Study Leave: Update

Arriving home from school this afternoon I was greeted by an email confirming my fears; there will be no study leave for us in January.

What intrigued me most about the email was the fact it mentioned that Colchester Royal Grammar School doesn’t grant year 13’s time off, and despite this they’ve been top of the A-Level league table for the last 6 years. Some might simply think this means that it is a good idea if it works elsewhere, but what I read into it is that my school want to knock Colchester off of the top spot. I find it disheartening how much of what schools seem to do nowadays is aimed at either pushing themslves up the league tables or looking good for Ofsted inspections. You may think that I’m just being paranoid and the school has our best intentions at heart, but my primary school temporarily excluded the children who misbehaved the most when inspectors were around, and a govenor at my previous secondary school said that ‘At the end of the day, a school is simply a business’ which I don’t believe the education system should be. What is worse is that my year group always seems to be the guinea pigs (this change will be reviewed next year), for example many of our GCSEs were new syllabuses. My school already has a fantastic reputation, and I honestly can’t see why it needs to compete with other places when it is already so close to the top, and it is already oversbscribed with 4 or 5 applicants per place, so attracting new prospective students seems futile.

I expect many people will be skipping lessons in Janurary, and frankly I view this change as added pressure and stress we could have done without. I’m worried it’s going to jeopardise the slight chance I had of an A* in further maths – for my C3 and C4 exams I spent a good 8+ hours doing past papers the day before in preperation – you may call the excessive, but I call that insurance.

So, there’s nothing we can do but wait and see, and hope things turn out for the best.


Study Leave – Necessary Or Simply A Holiday?

During our PSHE lesson this week, we had our termly ‘fireside chat’ with the head of year 12, where we are supposed to discuss any issues or concerns we’ve had recently. The only subject brought up, which was hotly debated over the course of the next hour, was the issue of study leave in January. Unsurprisingly, I, along with an overwhelming majority of students at my school (I’d say all but I haven’t asked everyone) think we should be allowed just over 2 weeks off during this exam period. Last year I had 3 maths exams in January and was allowed the ½ day before the exam off (so if it was a morning exam I’d get to go home at lunch the previous day, and if it was an afternoon exam I would have that morning off) which was okay in the end because the exams were relatively easy and all our maths lessons in that period were dedicated to revision. So surely we don’t need January study leave, you might ask. But that is where you may be mistaken, and here is my list of reasons why:

  • These exams really count: Those of us who are looking at gaining an A* at A-level need to achieve an average of 90% across the A2 modules – this requires lots of focus and many hours of revision. At AS, although it is a very nice safety net to achieve a solid A-grade, the school records show that many students who obtain B-grades go on to get A’s or even A*’s at A2. So it just goes to show how important these exams are.
  • I’m not going to be focused on lessons if I’ve got an exam coming up so forcing us to come into school and trying to make us do work would be futile. From my experience of having a German oral exam in the afternoon, and not being permitted even an hour’s study leave, I know that is impossible to focus in class because all you’re worried about is the exam, and I did very little work that morning because I was too busy going over my notes.
  • The vast majority of us can afford to miss 2 weeks of school: It’s not even half-term yet, but already in all my subjects we’re moving on to the content that will appear in our summer exams, and we will have covered around half of it before the Christmas holidays. If you exclude the study leave we want, that still leaves around 10 weeks for the second half of the content, which should be enough if the lessons are planned well and everyone does the work they’re set. My form tutor, who is a music teacher, made the point that in some subjects, such as music, art and tech, there is also coursework to be done, to which we made the point that those students should be given x number of hours they have to be in school during those two weeks to do that work, leaving them with the option of when they wish to come in. Apparently this would be unfair, but we are constantly being told when we make complaints about other things that life is unfair, so if it means that the rest of us can have the revision time we deserve, especially as there are no music exams in January and the class size to my knowledge is around 5, I don’t see the problem.
  • Would we honestly be expected to do homework over revision? My form tutor assured me that teachers would be lenient in terms of work set and not starting new topics when people were having their ½ day study leave, but I’m pretty sure that in some subjects, such as languages, where there are no January exams, they would still expect us to write essays or complete work for the next day.
  • Why give us study leave in the summer of year 12 if we don’t need it? When I made this point I was told that teachers are constantly debating at school whether study leave in year 12 is actually worthwhile, but as we were given it then, surely that means we should be given it now?
  • If there is no study leave then student won’t get their ½ day study leave for resits: I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard that – would the school really potentially jeopardise its league table position for the sake of the principle that those students should have put more effort in and done better first time round? Luckily, I don’t have to do any resits, however some of my friends have as many as 5 resits in January alone. I think this rule is unfair, particularly for the mathematicians resitting C3 or C4 – the 2 exams that determine if you get an A or A*, as everyone has one or two bad exam at some point, and these exams I have mentioned are not AS but A2 so really do matter – giving them time to revise could be the difference between a handful of A*’s achieved by some year 12’s or the majority of accelerated maths students achieving the A* which they deserve.
  • What can the teachers do if only a small portion of the class is in and the rest are on their half day off? This would also mean students whose subjects have exams in January would be effectively punished as they would have to spend a lot of time catching up on lessons they’ve missed. Teachers say that in previous years no-one has done the work they’ve set for the study leave period, but I know I, along with many others would, as well as using the time to make revision notes for the summer, saving us time in the Easter holidays.

The compromise that my form came up with was that all year 13 students get study leave in the sense that there are no official timetabled lessons, but still attend school and go to the classrooms they would normally be in so they can revise in their own way, and teachers can see that we’re doing work. The music students could do their coursework, and the teachers would be able to answer any queries before the exam. Unfortunately, it was pointed out that it would be rather impractical, especially as there are not enough computers to go around, but I still think it would be a better alternative to lessons.

So rant over, we now have to wait until after ½ term when the situation will be clarified to us in assembly. Fingers crossed they listen to us.