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GCSE results - my first rodeo...

Discussion in 'Heads of department' started by newhod2016, Aug 24, 2017.

  1. newhod2016

    newhod2016 New commenter

    Afternoon folks! I hope results day has been good for all!

    I am a rookie Head of Subject and just completed my first year in the role and faced my first set of results with a new GCSE team in a new set up, I have always been a high school teacher, but I am currently working in a college leading GCSE English Lang resit. The upshot is that many students passed and many... also failed and I am just figuring out how to deal with all the inevitable emotions from myself, parents and students. I really felt like I had worked hard on making our team cohesive, making new resources, offering extra sessions, carrying on the practices of the previous, successful Head of Subject.... and it all seems to have not paid off (in my current state of mind)- pretty devastated as a result. I know that there were many successes, but it's hard not to focus on the failures as that is where most of the attention goes.

    I would love some sage advice from any kind soul who has been in the same position of dealing with poor results. How did you handle/comfort/pacify upset/angry parents? How did you get over this hurdle and pick yourself back up again.
    Thanking you in advance!
  2. Trendy Art

    Trendy Art Star commenter

    I would be asking how does this year's results compare to last year?

    If you are leading on GCSE English Lang resit - at the end of the day it's the students who have got to do the work. Simple as that.

    • Yourself - there is a reason why the college took you on in the first place. Learn from what mistakes you made and consider what you will do differently next time. This is when you are learning the most as a leader and you are being conscientious in reflecting at this difficult time. Speak to other experienced heads of departments about the situation - every leader will have gone through something like this. Now's the time to learn, so you can fix it and grow.
    • Parents/students - how do you know that they will be in contact? The disappointment will take place on results day. Only the most problematic would come back in Sep/Oct to complain. Only if a matter arises, discuss the situation with your line manager to get some support. There are times when they can take parent complaints on your behalf. Otherwise, if you are in that kind of situation - listen to the concern from parent/student, acknowledge what is being said and go through what can be changed for next time. Provide them with the options given from advice when you discuss with other experienced heads of department or leaders at the college. There's really no changing what's happened. The anger is frustration at not succeeding will be there but that student is old enough to take responsibility. After all, other students had great successes, so it can't be all about how you led the department.
    sabrinakat and newhod2016 like this.
  3. newhod2016

    newhod2016 New commenter

    Thank you Trendy Art - that was such a reassuring reply and really helped me to put it all into perspective. I think in our profession, where emotions and facts collide with quite some volatility some times, reasoned, calm and objective words from experienced teachers like yourself are worth their weight in gold! I didn't have anyone I felt I could speak to about how I was feeling about the results from my first year as Head of Subject yesterday, so I was wallowing in a soup of insecurity and angst! Your words have no doubt provided calm and comfort to the legion other people on Tes feeling the same way!
    You're a star, thank you :)
    Trendy Art likes this.
  4. secretsiren

    secretsiren Star commenter

    Firstly, there is no point in comparing this year's GCSEs in English and maths with last year's - they were so, so different and the kids were in competition for each grade in a way they weren't last year. Equally, you have to remember that sometimes things go wrong and you may never get a handle on why - it just happened. A few years ago, my school had the brightest year group in ages, consistent teaching, and I was confident we would just wipe the floor with previous results...I had such a shock on results day when we had the worst results since I'd started as HoD that I almost fainted. I genuinely could not unpick what had happened - teachers who'd got 85% A*-C in the previous year had ended up with 60% A*-C despite having brighter students. It was - and is - a total mystery.

    You have to take a while to process as a big shock is always horrible. Take a few days and just have a mull.
    Then look forensically at the results - where were the problem areas (boys? girls? pupil premium? a particular class or group of children?)? Has a particular class underperformed? Is there an explanation (they had a lot of supply teachers, persistent absence, poor behaviour...?)?

    Finally, then work out what you can do about it in future. When asked about it by SLT, have a confident answer along the lines of "I've looked really closely at the results and have found that X is the key area we need to focus on. We will be doing XYZ about this and expect X to happen as a result".

    Parents are either your best friends or worst enemies on results day. They might thank you personally for inspiring their child or they may grumble/shout at you for letting their child down.

    If you have genuinely done something wrong then you should feel bad. BUT this is rarely true. Most grumpy parents are annoyed because their perfect child didn't work hard enough or got something wrong or they need someone to blame that isn't them or the child. If the parent is complaining about a valid issue, your response should be polite and firm: "Thank-you for drawing my attention to this issue. I will be looking at this closely and will follow up with...." and then make sure you get back to them. If the issue is ridiculous, then polite but truthful is the way forward: "I have looked into the issue you have brought to my attention. However, having spoken to/looked at/investigated thoroughly, it would appear that this does not appear to be the case."

    Stick with neutral language that is completely professional and make sure any emailed responses are CC'd to your line manager.
  5. nervousned

    nervousned Senior commenter

    Make sure you know your benchmarks. In resits, the last I heard, the benchmark was about 35% passing. If half are passing, you're doing well. Also resit results are often a function of the schools nearby. If they are rubbish, it's easy to get good results and vice versa.
    install, pepper5 and newhod2016 like this.
  6. RosyGlow

    RosyGlow New commenter

    Just be honest and straightforward with parents. Point out what their child needs to do and what is on offer. I've had resit groups in the past made up of students desperately wanting their Grade C, but there have always been a lot who have been pushed into resitting by the college or parents. Now, they have to resit, and a lot of them are probably very resentful. If they don't make an effort, they won't improve.

    If they should have passed, but didn't, consider remarks depending on college policy. If they're within a mark or two, it is probably worthwhile. As said, you need to know what went wrong, and it could have been the marking. If, across the cohort, there were weaknesses, be honest with yourself and your team. Do you need to do something differently this year?

    It's hard not to feel responsible, but with resit classes, you are dealing with students who have already failed. In our school, we have an excellent resit pass rate, but we have A' Level students. You probably have some students who feel that they don't need the qualification. Take responsibility for what you've missed or underestimated, but accept that there are some you can't win. Don't beat yourself up about things that weren't down to you.
    install, pepper5 and newhod2016 like this.
  7. newhod2016

    newhod2016 New commenter

    Hi secretsiren, another brilliant bit of advice, especially about how to phrase things. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your knowledge and wisdom! Feel like I can face next week now:)
    pepper5 likes this.
  8. newhod2016

    newhod2016 New commenter

    That's given me perspective, thank you:)
    pepper5 likes this.
  9. newhod2016

    newhod2016 New commenter

    Thank you RosyGlow, so so true! It's a whole different ball game with the resit demographic and I don't think I fully appreciated that until my first year of transitioning from secondary education to sixth form college.:)
    pepper5 likes this.
  10. kjh498

    kjh498 Occasional commenter

    How can you compare last years language paper?

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