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Story: Sofia’s Story

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Sofia “had no idea what UCAS was” before starting her A-Levels. By the end of her time at college, she had secured a place to study a biomedical course at a top London university.

At the age of fifteen, Sofia came to study at Leeds Sixth Form College, where she struggled with learning due to speaking English as an additional language. Her anxiety towards school meant that she had low confidence in her ability, particularly when it came to attempting exam questions.

During her GCSEs, Sofia was regularly taken out of lessons for extra support. Her anxiety in school was at an all-time high.

After achieving Grade 4s in her maths and chemistry GCSEs, her A-Level teacher introduced her to Be The Examiner revision sessions, a Let Teachers SHINE project which gives exam support to struggling learners.

The after-school lessons enabled Sofia to take on the role of the examiner, by breaking down the exam questions and answers, to enable her to achieve high-scoring answers in her upcoming exams. By regularly attending these weekly sessions, she gained a new-found confidence to attempt difficult exam questions and built on her decision-making skills.

When asked about her plans after college, Sofia told her teacher that she had never heard of UCAS before starting her A-Levels. When the time came for UCAS applications, her teacher had predicted her an A* in chemistry. She had shown fantastic progress during her A-Levels, and eventually went on to secure a place at a top London university to study biomedical science, becoming the first in her family to go to university.

Her teacher remembers her drive to teach Sofia that “she can get out of this situation, that she can shoot for the stars.”

Not only had her grades improved, but her attitude toward learning had shifted, too. She was now actively participating in class discussion, even asking her teacher for more after-school revision sessions.

Her teacher recognised that where Sofia and her peers were lacking support and encouragement from home, it falls to the teachers to lead this change.

Projects like Be The Examiner show the students that developing their self-confidence and soft skills, including their problem-solving and critical thinking abilities, can help them to produce better grades. The support from Sofia’s teachers gave her this newfound confidence to go beyond what she had known at home.

Sofia finished school as a confident young learner and, through the support of her teachers and her drive to succeed, she overcame her anxieties toward learning.