• Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

Cheney School headteacher says ‘there’s been disruption but also normality’

Byoxfordnewspaper

Aug 19, 2022

For a headteacher on results day, Rob Pavey is remarkably relaxed.

“The main thing is that they’re fine,” the Cheney School headteacher says.

“The big news is that there is nothing to see here. These kids are fine. They’ve done really well in keeping their heads and not panicking.”

The 111 students collecting their A-Level and BTEC results from the Oxford school this morning have had their final three years of schooling pockmarked by the pandemic.

Their GCSE exams were cancelled and replaced by teacher assessment. Face-to-face lessons went online as successive lockdowns saw the school gates closed.

Teachers put on extra mock exams to prepare their pupils for their A Level examinations.

Amid all the stress and abnormality of the past three years what is surprising, says Mr Pavey, is just how normal things have ended up for the class of 2022.

“There’s been disruption, but there’s also been a lot of normality,” he says.

“What [student] Lara was describing about the anxiety of exams – that’s exams. That’s normal.

“And yes, it is anxious and yes they were quite anxious going into this exam season but no more so than any normal year.

“What we’ve quite deliberately been doing as staff is not panicking and we’ve been saying really deliberately for the last two years there is no learning loss here, the kids are fine. We need to keep it as normal as possible and not panic.

“This year the results have been as good as – probably slightly better than – pre-pandemic.”

The adjustments that had been made by the exam boards were ‘entirely sensible’, he added. More than a third of pupils received A* or A grades, with two thirds of grades at A* to B.

There were smiles for many in the results hall. Lara Noronha’s A* grades in maths earned her a place to study the subject at UCL in the capital. “I’m happy,” the 18-year-old grinned – but added that the exam process had been ‘very difficult’.

Her friend Nathan Streete, 18, had planned to study neuroscience at university. But during lockdown he had found himself writing – everything from poetry to novels – prompting a change of tack to creative writing, which he will study at Winchester next year.

He told the Oxford Mail he had wanted to study neuroscience in order to create a ‘brain-machine interface’ that could have helped him translate his thoughts into creative reality. Now, he is able to do that with the pen, having found himself reading voraciously and writing from 2020. “I had a lot of free time,” he said.

Down the hill, at St Gregory’s – now renamed Greyfriars Catholic School – assistant headteacher Kate McCabe said she was ‘really proud’ of the students who had made it through three years of pandemic learning.

“We thought they responded really well. They really stepped up to the challenge,” she said.

That point was echoed on the other side of Cowley Road. Dr Jackie Watson, head of sixth form at Oxford Spires, said it had been a ‘tough year for everyone’ but was ‘delighted’ her pupils had done so well. “These were their first external exams, because of covid, and they proved to themselves they could do it.”

Looking around at his friends, Qasem Amirkaveh, 18, acknowledged that the last three years had been ‘tough’. But he struck a positive note: "We pushed through it and we did well.”

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This story was written by Tom Seaward. He joined the team in 2021 as Oxfordshire's court and crime reporter.

To get in touch with him email: Tom.Seaward@newsquest.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter: @t_seaward