The following message was sent out to Year 11 and Year 13 parents on Thursday 7 January:

We appreciate the news that GCSE and A-Level exams have been cancelled this summer will bring a lot of uncertainty – and though we cannot yet address every concern – we are hoping we can offer some clarity.

You can read more about this decision via the BBC News at:

The following questions might offer some help:

How will my child’s GCSE / A-Level grades be determined ?

The DfE have said they will ask for teachers to decide grades. The Minister for Education, Gavin Williamson, said guidance will be released soon on how these grades would be decided.

However, it has emerged today that, despite the fiasco last year, there has been no thought on putting a plan in place and it is going to take several weeks for one to be formed. It is unlikely a plan will be published until early March.

This means that all I say has an element of guess-work to it – but it is at least informed guess-work.

What factors might play a part in decision-making ?

Despite the fact that we cannot be crystal clear on this, we can at least offer some general pointers.

We made it clear in September that this situation may happen and that every lesson or assessment task would be crucial from that point on. With parental support, most students responded fantastically well.

You already have your child’s reports and these map out what grades they have been getting, what their target grade is, and what their effort levels have been. There have also been mock exams, practical grades, as well as many mini-tests and other assessments. You already have a good idea about where they are.

Equally, there are still 5-6 months left and there is a good chance your child will be back in school before their current leaving date at the end of May. This means the home learning, and work after any school return, will add to the overall picture we have. No single assignment is going to be the be-all-or-end-all – whether it is a mock exam, a test, or a piece of homework – so there is no need to get hung up on a single low grade or even a high one.

What about vocational courses ?

There are vocational exams scheduled in the weeks ahead but in the vast majority of cases we have made the decision to cancel these. This is similar to most school-age settings and everyone affected will be individually notified.

Many students have already completed work which has already been externally assessed and Gavin Williamson has been clear that no student will lose out for not doing these particular exams.

Naturally, the work being set at home now will be one part of the overall picture for these units of work so it is well worth addressing.

The likelihood is that students’ vocational grades will be determined through a mix of already assessed work and teacher judgements on the different units.

What about Sixth Formers’ university and apprenticeship places ?

These will not likely be affected and, in the overwhelming number of cases last year, students got the places they sought providing they had the grades. There will be more to come on this in the weeks ahead.

Nonetheless, it is important to note that the UCAS Predicted Grades that were sent off are about potential rather than final reality so it cannot be presumed that these will automatically be achieved. They will though have been feasible and this leads on to the next section.

What does my child need to do ?

Your child simply needs to work hard on the home learning, complete the activities set, return work when requested, and to seek to improve each day. Your child’s teacher will set activities designed to help them learn and improve their progress. They will receive feedback and can message their teachers in a wide variety of ways.

We appreciate that home learning is not easy, and that some will deal with it better than others, but we have a good picture of your child already and we know them in the whole, not on a single task, nor a single lesson, nor even a single lock-down.

The good news is that in an online Year 11 Maths class I dropped in on yesterday there were 17/21 attending, questions were being answered in both directions, student-teacher messages were being sent via Show My Homework, Teams and email, and children were certainly learning. This seems to be largely representative and is a real positive.

What can I do to support the school ?

In terms of helping us to support your child, the best you can do is to encourage, support and incentivise them to keep going. Learning does not stop with GCSEs. It continues in Sixth Form, in college, on apprenticeships, and in life, and we need to push this message when the going gets tough.

In terms of the school, we would ask for your patience in terms of determining what happens in the weeks and months ahead. We are dancing to someone else’s tune so cannot instantly decide the steps to take as you and we would like.

Finally, shortly after Gavin Williamson’s speech, our teachers began to receive emails querying what their child’s grade would be, whether it was right, and what their child thought they should get. I have asked for these emails to be forwarded to myself and will ensure they are picked up. Nonetheless, bearing in mind we have no idea how the grades will be determined, and that last year it was strictly prohibited to announce grades before Results Days, they will obviously be given short shrift.

We are fortunate that our staff includes many trained examiners and have significant experience in making these judgements. I can promise we will only act with personal integrity and professional expertise in how we address this matter.

So what happens next ?

We are going to keep the home learning going and await the DfE’s plans for deciding grades. When this is published we will review it, put the appropriate measures in place, and let you know.

We will also plan a range of contingencies based around potential return to school scenarios and get ourselves as organised as we can possibly be. Naturally, when one of these comes to pass then we will map things out for you.

To finalise…

We are hugely disappointed that your child is not with us and that there is still a lack of clarity. This scenario was always a possibility and it is a shame the DfE does not have a plan clicking straight into place.

We know too that you will be worried, be balancing your own emotions with your child’s, and be desperately wanting to wave a magic want to make it all alright. Clearly, this cannot be done, but you can take solace in the fact that we will work on this situation with a very straight bat and have always tried to treat your child fairly, honestly and with respect.

If you do have any further queries on this matter then please send them directly to:

Take care and keep safe.