Celebration … and relief!

So many things have been so different this year. Our Year 11 and Year 13 students completed their time in school with none of the usual rituals. There were no proper ‘leaving days’, no ‘proms’, no opportunities to celebrate together. Those nervous days outside the exam halls and the animated discussions after taking the papers did not happen. Instead, young people have lived with the uncertainty, fear and stringent restrictions brought about in response to a global pandemic. The stability, opportunities to learn and the pastoral support that schools provide changed in unprecedented ways for everyone back in March. Our students have had a lot to cope with since then.

Despite all of this, there have been so many examples of our Year 13s at AGGS demonstrating incredible resilience, organizing online events for each other, continuing to engage in their studies, in physical activity, music and the arts and providing social support.  Amidst the inevitable (and justifiable) noise around the A level and BTec results nationally it is easy to lose sight of what it means for individual young people – those for whom all this matters most. Even with the difficulties of the system this year, outcomes for the students at AGGS are quite remarkable.

In our Year 11 GCSE/BTec outcomes, there was a greater degree of certainty about the grades that would be allocated to students and they were based (in the main) on the centre assessed grades. I pay tribute to everyone who was involved in calculating the centre grades. Rigorous, professionally informed and evidence-based processes were used to allocate and moderate the grades that were allocated to students. This is a different methodology to allocating grades based on performance in an examination on a particular day, but it is a valid and robust process in which we can have confidence.

I always like to be in schools on results day, but it would have been highly indulgent of me to do so this year with strict social distancing and ‘covid secure’ procedures in place. From my desk at The Lodge I could hear the joyful voices of AGGS students and parents/carers, the odd ‘whoop’ and scream, and I saw students running towards one another (then stopping abruptly two metres away!) I hadn’t realised just how much I have missed the energy you gain from being around young people. On social media I saw moving speeches by students at Cedar Mount thanking staff for their support and belief in individuals. At South Shore I saw the best celebratory balloon structure I’ve ever come across – a fitting backdrop indeed as students celebrated grades that truly reflected their efforts, abilities and the dedicated teaching and pastoral support they have received.

It’s not meaningful to make comparisons between this year’s results and previous years because of the different way they have been arrived at. It’s great, however, to see the significant improvements that we know are happening at Cedar and South Shore well reflected in this year’s GCSEs and provisional BTec outcomes. It’s equally great to see consistently exceptional provision reflected again in the outcomes achieved at AGGS. At Melland, our Key Stage 4 and post 16 students have remained engaged, have accessed the learning opportunities provided by school and are well prepared to deal with the inevitable challenges ahead. It’s brilliant to know that all our students will be moving on to their next steps confident in all that they have achieved and all that they have become during their time at school.

In thanking everyone who has taught and supported our Y11 and Y13s, I want to mention particularly those staff that lead on the management of examinations and data. Dealing with exam entries and the analysis of results is a complex business at the best of times. It is work that often happens behind the scenes, but the accuracy and precision required also makes an incredibly important contribution to the lives of staff and to young people.

The Board of Trustees has asked me to pass on their thanks and best wishes for your incredible efforts this year on behalf our young people, their families and communities. In whatever role you fulfil: teacher, associate staff, local governor…THANK YOU.

We are incredibly proud of all that our students have achieved, all that they have contributed and all that they have become during their time with us – we wish them all the very best for their futures.