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27 September 2022

The Next Chapter 

The Next Chapter 

Over the past couple of weeks, it has been lovely to hear of students excitedly preparing to head off to their university of choice. I have heard tales of Freshers Fayre plans, pre-reading completed and parents anxiously stockpiling every kitchen utensil that can be purchased from John Lewis to send off with their daughter.  


At the Year 13 Leavers’ Supper before the summer, Mr Carr (in his former position as Head of Sixth Form) read out the list of impressive destinations that students are heading to; from Oxford and Cambridge to the Royal Veterinary College, from Bristol to Bath and Leeds to Kings College London. Such was the fantastic success of our Year 13 students, with 57% of entries graded at A* and A grades and 86% at A*, A or B, that our students have been spoiled for choice about the courses to apply for and the educational institutions to select. We are all terribly proud of them. 


At Prize Giving last week, I heard of many updates to the travel plans of students as they seek to make a start in the next chapter of their academic journey. It was also a chance to hear from parents, many of whom are sending their first or only child to university. Hearing of the spare bedrooms turned into storage rooms with clothes, kitchen equipment, bedding and bathroom supplies reminds me of my own experience many years ago of doing the same. I swear that my mother turned our spare bedroom into an army supply depot, capable of supporting a battalion for several weeks. I turned up at university as the only person with a full range of baking utensils, a coffee machine (quite the thing in the early 00s) and two different versions of crockery (one for every day, one for when I was to supposedly “entertain” in the Halls kitchen). I was mercilessly, but lovingly, teased for several months by new hallmates. I was the only student to arrive with lamb cutlets in the fridge. Needless to say, I did a disproportionate amount of the cooking! 


Going to university is a special time but it can also be a mixture of emotions for students, their siblings and parents. For many who have not been boarders, it is the first extended period away from home. I would suggest that students pack some items that remind you of home but won’t make you upset. Popular choices are often framed photographs, a houseplant, soft toys, recognisable bedding and comfy pyjamas. It’s also a good idea to take a doorstop, to ensure that people can drop by and say “hi”. It was the single best thing I did (other than cook lamb on our first night) to get to know my new hallmates. For parents, it can be hard to also strike the balance of keeping in touch whilst allowing their daughter to establish their own independence. The recipe for this will be different for every family, but open communication is crucial here. My mother used to ring every day for the first couple of weeks (granted, this was the pre-smart phone era). That stopped very quickly. However, I know that it was of great support to a friend who really struggled to adjust. 


For some students, this is a chance to have a complete reinvention. That is both exciting and liberating. It is one of the few times in life when you can have a completely fresh start, if you want to, with new friends and different interests. So, some students will not want to take numerous reminders of home and instead build new memories. That is okay too. Just don’t forget to check in! 


As students complete their journeys from home to halls of residence, we are all thinking of them and wishing them well. We know that every student will be fantastic and achieve her full potential, as well as become an active and positive global citizen, thanks to the foundations that they have built here at the College. We are already in full stream with the next Sixth Form cohort, supporting the new Year 13s with UCAS and admissions testing, as well as guiding on university choices. The new Year 12s are also getting stuck in with Sixth Form, many of whom are attending the GSA Conference on the “Art of Disagreeing Well” at Benenden School on Friday – something which will be an excellent addition to their own university application. We are also thrilled that so many Sixth Formers are working with us and our architects, Noble and Eaton, to fundamentally redesign the Sixth Form space in the College. It is exciting times to be a young adult here. 


On behalf of St. Francis’ College, its staff and its students, we wish our former Year 13s well as they begin their next chapter. Just one final piece of advice – you don’t need two sets of crockery! 

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