Headteacher scraps ‘mad’ year 11 revision classes to protect pupil mental health

Headteacher scraps ‘mad’ year 11 revision classes to protect pupil mental health

A headteacher has scrapped extra revision classes and interventions for year 11 to protect students’ mental health in the run up to this summer’s exams.

John Tomsett, of Huntington School in York, has instead urged his teachers to save their energy for planning and executing “great lessons”.

Mr Tomsett told Schools Week he did not think months-long “untargeted interventions” had a positive impact on results.

He said they overloaded teachers and pupils with extra pressures, causing them to become stressed and ill.

“Why do some students think, when they have seven hours of English lessons in years 10 and 11 a fortnight, that 10 one-hour lessons, once a week leading up to the examinations, held after school when they and their teachers are tired, will suddenly transform them from D grade students to C grade?” Mr Tomsett said. “It is mad and there is no logic to it.”

Mr Tomsett (pictured), a member of the Headteachers’ Roundtable – a key influencer of government policy – said the reason extra revision classes were widely used in schools was so staff could “cover their backsides” if results were poor.

“When governors question why results weren’t good enough, staff reply: ‘But look at all the work we did.’ Well, actually, if you hadn’t done that work results might have been even better because the teaching would have been better,” he added.

In 2010, 55 per cent of pupils at Huntington achieved five A*-C GCSEs, including English and maths.

“From this point we first stopped doing the interventions and we went up around 20 points in 2013. Last year we were at 66 per cent,” Mr Tomsett said.

“This year I’ve seen staff start to get a bit anxious again and start more interventions. There are clearly loads of variables in our results so our view is just to teach.

“I’m not going to get results at the cost of the mental health of my staff and pupils. Just keep the whole thing measured.”

Clacton Coastal Academy headteacher Steph Neill agreed with Mr Tomsett that some interventions are a waste of time but said extra classes were essential for some groups of students.

“The main issue for me is that there is a habit of assuming the more hours we put in the better exam outcomes will be,” Ms Neill said.

“Bringing the whole class back after school for an hour or two does not have the same impact as identifying the targets for a specific group of students who really need extra support.”

She said interventions at her school focused on pupil premium students who had gaps in their knowledge.

Meanwhile Andrew Day, headteacher at Northumberland Church of England Academy, sympathised with Mr Tomsett but said interventions were a “necessary evil” for most schools.

“Much of our work should be accomplished in the classroom and yes, part of the problem is students think: ‘I’ll just go to the revision classes at the end,’ and they do, and they come in their droves,” Mr Day said.

“But unfortunately we don’t have a culture where students say: ‘No, we’ll do the work in lesson time and we’ll revise and do all the things we are supposed to do.’”

Northumberland Academy’s results increased 18 per cent last year after concentrating efforts on interventions. “So they had a very positive impact on what we do,” he added.