Message from Mr Goodman – 17th March (awarding of GCSE, A level and vocational grades)

It has been a pleasure to welcome students back over the past week and we have all been impressed with the overwhelmingly positive attitude with which they have approached this return to school or sixth form. It is important that we also acknowledge the support that has been offered by you as parents and how this has been greatly valued and appreciated by all members of staff.  We recognise that there have been a whole host of challenges for you to overcome throughout lockdown and also during our return to school, and I can confidently say we couldn’t have had the smooth return to school we have experienced without your help, patience and support. Thank you!

Whilst we have risen to, and can look back on, a number of challenges the pandemic has thrown at us in the past 12 months, we do have another significant issue to resolve in the immediate future; I have no doubt that your child, and you, will have many questions about how grades will be awarded this summer and we understand that the current uncertainty will be very difficult for some students.

The current guidance provided by the Department for Education is significantly lacking in the detail needed to make firm and definitive plans and we are eagerly awaiting the additional guidance from the exam boards that is due at the end of March.  However, in the meantime, we want to reassure you that the school remains committed to presenting the best opportunities for your child to demonstrate what they know and to help them achieve some excellent GCSE, A level or vocational results, which will enable them to move successfully on to the next step in their education or employment.

Each subject team in school is currently creating provisional plans which we expect to be able to confirm on the release of the exam board material.  These plans will seek to identify a range of evidence from throughout the course, where this is available, along with assessments that will need to be carried out over the next half term.  These criteria have been laid out by Ofqual and we await more detailed guidance from the exam boards.

These assessments, whilst important, are not the high stakes examinations that are a feature of GCSEs and A levels each year.  In order to address the disruption created by the global pandemic, each assessment will have a narrower focus than the traditional examinations and we will only be assessing students on content that they have had the opportunity to study.  Students will be assessed regularly but we are keen to reassure all that they will be given plenty of notice of each of these and will be directed to specific materials to help them prepare.  We will be looking closely at the planned dates for the assessments in all subject areas to ensure we do all we can to minimise the concentration of these over the relatively short period provided to us by the government. We know that all assessments must have been marked, internally moderated and finalised in preparation for submission to the exam boards by 18 June.

Following conversations in school this week, we know that many students will be keen to use the time available over Easter to help them prepare for the assessments and subject teachers will be sharing as much information as possible over the next week to direct students to materials to revise during this time.  Given that we have not been assured that the exam material will arrive in school before the end of term, we hope that you understand the difficulty for us to confidently share a list of all topics for each subject which will be assessed over the next half term. For the same reason, the vast majority of assessments will not commence until the week beginning Monday 19 April, allowing all subjects areas a week to digest the exam board information and amend any provisional plans. There may be opportunities to conduct assessments prior to Monday 19 April and where this is the case, this will be clearly communicated with students in advance.

We are keen to strike a balance for our students, ensuring we create meaningful periods of assessment to allow students the opportunity to apply their knowledge, without overwhelming them at what is undoubtedly a difficult time for many. We are passionate to support all our students in securing academic success yet recognise that our commitment to their emotional wellbeing must remain a key priority. These are very demanding and uncertain times for all young people but in particular, for those who would have been sitting examinations this summer. Our pastoral team will be continuing to work hard to help any child who may be finding this period challenging and we will be reminding all students of the range of support available both in school and externally through their assembly next week.

I am sure that you may still have many questions following this letter, many of which we will not be able to answer yet; I will be creating and sharing a video message with year 11 and 13 students next week to offer reassurance and any further information, along with advice as to what they should be doing to help themselves prepare.  I will also write to you again next week to share this advice, outlining what students should be doing to prepare over the Easter break.

In the meantime, I would refer you back to my previous advice which I wrote in my letter on 4 March where my recommendation for all students was to continue to attend lessons, work hard, follow teacher instructions and ask for help when it is required.  I know it is easy for me to say ‘don’t worry’ but again, I would like to remind you of the success of our students last year, when the school was faced with a similar uncertain situation regarding the awarding of GCSE, A level and vocational grades.

Kind regards,

Tony Goodman

Deputy Headteacher: Quality of Education