‘Better than Eton,’ says Greenhead College’s retiring principal Martin Rostron

Education reporter LINDAWHITWAM catcehs up with Greenhead College princiapl Martin Rostron who is about to retire

Retiring Principal of Greenhead College, Martin Rostron

MARTIN Rostron steps down this summer after 22 years at Greenhead College, half of them as principal.

And by whatever criteria his stewardship is judged, there is no denying that he leaves a fine legacy.

He leaves an educational establishment in rude health to pass on to his successor, current vice-principal Anton McGrath.

Greenhead is consistently listed in the top three of England’s 94 sixth form colleges.

And Mr Rostron proudly added that Greenhead’s A-level results are “better than Eton’s.”

Well over 2,000 teenagers applied for 1,100 places in this academic year.

Each one was personally interviewed – and students are challenged not only academically, but encouraged to push themselves and help others.

This week Mr Rostron, 59, shared his views on Greenhead and sixth form colleges in general.

When he arrived from a Warrington sixth form in 1991, Greenhead only had around 900 students.

He is a passionate supporter of sixth form colleges and claims that big is beautiful.

According to him, the sheer volume of numbers (2,100 students), enables Greenhead to offer an extremely broad range of subjects, and the college can generally accommodate students whatever combination they choose.

Students have unrivalled opportunities for extra curricular, or ‘enrichment’ activities.

Around 300 a year take part in voluntary work, over 100 take Duke of Edinburgh Awards , while others get involved in sports.

Greenhead is one of the few schools in the country to field successful rugby league and rugby union teams.

Debating, Islam, sci-fi, first aid, salsa, Amnesty International, music and drama are just a few of the other non-academic activities on offer.

In addition, 600 students took part in Shadowing Week – a term the college prefers to work placement – in mid June.

Mr Rostron, who lives in Holmfirth , said: “Our students really relish the breadth of enrichment here.

“There is really, really strong evidence that it is a bad idea to have small sixth forms, 250 to 300 students should be a minimum.

“A larger college gives a breadth of subject choice, teachers can immerse themselves in their subjects – they become committed and expert – and students have more social interaction.

“We put on an immense range of activities for them.”

On Greenhead’s impressive record, Mr Rostron modestly said that his aim had always been to carry on the good practice of his predecessor Dr Kevin Conway.

He has, however, had to cope with a few unexpected challenges along the way, including several changes in government policy.

One of these means that current first year A-level students will not be sitting exams in January, as expected.

He said Greenhead’s success could be attributed to three areas:

The college’s value added system. Every student is judged on GCSE results when they arrive and then helped to meet or exceed expectations at A level.This is achieved through monitoring, assemblies and one-to-one meetings with form tutors.

The high level of pastoral care and high expectations. Students are told when they arrive that they are expected to be in the top 25% in the country, and then given help to achieve that

The breadth of enrichment activities.

Mr Rostron said: “Our students are only here two years, our ethos is that everyone is an individual, an exception, and they are really valued.

“I have to be honest, as soon as students get here we are looking at where they will be going two years later.

“I am passionately committed to sixth forms and believe they are the best transition from school to employment or university.”

He paid tribute to the teachers, governors, other adults and students who had worked as a team to make Greenhead such a success and added: “I am leaving Greenhead in excellent hand and I wish the college every success in the future.”

Some Kirklees schools may have further contact with Mr Rostron, as he will be working as a part-time education advisor in local schools.

 

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