HEADTEACHERS have celebrated their school leavers after they were forced to say goodbye at short notice.

Pupils in years 11 and 13 had their school years brought to an abrupt end when the coronavirus outbreak closed schools early before the Easter holidays.

The government said pupils who were shortly set to undertake exams, such as GCSEs and A-levels would no longer have to take them and that they would be awarded grades via a different process.

Usual rites of passage such as end of term treats and proms also had to be postponed indefinitely as the government asked schools to stay open only for the children of key workers.

Greg McClarey, headteacher at Blessed Edward Oldcorne Catholic College, said: "The last day of secondary school is a rite of passage that most of us have experienced and probably taken for granted.

"It was tough for our year 11 students to suddenly realise that their time in school was being brought to a sudden close and that the GCSE examinations they had been preparing so diligently for would not be taking place.

"There were lots of questions, tears and uncertainty but our students responded magnificently.

"We talked about the fact that GCSE grades do not define a person but it is the content of their character which truly counts.

"Our year 11 students left us a people of good character ready to go out and make the world a better place.

"There is no GCSE for that but it is surely the most important qualification of all."

John Pitt, headmaster, at RGS Worcester said: "The government, perhaps unintentionally, has reignited the debate about what public examinations are for and how they should be tested.

"The sudden announcement that GCSE, A Level, BTEC and other qualifications will not have the summer examination session but will be graded separately raises far more questions than it answers.

"I would like to reassure all anxious students, and their parents, that we will find a way through this and the Examination Boards will provide the guidance schools need.

"It is a difficult time for Year 11 and Year 13 students – they have worked hard and now have had the chance to prove themselves taken away from them.

"Some will feel a sense of relief but most will suffer a feeling of loss of purpose. We will support them and do our very best to ensure they remain motivated and are ready for the next stage of their lives."

Mr Pitt said the role of schools was currently to provide the continuation of education for pupils and support for key workers by supervising their children while they assist patients and provide other crucial services.

He added: "These are the priorities and everything else pales into insignificance against these requirements."