Minerva Learning Trust
18th May 2022

GCSEs: The Final Countdown

This month’s HSS Blog comes from Mr Bedford who writes about the GCSE exams and our plans to best support Y11 and Y10 students.

Our current Y10 and Y11 year groups are now starting their GCSE examinations. Learning during a national pandemic has brought challenges, but overall High Storrs students have been both resilient and positive.

It hasn’t been an easy two years, with many students having personal experience of the effects of COVID -19, but our students have handled the challenges with maturity. They have certainly developed a lot of transferable skills - resilience, adaptability, independence to name a few - that will stand them in good stead Post 16.

And for the Y11s now comes what they have been working towards for almost two years: the final GCSE exams. In some respects, Year 11 will be having their first experience of ‘real’ or ‘formal’ GCSE examinations this year. That said they sat ‘TAG assessments’ last year and GCSE trial examinations this year in the same setting and surroundings used in these real GCSE exams. It’s understandable that some students are worried, but I hope they take heart from the experience of the TAGs and their trial examinations. They know where to go, how it works and how to prepare over time and in the hours before an assessment. Those students who work hard and care about their education will certainly succeed.

Our Y10s are also sitting formal examinations for one or two GCSEs and we have been so impressed about their approach and preparation too. Much like the Y11s the trial examinations will have helped them to prepare for the coming weeks.

Of course, we are also working to support students and respond to their anxieties 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 make available and signpost useful revision materials such as flash cards and revision guides, as well as retrieval quiz websites that all add to solidifying and embedding learning. We have created a Y11 lunchtime silent study room for the examination period, a pre-examination booster and revision programme and constant support from subject teachers as to the changes to this year's examination subjects. Year 10 students are also benefitting from the optional time in PSCHEE lessons to revise, a homework freeze during the examination period and the same booster and revision programme for relevant subjects.

In addition to this, we work with students on an individual basis if they need support with exam nerves or stress, and signpost self-help and outside agency support through our metal health and wellbeing section of our website.

We know that this point students in Y11 can feel conflicted: students are very much ready for independence and their next steps, but also don’t want to leave school yet! Or they might feel they want to have more freedom to manage their revision and time. We firmly believe that every extra minute we can have in the classroom with students who missed learning because of the disruption of the pandemic is invaluable for them. Up to half term we will take advantage of every minute to support students in exams, in lessons and in revision sessions.

After May half term, all Y11 students are expected to attend all lessons that have yet to complete their final assessment. There are also special pre-exam ‘booster’ sessions available in most subjects the day before or morning of the exam. As the weeks go by, this will open up more and more independent study time that students can utilise at home, although for most this will still see some time in school in the core subject lessons of English, Maths and Science. This, along with the ongoing revision they have been doing for weeks and months, should give them ample preparation for each exam. Staying in school over the coming weeks not only provides support and opportunities to consolidate understanding it also keeps a regular routine of getting up, dressed and ready to go for 8am. This is so important for these weeks of exams. High Storrs school day also finishes quite early leaving ample time for revision in the late afternoon and evenings.

Year 10 students will attend each day as normal.

Following the end of all GCSE exams in late June our Y11 students will have a long to look forward to. Hopefully for all it will include some time to relax and celebrate with friends and family. We are also looking forward to celebrating our Year 11 students’ time at High Storrs at the Y11 Prom on Friday 1st July. Students have now purchased their tickets and will have plenty of time post exams to arrange their fabulous prom outfits… and arrival plans!

Following the Y11 prom and 'end of year celebrations' for Y10 students, there will be much more to celebrate when students get their exam results on 25th August. The exams team will share more information about collecting results closer to the time for each year group.

So… the next few weeks are where the past few years of hard work pays off. There is lots to look forward to on the horizon, and I know that all students will do themselves proud in their exams and beyond.