07 Jun

The exams are only part of the story

As we get close to the end of the exam period (but with still a good week to go) I have taken some time to think more widely about the educational system.

It can be extremely frustrating working in schools. You spend five years building relationships with children and young people, you know that they have to complete their exams and you understand the high stakes with which know the high those exams will be viewed – for the pupil and to the school. However if we’re not careful, in some ways the system can forget the individuals. We have, for a whole host of reasons, a significant number of pupils who have found completing their examinations this summer extremely difficult. Yet, maybe unlike other organisations, we have found a way of keeping hold of them and staying connected to them, as people; not just numbers on the spreadsheet. I know that every school will claim that they’ve got their challenges and that they have pupils who have found this particular exam period difficult but I think we do ourselves an injustice, as the school, if we do not recognise, at this time, how successful we have been (collectively) in keeping children engaged and involved.

Oakwood is a great school but you do not need to scratch too far below the surface to see and to understand that we have some extremely vulnerable children with a whole range of challenges. The wider exam system, as it is established presently, does not always allow those children to be managed with sensitivity. Often we cannot see them as individuals. Yet that is what we must do and that is what we do do.

We can reflect positively on the fact that we have established some structures which support children, vulnerable or otherwise, at this very challenging time. But more importantly, we can reflect upon the fact that we remain humane and human for and with our children. We do not forget that there is an individual behind the number, there is a life behind the exam paper and that there is a history which will affect the present and will impact upon what the future might bring.

For all of those reasons I say thank you to everyone; staff and parents. Thank you for continuing to support and challenge all of our pupils and, critically, thank you for remembering that we are talking about people, individuals, human beings rather than just the system. With the exam results there will be successes and there will be failures -hopefully more successes than failures. What we will know, when we see those results in the summer, is that behind them are a whole host of children who have been successful despite on occasions it looking like a failure.

We have got one more week to go with the exam season and then they and we will be free for another year.

‘I was probably more scared of my high school exams than I was of the Oscars. At the time you think it's everything and if you don't do well, your life's over. Opportunities are gone. So the more you do it, the less the fear is present.’ Hugh Jackman