School will have found out their GCSE results yesterday. There is an understandable tendency to be at one or other extreme of the emotional continuum. Results matter a lot to teachers and school leaders.
They matter to us first and foremost because they matter to young people and can affect significantly the course they will follow over the coming years. For some it will affect a large part of their lives; a course once set can be difficult to change. We want our students to be happy and successful; moving into Sixth Form, onto an apprenticeship or into employment. GCSE results can be their passport to a preferred future.
They also matter because of our bonkers accountability system. This is probably peak time for school leaders and teachers to worry about their future employment prospects; it’s P45 week in some places. It isn’t right to employ someone who year after year struggles to show a reasonable level of competency; that’s not where we are. Rather, there are too many knee jerk reactions to one set of results. “You’re only as good as your last Progress 8 score” mentality can be all too pervasive.
Time to think about the students; some will need the cool headed advice of a trusted teacher to help them make a decision about their future. Others will need calming down. Most will want a warm smile and a friendly face. There will have been sleepless nights in many sixteen year olds’ homes this week.
The same applies to staff. If you’re a middle or a senior leader don’t rush to judgement, this year more than most. Cool head and warm hearts; if things haven’t gone well the post mortem needs to wait a week or so. Teachers beat themselves up enough when things go wrong; they need a smiling face and gentle words. The analysis is best done when cool heads are in place and emotions are a little less raw. Everyone will want things to go that bit better next year, no matter whether this was a good or not so good year.
Whatever you do, don’t try to second guess Progress 8 scores. The methodology is the same but the formulas will need to change in response to more students doing English Literature and yet more schools aligning their curriculum. Look at results once you have national averages and in the context of your intake; early indications seem to show a 20% difference between English & Maths at grades 4-9 and 5-9.
My advice, for what it’s worth, is enjoy the day with the students and look after the staff; you’ll miss them when they’ve gone. The last thing you want is staff resigning due to an ill thought out word or hasty recriminations. Ask for reflections if staff need to talk through disappointing results; keep your own thoughts to yourself. There will be plenty of discussion come September; time to be a warm Head with a warm heart.