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 Mark Sully, deputy head (academic) at Wiltshire’s Warminster School, to find out…
How did your most recent crop of exam age students fare?
We were pleased with the outcome of our recent exam results. The IB results which came out in July provided a 100% pass rate and the school average remained well above the Worldwide average for the IB Diploma. On the whole the A Level and GCSE results in August were as expected. The highlight of which was a 99 per cent pass rate in Maths with 20% of results at A*.
What do these results mean to the school and its teaching staff?
The amount of extra support provided by staff leading up to exam sessions is fantastic. This support is provided during dedicated revision sessions in our Green Zone as well as lunchtime, after school and weekend support sessions. The staff take great pride in the results obtained by the pupils as was seen on results day with a vast number of staff in school to celebrate with the pupils.
Beyond grades, how do you measure “success” in the classroom?
Success can be measured in a number of ways. The school uses value added to assess how well pupils have done. We have plenty of pupils who achieve 10 A*/A grades at GCSE but we also have pupils who work their socks off and achieve 5 C grade passes. The important thing is that the pupils get stuck in and try their best, achieving their potential hence why we measure a pupils progress based on baseline data. Each pupil is provided with aspirational and current working grades as part of their half termly reports so that they can see what is achievable if they put the effort in. Aside from this, what is difficult to measure are the soft skills that pupils learn along their journey be it independence, resilience, determination, leadership etc. All of this is learnt during their time at Warminster School but does not necessarily lead to a public exam result.
How do you put students at ease during the exam season?
All of our pupils have end of year exams under exam conditions from Year 7, this is to prepare them for the day they sit formal examinations in these settings. This has allowed pupils to become more comfortable with the alien environment often faced in public exams. We also provide relaxation sessions during lunchtimes in the build up to examinations which have proved popular. The Schools PSHE programme has specific sessions on time management, revision and stress management to support the pupils at this time also. Finally, pupils with specific learning difficulties will often sit examinations away from the main hall and in a more comfortable and familiar setting.