School ‘will be ready’ for any GCSE changes as pupils go back to class

One school welcoming pupils back to lessons this week will be “ready, whatever the weather” for any changes to next year’s GCSEs brought on by Covid-19.

It follows reports the Education Secretary is considering pushing back 2021’s GCSE and A-level exams to give pupils more time to study the syllabus.

At the Jewellery Quarter Academy, near Birmingham city centre, headteacher Greg Williams said his focus would be on making sure each student “achieves”.

Schools go back in England
Schools go back in England

Mr Williams, who has been at the school 18 months, added: “We’re looking forward to hearing from the Education Secretary.

“We’ll be ready whatever the weather.

“Whether it’s a decision to delay or to cut down on content the students are being assessed on – either way, we will work with what we’ve been asked to do.

“The key thing for us: it’s not about political agenda, it’s making sure every one of our students achieves their aspirational targets.”

Schools go back in England
Schools go back in England

Mr Williams, who welcomes his 560 11-16-year-old pupils back on Thursday, said: “(Government) guidance can come along, but as I say, we’re progressing.

“We’re already thinking, if the exams are later, then we need to look at the curriculum again.

“We’re very dynamic.

“I’ve got a fantastic team here, they’re resilient, they’re able to cope with all sorts of things that are thrown at them.”

The academy, part of the CORE Education Trust, is – like schools across the country – now dotted with hand sanitiser stations and huge signs telling pupils to maintain social distancing, while class desks are now spread out.

Mr Williams said the academy was not insisting pupils wear face masks, but could move quickly to supply face coverings “within an hour”, if guidance changed or it became necessary.

Schools go back in England
Schools go back in England

He added that the measures were about “showing trust” to the students to follow the measures set out, with the word “trust” a key pillar of the school’s wider ethos.

Asked if he had felt supported by Government, Mr Williams said he understood its “challenge”, dealing with the often rapidly-changing effects of a global pandemic.

“I always think better to delay something and for it to be right than release something in haste,” he said.

“So we have felt supported. Our focus is about getting the students back.”

Schools go back in England
Schools go back in England

He added: “We haven’t waited for anyone to say we think you should do this – our foresight has meant we’ve been well-prepared for the students.”

Asked if he thought there were any key lessons to take from dealing with Covid-19, he said: “It’s very important to evolve and expand your well-being team.

“Safeguarding is going to be ultra important.”