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 Nick Hawker, deputy head at Salisbury Cathedral School, to find out…

How did your most recent crop of exam age students fare?
We are delighted that they all went on to their first choice of school. Fourteen of our Year 8 pupils gained scholarships to independent schools, 9 of which were for music, and 12 of our Year 6 children went on to the local grammar schools, plus a further 4 scholarships/exhibitions were awarded to that cohort.

What do these results mean to the school and its teaching staff?
Well, they are one indication that the school’s ethos of supporting all pupils to achieve their very best is successful. There is also great satisfaction in teaching and encouraging pupils to achieve what they are aiming for.

Beyond grades, how do you measure “success” in the classroom?
This is a hard area to define but one of the ways to view it is how well pupils are prepared for life in a wider environment. There are many positive outcomes from attending Salisbury Cathedral School. Learning the skills of good communication with piers and seniors, resilience in adversity, and commitment to a cause are all excellent life skills.

We run a business workshop for our Year 8 pupils, sponsored by local businesses. It is an apprentice type exercise and requires an understanding of profit, teamwork, how to write a business plan and how to present it. This provides a valuable opportunity for pupils to shine as an alternative to academic results.

How do you put students at ease during the exam season?
We are renowned for our pastoral care and try to provide encouragement – because it is important to try – but we are also create awareness of the bigger picture so that there is perspective. We celebrate all sorts of achievements at our Speech Day – not just academic success. We also find sport is important by providing an outlet for pent up energy and encouraging team spirit, thereby taking minds away from studying for allocated time spells.

Find out more about Salisbury Cathedral School at

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