Update from Principal James O’Connell | 23 March 2020

Dear Parents/Carers,

We have now had our first day under the new regime of being open only for vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers who need to be supported during school hours. We had twenty students in this morning and the mixture of children were split into two groups and rotated between three activities with some study time, exercise and project work. We have now moved to skeleton staffing so that as few possible staff are in school as possible to mitigate the risk of spreading the Coronavirus. We will continue to run a range of activities to support and engage the pupils who need to be in school. Please be aware that we cannot and won’t be replicating normal lessons.

We are looking into what offer we need to provide over the Easter holiday. If you are a key worker or your child is in the vulnerable group and you need them to be looked after during the holiday, please could you email me direct at james.oconnell@teignmouth.devon.sch.uk giving me your child’s name and age and identifying which days he or she needs to be looked after.

An extract of the latest guidance to schools from the Department of Education published today is below:

‘We have asked parents to keep their children at home, wherever possible, and for schools to remain open only for those children who absolutely need to attend.

It is important to underline that schools, all childcare settings (including early years settings, childminders and providers of childcare for school-age children), colleges and other educational establishments, remain safe places for children. But the fewer children making the journey to school, and the fewer children in educational settings, the lower the risk that the virus can spread and infect vulnerable individuals in wider society. Schools, and all childcare providers, are therefore being asked to continue to provide care for a limited number of children – children who are vulnerable, and children whose parents are critical to the COVID-19 response and cannot be safely cared for at home.’

I have been asked to share with you the Devon County Council website on the current situation. It contains some useful information and can be found at: www.devon.gov.uk/document/schools-and-families/

Quite a few staff are self-isolating and most are now working from home. Please bear with us as we adapt to working in a very different format. Some staff are already adept at using the technologies and virtual platforms. Others, like myself, are muddling through! We are using Class Charts as our start point for setting work and directing students where to go if other platforms are being used. Many teachers are using Google Classroom, where work can be dropped off, and Google Meet (sometimes called Google Hangout) to upload lessons. I shared our aims on this previously but we will provide greater clarity on this for the start of next term.

If you are concerned that your son/daughter is confused or does not have enough work to do, you could contact his/her teacher direct. All of our teachers’ email addresses are available on the website here:

You could also contact the relevant Head of Faculty or Curriculum Vice Principal, Ms Atkinson or myself.

Please be aware that though many people are working from home, they may also be juggling illness, child care and other responsibilities. The number of emails and time online is already beginning to escalate exponentially, so it would be appreciated if we could all remember that we cannot respond instantly and to keep emails and questions to the essential. Thank you.

Many of you will know Minister Jamie Redfern from Teignmouth Baptist Church who works with us regularly in school and has been in touch. His church has a food bank fund and is providing food and supplies on the doorsteps to needy families. If you are struggling at this difficult time, please let us know through the school or you can contact Teignmouth Baptist Church directly at 01626 773000 (please leave a message if it goes to answerphone) or by emailing office@teignmouthbaptist.org

We are still reeling from the news that all public exams this summer have been cancelled. This has understandably raised huge questions and caused significant anxiety for pupils in Years 11 and 13 and their parents/carers. Please see the information below if you are a parent/carer of a pupil in these year groups.

Otherwise, we will endeavour to keep you updated. Thank you for your ongoing support.

Best wishes

James O’Connell





An extract from the latest information from the Department of Education published today on this subject is below:

The coronavirus outbreak is expected to continue having a significant impact on the education system, and the country, for months to come. Therefore exams have been cancelled now to give pupils, parents, and teachers certainty, and enable schools and colleges to focus on supporting vulnerable children and the children of key workers.

The calculated grade process will take into account a range of evidence including, for example, non-exam assessment and mock results, and the approach will be standardised between schools and colleges. Ofqual is working urgently with the exam boards to set out proposals for how this process will work and will be talking to teachers’ representatives before finalising an approach, to ensure that the approach taken is as fair as possible.

We are not awarding students their predicted grades. Ofqual, the independent qualifications regulator, will develop a fair and robust process that takes into account a broad range of evidence, including teacher assessment and prior attainment. Ofqual will make every effort to ensure that the process agreed does not disadvantage any particular group of students.

Mock exam results will be one of the pieces of evidence that will be taken into account in this process, alongside other factors. Ofqual will ensure schools are provided with clear guidance on how to do this fairly and robustly.

Pupils who do not feel their calculated grade reflects their performance will have the opportunity to sit an exam, as soon as is reasonably possible after schools and colleges open again.”

I am sorry that we cannot yet definitively explain how grades will be awarded. What seems likely is that we will be asked to submit an estimate of what grade we think each student would have attained this summer, plus their mock exam results, plus any other evidence such as assessed work, coursework or controlled assessments. The awarding bodies will then probably also look at any other data they have on a student which in most cases means looking at their Key Stage 2 SATS results from the end of primary school.

I am sorry that this will not answer all of your questions and I’m afraid that I can only say that we have no option but to wait and see. For now, Year 11 and 13 students should prioritise completing any unfinished coursework which is still a requirement for those who take BTEC or other vocational qualifications in Construction, Engineering, Motor Vehicle, Hair and Beauty, Art, Photography, Food, Music, Business, Law, Health and Social Care, IT, Dance and PE. This should be the first priority. Otherwise, students would be best served by collating and storing their notes and revision materials. They may well need these if they want to take up the opportunity of sitting exams when school resumes, perhaps in September if not before. Further to that, they would be best advised to continue learning and studying by looking to their next phase. They have a significant opportunity to start preparing, reading and researching in advance of what they will be doing in September. For most year 11 students, this will mean looking to level 3 courses and A levels and for Sixth Form students it could mean looking at degree courses or into their careers and the job market. We will look to provide pre-reading and research materials for all of our Sixth Form courses for current Year 11s and teachers can also be contacted directly if further support is requested.

Again, we are so sorry that this is so unsettling for many Year 11 and 13 students. However, exam grades are not the ultimate purpose of education and, in the long run, we will overcome and make the best of this situation. Please reassure your sons and daughters that we will do everything in our power to safeguard and ensure that they have the best route to their next phase and we will stay in touch and eventually look forward to properly celebrating and saying goodbye. We will be in touch as and when we receive more guidance.