Dear Students and Parents
The way ahead
I am sure we were all relieved to hear the government's announcement about awarding grades this year. Even if we would rather have had "ordinary exams", it is good finally to have the outline about how things are going to be this year.
How have we responded to the announcement?
Since the announcements the teachers have all been working through the implications and the way we have to work in the coming weeks. This represents a big change for teachers and so it has been very helpful for us that we are part of a multi-academy group. The curriculum leaders and senior teachers have been in discussion with lots of other teachers in a variety of different schools, and taking into account what is going on across our diocese. By doing this we hope we will operate a system that allows each student to show themselves in their best light, including previous work and the classwork everyone will do in the coming half term. We are determined that the system of judgement will be as fair as possible and that is why we are collaborating to put in the 'checks and balances'. No one will be in the position where a single teacher is solely responsible for their grade.
How will the new assessment system work?
In the letter which goes out with this one, Mr Lockyer, the Chief Executive of our St Thomas Aquinas MultiAcademy Trust, explains the information we have, how we have all been working together, and the decisions made so far.
Please read Mr Lockyer's letter very carefully, and several times, it contains a lot of important specific information. Personally, I think that the graphic from the examinations boards is very helpful.
As you will read, the teachers will tell you about the "Key pieces of Evidence" that we will be taking into account on Wednesday 24th March. These will probably differ a bit for each subject but they will be in-line with 'normal' expectations, so there will be no great shocks. Part of the reason for the delay until 24th March is a) that we are still awaiting further information from the exam boards and b) that the Heads of Curriculum Area will be consulting with our teachers and teachers in other schools to ensure, as we said above, that the system is fair for our students.
What to do now?
The important thing for now is to continue with your studies as directed by your teachers. Complete the work for each lesson, the directed study and the homework. Please also continue to look to the longer term. This September Year 13 will be going to university or taking apprenticeships; Year I 2 will be proceeding to A level; Year 11 will be taking their Level 3 qualifications. It is important to prepare for that step fully, now. We want you to be the most educated person you can be, to be a master of your favourite subjects, to be confident and enjoy the things that you are going to pursue into the future. Study, learning and expanding your mind and abilities are the key things. Being a well-educated person means coming to an understanding of, and being able to apply, the knowledge you have learned in new situations. We hope you will become an evaluative thinker, who can express their ideas well in speech, on paper, in number, through creative and artistic expression. All that is being studied at present contributes to that person you are becoming - as well as helping you to ensure your personal-best grade.
Questions from students
A couple of people have specifically emailed me about the following, and I know others may be thinking the same thing, so here are some FAQ's:
Will there be exams?
Let's be very clear that there will be no formal exams, in the traditional way, in the Sports h-1all or a formal exam room with notices and external invigilators etc. However, there will very likely be some assessed pieces of work to be done during lessons - depending on the subject. As we will continue to have our Session A and B timetable, I hope that we can arrange these in a straightforward manner and that not having the possibility of more than 2 in a day, which hopefully will also reduce your stress.
What about content we haven't covered?
You will only be assessed on course material you have covered, in order that you can show yourself to your best.
I normally get extra time in my exams, what will happen about my work?
If you would normally get extra time in an exam or another exam concession, then Mrs Webster will be in touch with you and your parents in the coming weeks. Don't panic, this will be taken into account. If anyone has any other questions relating to particular needs, please contact Mrs Webster or your Head of Year.
I have missed school due to Covid, will I still get into the Sixth Form?
Remember that your teachers know you very well. For our Sixth Form we will try very hard to make sure that students who have offers are still able to take up their places, even if they missed some school this year. If a student doesn't achieve their grades we will deal with this on a personalised, case by case, basis.
I know that there may be some other questions we have not covered in these letters. Please do not hesitate to email me, Mrs Singh, Mrs O'Hagan or Mr Cajkler. Please don't bombard your teacher with questions like "What is my grade is going to be"! That is unfair. They need to be able to work through the new system and everyone will get their final grade on the results days - 10 August Year 12 & 13 Level 3 A level, AS Level and BTEC Qualifications, and I 2th August Year 11 Level 2 GCSEs and BTECS.
Dealing with stress
It is natural to feel stressed in an examination year, and we all know that this year has been exceptional. I would like to thank you for doing so well up to now and for supporting one another. You have all been brilliant.
The first good coping mechanism is to be organised about your studies and complete what is asked of you. Another is to talk to your friends about the work and talk things through. There is an old saying: "A problem shared, is a problem halved". Please also look out for your friends and classmates and support other people. If you are feeling panicked or over stressed and you would like speak to someone in school, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will call you. You can always also contact your tutor or Head of Year for advice. Please remember that on the school website we have a Well-being page in the Students' section, which may also help you with strategies and organisations to speak to.
Please don't let the waiting get to anyone. You are all great students, very valued members of this school, and you will all do well in your futures. No doubt the next few weeks will bring some challenges, but you are all more than capable of them - look at how well you have all done so far. Hang in there!
Dear Parents and Students,
We are writing to update you regarding arrangements for those students due to complete qualifications this academic year. Last week the Department for Education shared more information about qualifications this summer and the role schools will take. The process will apply to all GCSEs, AS Levels, A Level and most vocational qualifications withing our schools (including BTECs).
Ofqual, the organisation responsible for examination boards, have produced this graphic for students and families to outline some key points of the process:
Over the next few weeks teachers and subject leaders will be planning what evidence to use for each of the qualifications students are studying. Teachers will tell students what the key pieces of evidence are which are being used to grade them for each qualification by the 24th March 2021. For many subjects this will include in-class assessments following the Easter holiday, so there will be plenty of opportunities for students to continue to demonstrate their learning.
There will be lots of steps in place nationally and within the schools in our Trust to make the system this summer as fair as possible. Schools across the country will need to have the system they are using to grade qualifications approved by the examination boards. There will also be random and targeted sampling of subjects by exam boards to make sure that schools are following their expectations. Within our schools and wider Trust, teachers will work together to standardise their processes as well. Subject leaders within schools will set careful timelines for in-dass assessments so that moderation can take place to ensure that grading processes are as fair as possible. These timelines will be shared with students.
Results days for students this year will be the 10th August for A Level, AS Level and Level 3 qualifications and the 12th August for GCSE and other level 2 qualifications. I wish all our students the very best of luck with their studies; ultimately, hard work and perseverance will, as ever, bring deserved success.
Chief Executive Officer, St Thomas Aquinas Catholic Multi-Academy Trust