Exams are important, most students need them to follow their chosen path in further education and most like to have their learning accredited in some way. But they are not the sole point of an education at Sands. It is just as important to have time and space to learn about yourself and about others, to find your place and contribute to this community and to be valued and learn to value yourself. Students leaving Sands have learned and achieved much more than can be represented on a few bits of paper.
The links below take you to the exam data of the O1 leavers in that year. Our cohorts are very small so the results can vary considerable from year to year. The average achievement can also be strongly influenced by a small number of students who, facing very considerable barriers to their learning, leave Sands with a relatively modest stock of exam passes. These students’ achievements are just as valued and celebrated as those who can excel and leave with a hat-full of A grades.
A word about performance tables
The Department for Education publishes annual tables which compare the exam results of all English secondary schools, including Sands. The GCSE scores show the cumulative achievements of students up to the time they finish Key Stage Four. Over the years the measures by which state school performance has been judged has lead many schools to orientate their exam entries polices towards maximising their Performance Table ranking rather than best meeting the needs of their students. A cynical but rational response to a perverse incentive. The knock-on effect of this is that every year the Tables methodology is changed, pushing schools more towards having their students complete all of their courses with a single, once only, end of year exam. This is the most stressful approach to accrediting learning and focuses on recall and regurgitation to the exclusion of the understanding and practical skills which are actually the true value of the learning.
At Sands we have not changed our practice at all. We continue enter students for exams solely on the basis of what is best for the individual student. They gain GCSE qualifications that are fully recognised by colleges and employers but these often do not count for inclusion in the school’s performance data. For example:
|In ICT we offer a GSCE course which is assessed through practical project work||The course is not included in the Tables at all|
|In Maths many students choose to try the GCSE early, to practice or to get it out of the way||This first attempt goes in to the Tables and any subsequent grade improvements are ignored|
|In English we offer Language IGCSE in O2 if they are ready and then the option to sit Literature the following year.||Because we use the international IGCSE our English Language results are not included in the table.|
|In Science we of a foundation or ‘core’ science GCSE and then the option to sit one or more of the separate sciences the following year.||Passes in the separate sciences are ignored in the Tables if a student has already sat the combined science exam|
The outcome is that our students sit their exams as and when they are ready for them achieve the results they need to go on to the choice of further education BUT this is not reflected in the school’s official performance data.
When people take the time to look closely at the exam results and understand them in their proper context they see that Sands’ students really do make good academic progress. There could be no tougher scrutineer than Ofsted: