Giving Yr11 and 13 a sense of purpose

The trouble with schools is that we’re all still closed.  I wanted to write so much more in my last post, but I was falling into the trap I described in that post.  It is important we pace ourselves. However maybe I should have sprinted last week as I’m probably too late in writing this blog now, as I fear we may have missed the boat, but I’ll post it all the same.

There is so much I want to write about, but the thing that is first and foremost in my mind, concerning schools at the moment is Year 11 and Year 13.  I’m saddened by the fact that they have missed out on a rite of passage; I’ve had so many emails from Yr11 asking if they will still have a prom.   It’s also sad, that for many, all the hard work and preparation they have put in seems to them to be all in vain.  What concerns me most though, is the possibility that Yr11 and 13 will lose their work ethic and forget how to learn by September and consequently not fare well initially, when starting degrees or A levels etc.   

My daughter in Yr13 skipped around the kitchen when she first heard that the exams were cancelled this year.  A few hours later there were tears, as it began to dawn on her that her school days were over.  In addition, any relief at not having to do exams, were offset by a fear of the unknown.  What would her final grades be?  Would they be enough to get her into her chosen university?  Her school have been good at setting work, but she doesn’t have the same impetus to complete it, if she doesn’t need it.  

It’s been the same at our school.   We have been setting online work for all of our students.  They’re using Google Classroom (I’m not on commission, honest!) to log in at their normal lesson times.  Work is set, monitored and marked with some live online interaction between teacher a pupil taking place. (I have an appendix at the end of this article which on a slightly different topic, but related to our online work with students)   Unfortunately, there is a poor uptake for Year 11.  

We can all still turn this into a win situation however, if we act quickly.  In short, Yr11 and Yr13 need to know what they are doing next year as soon as possible.

I don’t have a Sixth Form and so my focus is on Yr11.   Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we as headteachers were given the autonomy to declare to Post 16 providers, what level of course we think our Yr11 pupils will be able to follow from Yr12 next year?  Likewise, with Post 16 schools giving universities a prediction regarding A Levels. I don’t mean in late April or May when everything has been verified and due process followed, I mean now, before we lose these students.   

If we agreed this then Post 16 providers could agree offers (whether at A Level or level 2 or even apprenticeships etc).   They could then give out these offers along with reading lists and assignments to be completed by the summer.   Progression could be monitored by Yr11 home schools.   In this way these students will be doing something meaningful.   And it could turn what was heading towards total disenfranchisement for that cohort, to a win situation.   I’d even say Apprenticeships should begin early, but I imagine the financial turmoil will put paid to that.  

Exactly the same could happen with Yr 13, if the universities gave out their offer sooner rather than later along with reading lists and assignments.  I know this is more complex, but if the will was there. . .

Okay, I accept this is risky; what if schools over-inflate their predictions?  The fact accountability measures are being taken away (I’m talking in Wales, I haven’t checked what’s happening in England) will I believe, likely result in a more realistic picture from schools.   At this stage in the year (this may sound arrogant) every school up and down the country, knows with a fair degree of certainty, what level students will be capable of working at next year.   In-school predictions are never far out at this time of year.   Where there is a degree of uncertainty, then we use coursework and prior attainment.

I don’t think we have the time to organise this on national levels, but locally, especially for Yr11 into 12, is this a possible dialogue for schools and Post 16 providers to have?  We can wait for everything to be verified by coursework, prior attainment and everything else we can think of, but every day that goes by will disenfranchise these students.   

Anyway, just a thought and maybe too big to contemplate, but I thought I’d get it out. 

Appendix

I mentioned above the online work we have been setting our students this week and last. They log in to their normal lessons ant the normal time, and their teacher is monitoring progress. I wonder if we have all rushed to provide traditional work online, too quickly?

Our uptake hasn’t been great and why did we expect anything else? This is a huge upheaval for everyone and young people especially will be feeling some degree of vulnerability.

What we perhaps should have done is placed a far greater emphasis for the first couple of weeks on engaging, interesting community activities (for us this would be through our house system). As teachers perhaps we do need to let go a little and then gradually little by little reintroduce the curriculum. That’s hard to do I know, becasue we all feel accountable and it’s our job to teach young people.

Of course, to some extent I’m contradicting myself with regards to my concerns over Yr11 and 13. It’s a difficult balance, but it’s something we need to be aware off. We certainly don’t want to disengage our learners and start pressurising them when there are facing so many more pressures at the moment.

One thought on “Giving Yr11 and 13 a sense of purpose

  1. Let’s use this opportunity for students to start university in January. They will then be able to be admitted on actual grades achieved plus from the prior 6 months go travelling / gain work / work experience etc.
    The good thing about Wales is the fact that continuous assessment is still built in . Some English Yr 13 students will not have sat an external assessment now for over 3 years by the time they get to uni

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