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 Pamela Pawley, director of studies at Taunton’s Queen’s College, to find out…
How did your most recent crop of exam age students fare?
We were really pleased with our GCSE results this year. Our students improved on last year’s GCSE results which were, themselves, the best since 2012. We were particularly pleased with the results for the new 9-1 GCSEs in Mathematics, English Language and English Literature where our results were far higher than national statistics, particularly in the top grade 9. At A Level we were very happy that the results meant that virtually all of our students went on to study at their preferred choice of university, including success for all of our students with offers for Medicine. We were also delighted with our results for the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) – seven A* grades, one A, one B and one C.
What do these results mean to the school and its teaching staff?
The results days are always a cause for celebration for the school and its teaching staff as they mark the end of a lot of hard work on the part of both the students and the teachers, who daily give up so much of their time to support and encourage them. We always love to celebrate the successes of the individual – this can equally be a student who manages to pass a subject they have battled with throughout the GCSE course or a strong student who has managed to achieve A* grades in all areas.
Beyond grades, how do you measure “success” in the classroom?
Success is producing confident and friendly students who have the skills to succeed in whatever they choose to do in life. Over the past two years, Queen’s has been developing thinking skills by embedding metacognition in all areas in order to work towards our aim of becoming a centre of excellence for thinking and creativity. We like to see students succeed by managing to problem solve and develop skills which will help them in life as well as in exams.
How do you put students at ease during the exam season?
Mock exams allow students to practice in exam situations, ensuring the actual exams don’t come as too much of a shock. Our Learning Development department provide all students with revision skills support and tutors help pupils to develop appropriate revision plans so they enter the exam hall feeling well prepared. During Study Leave, teaching staff are always available to help students with their revision and answer any questions they may have.