​FAQs

Student support

Tutorial support is provided by a specialist team of eighteen tutors, led by the Associate Principal for Student Services and Guidance (Ms Becky Sharp), the Head of Year 13 (Ms Heidi Gjertsen) and the Head of Year 12 (Ms Katie Godfrey).

Tutor groups are arranged by year group, and contain about twenty four students. Each group has regular timetabled tutorial periods. Attendance at all lessons and tutorials is monitored by the Student Services Team through our electronic registration system, with concerns being referred to tutors as appropriate. Tutors are available to see students individually at times when they are free of lesson commitments.

Tutors have their own rooms in the Tutorial corridor. Mrs Jane Elsey, a member of our Student Services Team is a qualified BACP Accredited Counsellor and is able to offer short or longer term counselling to students. In addition to this the Student Services Team is also able to offer the support of the Wellbeing Coordinators. In addition there is the opportunity of referral to external counsellors if requested.

The transition from GCSE to Advanced level study requires students to take a step-up to becoming independent learners at the College. There are many services available to help students to make this change. For more information, please click on the button below.

Support and guidance >>


Students receive a Student Planner (incorporating a diary) each year. This contains important information about the College and is also used for recording homework, independent learning expectations and dates when work is due.

The College welcomes all students who meet the normal admissions criteria and is committed to ensuring that all reasonable adjustments are made to ensure that students with additional support needs are able to achieve their potential.

Wherever possible, we will discuss the resources and help that are appropriate with the student, parents or carers, and professionals who have previously provided support, before the student enrols at the College.

If your daughter or son has a learning difficulty or disability which has not already been discussed, please contact your daughter’s/son’s tutor or contact Ms Sara Halliwell, (01223 278008) Head of Study Skills.

Read more about meeting individual needs >>
This is done through the Progress Review system.

In November and February of Year 12, the College conducts Progress Review discussions. Students discuss their progress with subject staff and then their overall progress with tutors. Parents/guardians are invited to join their son or daughter in the Progress Review discussions taking place in February. A further tutorial Progress Review (with subject consultations) is completed in June/July of Year 12. Information is sent to parents electronically at the end of each Progress Review round.

In Year 13, subject progress reviews take place in February, and parents are encouraged to attend. Following the recording of Progress Review information by subject staff, students discuss their progress with tutors.

You will be alerted to these progress review meetings in advance and your daughter or son will make an appointment for you to see the appropriate subject staff. Tutors are available if there is a specific need to see them, although the primary focus is on meeting subject staff.

In order to ensure that students are on track to achieve in their A level exams at the end of two years, all Year 12 students will be sitting an internal A level equivalent exam in each subject at the end of Year 12.

Students will need to pass both their internal Year 12 exams and any external AS qualifications they have taken in order to be able to continue to the second year of that subject. For students who do not pass internal exams next summer, we will be talking with you and with them in the last week of June next year about the alternatives that could be offered. This could include some fast-track, A-level-in-a-year options for those students for whom original choice subjects have not worked out as they hoped.

Your son or daughter’s progress will be measured in relation to their performance at GCSE. On the basis of their incoming results in Year 12, we generate the average grades that might be expected at A level for students with that overall GCSE profile. Typically these average grades are shared with students in November of Year 12 and are used as part of our tracking software, with progress measured at key progress review points across the two years.

In terms of assessment, the College has been researching the effectiveness of assessment practices and is increasingly using ‘flipped learning’ and formative assessment techniques. Flipped learning requires students to have done much of the base-line learning and enquiry work before they encounter the higher order materials and challenge in the classroom. This means that a considerable amount of assessment will be taking place formatively with teaching staff assessing at the beginning of lessons how much students have assimilated from their pre-lesson assignments and adjusting the learning activities in the classroom according to student need.

Increasingly the College is trying to limit the use of extended writing tasks to assess what students know and is focusing instead on the quality of what is written using shorter written pieces and greater opportunities for individual and small group feedback. This means that some lesson time will be used flexibly by staff according to the needs of the group and it will not always be the case that all students are needed for the entirety of all teaching sessions.

In contrast to the standard practice in secondary schools, the College does not normally organise supply cover for staff who are absent for only a few days. This approach takes account of the age and maturity of our students and the College’s expectation that they should be able to work independently within a suitable support structure.

Although, in such circumstances, students tend to talk of “cancelled” lessons, the learning is never cancelled; for example, when the absence is a planned absence, suitable work is set in advance. When a member of staff is away unexpectedly through illness, the department will set work on behalf of the teacher. In many cases, students will already have work which they can undertake independently for a few days. In cases when an extended period of absence occurs, the College will seek to arrange full teaching cover.

If problems are minor, students often put matters right in a short period of time. For issues regarding attendance and punctuality you will be contacted by the Student Services Team. If problems persist, or are more serious, then the tutor will contact you.

The College normally continues to liaise with parents up until the end of students’ study programmes, including any period after students have reached the age of 18. Students who are 18 or over have the right to ask the College not to release information to parents; nevertheless, this right has rarely been exercised.

Yes. Tutors are the main point of contact between the College and parents and you should not hesitate to get in touch. The easiest way to make contact will be by e-mail. In return, if you haven’t already done so, it will be helpful if you can provide an e-mail address for the tutor to contact you. Tutors will always endeavour to reply to email contact as quickly as possible, but this may not be within 24 hours, owing to other commitments. Tutors will also be pleased to arrange a meeting with you, if appropriate.

We know that families give a great deal of general encouragement to students. College places new demands on students, particularly with requiring more work to be done outside lessons: this should be at least 4 hours of independent study per week for each of their A Level courses within their individual study programme. Subject teachers will set essays and various other tasks to be completed outside lesson time, and there will be additional reading, research and preparation in all subjects. Having a suitable room at home in which this can be done helps students a lot.

This would only apply if the student, through their own actions, made it impossible for a grade to be awarded by the examination board – for example by failing to complete coursework or by missing an examination. The College can also require the payment of fees where a student fails to observe the Code of Conduct, for example by not attending lessons. Parents would be invited to discuss the situation before any such action were taken. If a student re-sits an examination, then the fees are paid by the student.

Students are given a printed copy of their timetable at the start of the year and can access it online through the student portal at any time. Each first year student will have 21 periods on their timetable, with the exact pattern determined by subject choices at enrolment. This includes up to 6 periods designated for independent learning. Independent Learning Periods are part of students’ timetabled commitment to the College and a designated part of their Programme of Study with us. Students are given a window of opportunity to organise their Independent Learning Periods on their timetable to suit their travel and study preferences, after this, the slots become fixed and we expect them to be studying effectively during these periods.

To view a sample timetable please click on the button below.

View sample timetable >>


The College takes student safety very seriously. We are committed to providing a safe environment in which students can learn, identifying students who are likely to suffer significant harm and taking appropriate action to help to ensure they are kept safe both at home and in College. The College has a designated person for child protection, and three other members of staff trained to Designated Person standards, and a College policy which explains our approach in more detail.

We hope that your daughter or son will be happy and successful at Hills Road and that you will also be satisfied with your own experience as a parent. Nevertheless, we understand that there may be times when we don’t get everything right and we shall listen carefully to any feedback which you may have about the College.

If you feel dissatisfied about anything, you are invited to discuss the matter with an appropriate member of staff. For example, an informal approach to your daughter’s/son’s tutor or to the Head of Year or Director of Student Support may be sufficient to settle the matter.

Should you remain dissatisfied and wish to make a formal complaint, please refer to the College’s complaints procedure. You will receive an initial response within ten working days explaining how your complaint is to be handled.

​Student absence

If a student is feeling unwell during the day and needs to go home they must see a member of the Student Services Team to sign out. In some cases it may be necessary for the student to be collected by a parent/guardian or sent home in a taxi if they have some distance to travel.

If it is felt that a student need not go home, they can rest in the medical room until well enough to return to lessons.

On rare occasions, e.g. suspected fracture, a College first aider might accompany a student to the Accident and Emergency Department at Addenbrooke’s Hospital unless the student prefers to be accompanied by a friend. Parents/guardians would be contacted immediately.

No. Holidays during term time should not be taken. Experience shows that missing more than a week of term can have a significant impact on a student’s progress, so we ask that term time holidays are avoided.

In exceptional circumstances where students need to be absent during term time for a maximum of three discretionary days, please ask your daughter or son to collect a Planned Absence form from their tutor at least one month in advance, which will prompt them about what to do to seek absence permission.

The College uses an electronic system for the recording of attendance and this information is sent home to parents via a weekly email. The Student Services Team use this data to monitor attendance. If a student is absent from College they must enter the appropriate absence code in the electronic register. It is expected that this is done on the day of absence. Full instructions are given to students at induction. An acceptable reason must be given for all absences, otherwise the absence will be considered unauthorised.

Attendance and punctuality data are displayed on the student’s ProPortal home page which parents can ask to see at any time.


Notes will not normally be required, as students will be asked to provide reasons for their absence through the electronic registration system. The Student Services Team will contact you if absences are a cause for concern, and may request confirmation of the reason for absence.

For any unplanned absences of more than 3 days, parents are asked to contact the College, giving your son’s/daughter’s name, tutor group and reason for absence either via email absence@hillsroad.ac.uk or phone on 01223 278065.

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