The Best Job in Education

Rossall INSPIRE is the umbrella under which members of the Rossall community come together to share knowledge, ideas and perspectives on all aspects of education and learning. Mr Nick Crombie, our Director of Sixth Form, shares the unique joys of his role in education, and celebrates the diversity and innovation within the Sixth Form, a space where genuine care and ambition thrives. Mr Crombie also discusses the multitude of academic paths available to students, showcasing the richness of possibilities in education.

I believe wholeheartedly that I have the best job in education. In fairness, I also believed that when I was Head of English, and before that when I was an Assistant House Parent. I think, in reality, I just enjoy working with young people, but there is something uniquely special about working with 250 students at the business end of their schooling. How many other professions can play their small part in helping to produce doctors, lawyers, professional athletes, graphic designers, musicians, engineers and scientists, without leaving their little pocket in the North West? 

Here, the Sixth Form runs by the philosophy that every student will leave Rossall as ‘a better human being, because they attended Rossall’s Sixth Form’ and every day we aim to improve. The role itself is full of variety: from the mundane (‘sir, can you help get my phone out from behind the lockers?’), to the ridiculous (‘I would firstly like to apologise for sock wrestling’), to the important conversations about mental health, identity, pastoral support, cultural evolution, and future plans… The Sixth Form Office is a place where no two conversations are the same; a place where fantastically innovative ideas are pitched by students who want to make their school better; a place of regular laughter, and a fair amount of tears – indeed, the ongoing joke from the students is that if you haven’t cried in the office yet, you probably will at some point. And for those who do: these tears are a really important part of the Sixth Form, because it says very simply: ‘I care about something’. For those who have heard me speak, they know my least favourite human traits are arrogance and apathy, and these tears reflect the absence of both of these. These are the tears that will fuel ambition, but that reflect the ever-more-common uncertainty that exists in a student as they prepare to step beyond the comforting walls of a school, out into the real world.

I have known I wanted to be a teacher since the age of 11 – my dad was a prep school Headmaster, two of my uncles were the same, my grandfather was a teacher, and my sister teaches now. Despite my mum’s best efforts to send me into Law, I succumbed to the genetic makeup of the family and headed into education. I was lucky, because I had a plan: I spent my gap year working in a school in Australia; I worked during university holidays on summer camps; everything I did was geared up towards teaching. But I am acutely aware that the majority of young people do not know what they want to do, and the very prospect of choice can lead to anxiety and the haunting question of ‘what if I pick the wrong path?’. We are very fortunate in the UK to have such a diverse range of outstanding university destinations, and we really know how to help students get to the best places. Last summer, 65% of those heading to UK universities achieved a place at a Russell Group or Top 20 University, including Oxford and Cambridge. But the beauty of Rossall is that we can support so many other routes too: seven students signed professional sports contracts; three went to the US on full scholarships (one golf, two football); another five students joined them across a variety of academic destinations. We sent students to Australia, Spain, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Austria, Malta and beyond. Then come the Degree Apprenticeships.

The Degree Apprenticeship was not a thing when I was at school, or if it was, no one ever told us about it. Now, a number of companies will employ an 18 year old, finance their part time university study (in areas such as engineering, business, law etc.) whilst simultaneously paying them a very competitive salary. Apprentices will work as full time employees at these companies, gaining invaluable experience that will place them ahead of their contemporaries who have taken the more traditional route of university education. True, there are not as many places available, and it is very competitive indeed to secure a job offer, but financially it is a far superior route to take for those who are ready for the workplace right now. Last year, a record number of Rossallians were awarded places on these courses, with companies such as Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, BAE Systems and PWC all taking recent leavers. We hope to host an Apprenticeship event here at Rossall over the course of the academic year to raise more awareness about the opportunities available. 

The beauty of it all, however, is that there is so much choice. Not knowing what you want to do should be exciting, not scary – it means there are so many possibilities. Our advice: get involved in everything; listen to a range of experts; pick up information and inspiration at every moment; say yes to things you are uncertain about, and if you take on even one sentence, one phrase that resonates, you are already in a better position. I never take for granted the fact that I get to be a part of these conversations, these moments; I get to see the highs when the first university offer reaches the inbox, and I get to be there to support in those low moments, when things have not gone to plan. I am blessed to be around very talented and humble young people, with endless opportunities ahead of them. In many ways I am envious of this choice, but then I remember: I have the best job in education.

Nick Crombie