Bath Academy interview
Education interview: Liam Hocking, Vice-Principal (Academic) of Bath Academy
We chat to Bath Academy, Vice-Principal, Liam Hocking about his own school memories, what the Academy has to offer new students, how they coped with the pandemic and what he feels about todays education system.
For those who are not familiar, what services do Bath Academy offer?
Bath Academy is an independent college which offers a range of academic courses for students from GCSEs, A-Levels to a University Foundation Programme. We also offer students support and guidance for applications to University and provide a Personal Development Programme to support their academic progress. Our classes are small with a maximum of 8 students and there is a focus on a reflective and inclusive learning environment. We also offer each student a weekly formative assessment to provide an individual guide to their progress and give them continuous feedback to reflect and build upon. Alongside this, we also offer a range of English Language Courses.
So what courses are available for students?
University Foundation Programme.
English Language Training.
2020 was a particularly tumultuous year. How did the Covid pandemic affect things at the academy?
When we went into lockdown in March we had already made significant preparations to anticipate the need for online learning. Teachers were guided on the use of video conference and online learning platforms that would be used for delivery. All classes we then conducted online, supported with a range of materials and recorded lessons. Regular teacher meetings were held to share good practice. We even ran a series of assessments through May and June to ensure that we had reasonable scope to make a fully informed assessment of students’ progress.
Since returning in September, we have returned to face to face teaching for the majority of classes, with appropriate Covid-safe measures in place. We have continued with some online learning to ensure that student numbers within the college at any particular time are kept at a reasonable level, which has helped both students and staff feel safe and secure. We will also start a regular testing protocol from January for both students and staff in accordance with government guidelines.
In the event of another lockdown occurring, we will be ready, not only with all of our online teaching procedures already in place, but also with supporting the students in every way possible.
What new procedures did you have to put in place in order for things to run smoothly for students?
There is more detailed guidance availalbe for students and staff, and new rules enforced such as social distancing observed in classrooms and hallways, frequent cleaning of classrooms, and of course more sanitising and hand-washing. We have also adjusted the maximum number of students that can be within each classroom to ensure student and staff safety is prioritised.
Being a reasonably small college, we have tried to ensure that the continuation of students' learning is a key priority. For example, if a students has had to isolate then we have ensured that they still have access to the lesson via a live feed to the lesson. Each classroom is set up so both students within the class and those online can have an equal learning experience. Furthermore, if a teacher has had to isolate, they can also access the class and deliver as though they were present. There is certainly a little more preparation involved, but it means that students' learning can continue as effectively as possible.
"In a previous job role as a Civil Servant, I delivered some training on social inclusion. The feedback from my line manager and a number of colleagues at the time was that I had a natural flair for teaching."
What, or who, inspired you to get into education?
In a previous job role as a Civil Servant, I delivered some training on social inclusion. The feedback from my line manager and a number of colleagues at the time was that I had a natural flair for teaching. These comments motivated me to move out of London and re-train as teacher back in Cornwall. My PGCE was a fantastic experience and from this I’ve always enjoyed being within a classroom setting and seeing students progress both academically and as people, it has always brought me great joy.
What were your own memories of school?
I’ve always enjoyed learning and being in group situations, so school was generally a pleasant experience for me. Playing sport helped with my confidence and meeting friends, and I was motivated to learn by some great teachers. I moved between a number of different schools and I learnt to adapt to different school cultures, which I believe has made me effective at adapting to different environments. I enjoy change and working on new ideas, something I’m interested in employing in my current role.
Is there a particular memory you have of one of your students that best sums up what Bath Academy is all about?
A student came to Bath Academy low in confidence after not achieving the desired A Level grades. After some initial assessments it was clear that they had some cognitive processing issues which hadn’t been picked up previously. This meant they were awarded additional time for examinations and we could also tailor the student's learning within classes to help support their progress. Having weekly formative assessments also helped them to identify areas of development needed. The outcome was the student managed to go up eight grades in their three respective A Levels and gained a place to study Medicine at University.
What do you think of the current education system, and is there anything you would change if you were in charge?
The biggest issue with the current education system is the focus on end point examinations which clearly benefits certain students. The education system should become much more teacher-centered. Schools are set up to educate children, and in order to deliver the best education possible, the culture and structure of education should support this. Schools and colleges are all geared towards examinations whereby target grades and league tables have become an obsession. If I was education minister, I would introduce a teacher assessed component that contributes towards a student’s final grade, and promote a culture of teacher-centered learning through training and shared practice to ensure that the curriculum concentrates on personal development, wellbeing, and mental health of both students and staff alongside academic progress.
How can students keep up-to-date with courses and opportunities at Bath Academy?
Students can keep up to date with courses and opportunities by visiting the website and following Bath Academy on social media. Normally we encourage students and parents to drop in for a chat, but in Covid times we encourage you to give us a ring first, or set up an appointment with myself or the Principal so we can discuss a student's individual situation to give them the best advice.
27 Queen Square, Bath BA1 2HX
Tel: 01225 334577