Minerva Learning Trust
28th April 2022

A Levels: The Final Countdown

This month’s HSS Blog comes from Mrs Newell who writes about the final weeks for our year 13s.

A Levels: the final countdown

Our current Y13 year group have worked incredibly hard over the past two years. Their resilience has really impressed us all:  after the unexpected national lockdown of 2020 resulted in the untimely end to their GCSE years, the students bounced back and started A Levels with positivity and a renewed appreciation for education. Yet even September of Y12 wasn’t a normal start to Sixth Form and, after a term of strict Covid restrictions in school, they faced another lockdown in January 2021 and their A Level lessons moved online.

It hasn’t been an easy two years, but our students have handled things with maturity and understanding. They have certainly developed a lot of transferable skills - resilience, adaptability, independence to name a few - that will stand them in good stead Post 18.

And now comes what they have been working towards for almost two years: the final A Level exams. We are acutely aware that our Y13s are not in a typical position when it comes to exams; they haven’t had the experience of sitting GCSE exams to learn from. Usually students are able to reflect on their revision strategies and exam technique: what worked? What didn’t? With their first set of major examinations on the horizon, it’s understandable that some of the year group are worried. But I hope they take heart from the endurance they have demonstrated since starting Sixth Form: students who work hard and care about their education will certainly succeed.

Of course, we are also working to support students and respond to their nerves about exams. We have encouraged strong approaches to revision for the past few months because a longer term revision timetable is much more effective than cramming; we support individuals who need help with personalised revision planning; we teach and reteach revision strategies; we provide revision materials such as flash cards and guides on exam success to all students; we have made two Y13 only silent study rooms to enable students to focus on revision in study periods.

In addition to this, we work with students on an individual basis if they need support with exam nerves or stress, and have a Psychologist and Mental Health Practitioner in school every Tuesday lunchtime to share positive mental health strategies to reduce exam stress.

We know that this point in Y13 can be a conflicted time: students are very much ready for independence and their next steps, but also don’t want to leave school yet! Unlike Y11, who have been obliged to continue to attend school as part of the DFE attendance guidance for some years now, we are able to plan for a bit more flexibility for Sixth Form students. Home study leave begins for Y13s from May half term, although all students are welcome (and encouraged) to attend lessons after half term with specific revision questions of practice papers to talk through with their teachers. Students with exams before half term can request half a day home study immediately prior to the exam by completing a home study form and passing it to the attendance team. This, along with the ongoing revision they have been doing for weeks and months, should give them ample preparation for the exam whilst also enabling them to access revision lessons for all subjects.

And then, following the end of A Level exams in June our students will hopefully have long and exciting summers to look forward to. For some, this will be starting their apprenticeship or full-time job. For others, exciting gap year planning awaits. For many, it will be a summer of nervous anticipation for university courses starting in autumn. Hopefully for all it will include some time to relax and celebrate with friends and family.

We are looking forward to celebrating students’ Sixth Form journeys at the Y13 Prom on Tuesday 12th July. Students have now purchased their tickets and will have plenty of time post exams to arrange their fabulous prom outfits… and plan after-parties no doubt!

Following this, there will be much more to celebrate when students get their exam results on Thursday 18 August 2022. The exams team will share more information about collecting results closer to the time.

So… we really do now start our final countdown with this impressive year group. There is lots to look forward to on the horizon, and I know that students will do themselves proud in their exams and beyond.

Mrs L Newell

Assistant Headteacher – Director of Sixth Form