Merchant Taylors’ School: A Different Kind of Sixth Form
Jon Rippier | Director of Communications & Teacher of Modern Languages
Across the country, time spent in the Sixth Form is increasingly seen as a waiting room for university. When I joined Merchant Taylors’ in 2016 I was delighted to find that it is a school where this is very far from the case. Yes, we ensure that boys are well prepared for the process of university application (we send large numbers to Oxbridge and Imperial each year, as well as to Russell Group universities and to the US) – but we also create an environment where boys can fully flourish. This might be in small classes (often just 8-10 boys) which facilitate more receptive learning, or in sports teams which achieve boarding-school levels of achievement (our U17 cricket team are the new national champions) or in a memorable concert or play. Beyond that we also encourage boys to give back through charities like Phab, where Merchant Taylors’ boys and St Helen’s girls work together to look after severely disabled children for a week, or in outreach to local primary schools.
Of course, in what is a fiercely competitive job market, we also endeavour to guide boys in their early career planning. We do this by giving every boy an individual career plan, through our Careers Department. They can also tap into our network of alumni and parents to gain vital work experience and advice; for example, this year we placed boys in work at range of different places, from consulting firm Deloitte, to Oncopole, a world-leading cancer research facility in Toulouse. Our Scholars gain the additional benefit of specialist mentors, Oxbridge-style tutorials and a workshop with a leading academic – last year’s cohort benefiting from a session with Lord Mervyn King and a talk on monetary policy. Parents are rightly concerned that their sons are ready for the real world but intense study complemented by little else is no such preparation. We look to help boys realise their varied talents and build their characters as well as learn the importance of academic rigour. To illustrate the point, our newly refurbished Sixth Form centre has a large area for social interaction, as well as space for collaborative study and the latest IT facilities. The ideas for Young Enterprise companies, plans for House drama and allocation of Prefect responsibilities are all forged in this productive space. We are convinced that the Sixth Form should be the best two years of their school careers. The 250 recent leavers who returned for drinks in the Head Master’s garden at the start of term hopefully shows we are striking the right balance.