Update from the Head 1st May

Dear students and parents,

I hope you are all well and coping during lockdown. It is a strange time for all of us and as I said in my update last week I firmly believe that we should all just try to do our best during such a difficult time.

I think it is crucial that our pupils understand this message. Of course we want you to complete the work you are being set but we do not expect perfection. Now is a difficult time to be a perfectionist, so please just try your best and don’t worry too much if there is some particular thing that you don’t quite get. Feel free to make contact with your teacher and do rest assured that we will go over the material you are studying when school returns.

Talking of which the PM announced yesterday that he would be making an announcement next week about the introduction of measures to ease the lockdown and it seems certain that re-opening schools will be part of this. The DfE seem to be hinting that this re-opening will be done on a phased basis although we haven’t received any details yet. We are in regular contact with the local authority and I can promise you that we will spring into action as soon as we are given firm instructions by the DfE.

Message for Year 10 and 12 students

It is crucial that students in Year 10 and 12 do stay in a regular pattern of work. For Year 12 it is important to remember that under normal circumstances we would have lost at least 4 weeks to AS exams, so that does in effect buy us some time to help complete the A level work. For Year 10 we would normally only lose 1 week to exams so time concerns are a little more pressing. We haven’t yet received any guidance from Ofqual or the DfE about whether there will be any streamlining of GCSE specifications for the current Year 10.

Balcarras has always coped well with change. For example during the first year of the revised GCSE exams we received record results. I have every confidence that the school will respond to ensure that students in both year groups do just as well as we would have expected.

Setting/assessment Information for next year

When we return from school closure (if it is before the summer) there may still be disruption due to the impacts of COVID-19. We feel our first educational priority should be helping pupils get back into a regular routine of learning. Asking pupils to sit assessments at this point may add to stress levels and as different pupils will have had differing opportunities to engage with work at home and this may lead to unfair outcomes.


We therefore will not be asking pupils to sit formal assessments such as end of year exams in the remainder of the year but concentrate instead on a regular rhythm of lessons.

This will have a knock on effect for setting next year and so please see the amended setting information for each year group below.


Year 7 into 8

Pupils will stay in tutor groups for the first term of Year 8 apart from in Maths and Design Technology (where they are already in sets). They will also be put into specific Russian or Spanish groups.

In the Autumn term pupils will have assessments in each of their subjects which will be used to place pupils in sets after the Christmas holiday.

While they stay in tutor groups for lessons they will have a new tutor as we need our Year 7 expert tutors ready for new intake of pupils.

Year 8 into 9

We will have the usual mixing of the pupils to create parallel P and Q bands. Departments will set as best they can with the data they already have.

Pupils will have an assessment in the first half term of next academic year that will be used to reset after the October holiday.

Year 9 into 10

We will not have an X and Y band but a P and Q band that are parallel (similar to the current arrangement in Year 9). Within these bands pupils will be set for English, maths and science (these could be different sets for each of these subjects) movement between sets will be possible during Year 10. 

Year 10 into 11

Pupils will stay in their current groups into Year 11. Individual pupils may move groups where departments feel this is needed.


For most year groups there will be no further reports issued this school year. The Star Challenge (where pupils that have gained 1 and 1* for all subjects in all of their reports receive a star badge) will use the reports issued so far this year.

Year 9 will receive a shortened full report with a comment from each of their subjects. We feel this is important as this year marks the end of their Keystage 3 education. The Star Challenge for Year 9 will take this report into account.

Update on facemask production

I’ve just been down to DT to see the team making PPE for the NHS and production has just passed 3500 which is just terrific. My thanks to Mrs Swanepoel, Mrs Denyer and their team.

Cancellation of School Trips

It seems like a lifetime ago when we took the decision to call off the Berlin trip and since then various other visits have fallen victim to the current situation. The school has contacted our insurance provider to keep them fully up to date with developments. As soon as we can we will issue re-funds to parents.

Free School Meals

If you normally receive free school meals the school should have already been in touch with you about the voucher scheme set up by the DfE. We know that some parents are struggling to access the scheme even though we are confident that we have done everything that we need to from our end. The national press are reporting significant problems with the system and I do hope that the DfE will resolve these quickly.

If you have any urgent concerns or need to speak to someone then please email:


Take care

I hope everyone stays safe over the next week. Hopefully by the time of my next update we might have some concrete news about when we can safely re-open. Take care of yourselves and do contact the school if you need any help or support.

Dominic Burke