Year 11 September 2020: Keep Calm and Carry On!

I feel so sorry for our new Year 11 students as they return to school in September 2020. They have witnessed the monumental fiasco of A level and GCSE results for last year’s students as well as seeing all sorts of media reports such as “MFL speaking exams cancelled” and “GCSEs to be held in July”. There have also been reports of the negative impact of the pandemic on young people’s mental health.

I feel sorry for MFL teachers as, following the Ofqual consultation, we still don’t know the details of the new speaking test. There was a suggestion of a third question choice in the writing paper but there has been no published decision on this from my exam board AQA.

However, I think it is so important that I present a calm, confident exterior to my Year 11 students. It will not help them to know my worries about the exam. When those requirements are published, it is my job to facilitate these within the GCSE course. It’s not something that my students need to stress about. So, my plan is to get them into the classroom and teach them. I don’t want to discuss the lockdown with them (if I am sick of the “How are you coping with lockdown?” question, they must be, too) and I don’t want them to wind each other up by discussing their worries. Instead, I have made a Google Form which will be their homework on the first lesson. This is a tick box of GCSE topics so they can see how much they have done. However, I have added an optional opportunity for them to tell me anything that is worrying them about the course (a Covid-secure worry box!). If I do have any concerns raised, I can discuss individually with students and not whip the whole class into a frenzy of anxiety.

Good luck to all Year 11 teachers this year. Keep calm and carry on!