A complicated last week... and then there’s next summer to look forward to!

I write this having just completed a flurry of paperwork caused by two* positive tests just notified – and as a direct consequence the whole of Year 13 will be in remote mode for the final week of term and the BWS Kitchen will be closed too. The absence of Year 13 has a knock on effect for school music, as the St Martin’s Concert will now not happen and the Carol Service, already online, will be more difficult for the musicians to navigate as a creative work. We’ll cope – but when the notifications come in it really does feel like the pressure is on. Wording letters to get the correct balance right for a big and disparate audience is tricky; I have considerable sympathy at such times for HM Government and the Herculean tasks that the politicians face on an almost daily basis.

And then there are the proposed arrangements for next year’s summer exams, published last week in outline at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-support-the-summer-2021-exams/guidance-to-support-the-summer-2021-exams. The following appear to be the key points, though further, more detailed guidance will appear in the New Year presumably:

  • the exam season will be scheduled three weeks later than is usually the case to make more teaching time available;
  • grading should be ‘more generous’ than is normally the case;
  • there will be some advance notice of some topic areas to allow students to focus their preparation;
  • some assessment elements have already been removed in some subjects;
  • some materials will be made available for exam candidates on the day of the exam (eg formula sheets etc);
  • there will be a special consideration process for candidates who miss elements of the assessment scheme for subjects;
  • there will be contingency papers available at a late stage for those candidates who miss exam papers due to isolation and illness etc;
  • and ultimately teacher assessments could be used – though my guess is that this will be rare given all of the other safety nets above.

What this does not address still is the fundamental unfairness that is arising across the country, when some students have experienced multiple periods out of school whereas education for others has been essentially uninterrupted. This issue has yet to be addressed, and a national expert panel should hopefully be making recommendations in the New Year in this area. My guess is that a degree of optionality or perhaps a broader assessment base might be the outcome, but this will be really difficult to sort. I wish the Panel both inspiration and good fortune.

As we arrive at the end of term planning in school is getting no less complicated and we surely have more to come in the Spring, especially following the Christmas relaxation of restrictions. My hope is that through keeping strictly to our own controls in school the virus can be largely kept at bay, but this weekend’s tests demonstrate graphically the persistent threat. If all of our students can keep following the rules inside and outside school then we will all be safer, so please don’t forget to reinforce those basic messages whenever you can.

Wherever you will be and whatever you will be doing over the next few weeks I wish you a very happy Christmas and, in due course, a vaccine-endowed 2021…


*This blog post was written before the Year 12 case had been reported to the school on Sunday afternoon