7 May 2021

Dear Parents, Carers & Students,

We are now at the end of week 4 of this half term and students have been working very hard. Our teachers are doing all that they can to support students in a fair and rigorous manner. As ever, that relationship is pivotal and students need to trust and work closely with their subject teachers. They also need to understand that the national process outlined by JCQ means that their teachers cannot answer many of the questions that students or parents may have, as the school has to follow national guidelines regarding malpractice. Students in Years 11, 12 and 13 are being kept up to date with key information via their Form Tutors, weekly support from their Year Leader and whole school updates. Below is a summary of this week’s key information.

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 and it is encouraging that absence has been very minimal. We will also offer this opportunity in the remaining weeks of this half term.
  • Revision, Support Sessions & After School Transport – We have made sure that a quiet place is available on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays between 3.00 and 4.15 p.m. for all those students who would like to work in school. A reminder that there are late buses available on these nights to help students get home safely. This will continue for the next two weeks.
  • Year 12 Update – We have provided an optional opportunity for Year 12 students to complete additional assessments to support the evidence base for their AS grades. A very small number choose to do so on Thursday 6th May 2021.
  • 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. It is good that students are doing so and we have also shared an update relating to next week’s Mental Health Awareness Week.
  • Assemblies – Mrs Lennon met with Year 13 this week to ensure that they are calm, focused and clear about the final weeks of assessment. Mr Wright met with Year 11 on Wednesday to offer encouragement, advice and information about the end of term. The revision advice that he has shared with Year 11 students via form can be accessed as a word document here: Mr Wright's Revision Advice
    There will be additional assemblies in the coming two weeks as we prepare for the end of the assessment process and celebration days in school for Years 11 and 13.
  • External Quality Assurance – We are working closely with exam boards and teachers have been meeting with local advisors. We have also discussed our plans and policies with an experienced member of the Local Authority Education Team, experienced examiner and Ofsted Inspector. Members of the school Leadership Group have also met with representatives from AQA, who are responsible for Quality Assurance in the North East of England, and our plans have been shared again with the school’s Chair of Governors and the Chair of the School’s Curriculum & Standards Committee. Each of these conversations has validated that the system that we are using is fair and robust. 
  • Feedback – Teachers are working very hard to mark, standardise and moderate assessments in departments. We are limited in the feedback that we are able to give, but are offering general feedback where possible. We will continue to share marks at appropriate times after rigorous standardisation for subject cohorts, but it is important to understand that raw marks or percentages do not directly equate to particular grades. There are a number of internal checks that the school will complete before grades are awarded.

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 as this could be regarded as an attempt to influence grades/malpractice.
  • Joint Council of Qualifications Guidance 2021  – The relevant JCQ guidance for students, parents and carers can be found here: JCQ Guidance
  • 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 was 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 to the school. You are giving us the time and space to work with our students and are offering obvious support at home. 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 later date.

Continue encouraging your child to work hard, as things are going well and we are nearing the latter stages of the assessment process. Our students are creating the evidence that endorses their potential and ability. We have been consistent in stating that it will be difficult to award high grades without evidence of high quality work and it is clear that students are working effectively towards that end. Please continue to work with us to ensure that all of our students have the opportunity to succeed.

Mr O’Sullivan