The exam season is upon us and it seems to start earlier and earlier each year. Students in Years 11, 12 and 13 are all taking exams and large areas of the school will become inaccessible as we try to ensure that exam rooms remain undisturbed and silent. These are worrying times for both students and staff but, ironically, once examinations have started, stress levels seem to decline. We see a lot of anxious students in the run up to exams but once they get going they are usually fine – and they need to be in today’s competitive world.
This year has been particularly challenging for staff as we move from the old-style GCSEs, with their A to G grades, to the new 9 to 1 grading system. It will be particularly challenging for parents, too, as they attempt to interpret the results in the summer. Year 11 students will receive results using two different systems: their English and Maths GCSEs will have number grades but all the other subjects will stick to letter grades this year. As if that wasn’t complicated enough, nobody is quite sure what a good pass will be in the new exams. The Department for Education has recently and helpfully clarified matters with a spectacularly confusing set of advice. This year a 4 is a pass and those students who achieve a 4 or above in English and Maths won’t have to re-sit them in the sixth form. However, a 5 is a ‘good’ pass and this will be the expected standard next year. A 4 is equivalent to a low C grade in the current GCSE system; a 5 to a high C/low B. And, at the moment, nobody knows what a 4 or 5 looks like!
The numbers may be confusing but we must hang on to the fact that students come to school to learn, not just to be examined, and it is their learning which prepares them for the future.
While the upper school fights its way through the exam maze, things in the lower school carry on as normal and, of course, we have the preparations for Little Shop of Horrors which promises once again to be something really special. Over the last few years Woodroffe school productions have become more and more professional and this year is set to be even more impressive. The great thing about productions here is that they involve huge numbers of students - and not just on stage: they play in the band, they help with the lighting and front of house duties, they work backstage and they monitor the sound desk. And they do it incredibly well.
So, examinations followed by Little Shop of Horrors - an interesting juxtaposition!