So, the time is now. Those often-discussed exams are upon us and this week marks the first of those big, set piece occasions (Biology on Tuesday, Chemistry on Thursday) when all that preparation is put – quite literally – to the test.
I know that you will be approaching the weeks ahead with a mixture of dread for what is to come and excitement for that long summer holiday when it’s all over. I know that you will have worked harder and feel more ready for some exams than you will for others – that is normal. I know you will privately be thinking that everyone else has done more than you and that everyone else is better prepared – that feeling’s normal too. I understand that you feel the pressure of having so much apparently riding on what happens in the next few weeks: don’t give in to that pressure and don’t let any negative thoughts stop you or hold you back. You are, as we have always told you, unique and brilliant as an individual and much, much better-prepared than you will ever think that you are.
So, I thought I’d write to you because there are some things that need to be said and there will be few opportunities in the weeks ahead to say them. Firstly, I want to say thank you. You have approached these last few months with great dignity and maturity and shown yourselves to be outstanding people. Your teachers are very proud of the work you have done and the dedication you have shown in striving for the very best outcomes. You know that you can call on your teachers at any time – likewise your mentor, your pastoral manager, your head of house or any member of the senior leadership team (even me: firstname.lastname@example.org) – if there is anything we can do to support you in the weeks ahead. Use us: we are here for you.
Secondly, I wanted to remind you that, important though they are for your future, these exams are not a judgement on you. For five years you have showed us who you really are in a way that no exam system ever could: you’ve proved yourselves in the lessons you’ve participated in, the relationships you’ve built (with staff, with younger students in mentor time, with each other), the new things you’ve tried, the tears and the laughter, the obvious successes (in sport, in drama, on stage at music concerts) and the hidden triumphs (making it halfway up the climbing wall, plucking up the courage to ask that question, being there when someone needed you…). Watching you all grow has been a real privilege. Qualifications are important because they open doors but, ultimately, you will triumph in the world because of the content of your character and we are proud and honoured to have been a part – however small – in helping you fashion the unique, the wonderful, the always-learning and the never-giving-in YOU.
Be brilliant in the weeks ahead. We are right behind you.