In my final year at university, it was suggested that a career in the law, or training as an accountant, might be suitable paths for me as I made my way in the world. Life as a lawyer may have been bearable (I enjoy arguing, for example, which I assume is what lawyers do most of the time). Accountancy, though, was quite out of the question, given my unconvincing academic record in mathematics. As I approached my finals in the third year, one thing was absolutely clear: I was not prepared to spend my next few years in doing more examinations as I trained for a profession. It may come as a surprise to parents in China, but British schoolchildren are the most examined in the world. Children from as young as six years of age sit public examinations, and they do so over and over again until they finally move on to university at the age of 18 years.
In such an exam-heavy educational climate, some sort of reaction to the endless round of revision and examining is perhaps inevitable. Becoming a teacher meant I could set and mark exams, which I thought would be much more fun than studying for them. I am not sure I was right about that – ask almost any teacher – but the die was cast, and I went down the route of education and have been there ever since. I have seen a lot of exam series come and go over the 30 years I have been in teaching, in my roles as teacher, head of a department, examinations officer and now head of school.
Few things in education stir as strong a set of emotions as examinations as a way of assessing achievement. The decision by the British government to cancel formal examinations in the summer of 2020 and use teacher assessments to grade pupils at A Level and GCSE was met by widespread relief and jubilation. Many teachers and parents doubt that a few hours of exams can adequately assess learning and that such papers limit the nature of the teaching course to include only topics which can be measured under such conditions. Time spent in teaching exam technique and then revising material is time not spent in genuine learning, it is argued. Critics of exams also point at the way they disadvantage pupils who deal badly with pressure, particularly at a time in their lives when robust mental health is as fragile as their self-confidence.
All of these views have merit. Exams are an imperfect, often blunt tool. However, as the summer grades of 2020 showed, they do help to ensure standards and assure quality in terms of the qualifications they test. Public examinations that relied on teacher assessed grades for their results saw a significant increase in top grades. In Britain, for example, the percentage of A*/A grades rose from 26% in 2019 to almost 33% in 2020 – an unprecedented leap. In other countries, the trend for grade inflation was even more marked and has led to complaints that these exams will forever be devalued in the eyes of future employers. There is also evidence of unconscious teacher bias in assessed work and excessive parental pressure on teachers if all assessments are based on coursework or internal exams (feedback from the UK suggests that teachers actively dislike being held responsible for the final grades if a university place is at stake).
Much needed reform, it is clear, is underway. Exam systems across the world are under scrutiny as never before as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. But such reforms take years to enact, and our pupils have important mock examinations in January before the summer exam series starts in May 2021. Revision schedules and practice exam papers for the coming holidays are being prepared. Pupils in years 11-13 need to prioritise their time carefully over the coming months to ensure that they do not underperform.
Whether your child enjoys or dreads exams, they remain a fact of life. The school and its teachers are equipped to support pupils through this preparation, and our track record suggests that our young people should be very confident as they go into the holiday period. Parents also play a central part in helping pupils to thrive by giving them dedicated time and space in which to work over the coming months.
Teachers will send out further exam preparation details before the end of term, but if you do have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch with Dragana Popovic, the Head of the Senior School.
This week has been a joy for me. As I walk around the Nest, I hear the children singing the songs they are learning for the Christmas Show. Listening to how well they have learned the words, and how beautifully they sing in English, is truly wonderful.
Learning something new, especially if it is not in your first language, takes effort. You have to listen so carefully; you need to translate the words in your head so the new song makes sense. You watch the music teacher to make sure you are following the words and music. You practice every day with your class and sing while you play. All these skills are part of our growth mindset framework.
Our children are learning to enjoy a challenge. They are learning to persevere even when things may feel a little difficult. They have put in lots of effort to achieve and rise to the challenge. The result of all this effort and challenge are the beautiful songs I have heard every day this week floating down the corridors and making us all feel warm inside! What a privilege it is to be part of the Nest community.
The children and staff are so excited to welcome you all to our Christmas show. It takes place on Friday 11th December at 10:00. We are delighted to be able to have families on the school campus for this magical occasion. The team know that it has been so long since we have been able to welcome you on to the school site, during what has been a challenging year. To ensure the success of opening up the campus, there will be rules we have to follow to keep everyone safe. Please show your green health code and your parent card at security. We do have to limit the number of people we have on the campus this year; therefore, each family can have two people in the audience. I know you will understand that the measures we have in place are there to keep us all safe.
We look forward to showing you how hard the children have worked to get the show just right for you all to see. I know they will all sparkle and shine!
Nest Briefing: Language and literacy for young children
This parent briefing will explain how we plan and deliver our curriculum to support the development of language in Mandarin and English for all year groups in the Nest. It will also give an account of how we will be moving to a ‘core book’ approach, linked to themes supporting a holistic provision in communication, language and literacy.
Nest Christmas Show
The children have been working very hard to learn new songs for the Nest Christmas Show. We look forward to having two adults in the theatre for every child. We know you will enjoy the show and have fun celebrating this fantastic winter festival with us.
PARENT BRIEFING: THE LEARNING JOURNEY AT WELLINGTON
Parent briefings are held on Wednesday mornings usually from 0900hrs -1015hrs. Parents will have the chance to engage with the school in sessions that cover all aspects of your child’s education, from the Early Years to A levels and university admissions.
In this briefing, Dr Yang Yang, the Deputy Head of the College, will introduce the learning journey at Wellington to help parents understand better about the contents and features of the curriculum from the Early Years to A Levels.
FROM THE HEAD SCHOOL NURSE
Heartsaver ® First Aid CPR AED course
The AHA First Aid course is open to Wellington parents and pupils (aged over 13 years old and accompanied by one parent) and also for adults in the wider community.
Our third AHA First Aid training course was held on 28th November. All the attendees were able to complete the course successfully and obtain an official rescuer certificate from the AHA. Parents and students have learned practical and valuable first aid skills to save their own life, and the lives others, in the future.
We will have one more session on 12th December this term. Please contact Eelco van Kuilenburg for registration.
Language: Chinese or English
Course time: 2020-12-12
Incl.: Course material, an Official AHA course certificate, drinks/fruit and lunch
Costs and Sign Up: Please contact Eelco van Kuilenburg 186-2291-2362 or scan the QR code below
Monday 07th December 2020
Week 16 (B) (Campus)
Wednesday 09 December 2020
9:00AM - 10:15AM
Parent Briefing: The Learning Journey at Wellington (Teams)
2:00PM - 3:00PM
Nest Briefing: Language and literacy for young children (JB) (Teams)
3:05PM - 3:45PM
Junior School assembly (RA) (Theatre)
Friday 11 December 2020
End of the Michaelmas ASA programme (Campus)
10:00AM - 11:00AM Nest Christmas Show (JB) (Theatre)
Saturday 12 December 2020
Saturday Activity Programme (SAP) (EvK) (Campus)