“There are so many things that kids care about…”

“There are so many things that kids care about, where they excel, where they try hard, where they learn important life lessons, that are not picked up by test scores.”

Grit, Angela Duckworth

Despite the very best efforts of the pandemic, we find ourselves looking at the start of a new summer term in school. Our juniors were able to return to school and have enjoyed life by the river this week and the seniors are set to return on Monday unless there are some major and unexpected announcements to be made this weekend. Whilst much is different, I am pleased to be able to report that the banks of the Seine remain a wonderful place for a school.

This is a short term: we have only forty school days left until we break for the summer. Before we know where we are we will be considering prize giving and thinking about the summer holidays. In the normal course of the school year, we would be gearing up for public exams but not so this year. Whilst it is not a year for “normal” GCSEs and A levels it will be a year that will be remembered for tests. Since I last wrote, I’ve had six tests, all a little eye watering, and not because I had forgotten to revise: I’m sure I am not alone in this well-travelled community in having an all too familiar relationship with the PCR test. This week I was informed that we will not be part of the national roll out of school-based testing, if there is a suspicion of symptoms then the best place to go is a local testing station or pharmacy for confirmation- the only consolation is that the queues are shorter than they were a few months ago.

Indeed, the only testing that we are likely to see this term are internal academic tests and the newly created mini-assessments. This comparative scarcity of summer term testing may well be the sign of changing educational attitudes and out of this mire of COVID we could see a new approach to assessment; one that relies on a steady, consistent approach rather than relying on the single measure of a summertime exam. This week the exam board AQA suggested that there would be no “leap back to normality” when it comes to the exams they have planned for 2021 and I think this is an approach that we should welcome. Whatever change looks like it will be important for us all to ensure that we do not replace the high-pressure approach of terminal exams with an equally harmful constant treadmill pressure of continuous assessed tasks. There is surely room for a degree of new thinking in this regard and as criticism of the current system has been made by none other than the Education Minister who oversaw the introduction of GCSE in 1998 it will perhaps come.

Although short, this term is important and for some it is their last term here at the BSP. No matter what is thrown at us we are committed to making it a most successful one whatever form it takes!

Nicholas Hammond