Making the grade!

Jo Lane

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Why is it important for pupils to make the grade and how can you help pupils entering Year 10 and 11 make the most of the next academic year?

I believe that Year 10 and Year 11 are two of the most important years in a young person’s education. The reason for this is because, for the first time in their academic journey, results they achieve will impact on the next stage of their life.

By June 2020, pupils entering Year 10 this September will have sat a number of mocks exams, but these are not always taken too seriously because the outcomes of these mock exams don’t open or close doors. The ‘real’ GCSEs however have the ability to do just that, therefore it is essential pupils understand the importance of this as they enter Year 10 and 11.

So I have a question for my fellow teachers out there - have you ever explained the ‘real’ reason why a level 4 and above is important in your subject?

"...have you thought beyond Progress 8, department targets and the school success percentages? Do you discuss with the pupils in your class what their plans are for the end of Year 11, and what their hopes and dreams are?"

You wouldn’t be alone if you haven’t, as teachers will naturally focus on ensuring they have taught all the content of the new specification and left themselves enough time to run revision sessions before the actual exams start.

But here’s a question… would it make a difference if you explained why a pupil needs at least a Level 4 in Maths, English, and three other subjects in order to reach the benchmark for progressing onto Level 3 qualifications or applying for an apprenticeship?

I would like to suggest that it would and the reason for this is because I have experienced this first hand.


exam multichoice

I am a teacher of Business and I also have responsibility for careers education at my school. I have just spent the past week in school trying to come up with solutions for pupils who haven’t achieved their Level 4 in Maths and/or English.

I’ve also spent many hours with pupils who achieved a Level 5 in a subject they wanted to study at A Level, and they haven’t been accepted onto the course because the entry requirement was a Level 6 or above.

I have sat with mums in tears alongside their embarrassed son, because they realise that maybe, just maybe if they had revised that little bit harder, or been more focussed in lessons, they wouldn’t be watching their mum reaching for a tissue.

For the first time in their academic journey, pupils have a piece of paper with a set of numbers on which will open or close the door to the next part of their journey and when a door is closed it is very hard for them to accept the cold hard facts.

When they don’t achieve these grades their world falls apart because suddenly, grades matter.

Of course there are always solutions, but generally pupils end up choosing a different pathway or taking an extra year in education to achieve the grades they need.

So, as you embark on your GCSE lessons and set out the rules for the year ahead, please add a note to your script and explain the reasons why this academic year is so important.

Easy writing

It could be along the lines of:

“Your grade in this subject will matter at the end of Year 11 because this piece of paper (show them an example of a GCSE results printout) is the passport to your future.

Whatever path you choose, the grades you achieve in your subjects will decide if you can progress onto your chosen path. Don’t waste this opportunity to achieve success. Work hard if you want to make sure you are smiling when you get your own one of these (show them the GCSE printout again)”

Not all pupils will listen or understand, but if one pupil ‘gets it’, you will have made a difference to their life chances.



About our Community Expert

Head of Careers at The Windsor Boys' School

Combining her business experience with an ability to engage KS4&5 pupils in the classroom has enabled Jo to specialise in delivering learning experiences linked to the ‘real world’.

An advocate of apprenticeships as an alternative to the traditional university route, Jo states her greatest job satisfaction has come from helping pupils into apprenticeship roles and seeing them thrive. 

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