As such, they are rigorous and demanding, requiring dogged commitment, intellect and risk-taking in order to succeed.
All of this makes HeadStart’s most recent results in English Literature so much more remarkable. Students from diverse backgrounds; wildly varied starting points (40% of the students did not study English Literature at IGCSE level); but united in a shared and mutually supportive drive to succeed, tackled, grappled, wrestled and ultimately triumphed in this course.
Some figures, then: 100% of the cohort achieved A*-C grades, the third year in a row this has been achieved at HeadStart. What makes this all the more remarkable is that 50% of the cohort achieved either an A grade or, for the first time in the school’s history, two students (Sara Bokobza De La Rosa and Pailin Frederiksen) achieved the almost unheard of A*, a grade which required them to achieve over 85% in all the exam essays they wrote over the two-year course. I lack any Nostradmus-esque prescience, but I think there is a very sporting chance we may see a ‘Top in Thailand’ award here.
The course has been eclectic and demanding: this year alone has seen students contend with the study of 31 poems from the postmodern and elusive poet Sujatha Bhatt; the psychological and social commentary from Bram Stoker and Shelagh Stevenson; and shifting portrayals of ‘The Other’ in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. This is all on top of the texts they studied ‒ and excelled in their critical responses to ‒ in Year 12.
English teachers have been equally dedicated. For every essay written by students, the teachers write it alongside them as part of our VIMA assessment and feedback system (6th form: Years 12 and 13 Milestone Assessment). This meant that students had immediate access to top quality, relevant discursive essay models which they could then use to emulate the structure, style and depth of linguistic and contextual analysis.
Additionally, this also lent itself to a more dialogic form of assessment whereby students would discuss, deconstruct and then synthesize this feedback, putting it into action in their ensuing directed improvement task. Furthermore, teachers would write and share whole class and individual student feedback, focused on the individual A Level assessment objectives.
If these VIMAs sound exhausting and exhaustive, that’s because they are ‒ for all parties! However, the intellectual rigor and fitness for their purpose is revealed not only in this set of results but also in the anonymous feedback from the students themselves, where students wrote comments such as:
“It simulates the actual exam and gives a sense of how much time we would have in the real exam.”
“It is good for time management practice; it’s more realistic that way and makes students less stressed with the actual timed exam”
“VIMAs tell me the areas I need to improve (e.g. deeper analysis, using checklist for Unseen paper)”
“I like the feedback on specific ways I can personally improve related to marking schemes to know where to spend more of our time on improving.”
Of course, these students have done very well in other subjects too and I would invite you to learn more about them on the school’s website or in person. However, I have most ‘skin in the game’ when it comes to my subject, and as the school’s Head of English I can wholeheartedly, unambiguously and sincerely declare my pride in these students and I pass on to them congratulations warmer than the fiery pits of Dante’s Inferno themselves.
Now, over to the new Year 13s…
By David Pollicutt