Our first week back to school has been highly significant in two ways for our senior students. Our Year 11s have sat their mock GCSEs and our final UCAS forms have been completed by Upper Sixth students.

For the Year 11s it was tough to have to spend the Christmas break preparing for mock examinations but also a necessary reality as the time of the final examinations begins to accelerate towards us.

It is inevitable that they felt nervous anticipation and also that little mistakes would be made. This is good. The purpose of mocks is to have as realistic an experience as possible of GCSE papers in order to meet the real examinations completely prepared.

No matter how challenging we tell the students sitting the examinations will be, the actual experience of a full week of GCSE papers has brought the message home. I was pleased to hear their view that whilst the papers were difficult, and the experience was a shock to the system, it was very worthwhile and helped them feel more prepared for the summer.

Next week, when the marked papers are returned, will be a very valuable experience too. Feedback is so important for learning. It personalises education by providing each student with clear guidance on what has gone well and what could be improved. It also gives the opportunity to review areas of misunderstanding, when minds have been sharpened by the exams and concentration is at its highest.

For the Upper Sixth, the act of sending their UCAS application forms off to universities is a moment of significance. They are shaping their future. Their home for the next three to four years is being decided through this process and their future careers will come another step closer.

We now wait with bated breath to see what offers they will get and what grades they have to achieve to reach their preferred universities. There is an inevitable pressure on both staff and students but it is a bonding experience too. We work with a common purpose and the final teaching term is hugely rewarding. Students are at their most knowledgeable and we are taking them as far as we can academically. We hope ultimately the experience will be as rewarding for the students as it is for us as their teachers!