English GCSE entry for Y11 students

8 October 2013

Dear Parents

I write to you concerning our plans for GCSE entry in English for Year 11 students.

As you know, for some years, we have given students the opportunity to take their GCSE early, after a full and intensive preparation programme, so that they can then concentrate on English Literature thereafter.  It has also meant that, in cases where students have done less well than we hoped, there has been a second opportunity to take the examination in June of Year 11, with the aim of achieving a higher grade, following some further intensive teaching and practice, and with the benefit of having practised the examination once already.

Last week, with no warning, and with immediate effect, the government announced that only the first attempt at a GCSE would count in the grades publicly reported for the school, and for the purposes of Ofsted.  The government has taken this step, because it believes that giving a young person more than one chance to pass an important examination is wrong, and that they should be given one opportunity only.

Many schools are now withdrawing their students from the November GCSE sitting.  However, after due consideration, we are still committed to entering your son in November, in order for him to benefit from having the speaking and listening marks included in his final grade.  The Government removed the speaking and listening component from all examinations after this November sitting.

Additionally, by entering in November, it will give him a second opportunity to re-sit in the summer, if his result is not as good as expected.  The students have been preparing intensely for the examination and they will be sitting a mock examination on Tuesday, 15th October to experience the timing and to be given feedback before the half term holiday.  If it transpires that students are not ready following this mock, we will discuss the options with the student. Some students will also be targeted for extra support during the half term holiday. The actual examination is on the morning of Tuesday, 5th November.  We are totally committed to doing the best thing for the students.

Please encourage your son to complete all the homework that is set and revise by reading articles in the half term holiday.

Following the government’s announcement, we have written in strong terms to the Department for Education to express our dismay at their decision, which is directly impacting on the learning of our young people and their chances of examination success.  In particular, we have objected to:

  • The introduction of this new measure when students are in mid course, and only a matter of weeks from examinations
  • The allegation that it is ‘cheating’ to give your child two or more chances to take and pass an important examination and get a qualification which is important in the future
  • The fact that the announcement was made not to the House of Commons, or in the form of a notice in the DfE website, in the proper way, but to a Sunday newspaper, leading to all sorts of rumours and misunderstanding

Having ourselves expressed our concern about this matter, we would encourage you, if you feel strongly about it, to do likewise.  You can either contact the DfE directly, or send a message to your MP, possibly via www.theyworkforyou.com.

Thank you once again for your continued support.  Please rest assured that, whatever decisions are made in Westminster, we will continue to do everything we can to help your child secure the best possible grades in all his GCSEs.

Thank you for your continued support and we wish your son every success in the examination.

Yours sincerely

Grahame Hodson