Exam season – Good luck!

Exam season is upon us and last week I wished all who are involved the very best of luck – be they teachers, business support staff, invigilators or, of course, our learners.

As usual, we have put in place support mechanisms such as breakfast revision clubs and free exam breakfasts on GCSE maths and English exam days. This year we have c.300 learners re-sitting maths and/or English. The sports hall will be full and we will overflow into other classroom areas. This was what the sports hall looked like in May last year, where we had 266 re-sitting maths:

It’s good to see what else is being put in place to support our learners. Here are a couple of extracts from this week’s Students’ Newsletter:

What can you do to succeed?

Attend all your lessons.


Practice past questions.

Attend all your exams with the right equipment.

Exam Breakfast

If you have a GCSE English or maths exam in the morning, be sure to get in early for your free exam breakfast 8.30-9.00 in the Star Café. Get some brain food before you start!

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A Day with the Royal Navy

I spent last Friday with the Royal Navy at HMS PRESIDENT, next to Tower Bridge.

James Taylor, the College’s Vice Principal (Curriculum & Quality) joined me and a dozen other guests, that I had arranged to be invited, whom I knew would really value the opportunity to hear more about our Naval Service.

We were guests of the Naval Regional Commander – Eastern England, Commodore David Elford OBE ADC Royal Navy. David and I had served together on a couple of occasions in the past.

The Royal Navy Presentation Team, led by Commander Steve Banfield, delivered a superb overview of the activities of the whole Naval Service. Some highlights, of which the general public are seldom aware, included:

– The Royal Navy has been delivering the independent nuclear deterrent for the past 50 years and since April 1969 has never missed a single day on patrol.

– 95% of the UK’s imports by volume and 40% of all our food comes by sea.

– 25% of the Officer Corps are promoted from the ranks.

– Allbranches (including submarines and Royal Marines) are open to females.

– 49% of the UK’s Special Forces are drawn from the Royal Marines.

Commander Susie Thompson then gave a very interesting account about the Armed Forces Covenant – this was particularly useful for the Local Authority Councillors and the Business leaders who were attending.

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The Final Cut!

Olivia Hall is one of our Level 2 Hairdressing apprentices. She works in Marlow at Rapunzel Hair Extensions salon, where we have had several apprentices.

Olivia completed her Apprenticeship on Monday 30 April and I just happened to be her final client – a very professional young lady and an excellent haircut. Thank you Olivia and good luck in your future career.

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Homeland Defence

Last Thursday, I attended the Cormorant Club Spring Reunion 2018 which was held at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in Whitehall.

We were privileged to benefit from a short lecture given by Elisabeth Braw (Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council) on ‘Alternate models for defence and security with a focus on the Nordic experience’.

I enjoyed what Elisabeth had to say about the importance of ‘Total Defence’ for any nation, particularly in a world that is getting less secure. She focused particularly on the Norwegian Home Guard or Heimevernet. The ‘HV’ is a force of over 40,000 individuals all of whom have been conscripts.

Her lecture was very thought provoking and it was interesting chatting to her afterwards to contemplate how/if the concept could ever work in the UK – where of course we have not had conscription since May 1963, when the last National Serviceman left the armed forces.

One of the concepts that Elisabeth expanded upon was the idea of mandatory resilience training for young people up to the age of 25 – say a couple of months in the summer which could include things like individual crisis preparation, basic medical training and survival skills. This is something that the Swedish National Defence University’s deputy vice-chancellor Commodore Ewa Skoog Haslum has been suggesting recently. I wonder what it would take for it the concept to catch on with the UK government and – perhaps more importantly – be supported by the UK population?

It seemed to me that the concept is one that might at the very least be of interest to Local Authorities and I hope to introduce Elisabeth to some of the College’s Local Authority close colleagues.

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Arbroath FC

Great trip up to Scotland over the week-end to see Arbroath play Airdrieonians. It was a2-0 win for Arbroath leaving them 3rd and in the play-offs for a Championship place next year.

Unusually warm for the east coast of Scotland. I was there with two school chums, John Anfield and Chris George.

Pie and Bovril at half-time is a great tradition!

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Spring has Sprung!

Transient though the effect is each year, I always admire the beautiful blossom that our sentinel trees provide outside the Church Road building.

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Thames Valley Berkshire Skills summit

I was honoured to be asked to ‘MC’ today’s inaugural LEP Skills Summit which attracted 170+ businesses, employer groups, independent training providers, schools, colleges and policy developers.

We had a great range of speakers including the Minister for Employment and Reading West MP, Alok Sharma.

We were delighted that Alok was able to take so much time out of is very busy Ministerial schedule to stay for the whole summit and to take part in a lively Q&A session at the end.

The summit was an ideal opportunity to launch the latest version of the LEP’s Skills Priority Statement, the LEP’s STEAM (Science Technology, Engineering, Arts & Maths) Strategy as well as discussing Apprenticeships and the LEP’s delivery of a Local Industrial Strategy.

I asked attendees to focus on the following as a measure of success for the summit: A better understanding of what businesses and skills providers each needed so that they could play their joint parts in delivering greater productivity and economic success in the Thames Valley Berkshire region.

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