As students begin their second year in the Sixth Form, they move into St John’s – Hurst’s co-educational Upper Sixth hall of residence. St John’s is designed to provide a bridge between Sixth Form and university. As ‘trainee undergraduates’, every student – day or boarding – has his or her own study. Within appropriate academic and pastoral frameworks, the students enjoy greater freedom and more independent control of their academic work.
St John’s is the day and boarding house for all Upper Sixth students, set in its own grounds conveniently close to the centre of the college campus. Its structure, facilities and the light touch with which the house is managed, ensure that it provides an environment best suited to students’ academic, personal and social development in their final school year.
Girls and boys are housed in separate wings, each of which has its own laundry and social room. The centre of the house contains the communal TV room, computer room, conference/workroom and social centre with a bar and kitchen. Its facilities are outstanding and enables students to work together in an atmosphere similar to that found at university.
Each student has a study bedroom with a desk, bed and hand basin and all are encouraged to undertake independent study in their own time, not least as preparation for the less structured life they will experience later at university.
Inherent in the St John’s concept is the principle that students will manage their own community.
As the Lower Sixth is the final year in the school’s traditional houses (before the Upper Sixth are convened into their own house, St John’s) new joiners are encouraged into leadership roles as house prefects and guardians at the earliest opportunity. Social ‘icebreaker’ events begin in the Summer term of the Fifth Form (Year 11) and continue through the Lower Sixth year, with year group dinners and ‘Mystery Bus’ outings helping new joiners to integrate.
There will be opportunities for students to arrange school functions for themselves and the rest of the school, to foster links with the local community, organise charity events and establish a close working relationship with both Prep and Senior Schools.
The St John’s committee gives students an opportunity to express their views on matters of their choosing, whether relating to the house itself or to wider school issues. Various social functions punctuate and highlight the passage of the year, culminating in the magnificent Leavers’ Ball at the end of the Summer term. On a domestic level, students are encouraged to do their own washing as part of their preparation for the next step.
Life in St John’s provides an exciting challenge at the crucial point in a student’s school career, whilst continuing to provide firm foundations for many aspects of their future life.
The primary focus for St John’s students will, of course, be their academic studies and they are encouraged to organise themselves and enhance their independent learning skills. Academic seminars, discussion groups and the dissection of quality broadsheets are all championed. Learning styles, levels of motivation and details of personal organisation are individual but the common goal is working towards the achievement of their UCAS targets and, in this, students are supported and guided through a strong tutorial system.
Small class sizes and the formal study time allocated for each subject ensures that teachers are able to pay careful attention to our students’ individual needs.
Students are encouraged to take ownership of their learning and their overall academic progress, as well as to take greater responsibility for the organisation of their time. Whether in private study areas or the well-equipped Library, effective independent study is strongly supported. Students regularly participate in seminars and make presentations to their peers.
Sixth Form life is underpinned by a mentoring relationship between student and specialist tutors over two years. Weekly meetings provide regular guidance and support to monitor academic progress and help students to achieve the ambitious set targets. Tutors join in celebrating successes and follow the extra-curricular and social progress of their tutees.
The Lower Sixth year is a careful balancing act, and students are assisted and monitored by their tutors to ensure they get the balance right. The priority is for each student to complete their core academic responsibilities to the best of their ability, but there should also be time for wider intellectual enrichment, and engaging fully with all that Hurst offers beyond the classroom. It is undoubtedly a busy year, but also a hugely fulfilling one.
At Hurst we pride ourselves on having a unique system of Upper Sixth academic tutoring whereby each student is allocated a subject specialist depending on their desired post-Hurst path, which for most will be a university degree. This enables students to have access to and support from someone who knows the specific subject demands, who can help ensure that UCAS applications are the best they can be and will also be the one teacher students will have most contact with in and outside normal lesson time.
The Upper Sixth are also encouraged to be active participants in the broader life of the school. Where appropriate, members of St John’s work with, and alongside, adult members of staff. As elite performers – and positive role models – academically, musically, dramatically and on the sports field, the students are encouraged to coach, guide and inspire younger pupils. It is not unusual for our Upper Sixth students to see their tutors on a daily basis, to discuss subject specific matter for A-levels but also to push students beyond the syllabus to deepen and widen their knowledge base. This ensures that our students develop into true subject specialists, which is a sure fire recipe for A-level success.