10 January 2021
Dear Year 12 & 13 Students
After our first full week of online lessons I wanted to summarise relevant information in one letter. I have already communicated much of this information to you via email over the past week. Since I visited you in form at the very start of this academic year, the importance of collaboration, communication, organisation and making the most of any assessment opportunities to provide evidence of academic potential have been common and much repeated messages, providing focus for us all. Your most recent reports suggest you have largely stepped up in very challenging circumstances (as we would expect) and embraced this. As advised, you have worked closely with your teachers, established balanced routines that have allowed you to make academic progress (whilst being mindful of your physical and mental wellbeing) and worked hard to prepare for assessments (and shown a willingness and ability to develop action plans, working with your subject specialist teachers to overcome areas of difficulty).
I am sure that the Government announcement came as no surprise to you. In his statement on 4th January, the Prime Minister made it clear that examinations will not be taking place as normal, saying:
In these circumstances, we do not think it is possible or fair for all exams this summer to go ahead as planned. The Secretary of State for Education will therefore work with Ofqual to put in place alternative arrangements after consultation with the sector.
The Education Secretary has instructed Ofqual (who are responsible for all examinations in England) to plan for other ways in which your work can be fairly graded and assessed. We don’t currently know what plans are being discussed, or what system will be chosen to set your AS and A level grades. As soon as this information is clear we will share it with you.
It is important that you stay committed to your learning and have confidence that you still have opportunities to show your ability and improve between now and July 2021. All of the excellent habits outlined in the first paragraph should continue throughout this new lockdown. Please engage with your lessons and let your teachers support you with any difficulties. Enjoy your lessons, teachers are working really hard to support your learning and want to help you do your best. It is really important to remember that we are in a very different, and much better, position than last March. You should approach each school day as if you were in the building and follow your timetable as normal. You have been following your A and AS level courses since September 2019 (A level) and September 2020 (AS level) and we therefore have a significant amount of assessment detail already. You will almost certainly return to school where you will have the opportunity to sit mock examinations (with notice) and other assessments that allow you to provide further evidence of your academic potential. Actively engaging during lockdown will provide an excellent foundation for this, as well as any assessments you complete remotely.
Try not to engage with any press or social media speculation surrounding education / exams. We will keep you updated via email and our school website. Please check your school email daily and the website weekly (Mr O’Sullivan posts an update each Friday).
If you are unable to attend an online lesson, it is important that your teachers are aware of this, and the reasons why. If you are having any technical / access, or any other issues / problems, please get in touch with me or Mr Wilbraham so that we can help you.
- AS and A Level Grades 2021.You still have opportunities to show your ability and improve between now and July 2021. Lessons are continuing and we hope to be back in school together shortly. There will be some form of assessment as a replacement to the summer exams – you need to work hard in your subjects from home. Ofqual are looking at alternative forms of assessment. As soon as they share their plans, we will share them with you in an easily understandable way.
- Establish a routine. Remember the importance of preparation + participation + consolidation. For lessons you should follow your daily timetable, engaging with your subjects and collaborating closely with your teachers. For preparation and consolidation, build these into your weekly routine (as well as other hobbies / activities). I have emailed a template you may find helpful. I shared the pomodoro technique during form time in December, some people find this really useful for working efficiently and effectively (https://francescocirillo.com/pages/pomodoro-technique). For making effective notes and self-checking, many of you have told me the Cornell method works well - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lsR-10piMp4
- Exploring future options. We email you regular opportunities to test, challenge and support your future decisions and choices – engage with them and ask us if you are not sure whether they are relevant / useful to you.
- Year 12
- Year 13 courses. Most Year 13 students study three subjects to full A level. Some of you will know already which courses you want to continue with, some will be less clear. We will be asking you shortly about your intentions, so start giving it some consideration (please do let your teachers support you in this).
- What’s next? We run Preparation for Higher Education (PHE) from spring term in Year 12 to Christmas in Year 13. It is relevant to you all, whether you are currently planning on going to university or not / unsure. This course helps you research your options for post A level study and employment. Researching this together will help you make more informed decisions and aid your success – measure twice, cut once. I will introduce this programme to you all during the week commencing 25th January.
- Year 13
- Most of you have submitted your university applications. Once you have all of your offers, you can then start deciding on your FIRM (first choice) and INSURANCE (second choice) course / university from the offers you have. The firm choice is often aspirational / optimistic and the insurance choice should act as a safety net and therefore include a lower grade requirement. We have endeavoured to make as many opportunities as possible open to you, and as discussed in October PHE lessons (and with you individually when submitting applications) UCAS predictions and CAGs are not the same. It is likely we will be back in school before you have to make final decisions, please speak to me or Mr Wilbraham if you want personalised guidance. Whatever your plans for next year, we are here to support you about future choices, now and in coming years.
- We covered student finance in PHE last term. Once applications are open for you (usually in March), I will send you the link and any updated information.
- Year 12
- Need support? You have never been through A levels before, we have successfully supported students through them and onto their next steps for many years. Get in touch if you need any extra help or support.
We will get through this strange situation most successfully by continuing to work together. Very best wishes to you all.