AQE TEST CANCELLED
This afternoon AQE Ltd. announced that this year’s AQE test will not proceed on 27 February.
The relative merits and demerits of this decision will now be discussed ad nauseam on the news and social media. Everyone will have an opinion.
Your emotions are no doubt going into meltdown and rightly so. Feelings of anger, of being let down, of being misled, coupled with an overwhelming sense of uncertainty and confusion. And I, along with every primary school principal and Year 7 teacher across the land, share your frustration and understand your anguish.
However, our number one priority as parents and teachers remains unchanged; the emotional health and wellbeing of our Yr7 pupils.
I am sure you will agree that their resilience in all of this debacle stands in marked contrast to the dithering ineptitude of those in authority. They have been superb and you, as parents, along with Miss Daly, have played a massive part in sustaining a sense of calm in the midst of troubled waters.
This decision has cleared away one element of uncertainty away; there will be no transfer test this year and was perhaps to be expected.
As a result, grammar schools will have to come up with an alternative mechanism for securing the transfer of our Yr7 pupils into Yr8. This is their responsibility, and I am sure that they will act quickly to publish new and fair admissions criteria.
Clearly, this is a time of great uncertainty for everyone, not least our Yr7 children. We must therefore lay aside our anger and meet our first duty as parents and teachers and provide the straight-talking and reassurance that our children will need today and, in the weeks ahead.
We need to talk things through with them; that is the least they deserve at this time. You don’t need to have all the answers; none of us do. Just knowing that you are open, listening, understanding and supporting them will mean a lot.
Remind them of the massive impact Covid-19 has had on all of our lives. Face masks and social distancing are the norm. Social events, including all exams have been cancelled across the UK. Their situation is not unique.
They need to know that the confused emotions they are experiencing just now are normal. They have been messed about. It’s okay for them to feel confused, upset and angry. It is also okay for them to express their feelings.
They are going to ask, ‘What now?’
Truthfully, we do not know precisely what will happen. It is okay to admit that.
We can reassure them that a system for transfer will be found. Just as a solution was found for GCSEs and A-Levels. A solution will be found.
We can reassure those children who hoped to apply for a grammar school place that the same number of grammar school places exists and that all of those places will be filled.
We should be open and honest with our children and explain that, in any given year, a significant number of children do not get into their first-choice school. They will already understand that. Nearly all of those children who are not accepted into their first-choice school experience initial disappointment but go on to commit and enjoy success in another school. This will be the case this year.
We can reassure them that come September this whole sorry debacle will be behind them. They will have completed their primary education and will be ready to embark on a new journey in sporting a new school blazer, new school badge and shiny shoes. Ready for new challenges, new achievements and new friendships.
For some the transition to secondary education will be seamless, for others the path will be rocky, but they will all reach destination Yr8.
You can talk to them about the personal resilience and character they have demonstrated through 3 periods of school closure and the myriad restrictions of lockdown. They have been brilliant. They have developed new skills and new ways of expressing their personalities and talents. We can remind them that they have developed character in adversity and with the support of family and friends they can and will face the uncertain days ahead.
They also need to understand that while they may prefer a certain school, or type of school, bricks and mortar do not determine life chances. No matter the name over the door, the teachers are trained in the same colleges and the curriculum followed and exams taken are largely the same. The biggest determinant in a child’s success both now and in the future is their own personal motivation, drive and determination. The colour of a blazer or emblem on a badge does not and must not define our children.
As promised, Katie, our school counsellor, will be joining Miss Daly and our Yr7s on a zoom meeting this Thursday to help the children to think about their feelings. She is an experienced counsellor and compassionate human being and I know this time will be helpful for the boys and girls. Please make sure they tune in.
Essentially, this decision changes everything but changes nothing. Yes, our task as Year 7 parents and teachers is more difficult today than it was yesterday, but we have no other option than to dust ourselves down and up our game, again!
In truth, from personal experience as a father, teacher and principal, the biggest confidence boost we can give to our children is that they know we are there for them come thick and thin, rain or shine. We are there for them, we will pick them up when it goes wrong, we will hold them close and they have our unconditional love. With that knowledge, they can and will meet the challenges of 2021 with some degree of confidence.