Principal's plan to pass on 'life skills'
STUDENTS could soon be running a radio station, writing blogs and launching companies alongside their college work.
The ideas are being explored at Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College to help teenagers learn skills they can take into working life.
And some of the projects could count towards a new sixth form qualification called the SFBac, which will recognise activities students are involved in outside of their A-level and vocational courses.
The college's new principal, Paul Mangnall, has outlined the plans in his first in-depth interview with The Sentinel since his appointment.
This Sunday between 11am & 4pm with FREE admission at the Moat House Hotel Festival Park we will be exhibiting with some special show offers, the weather forecast isn't good but our deals are
Terms: Visit us or pick up a voucher at the show to be eligible
Contact: 01782 342609
Valid until: Sunday, June 23 2013
He officially took up post on September 1, and now oversees 1,850 students and 180 staff.
He has served as deputy principal for the last decade and joined the college in 1981.
Mr Mangnall said: "We currently have more than 300 students doing things in the community every week.
"Some of them go into local primary and special schools. That's something we want to grow. It will involve getting students involved in social enterprise as well. One example might be getting them to set up an events management company, or do work with a local community group.
"The time they spend on that would help develop a broader range of skills.
"When a young person goes for an interview for a university place, it will help them to stand out."
The SFBac is already offered in a number of other sixth form colleges.
To achieve it, young people need to build up least 100 hours of accredited activities, such as work experience, community projects, study skills sessions, sport and drama productions. Other ideas in the pipeline include offering internships with local companies.
Mr Mangnall firmly believes college should be about more than just gaining qualifications.
The 57-year-old, who lives in Cheadle, said: "It's about giving opportunities to young people in Stoke-on-Trent.
"My own background is very similar to many students here. I was from a single-parent family in a deprived area of Wigan. When I was young, I was inspired by some fantastic teachers, who really cared about young people."
After working at a college in Wigan, Mr Mangnall joined Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College as a head of department and computer science teacher.
He said: "Technology has changed such a lot since then. We probably now have 180 tablet computers for students, and well over 1,000 PCs and laptops.
"One of the other big changes has been the increasing pressure on young people."
He is quick to scotch suggestions that A-levels have been dumbed down.
And Mr Mangnall is talking from experience, not just as a college official, but as an ex-Ofsted inspector and a former chief examiner for IT.
He said: "I used to set exam papers and scrutinise them. There is a tremendous amount of quality control within the exams system.
"Today's A-levels are just different, rather than easier."
Mr Mangnall said another new initiative will target the top 100 students at the college, so they receive support to help them achieve their potential.
It builds on growing applications to leading universities this year, with five students landing places at Oxford or Cambridge.
What do you think of the new proposals? Email us at email@example.com