School Update 8th January 2021
Update including information regarding the cancellation of exams, remote provision, key worker and vulnerable student povision and ongoing communications.
Dear Parents and Carers,
Thank you for your messages of support in what has been a disruptive week for many of us – both within education and beyond. On Monday evening we had the message from Boris Johnson that the country would be entering another period of national lockdown. The rationale was clear – Covid-19 is being transmitted rapidly through the population and the NHS is seeing a large number of patients suffering from Covid-19 symptoms. Quite simply we needed to stay home, protect the NHS, save lives. Limiting attendance in schools helps reduce the number of social contacts people have thus bringing down transmission rates.
Year 6, Year 11 and Year 13 Exams
Throughout the autumn term I communicated to parents that we were continuing to prepare students for their exams in line with the government guidance. The government had made it clear that this was how students would be assessed in England unlike students in Scotland and Wales. On Monday night this all changed. Head Teachers across the country found out that not only would schools be moving to remote provision but that exams this summer would not go ahead as normal. On Wednesday, Gavin Williamson gave some clarity to this message. He said that there would be no exams, and that these would be replaced by a process of using teacher grades with training and support to ensure that the grades awarded are fair and consistent. At present that is all I know about the process. We are expecting Ofqual to launch a consultation within the next week with a final decision being made towards the end of February. For parents, teachers and students this leaves many questions unanswered. How will the grades be calculated? What grade will you receive? Will the work I do remotely count towards the grade I receive? I missed the mock exam so what will you do without that grade? At present it is almost impossible to answer these concerns until we are in receipt of further information. What I would say is that it is imperative that students do engage fully with their work remotely. Students cannot afford to fall behind as we do not know the process the government would like us to use. The knowledge and skills that students are developing now will support them in their next stage of education, training or employment.
I have a number of emails form families in support of our remote learning offer. We have certainly come a long way from what we first offered in March 2020. Students in years 10, 11, 12 and 13 are now having live face to face input from their teacher for each lesson. It is allowing students to hear the modelling of work, answer questions and ask for clarity. In Key Stage 3 students are accessing live broadcasts to the whole year group. These broadcasts allow for students to use the question and answer feature to engage with the teacher. From Monday the Junior school will also be broadcasting live elements of learning too.
To support learning could we ask the following –
Students in years 10-13 have their cameras on when in lessons. This enables the teacher to engage with them and judge their participation. By having the camera off it is condoning, at best, very passive learning.
For students using mobile devices such as mobile phones, iPads or tablets it is beneficial to download the SharePoint app and the Microsoft Teams app. Students will find it easier to access the lesson feeds this way.
Students in Key Stage 3 should only use the question and answer feed to ask about their learning. All questions are moderated by teachers and whilst it is nice that 200 students say hello, it also means that relevant questions may get missed.
Key (Critical) Worker and Vulnerable Student Provision
In line with the government guidance, we are offering onsite provision for vulnerable students and the children of key (critical) workers. These students are supervised and accessing the work broadcast by the teachers to other students across the cohort. We are finding the numbers of students accessing this provision much higher than last year. Whilst I understand that it may be difficult for you having your child at home may I please remind you of what the government say, “Parents and carers who are critical workers should keep their children at home if they can”. As I previously stated, the purpose of limiting the attendance of students in schools is to reduce the number of social contacts which will drive down transmission rates and allow us to return to normal quicker.
We are keen to maintain our offer of high-quality online learning, and whilst we would never refuse a child of a critical worker onsite provision, it could affect the quality of what we offer due to staffing limitations.
I am aware that you will have been receiving a lot of communication from school over the past week. I will continue to send you a message either on a Friday or Monday and maybe in between if there is pressing news. As we settle into working remotely, I hope that the communications will become more streamlined and the number of messages you receive beyond my communications will reduce.
Many thanks for your support and may I wish you a Happy New Year.
Ben Chaloner - Head Teacher