From entrance papers to GCSEs, A-Levels and beyond, exams are a fact of life for students up and down the country. But how do schools prepare young people for the trials and tribulations of testing and how important are good grades to future success? We spoke to Alistair Bryce, chemistry teacher at Dunblane’s Queen Victoria School, to find out…


How did your most recent crop of exam age students fare?
Overall exam performances were pleasing and reflect the strong work ethic the majority of pupils engaged in throughout the academic year. Our Head teacher, Donald Shaw, has placed substantial focus on the academic side of school life and the school looks to build on these foundations in future years.

What do these results mean to the school and its teaching staff?
The staff at Queen Victoria School take immense pride in the pupils’ determination and seeing them conclude the year with a strong set of grades is rewarding. Of course there is always the opportunity for pupils to further enhance their attainment profile as they move into the next academic year and having those constructive conversations with the students to map out an effective pathway is a particularly exciting part of teaching life.

Beyond grades, how do you measure “success” in the classroom?
It’s oversimplified to look at success as being solely attributed to academic attainment although, granted, this is one of the primary considerations for life after Queen Victoria School; particularly for applications to University and College. We regularly emphasise the holistic development of both character and citizenship in order to best prepare students for an ever changing world.  Developing key aptitudes that provide strong foundations for our pupils after school is very important. Developing resilience, inquisitiveness, manners, perseverance, ambition and teamwork are essential to succeed in the modern world. Success is a continuous journey rather than a one way street – when we stop trying, we fail.

How do you put students at ease during the exam season?
Each student has their own approach to coping with the pressure of exams and it is essential that each pupil finds a balance between learning and relaxation. Ensuring pupils are aware of: study techniques, the importance of setting SMART targets, prioritising the key elements of each course and knowing the importance of creating a positive study environment are essential. That said, the exam season can be a particularly stressful time for both pupils and their families. Finding the opportunity to wind down and enjoy some personal time is essential for fully preparing each individual for the exams ahead.

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