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With A-Level and GCSE exams cancelled this summer, Hereford Cathedral School is taking a novel approach to continuing pupils’ learning over the coming weeks, with a bespoke Remote Enrichment Programme.

It has been widely reported that Ofqual’s announcement in April has caused many Year 11 and 13 pupils to feel anxious about putting their lives on hold, with The Independent reporting that it had “left teenagers feeling anxious and confused”. But Hereford Cathedral School is continuing to make pupils’ mental well-being a priority in lockdown.

“It was vital this term that we focussed our attentions on ensuring that our Year 11 and 13 pupils stay motivated and connected.” said Deputy Head, Mr Bruce Blyth, who looks after pastoral care at the School.

Preparing for the future

The School believes in preparing pupils for the future by providing a range of opportunities to gain new experiences, develop life skills and pursue different interests. Ordinarily this would be through a wide ranging extra-curricular programme, academic studies, life-enhancing trips and experiences, as well as tailored careers and higher education advice. But with lockdown in place, the School has needed to take a different approach, developing an Enrichment Programme that provides students with the opportunity to remotely extend and develop their skills beyond their studies.

“We wanted to offer something for everyone in the Programme, in a format that is easily accessible and will fit around our pupils’ busy schedules,” continued Mr Blyth.

A highlight for many students are the ‘Midday Meet-Ups’ which offer the opportunity to ‘meet’ industry professionals online, including Lieutenant General David Leakey CMG CVO CBE, speaking about the fascinating goings-on behind the scenes at Westminster (Black Rod 2011-2017) and Old Herefordians, Paul Thorburn (former RFU and international rugby player) and Katie Alcott MBE (founder of FRANK Water). Other key speakers include Natalie Tena (Harry Potter and Game of Thrones actress), Will Finn (former President of Johnson & Johnson) and Hugo Cohn (lead engineer at McLaren), amongst others.


Paul Thorburn

Lieutenant General David Leakey

Katie Alcott


“We hope our pupils will gain a great deal from the insights that our key speakers will provide, whether that’s from the specifics of their career path or their broader life experience,” added Mr Blyth.

The rest of the programme will be split across three key areas, all accessible online to the School’s domestic and international students: Enhancing Knowledge, Learning Life Skills and Taking the Next Step.

The first of these covers areas such as improving IT skills and developing knowledge in specific areas of interest, while Learning Life Skills includes everything from student budgets to cookery skills and first aid. Post-school opportunities are covered in Taking the Next Step sessions, along with skills sessions to ready pupils for the workplace, including lessons on leadership, CVs, job application and interviews, and persuasive speech writing (à la Branson and Boris!).

With some Year 13 pupils having secured employment for the second half of the summer term, and the School’s Year 11 pupils (and new joiners into the Sixth Form) making a start on their A-Level studies this term, the flexibility of the programme will allow them to dip in and out of the sessions that most interest them.

The Enrichment Programme also outlines a whole host of independent academic learning for the pupils. With no summer exams to prepare for, some Year 11 pupils may look to begin their EPQ (Extended Project Qualifications), while Year 13s may be supported to begin a research project of their own. Others may embark upon a MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses).

Teaching staff have also supported some students to use their additional time effectively. One standout example is Polly S (below) who has entered a range of essay competitions with Oxford and Cambridge Universities since lockdown began, being highly commended by St John’s and winning first prize in the Girton competition.

Polly S

Headmaster, Mr Paul Smith, views the plan as a further development to an already successful Remote Learning Programme which all students at the School have been following since March: “Over the last few weeks Hereford Cathedral School has been delivering a Remote Learning Programme that has ensured our pupils have remained on track with their academic studies. However, we have always recognised that this is not the sole function of school, and we have engaged in a plethora of extra-curricular and pastoral sessions which have helped pupils to maintain their well-being, have fun and keep fit.

“The Enrichment Programme is a natural extension to this additional support that we have been offering, and I am grateful to the staff, parents, former pupils and other friends of the school, including some celebrities, who have made this Enrichment Programme possible.”


He added: “We were particularly keen to ensure that our Year 13 students had not only completed the syllabus for each A-Level subject that they were studying, but that we could also provide them with some valuable lessons of life skills that would stand them in good stead for the future.”

You can find full details of the School’s Remote Enrichment Programme and Remote Learning Plans here.