We are all very aware that our Year 11 pupils are sitting exams in many newly reformed GCSEs in the Summer, but we can take confidence in the fact that the results in the exams sat last Summer in the new English and Maths GCSE did not differ significantly from the “old” GCSEs. This is a message I want to reinforce with our Year 11 pupils and parents.

This week, Year 11  received their GCSE mock exam results from their subject teachers. Whilst there will be a sense of trepidation, as you might expect, we are all mindful of reminding our pupils that these are not their final exams. Mock examinations are an excellent way of encouraging pupils to review work as well as immersing them in the anxiety of sitting in an exam hall; this is all towards the ‘greater good’ of preparation for their final GCSE examinations. As our pupils, collect their results, which realistically are variable at this stage, the emphasis now needs to turn to: ‘What do I need to do next?’ and ‘How I am going to get there?’

Over the next week, teachers here at Ipswich High School will be giving clear directions to every GCSE pupil so that they each have personalised answers to these questions. These directions are also being collated in written mock exam reports for pupils and parents and we plan to make these available prior to our Year 11 parents’ meeting on 1st February so they can be the source of discussion.

The most important thing to remember now is that there are still several months of preparation remaining before GCSE exams. From my comparative analysis of mock results versus final GCSE results, there is an evidenced improvement for every pupil. This is because lessons will have more of an exam focus as they draw ever nearer and homework will be largely based on the completion of past paper exam questions. We are very fortunate as a school that many of our teachers are current examiners for a wide range of academic subjects, several of whom are being featured in our weekly Bulletin over the next few weeks. Their examining experience will help our pupils to master key mark points, develop exam techniques and gain a deep understanding of the intricacies of different exam boards.

Alongside, “in class” support, our teachers are also offering support sessions during enrichment slots to help Year 11 pupils. These are scheduled throughout the week and are operated on a “drop-in” basis. They can last for as long or as little as a pupil wishes and operate on an informal basis. Many of our pupils find this extra level of support incredibly helpful and confidence boosting. This does not, however, preclude pupils from asking questions in class, which teachers are actively encouraging. Following on from last year’s successful attendance, during the Easter holidays, supplementary revision classes are again being offered by some subject teachers to help our Year 11 and 13 pupils review areas of their syllabus that they find quite challenging. Whilst attendance is not compulsory, we hope that, like last year, pupils will make the most of this opportunity for further support.

The Head of Year 11, Mrs Barley and I are currently reviewing all Year 11 results so that we are able to establish an overview of pupils’ performance. Last year, a very effective tutor-mentoring programme was implemented and we hope to do the same this year. We are, of course, mindful that all pupils need support in the lead up to their GCSE examinations and therefore we offer a bespoke in-school support programme. Mrs Firbank, our SENCO offers excellent advice on planning revision time wisely and different revision techniques, which are both active and effective. This year, we have also sourced an external provider, called ‘Elevate’, a multi award-winning study skills provider. We have a presenter who will be offering a workshop to all Year 11 pupils on April 17th with advice from dealing with exam stress to practical tips on making revision as effective as it can be.

To conclude, I hope the message is clear, in that ‘we are all in it together’. I recently overheard one of Year 12 students talking to a group of Year 11 pupils after their mock exams with words of reassurance; “Don’t worry, I found my mock exams hard, but I worked hard and my teachers were wonderful at helping me learn from my mistakes”. Needless to say, successful examination results are due to combined efforts of both teachers, and pupils, which I believe should be in equal proportion.

By Nicola Griffiths, Deputy Head