Update from Principal James O’Connell | 26 May 2020

Dear Parents/Carers,

The government has published further guidance on the provision for secondary education this bank holiday afternoon on the 25th May.  The guidance states:

‘Secondary schools should plan on the basis that from the week commencing 15 June, they can invite year 10 and 12 pupils back into school for some face-to-face support with their teachers, subject to the government’s 5 tests being met.

We are asking secondary schools to offer this face-to-face support to supplement the remote education of year 10 and year 12 pupils, which should remain the predominant mode of education during this term for pupils in these year groups.’’

Year 10 and 12 students and parents

We have been planning for a number of contingencies over the last few weeks and my senior leadership team and I will be going through the advice in detail over the next few days before we make firm plans for Years 10 and 12 next week.  Schools are given some flexibility in terms of what to provide but there are also a number of rules in the guidance including not having more than a quarter of a year group in school at any one time and on limiting the number of groups students mix in.  Control of the amount of contacts with other individuals that pupils have each time they come into school is a key planning criteria.  The situation could of course change again following the announcement due this Thursday 28 May.  Our response will continue to be one of putting the safety of pupils, staff and families first whilst secondly looking to do all we can to support the welfare and learning of our students.

We already have a detailed risk assessment and a number of carefully considered controls planned for the return of more pupils.  What we are likely to do over the week commencing Monday 15 June is to begin by having Year 12 students in to attend individual meetings with a tutor to review how they are, and how their work and learning have been progressing remotely.  We will then do the same with Year 10 students.  These meetings will only involve students meeting individually with a socially distanced member of staff in carefully coordinated appointments.  In the week commencing Monday 22 June, we will then hope to begin more school group sessions where Year 10 and Year 12 students are likely to attend school on one or possibly two days a week, working within the same group of students each time in carefully planned sessions which will begin with a focus on welfare, planning, self-motivation, and how to learn independently.

All students

However, for all year groups, including Years 10 and 12, the predominant mode of learning is going to be remote provision for the rest of this term, and perhaps even from September at times.  For this reason we will be holding some online training sessions for all our teachers from the start of this half term, on the business of teaching online.  We have a number of colleagues who have embraced this new mode and way of working, and we will be drawing from and expanding their good practice.  We are aware that we need to consolidate our provision now.  Your and pupils’ feedback is clear that pupils particularly value and benefit from some direct contact including online lessons, feedback and a chance to interact live with teachers.  There are of course challenges in dong this, especially with more pupils coming into school too, but this is what we will seek to develop.  More details will follow.

Provision for key worker and vulnerable pupils

School for the children of key workers and for vulnerable pupils will continue.  We will be increasing the amount of time pupils in this provision have to follow the online learning content.  A booking sheet for June can be found here.

Sport and PE

Mr Douglas, Head of PE, has uploaded log in and password details for a brand new app called ‘miMove’ for all Year 7-10 and Year 12 students.  Details have been put on Class Charts.  This enables students to track and record the amount of exercise they do outside of school and will act as a source of motivation for them.  There is also a Sport England survey to complete which we would be really grateful if you could prompt your son/daughter to complete to give us as much information as possible about what they like, what they don’t and any suggestions to improve our PE and school sport provision.

Year 11 and Year 13 students and parents:

Ofqual has published its decisions on the exceptional arrangements for exam assessment and grading in 2020 for general qualifications – GCSEs, AS, A-levels, Extended Project Qualifications and the Advanced Extension Award in maths.  They have also just published (last Friday) a Consultation on an additional GCSE, AS and A-level exam series in autumn 2020. This consultation closes at 11:45 on 8 June 2020.  You can respond here.

In summary

Overall, I am sorry that I still can’t outline a totally clear route forward for all.  I’m sure that many of you feel a sense of frustration that we can’t get on with life in many ways and get your children back in school full time, whilst others feel some anxiety about what the future holds, particularly for our children and the younger generation whose lives almost seem to have been put on hold by recent events.  Trying to avoid the finger pointing and blame game which seems to be developing, I think that this is just a very difficult new situation to predict, and we have to do our best, and model calm and positive thinking to the younger generation.  There are opportunities and advantages within the challenges of now, and I’d ask you to try and help your children see these.  I try to touch on this in my latest assembly update which I’ve just put on Class Charts.  It’s not exciting or clever, but I’m trying to be honest to our pupils about the way ahead and suggest that they look for the ‘silver linings’ in the current situation where they can.  I do appreciate that for some of you and our pupils, this is still a very hard, worrying or even traumatic time.

I do hope that you are able to enjoy some of this amazing weather, and perhaps some of our wonderful beaches and countryside where it’s not too crowded!  A couple of people have shown an interest in my illegal resident mouse, ‘Mickey’.  She/he has continued to evade the humane trap and there have been no further sitings, though I have to report that next door’s cat has been looking particularly pleased with itself.

Best wishes

James O’Connell