SIXTH FORM: The value of Plus One

An innovative new extra-curricular programme is enriching the lives of RGS sixth formers. ZOE WILLIAMS discovers how it came about and talks to students who have benefited, while reflecting on her own experience

THROUGHOUT his many years at RGS, Mr Fell has noticed that RGS sixth formers love to be busy, which is when they’re at their best - not where students are overloaded and stressed, but simply where there is a variety of things to be doing and interests to be piqued.

So as AS levels are slowly phased out, the sixth form team wanted to create a programme to provide students with an alternative option to taking four A-levels.

After much research and deliberation, they decided on the Plus One programme (to go alongside the study of three A-levels), which has been designed to give pupils additional opportunities to extend themselves not only academically, but also within the wider community.

Plus One was introduced in September 2020. At first glance it can appear quite overwhelming, as you try to decide how the programme can work for you.

It’s made up of seven periods a week (equivalent to each A-level subject) and comprises of several elements to help enrich your studies and future applications, whilst still proving a break from the intensity of A-level studies.

Firstly, there are timetabled EPQ (extended project qualification) research lessons where teachers are available to help in any way. Secondly, you can sign up for a weekly alternating period of either IT skills or careers and referencing lessons, both of which are fundamental skills for university or future workplaces. A third option is to take time to give back to our local community in the form of either volunteering, contribution or leadership roles.

I started my sixth form journey taking four A-levels and an EPQ, and I planned to take them all the way. However, I soon realised that Plus One could give me more support for my EPQ and improve my super-curricular skills.

The volunteering element was especially exciting to me as there are lots of opportunities both within school (such as joining the school newspaper or helping out in Key Stage 3 lessons) and around the wider Ripon community. There are periods allocated to allow students to volunteer offsite, if volunteering outside school hours is difficult.

The programme has been designed so students can ‘drop in’ from four A-levels at certain points throughout the year. As I was new to the programme at Christmas, I asked some fellow ‘Plus One-ers’ for their views on the programme.

Many students found the EPQ sessions most useful, as its very difficult to find time to focus on such a large project, especially when there is plenty of work due with closer deadlines looming. In addition, the programme is a great way to meet new people, possibly with similar interests to yourself. This is extremely important, especially due to there being such a large intake of new pupils in lower sixth.

Here’s what some students had to say”

“I find the Plus One programme very useful as it gives me time to work on my EPQ as well as additional IT sessions to strengthen my skills” Ava Edwards L6E

“As a sufferer of procrastination, I find the structure provided by the Plus One programme extremely helpful as it allows for consistent contact and checkups with supervisors and teachers. I’m sure that without the guidance, I would be wasting the extra time I gained from dropping a subject” Bertie Wood L6C

In conclusion, the Plus One programme has been very successful to date, and it is constantly evolving and changing to accommodate student suggestions.

It brilliantly supplements the study of three A-levels and, if used to its full potential, can greatly improve your employability and future study applications.