September 2018 Newsletter
September 2018

Dear Parent(s) and Carer(s)

We are now entering a very busy phase of the academic year as students settle in their new classes and get on with the business of learning the demands of their new courses. Many young people take to the greater independence of college with ease. However, if your daughter/son/ward is new to College and feeling some anxiety about it, this is quite normal. We all deal with big changes in our lives differently and this is a big change for students joining us: after all many of them have been in the same school for 5 years; one where they know their teachers well and where they have established friendship groups. Reassuring your daughter/son/ward that some anxiety is a normal reaction to change can help many students deal with their fears. We are of course here to help you and have a variety of support services. Please see the Parent/Carers Guide, which is on our web-site (click here) for more details.

Changing courses for new students
As students begin new courses, invariably, some students feel that they have made the wrong choices of subject. We allow students on advanced programmes to change subjects within the first few weeks, if there are spaces on the courses they would like to move to and they meet the entry requirements for that subject. Our deadline this year for requesting changes is Friday 28th September. From this point, students will be expected to continue with the courses they have selected. Students on pre-advanced courses are not usually able to change once started, as these courses are much shorter, finishing next June.

GCSE resits
As always, we have a number of students who are taking resit courses in GCSE Mathematics and English with us. These students have an opportunity for GCSE resits in November. They won’t receive their results until January and therefore will have to remain in the GCSE classes until then.If they manage to achieve a 4 then they will be enrolled in a Level 2 study skills course (from January until May) which will help them with their next step. All students who remain on  GCSE courses will be entered for the May/June series in 2019.

Dropping students off by car
If you do wish to drop your daughter/son/ward off at college I would be grateful if, for the safety of other students, you could do this outside, but away from the gates, rather than drive in, unless you have a special arrangement with the additional support team. Please also note there is no student parking inside the gates.

Student trips and parental consent
We assume general consent has been given by parent/carers for student trips such as educational visits within lesson times, field trips, work experience and sports fixtures that take place off college premises. Please contact the college if you do not wish to give your consent for such trips. For day/evening trips, residential (UK or International) trips, or any trips involving hazardous activities  (eg outward bound activities) - parents/carers will receive a detailed letter and specific consent form.

Parent Portal
While your son/daughter is a student at the College you’ll be able to register for and use our Parent Portal to keep up to date with how they are doing.

Once registered for the Parent Portal you'll be able to.....

View live attendance information
You'll be able to see live attendance details by class, overall and on a timetable.
View Report Cards
As soon as a termly report summary has been created or updated for your daughter/son/ward you'll be able to view it instantly. The Parent Portal will also send you an email to let you know that it is ready to view.
View course information
You'll be able to see the courses that your son/daughter is currently taking. Each course will show a brief summary of what is covered, the tutor(s) and a breakdown of attendance for that course.
Email tutors
You'll be able to email your son/daughter's subject tutors and personal tutor directly from the Parent Portal.
View Collective
By using this feature, you can gain an overview of all aspects of your son/daughter's progress at College gathered together in a chronological order (this will include absence, attendance, progress reviews, work submission, cause for concerns, and pause for praise).

Registering is quick and simple, from start to finish you could be up and running in 5-10 minutes; all you will need to hand is your son/daughter/ward's student reference number. If you don't have their reference we have a help page where you'll be able to request this.

Absence Policy
The link between good results and good attendance is well recognised. Please encourage your daughter/son/ward to attend unless their absence is really unavoidable. We only authorise unavoidable absence when we are notified by 10 am on each day. We also expect students to take their holidays during our normal holiday times, not term time. Our full absence policy can be read here

Sometimes the first few weeks of term  can be confusing for students so if there is a problem with an attendance mark or class change please do let us know or ask your son/daughter to call into the Registry.

Consultation Evenings
These will take place between 5.30 - 8.00pm on the following dates:

  • Year 2 - Monday 26 November 2018
  • IB Year 2 and Level 2 evenings to be decided
  • Year 1  - Monday 25 February 2019 (consultation for student family names: A - J)
  • Year 1  - Monday 4 March 2019 (consultation for student family names: K - Z)
There are a few points to bear in mind which will help us ensure the smooth running of the evening and help us to be good neighbours:
(If you are unable to attend on your evening it is usually possible to come on the alternative; please let us know if you hope to be able to do this by contacting in advance)
  • Appointments are made on-line and we will contact you when booking goes live.
  • Consultations are for 6 minutes and this is the only occasion when we use a bell to help us keep to time. We find that this time is usually sufficient to report fully on progress, but if, for any reason, a longer time is needed, a further appointment can be made at a mutually convenient time.
  • Most staff will have full appointment schedules so we will need to keep to time and it may not be possible to reschedule missed appointments.
  • Please respect local parking restrictions and do not park on the grass verges or illegally in the surrounding streets; ticket wardens are very active in this area.

Nut Allergy
We have a large number of students with nut allergies and two with a severe airborne allergy to peanuts and groundnut oil.   We therefore ask parents and carers to remind their son/daughter/ward not to bring in snacks or lunches containing peanuts or groundnut oil.  In addition, they also need to refrain from eating peanuts before coming into college.  

Contacting the College
It is my experience that many of the queries that parents have are addressed via the parent portal. However, if there are any unresolved queries, please do not hesitate to contact us at It is possible to contact teachers, via email, directly from your son/daughter/ward’s timetable on the Parent Portal, but please remember that teachers are busy teaching, preparing lessons and marking and will be unable to respond immediately. If you need to speak to a member of staff please make an appointment as staff are unlikely to be available without notice. If you have an appointment please sign in at reception to get your visitor’s badge.

If you need to see a member of staff please make an appointment as staff are very busy and unlikely to be available without notice. If you have an appointment please sign in at reception to get your visitor’s badge and return it to reception when leaving the building.

And Finally
I contacted all parents last week regarding our plans to develop the College’s accommodation and other facilities. Thank you to all who responded to my email, the majority of which expressed their support for what we are trying to achieve. I want to assure all parents that I will not stop working towards our goals until I am satisfied that our young people are receiving a high quality education in high quality buildings.

We could be more selective; we could provide a curriculum that is cheaper to deliver and we could make less support available to students. All of which would help to build reserves in order to invest in buildings. Our policy has always been to spend the money we receive from the Government to provide the resources we need to support young people’s learning. This policy has led to our reputation of enabling students to excel, no matter what challenges they face. The result of that policy is that there is little left for capital development; I make no apology for advocating this policy since my appointment in 2006.

Our immediate aim is to open a new STEM centre by January 2020 and we are fortunate to have been awarded £2.9 million by the Government to make this a reality. In my view the positive aspects of this development far outweigh any negatives. Clearly my view is not shared by everyone, the number of objections submitted to the planning website means that fate of this development will be decided at a planning committee meeting. I will keep you informed.

Best Wishes

Phil Harland
©2019 Varndean College, Brighton, United Kingdom

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