Supporting our students to succeed 

This week, Mrs Hooley, Assistant Head guest writes on the Headmistress blog about how we support our students during examinations and assessments. She also reflects on some excellent strategies which were highlighted by our Head of Learning Support, Mr Williams during this week’s Curriculum Conversation. 

Young people continue to be impacted by the after effects of the pandemic, whilst the practical restrictions to their lives may have faded from memory the consequences to mental health and well-being are being seen globally. Sapien Labs, a non-profit organisation undertook their third annual mental state of the world report with 400,000 participants across 64 countries and recognised that the mental health quotient for young people has remained at the same level as 2021. Despite this context, young people are still expected to undertake the regular milestones of their academic career and external examinations will take place for our Years 11 and Upper Sixth students in pre-pandemic conditions. It’s important that we are able to support our students at home as well as in school, when they are preparing for assessments and encourage them to recognise strategies which might further aid their revision.

At Bedford Girls’ School, we take an incremental approach to examinations and assessment; hopefully helping students develop their examination skills and strategies in a less stressful manner. In Years 7 and 8 students are assessed throughout the year in small, low-stakes tests. This supports the use of spaced learning when topics are covered and then assessed, preventing the need for a large amount of content to be revised for a terminal or end of year examination. Year 9 undertake more formal assessments in most of their subjects during a week in May, whilst the tests still take place in a classroom environment, they are expected to follow some of the external examination guidelines such as separated desks, timed papers and silent invigilation. In Year 10, there is further preparation for the expectations of external examinations with assessments taking place in a Hall and students lining up as they will for their final GCSEs. This is followed by January mock examinations for the Year 11 students to further gain experience of the Exam Hall and follows a similar pattern in the Sixth Form. Students from Years 7 to Upper Sixth are provided with targeted revision strategies through Assemblies, form time activities and their subject lessons to equip them with the skills they need to revise independently.

For some this summer will be first time households have had to work towards assessment and this week we hosted  a Curriculum Conversation where our Head of Learning Support, Mr Tom Williams provided parents with some excellent strategies to enable them to be a supportive force for their daughters, summary

Positivity: There will be times that every student feels demotivated or overwhelmed, they may be juggling the challenges of social demands, work and school requirements. When this happens, acknowledge their feelings and help them move towards finding a solution. It also helps to provide a sense of perspective to avoid your teenager catastrophising potential outcomes.

Flexibility: Agreeing a balance between work and social life and sticking to the agreement can create certainty and support students when organising their revision. There are always going to be occasions when flexibility is important and an 80/20 approach might help; if your daughter is sticking to what they should be doing 80% of the time, they will be OK!

Inspiration: Role models are essential for our young people, you may know students who are already in the Sixth Form or at university who would be fantastic mentors for your daughter and support their approach to examinations. Looking up to an individual who is already working in the career that they aspire to can help young people to focus on the long term gains, even if it means some small sacrifices in the short term. Your own successes can also be an inspiring talking point, when students know that it hasn’t always been an easy path for many people, it will encourage them to add to their efforts.

Accessing resources: Our students all receive study skills sessions from the Learning Support team which will have provided them with techniques to support active revision such as summarising, mnemonics, mind maps, mandalas, posters and flashcards. Subject teachers are an excellent source of information if your daughter is finding a specific topic challenging and Form Rutors or the Head of Year are on hand for emotional support. Encouraging your daughter to discuss any difficulties or challenges that she is experiencing can help to empower her to reach a solution and overcome those difficulties the next time.

Managing revision and assessments, like any other type of learning, takes time to finesse, we understand this and support every student on her journey. As experts in girls’ education, we have helped thousands of students through their examinations over the years and we hope that, by working together, we can best prepare your daughters to be well prepared for their final external examinations in a calm and organised manner. 

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