New College Day from September 2017!

It's time for change from September when we launch our new College day which will benefit the health and learning capacity of our students. The new day will mean students have up to 50 hours more teaching each year, start lessons at 10am and have greater scope for enrichment activities. The fresh approach to timetabling is based on academic research into the optimum learning methods for teenagers. 

New College Day - September 2017 from alton college on Vimeo.

Sara Russell, Principal explains: ‘We are excited to launch the new College day in September. We took the decision to adapt our current model based on the academic research and from feedback over time from students and members of the College community. The main benefit is that the new day provides students with increased teaching time, around 1.5 hours a week which is more than most other Colleges and other School Sixth Forms offer. There are also fewer, longer lessons which will give a fantastic opportunity to really explore subjects. Our students are amazing and each year I’m so impressed and proud of their outstanding achievements and having longer lessons will give them more dedicated time to delve into their subjects.

She reassured that although the longer lesson is up to three hours in length, this didn’t mean students sitting still and sustaining concentration without a break. She said ‘We will of course offer a break during the longer three hour lessons, a change of activity and students could even change rooms during the lesson depending on that activity. We are not offering three hours of working from a book.’

The advantages of starting later in the day is based on evidence from many academics. Colin Epsie, Professor of Sleep Medicine in the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neuroscience, University of Oxford explained the research findings on teenage sleep patterns in The Guardian. He said: 'We know that something funny happens when you’re a teenager, in that you seem to be out of sync with the world. Your parents think it’s because you’re lazy and opinionated and everything would be ok if you could get to sleep earlier. But science is telling us that teenagers need to sleep more in the mornings.'  

Dr Paul Kelly from the Open University and formerly Research Associate at the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Oxford agreed and applied this to teenage learning. He said he had been in contact with with ‘sleep experts’ from the UK and internationally. He explained: 'A better way of learning: Why does starting school at 10am improves education and health? Teenage years are critical for both education and health. During late adolescence major physical changes mean teenagers need more sleep. In addition, biological changes occur, making them naturally wake up and go to sleep later in the day. So later starting times protect student sleep and student health. The later start will also improve learning, partly because students will be in better health, and partly because teenagers and university students learn better later in the day.'

Ms Russell continued: ‘For many years, students living outside of the town have found the early start time of 8.50am difficult. We have up to 2,000 students a year from around 80 different schools travelling across four counties to study with us. Some of them are leaving their homes before 7am to get here. Coupled with the academic research which informs us that teenagers learn better later in the day, the benefits of changing our start time to 10am are obvious.’

She said the majority of students travel in by bus and the College is working with public bus company Stagecoach to ensure that the buses will arrive in time for a 10am timetable start, but if students wish to come in earlier for independent study time, there will be earlier buses that arrive around 9am.

Martin Gibbon, Operations Manager for Stagecoach in Basingstoke and Andover, said: 'Having worked in partnership with Alton College for many years to provide transport for thousands of students across Hampshire, Surrey, and West Sussex, we are pleased to support them with their new College day. We are happy to adapt our service to ensure students can arrive and leave to fit with the new timetable launching in September 2017. No changes to the existing routes will be necessary to accommodate this.’ 

Assistant Principal, Jon Myers echoed Ms Russell’s enthusiasm for the new day and explained further. ‘The new look College day is a really positive change for the College. The new day is more aligned to a university style programme and the increased teaching time per year will equate to around 50 extra hours (or four weeks) for A level students on first year of an A level programme. It provides an even better way of learning which in turn will better prepare our students for their futures. There will also be more opportunity for enrichment activities and for part-time working’.

Mr Myers said that last year 29% of A level students that studied at Alton College went on to achieve a First Class Honours degree compared to 22% nationally at Sixth Form Colleges and Schools with a Sixth Form. 

He confirmed the College’s general opening and closing times remain unaffected and said: ‘The new timetable will not affect the College’s opening times. We will open at 8.30am and close at 5pm as usual. Students are always welcome to come in before 10am to use the Learning Resource Centre or other independent study areas’. He explained the new timetable will be in place for all students apart from the Skills for Learning students who will remain on the traditional timetable with the same start and end of day timings.’

He described the new personal tutor time:Tutor sessions will take place at the end of the morning lesson, with the teacher who has just taught the lesson. This will be a session with a small group of students focusing on academic progress and progression. In addition, there will be a large weekly group ‘Forum’ session where specialist staff will cover a range of issues from UCAS to Apprenticeships and Resilience to Cybersafety.’

Find out more altoncollege.ac.uk/newcollegeday

Alton College offers a diverse range of A level, vocational and Foundation Degree courses. Applications are open for studying at Alton College in September 2017 please visit altoncollege.ac.uk/applynow. The next Open Day takes place on Thursday 5 October, 3.30-8pm. For more information altoncollege.ac.uk or email hello@altoncollege.ac.uk