning sessions followed by the more relaxed afternoon was a perfect introduction to College life.’

Isaac Longman, from Amery Hill School described the day as 'amazing'. He said he was made to feel very welcome and particularly enjoyed the subject taster sessions. He said: 'The lessons were great, I feel more confident that I've made the right course choices for September'. 

School liaison

Our annual Gifted and Talented Programme for school pupils began with creative and critical thinking workshops and a talk from Dr Robert Wilkins from the University of Oxford in March. This was followed by a competition for Year 10 high achievers which provides pupils with a taste of the Extended Project Qualification. 

The 'Above and Beyond' competition's theme was “2016: A Pivotal Year in History”. Pupils worked in teams of four or five to prepare an EPQ-style project at school for example an artefact, presentation or performance. The winning team from each school then competed in the final on campus where they gave a presentation on the investigation outcomes followed by a five minute Q&A session on the process of their research.

The team from Mill Chase Academy scooped first prize in this year’s competition competing against Year 10 pupils from Eggar’s School, The Petersfield School, Weydon School and Perins School. The winning team discussed prejudice in 2016. They covered the incidents of hate crime after Brexit, Islamaphobia and the media portrayal of these events. They discussed gender, religious and racial equality and how 2016 was of particular note in all those areas.

Peter Cox, Director of Learning at Alton College, was on the judging panel and congratulated all the participants explaining how impressive all the different presentations were and how difficult the decision had been. He said ‘Each team showed a great grasp of understanding the topic, displayed a fantastic sense of teamwork, organisational skills, the ability to prioritise work and their communication skills were extremely impressive. I am sure that each individual in the competition would succeed with the Extended Project Qualification at College.’

Alumni 

Laura Jurd, ex-College student and Jazz Teachers was shortlisted for this year’s Mercury Music Prize for her band Dinosaur’s debut album Together, As One.  They were nominated alongside the likes of Stormzy, alt-j and Ed Sheeran, but lost out on the night to Sampha. This is sure to be one of many award nominations and wins for Laura in the future.

Talented musician and former Alton College student Ollie West returned to Alton to perform at the Assembly Rooms in February as part of his ‘Portraits’ album project. West is studying at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester and returned south with his band to visit some of his old haunts.  

Benedict Vigers, previously at Robert May's School and past Alton College Geography scholar this year graduated with top marks and a First Class Honours degree in Geography from King’s College, London. Following this success, he was offered a place at the University of Cambridge to study a research MPhil in Architecture and Urban Studies at Christ’s College. This is a research based masters, where he will be looking at contemporary London, the politics of urban development, and the emerging legacy of London 2012. He said: ‘My time at Alton was invaluable in preparing me for university life. Learning how to manage your own workload is really important, as it is all down to you once you reach university. Alton gave me the chance to become a lot more independent and this set me up really well for my time at King's.’

General

An integral part of studying Public Services at Alton College is to gain real life insight into different aspects of the Public Service Sector. Students took part in the Hampshire Constabulary Rural Crime Prevention Initiative, attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst Parade and took Royal Navy Psychometric testing during a visit to campus. 

Students were given the opportunity to volunteer with Hampshire Constabulary Safer Neighbourhood Team. This is a Rural Crime Initiative and students attended an event at Froyle Park Country Estate, in which they were supporting Hampshire Constabulary in an operation to reduce crime in the rural community. 

28 Public Services students from College went to the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst Parade to learn about leadership and career opportunities offered in the Army as an Officer Cadet. It takes a year to train and the Cadets always finish with a large Military Parade which is known throughout the world. There were four former Alton College students on Parade this year, so it was a particularly proud event for Jo Edmonds, teacher of Public Services and former Army Major seeing his ex-students passing out. Some students in the group completed their own parade a month before having completed three months of drill training themselves. The students then had a tour around the Academy to glean inspiration for a future career in the Army as an Officer. 

In addition, ten Public Services students took the Royal Navy Psychometric Test. One of these students was Andrew Humphries, previously at Robert May’s School, and he explained what was involved:

‘The test was built up of four sections and every question was multiple choice. The sections consisted of reasoning, verbal ability, numeracy and mechanical reasoning. The questions themselves were not too hard but it was difficult to get through the entire exam in the allotted time. We also had to manage our own time, once the exam started we were not given any indication of how long was left, so we had to answer a lot of questions in a short amount of time to try and complete everything in time.’

Is prison a place for Punishment, Retribution or Rehabilitation? A group of Sociology, Law and Public Services students considered this at ‘Behind Bars’ a conference run by True Life conferences. The day featured real life released prisoners discussing all types of crime.  Students listened to speakers including a forensic psychologist, Brian, a successful businessman who was convicted of fraud and sentenced to four years imprisonment for the embezzlement of 21 million pounds, and Jim who has spent over 19 years behind bars. A lot of the A level students that took part in the conference are going on to study criminology/ forensic psychology related courses at university, so the conference was an excellent addition to their classroom studies. 

Yvette Wands, teacher of Law said: ‘This was a hugely valuable opportunity for our Law students, which challenged their thinking as to offenders and what it means to be imprisoned. It also highlighted issues we've been exploring in the classroom as part of the A-level Law specification, such as proposed reforms to the law on murder.’

A group of English literature students celebrated Regency Week with the launch at Alton library of a digital walking tour. The students worked with local historian Jane Hurst to write and photograph the walking tour, which follows the route Jane Austen may have taken when walking from the market town of Alton to her home in Chawton. It is accessible through the ‘HandHeld Tours’ app, available from the Apple Store

 

Two talented media students have been wowing international audiences with their independent film ‘Something Blue’. Jonny Crawford, previously at Weydon School, and Joe Johnson, previously at Stepping Stones School travelled to the Cinequest Film Festival in March to screen their piece in front of other industry professionals. ‘Something Blue’ was written and directed by Joe Johnson and produced by Joe and Jonny in collaboration. Another Alton College alumni Jacob Davies, previously at Robert May’s School helped with the cinematography. The film has been screened at another fourteen festivals locally and internationally. The story begins with an increasingly heated conversation over breakfast which begins to dismantle a married couple’s long-lasting, seemingly healthy relationship full of history, love and melancholia. 

The Alton College debating team, consisting of students studying Philosophy, Politics, and Law played host to Queen Mary’s College in the first inter-collegiate friendly debate this year. Alton’s two teams of three novice, but highly capable debaters bravely stepped up to the mark, challenging the more experienced QMC teams. Two motions, two highly emotive subjects, two inspiring debates and a fully enthralled audience. The first motion ‘this house believes religion does more good than harm’ found Alton arguing against the motion. Sam Dando-Moore, previously at Eggar’s School opened the debate with an impassioned position drawing on the historical debris of the Crusades. James Lester, previously at Salesian College continued with an unrelenting attack of the motion, leaving QMC lost for words. A final, and death defying blow, from Christie Sander, previously at Weydon School resulted in a resounding victory.

The second motion, ‘this house believes democracy cannot survive the 21st century’ started with an opening position from QMC. Although their speaker was without doubt politically competent Alton’s Rowan Whale, previously at Eggar’s School challenged without flinching and gave a highly convincing position against the motion. Aga Slusarska, previously at Mill Chase Academy swiftly followed with an emotive appeal to fundamental human nature; ruffling a few feathers of the opponents. Kate Adler, previously at Weydon School concluded with a judicious appeal to Churchill.

Alton kept up the fight until the bitter end but were narrowly defeated. Alton won one and lost one; a highly successful first debate.

Volunteering

Extra-curricular and enrichment activities that broaden students' experiences are strongly encouraged at Alton College. Second year student and volunteer Scarlett Aylen, previously at Alton Convent School, recently completed an incredible volunteer human rights placement in Ghana as part of Projects Abroad. The organisers said ‘her superb contribution will have a tremendous, long lasting and positive effect in the village she visited.’ Scarlett said: ‘I was talking to my friend who said that he was going to be volunteering in Ghana with an organization called Projects Abroad.   After a very quick decision that it was an opportunity not to be missed out, I signed up and before I knew it I was packing to go to Ghana. It didn't really take much persuading or consideration from me as I have been wanting to do something like this, but never had the chance before.’ She continued; ‘The aim of the project I went on was to help teach children and adults their basic human rights, an education that we take for granted in the UK, but which is vital to developing countries such as Ghana. I would certainly describe it as a necessary trip to make and definitely a life changing experience and encourage others of my age to sign up to volunteer.’ 

To find out more about Alton College come to the next Open Day, Thursday 5 July 3.30-8pm, visit altoncollege.ac.uk or call 01420 592200.