Will study leave for Year 11s soon be a thing of the past? The City of Ely Community College is one of a growing number of schools that have decided to abolish the tradition for GCSE students. "All the evidence is that, in terms of exam performance, study leave is a waste of time," says Brian Harvey, the college vice principal in charge of the curriculum. "The 10 days' leave we used to give didn't do our students any favours," he says.
The 11-18 college draws its 1,200 students from a wide area across the Fens and is determined to improve exam results; abolition of study leave is part of a much wider overhaul of the revision programme. "After spring half-term, Year 11s will come back to the college and have two weeks of intensive revision lessons, covering each of their subject areas," says Brian.
They will continue to have classes right up to the exams, but these will be exclusively for revision. "Our intention is that all the syllabus will be completed by the end of this term, as well as all coursework. This means that the whole of the summer term is taken up with a programme of revision and exam technique."
How have teachers reacted to this change? They would normally expect their Year 11 timetable to end at half term. "We have had an amazingly positive response from staff - everyone recognises that study leave can't be supported on educational grounds."
Besides extra lessons, students will also be asked to turn up on exam days at least 15 minutes earlier than usual. "We will offer them a quick session of last-minute reminders: the number of questions they have to answer, the equipment they will need and so on."
Ely's revision revamp began in November. "We started with parents. How they can help their children to revise effectively: giving their offspring a quiet space, recording programmes, being there for them and keeping noisy siblings out of the way - even excusing them from household chores like washing up. We encourage them to provide treats as a reward for sticking to the planned revision programme."
The college has also introduced sessions on learning styles. "We ask, are you going to respond best with visual techniques such as spider diagrams or should you put your notes on cassette recorder and listen to them?"
"We have just had a second parents' evening and sessions on putting together individual revision plans. We give advice on note-taking and reducing notes to the bare essentials. I have written a revision booklet for each student which contains space for their plan as well as guidance on how to revise."
Will these changes have an impact on exam results? Brian is cautiously hopeful: "We hope so - come back and ask us in August."