Letter to Year 11 students RE: exams

7th January 2021

Dear Year 11 students,

Firstly, I hope my letter finds you and your families safe and well. I wish to thank each one of you for your effort and maturity during the weeks of Rehearsal Examinations in College before Christmas, and for your tremendous levels of engagement with your online lessons so far this new year. As you will no doubt be aware it is a difficult time for many with a number of challenges, and the College is here for you and has the privilege of working with you through this time. I would also like to thank your families for their kind words and support for you and your teachers.

On Wednesday this week, there were announcements from the Department of Education about the Summer GCSE examinations and I wanted you to hear about these as soon as possible. The announcements have provided some clarity about examinations, however, the procedures for how students will be assessed remains unclear for schools, parents and students at this point.

The full statement is available at the following link: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/education-secretary-outlines-plans-to-support-young-people

Below are some of the key points:

  • Although exams are the fairest way we have of assessing what a student knows, the impact of this pandemic now means that it is not possible to have these exams this year
  • GCSEs and A and AS Level exams will not go ahead this summer*
  • The exams regulator Ofqual will launch a consultation – alongside the Department of Education – on the options for alternatives to the exams to ensure every young person gets a fair grade for their work
  • A form of teacher-assessed grades, with training and support provided to schools will be used to ensure these [grades] are awarded fairly and consistently.

*It is important to note that preparation for vocational coursework and vocational examinations will continue as normal.

Simon Lebus, Chief Regulator, on exams in 2021 has stated:

“We know that this is a difficult time for students, their parents and carers, teachers and trainers. Our message to students is this: please continue to engage as fully as you can in your education. That will be online for the majority of students, or face-to-face for those students still going in to their school, college or training provider. This will put you in the best position, whatever arrangements are made for your qualifications”

When will I know more?

The College will now wait for DfE and Ofqual to finalise how you will be assessed. Please be assured that the progress of our students is a key priority for us and we will keep you up-to-date about the process as we receive further information.

I understand it will be frustrating not to receive your mock examination results, particularly following hours of revision, however at this stage as we work with DfE guidance, it would not be appropriate to publish these.

What should I do next?

In the words of Simon Lebus, Chief Regulator on Examinations: “Year 11 students should continue to engage as fully as they can in their education.”

What is unclear at this stage is how students will be assessed from this point forward, and although examinations will not run on the Summer as planned, we do not yet know the expectations on the evidence that may be required to complete a process of teacher-assessment. My strong advice is to do what you have been doing and working hard during your online lessons and self-study.

Cowley Sixth Form College applications

Many of you have already completed your applications for the Sixth Form and Mrs Faulkner had asked me to update you regarding these. In the coming weeks the college will be contacting you to arrange an interview to discuss your subject choices and career aspirations. This is absolutely nothing to worry about, see it as a chance to talk through your options, ask any questions and to start planning for the next stage in your educational journey. The application deadline has been extended and therefore any student who would like to apply, and I would advise everyone to do so, can submit an application online using the following link http://www.cowley.st-helens.sch.uk/sixth-form/. The deadline for the receipt of all applications is now Friday 12th February.

As always, if you need any further guidance or support please contact your Year Team at College who will be able to help.

Yours sincerely,

Mr C S Dickinson (Head of Upper School)