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Pupils back head over ‘exam wall’
PUPILS named on a school’s “exam wall” yesterday organised a show of support for their headteacher.
More than 200 pupils gathered behind Abingdon’s Larkmead School to back their head Chris Harris.
The Oxford Mail last week reported Larkmead had put up a gallery in its canteen with photographs of students who scored Cs and below in mock GCSE exams.
Teachers had hoped the scheme would motivate students to improve.
But the Year 11 Target Board was taken down after two days following complaints from students and parents that it was “humiliating”.
The story went on to appear in national newspapers and on radio – with one national newspaper mocking up a picture of Mr Harris in a dunce’s hat.
Liam Woodcock, 15, who was put up on the wall after scoring D grades in his mock English and maths GCSEs, said: “I found it quite a motivation.”
Fellow pupil Ellie Wheatcroft, also 15, who was on the wall after getting a D in maths and a C in English, added: “It would make me work that harder to get that grade so I could come off the wall.
“There were very few people that were upset about it.
“We are a good school and the teachers are great. We really want to support Mr Harris. He has done so much for us.”
Pupils who were not named on the controversial wall also joined in the protest.
Bella Blythe, 15, said the school had made a mistake, but added: “We don’t want our reputation dragged through the dirt for one little incident that we don’t think was that big a deal.
“A lot of the students have been reading all about the bad press about the wall of shame.”
And Leanne Rebell, 15, said: “We are still a strong community and we are stronger than ever before as we are sticking together through this.”
Mr Harris said: “To see students bouncing back and demonstrating what they are proud of in the school is really positive.
“There has been a massive outpouring of support. The way students and parents have reacted just shows how united we are.”
But he said the gallery had been a misjudgement, adding: “The intentions were good and the outcome was unexpected.
“What I regret is maybe we didn’t test it outwith students first and ask them how they would feel.”
A similar wall chart focusing on attendance and without photographs, is still up and had led to increased attendance, Mr Harris said.