23 April 2021

Dear Parents, Carers & Students,

Our students in Years 11 and 13 have been working hard this week, with all students now having completed their first assessments. We have been discussing the process with students and it is clear that they feel positive about the model that we are using, understanding the difference with formal examinations. They are also realistic and understand that they need to work hard and that good grades cannot simply be expected. Effort and application are needed, but they will also be well supported by their teachers. As ever, that relationship is pivotal and students need to trust and work closely with their subject teachers.

I wrote to you on 26th March 2021 offering an overview of our plans for this half-term and I would recommend reading through that document again. You can find it at this link.

We have been working very hard to offer support and to make sure that students are being kept up to date with key information via their Form Tutors, weekly support from their Year Leader and whole school updates. We are also doing this very carefully, so that they do not receive too much information and are overwhelmed. We are nearing the end of our second week and I want to offer a second update to outline the work that we have completed this week for Years 11, 12 and 13 and to ensure that you can access key information that will help you to support your child.

What we have done this week to support and guide all GCSE and A Level students:

  • Completing Missed Assessments – We have provided opportunities for any students who have been absent to complete assessments on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights after school. We will continue to do this on a weekly basis during the assessment period.
  • Revision, Support Sessions & After School Transport – We have made sure that a quiet place is available on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays after school between 3.00 and 4.15 p.m. for all those students who would like to work in school. We have arranged both catch up and supervised revision on these nights, as late buses are also available.
  • Statements of entry – All assessment year groups have completed their statements of entry.
  • Year 12 Update - Mrs Lennon has outlined a clear plan for all year 12 students. She explained next steps in a detailed assembly and her letter to all Year 12 students can be accessed here: Letter from Mrs Lennon.
  • Well Being and Form Teacher Support – We have asked Form Tutors to provide daily support for students and to complete regular ‘health checks.’ Please encourage your child to talk to us and let us know if there is additional support that we can offer.
  • Assemblies – We have additional assemblies planned for Years 11 and 13 next week.
  • External Quality Assurance – We are working closely with our key exam boards, AQA, EdExcel and OCR. Teachers have been meeting with local advisors and we have also discussed our plans and policies with an experienced member of the Local Authority Education Team, experienced examiner and Ofsted Inspector.
  • Feedback – Teachers have started to mark work and to work together in departments to standardise and moderate work. Our departments are using a variety of exam board materials. We are limited in the feedback that we are able to give, but will offer general feedback where possible. We will share marks at appropriate time after rigorous standardisation for subject cohorts, but it is important to understand that raw marks do not directly equate to particular grades.

Things to be aware of regarding the national system and if you have a query for us:

  • Dedicated Email Address  – If you would like to share any information regarding personal circumstances, or the assessment process, please remember to use the following email: assessments2021@durhamjohnston.org.uk. Please also contact this email address if you have subject specific queries, as our subject teachers are working very hard at present to support students in the classroom. They need time and space to plan, assess, mark, standardise and moderate. Please do not contact them directly.
  • Joint Council of Qualifications Guidance 2021  – The relevant JCQ guidance for students, parents and carers can be found here: JCQ Guidance for Students and Parents on Summer 2021.
  • Special Consideration – Thank you to those parents who have shared with us information about unique or difficult circumstances that their child may have experienced. The deadline for any special consideration requests prior to the current assessment period is Wednesday 28th April. This is to ensure that we can take any evidence into account as part of our internal quality assurance. Should anything happen during the current assessment period please let us know quickly so that we can support students and take new evidence into account.
  • Malpractice – I would like to thank you for the support you are offering. You are giving us the time and space to work with our students. We have, however,  been asked to remind all parents, carers and students not to apply undue pressure regarding assessments, as that could be viewed as malpractice by the exam boards and we have been asked to keep a record of all communication. 
  • Covid Symptoms – Please ensure that your child stays at home if they are symptomatic and that you book a PCR test as quickly as possible. Please check my Friday update for additional guidance on why a PCR test must be taken. Please be aware that we will provide additional opportunities if an assessment is missed and that being safe and protecting others should remain the key priority for all members of our school community. If your child does test positive, please remember to forward that important evidence to the school.
  • Things Might Change – As you will note from our communication, we have a robust and very fair system in place. We will also adapt the system where necessary and communicate any changes very clearly. However, all aspects of our work and planning are subject to change based upon Covid-19 infection rates and any additional material that JCQ, Ofqual, Examination Boards or the Department for Education share with us at a late date.

Encourage your child to work hard, to give their best and to help create the evidence that endorses their potential and ability. Without evidence of high level work, it will be difficult to award high grades. Therefore, please work with us to ensure that all of our students have every chance of success.

Mr O’Sullivan