At ACG Strathallan, we believe in building brighter futures and preparing our students for tomorrow's world, whether we are operating from our campus classrooms or in our current online learning environment.
Providing the best possible guidance and support for students in their end-of-year Cambridge Curriculum assessments is an essential part of this process. Historically, we begin our senior students' preparation by holding a series of mock exams. Conducting these online has been a new experience for the school, and the response from teachers, students and parents has been overwhelmingly positive.
"Our students were due to sit their mock exams the day we went into lockdown," explains Deputy Principal Robyn Pryor. "These examinations are instrumental in providing students with important feedback prior to their final examinations. Given the uncertainty around the alert levels in Auckland and the real possibility that the lockdown period would be extended, we made a decision to go ahead with mock examinations online rather than wait until we returned to school. This ensured our students had plenty of time to evaluate their knowledge and understanding in each of their subjects and implement the strategies needed to ensure success in their final exams."
Mrs Pryor considers the preparation these mock exams have provided to be "invaluable" in the lead up to their Cambridge IGCSE and A-Level examinations.
"The students themselves have really appreciated the opportunity to get a real sense of where they are at and are already putting steps in place to address any gaps in their knowledge or understanding," she adds.
Fellow Deputy Principal Michael Balchin was equally pleased.
"The exams were highly successful," he confirms. "The students took everything very seriously, and the results overall were credible and authentic. Although the logistics were highly complex, requiring hundreds of students and teachers to be in the right place at the right time, everything ran very smoothly.”
"We were so impressed with how well the students responded to these exams," agrees Mrs Pryor. "They knew how important they were, and because we have continued with our normal timetable, with students attending lessons on Microsoft Teams, the use of this platform for the exams made the transition fairly seamless. With cameras on and teachers supervising, there was a sense of 'normality' to it all."
But it wasn't only the students who reacted positively to our online exams – parents have also provided a great deal of supportive feedback.
With her child about to begin their Cambridge exams, ACG Strathallan parent Claire believes the school is doing an outstanding job to help students prepare for these external assessments. Impressed with "the professional way in which lessons and mock exams have been executed for the senior students during lockdown", she continues to be a firm supporter of the school's comprehensive online learning programme and interactive approach.
"We know how demanding it is to operate during these unpredictable times," says Claire. "What is required is adaptable savvy management with a strong, dedicated team. The Strathallan team is rocking it; they are inspiring and certainly delivering to their students under frustrating constraints. We just wanted to acknowledge the contribution and pass on our gratitude and appreciation."
Following the school's usual preparation in the lead-up to next month's Cambridge exams, Strathallan teachers are continuing to deliver further specialist subject assistance during lockdown.
"It almost seems to be business as usual, even though we are online," says Mrs Pryor. "Teachers are running lunchtime and after-school tutorials to provide additional support for their students, and many are still going ahead with assessments to continue to provide students with opportunities to 'test' themselves in a timed situation.
"We always offer two and a half hour tutorials in every subject during the first week of the October school holidays, and these will still go ahead."
As for the lessons learned from this new online benchmarking, Mr Balchin has the following advice for his students.
"Learn from the feedback provided by teachers on your online exam performance. Work on any weaknesses which were exposed and implement a rigorous revision programme. I would also encourage students to attend the Strathallan holiday tutorials during week one of the school holidays. The benefits will certainly be worth the extra time and hard work."