As children returned to lessons this September in their brand new uniforms and shiny shoes, full of excitement and anticipation, many were unaware of the work their schools have been doing in preparation for the new academic year.
As a result of reforms that have been introduced to the exams process, the way children are taught in some areas of the curriculum is changing.
So, what will this mean for teachers and their pupils?
Preparing children to succeed
Previously, some of the work your child was doing in the classroom or at home may have contributed to their final GCSE grade, for example. Now, in some subjects, this will no longer be the case.
They might have had mock exams or other assessments at different stages throughout the year too. Instead, your child might now sit a full, final exam at the end of two years of study - providing the only grade that will count towards their qualification.
As a result of these changes, many schools have adjusted the way they support their pupils' learning and teachers have introduced new ways of working, with many looking much more closely at how each child's progress is tracked as they learn.
With no interim exams or assessed course work, regular teacher-led assessment could become more important to help teachers gauge where each child is in their learning. Some schools have seen this as a valuable opportunity to monitor progress more closely and better support their pupils through the changes.
Assessments can give teachers the chance to simulate exam conditions, which can be useful for familiarising pupils with the process and reducing possible anxiety. Some fee-paying schools I know test their students every couple of weeks in every subject. One principal has told me that this enables teachers to monitor progress, but it also encourages the students to see assessment not as a big scary thing to get stressed about, but simply as a routine part of school life.
One of the key benefits many schools find when they assess their pupils more regularly is that teachers have a wealth of up-to-date information on each child's progress. This can help them to spot children who have started to slip behind or identify those who could be capable of more. They can then take action quickly to make sure every child is achieving what they are truly capable of.
More timely information can be valuable for parents too. With more detail available on which subjects or topic areas your child might need a little extra support with, you will be in a better position to help them at home. Having a clearer understanding of how they are progressing also means there is less chance of surprises when the exam results come through too.
Teachers may test children more regularly to make sure that they retain the knowledge they have previously gained as new topics are taught. There could be a variety of methods used to do this - it doesn't always take place in a formal test setting. Good teachers will introduce anything from pop quizzes to classroom debates, Spanish bingo or other subject-specific games and activities. So, these could all feature in your child's classroom this year.
A fresh perspective
A number of school leaders have told me that in their schools, the changes will see an increased emphasis on teachers and parents working together to ensure children are nurtured through the new process. The aim of this is to help ensure children are fully prepared for what might be the unfamiliar experience of a 'big' exam at the end of the year. Some schools are also devoting time in the curriculum to teaching their students effective techniques for getting the most from revision time or maximising points scored in exams.
Thought will also be given to how homework assignments might help to re-inforce what is currently being taught, or refresh pupils' minds on past topics, to reduce the risk of what they have already learnt being forgotten. Parents have an important role to play here too.
Whether a pupil is preparing for exams this summer or at some point in the future, there will already have been a lot of groundwork put in place by their school to help give them the best possible chance of success.
It would be interesting to hear about some of the different things your child's school has introduced to help support them in this new era of education.
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