In celebration of Croydon High’s Year 11 

When our Year 11 cohort sat their mock GCSE exams (back before the world turned upside down) there were plenty of reasons to celebrate. A combination of natural talent, excellent teaching and most importantly, sheer hard work and determination meant that this year group achieved the highest mock grades from the last 5 years at Croydon High. It was no real surprise to their teachers; they had long been considered a very able cohort with high aspirations and they were responding well to the growing expectations and demands of their teachers. Hopes were high for the summer exams.

At the time, of course, we had little reason to suspect that these grades would play such an important role in determining their ultimate GCSE outcomes! In March, COVID-19 as we all know, changed everything and Year 11 were faced with the almost unbelievable news that they would not in fact, be sitting the GCSE exams that they had worked so hard towards.

Learning lessons in dealing with adversity

It was a very difficult message to process as Headmistress Emma Pattison acknowledges.

“To see the faces of our remarkable pupils, as realisation dawned and all the certainties seemed to disappear around them, was truly distressing for everyone involved. We all shared their sense of disappointment but, as they – our brilliant GCSE class– reminded each other, the absence of the final examinations would not take away or devalue their learning, their hard work nor the knowledge and skills they had acquired. These will stay with them for life.  Our message to each and every one of them was simple. We told them that just because this was happening to them, we were not going to allow it to define them.  Instead, we were going to help them to OWN IT.”

Every Year 11 student, including those who had applied to join the school for Sixth Form, was invited to join our OWN IT programme. This initiative, devised by and unique to Croydon High, was a six-week programme designed to deliver a renewed sense of purpose and motivation in preparation for A levels and for sixth form life. The programme focused initially on ensuring that pupils had completed their GCSE courses before attention turned to taking the first steps up to Sixth Form, with an exciting range of tutorials, study skills training and a unique opportunity to get ahead with their A Level choices.  Project work and peer to peer learning were delivered via the school’s highly successful Guided Home Learning and everyone had the opportunity to also get a head start on their EPQ  (Extended Project Qualification) a piece of work which requires careful planning, preparation, research and independent study and which takes place over the Lower Sixth.

Head Start for Sixth Form

Engagement with the OWN IT Programme was outstanding. Whilst it was reported widely that many of their peers were spending much of May and June sleeping or gorging on Netflix (!) Croydon High students were actively engaging on-line with their teachers and with their class mates, developing new skills and building anticipation for sixth form life.

Katharine Scarrott, who gained straight 9 grades this year told us this morning, “I was fairly confident in my A level choices already, but Own IT confirmed how much I was going to love them.” Indeed, this opportunity to get a real flavour of Sixth Form study and also get a head start on the courses means that our new Lower Sixth will enjoy a flying start to the next crucial two years in the Sixth Form.

Every girl, every day

Whilst our students were being kept busy, there was also no rest for teaching staff and the academic leadership team.  In April and May, our teachers spent many hours reviewing and discussing every single student and drawing on their in-depth knowledge of them as individuals. Armed with this information, they then estimated the grade they expected a student would achieve under normal circumstances, drawing on all the data available and taking into account the expected trajectory towards the summer exams. These estimated grades were signed off by two subject specialists (including the relevant head of department) and then by Headmistress, Emma Pattison, before being submitted to the exam boards.

Of course, earlier this week, Ofqual confirmed that instead of receiving the ‘algorithm-produced’ result, students would be awarded their Centre Assessment Grades (or the moderated grade, whichever was higher).

What this meant for Croydon High students is that they have been awarded a grade that is actually meaningful; it represents what their teachers genuinely believe (and could evidence) that they are capable of achieving. So, we were delighted to be able to invite Year 11 into school, on Thursday, in a carefully socially distanced manner, to congratulate them in person and ensure they were happy with their A level choices. Everyone appreciated this opportunity, including staff who were certainly delighted to see them all

A Year and a Year Group like no other

Given their hard work and strong academic profile, it is unsurprising that the year group gained the best GCSE grades at every measure that the school has seen in a long time.

However, as Deputy Head (Academic), Dr Phil Purvis explained, “the results are not comparable to other year groups, so it is neither helpful nor accurate to quote the overall statistics, as we would usually do. Today was about the individual pupils, and rightly so.”

As one proud parent commented, “These grades were very fair and we are so grateful to the school for all they have done.”

So, just as in their mocks, our Year 11 cohort have plenty to celebrate with some truly outstanding and thoroughly well-deserved grades. Special mention must go to the following girls who were awarded a Grade 9 (equivalent A**) in all eleven subjects – an incredible achievement. Huge congratulations to Francesca Gillen, Rosemary Goodall, Ariana Mehta, Katherine Scarrott and Kaylin Screene. Congratulations must also go to Bethany Gilbert, Emily Howes, Anna Kassim, Abinaya Kughathasan, Dina Motashaw, Abigail Squires, Isabel Stead and Sarena Yogendran who all achieved straight 9/8 (equivalent A*) grades.

The Year 11 class of 2020 is a diverse group of academically strong, well rounded and inspiring individuals. They have brought so much to the life of the school and we look forward to welcoming the majority of them in to our Sixth Form where we know they will continue to flourish.

In Mrs Pattison’s words, “Each and every one you have earned the right to celebrate your achievements and now, through your hard work and focus, you have your passport to the next stage. We hope that the wider life lessons you have had to learn this year and the challenges you have faced so positively, will only enhance your already impressive characters. We look forward to celebrating the many future successes we have no doubt you will go on to achieve.”