Covid-19 Update 27/03/2020

Covid-19 Update 27/03/2020

As we come to the end of our first week of school closure for most students, I wanted to write to you all again with a further update.

First, I hope you are all well and coping as well as possible under the circumstances.

I have been considering carefully the feedback we have received during the course of this week and have included below a summary of it along with our proposed response for the next week.

What you have told us:

Some of you feel that we have not been setting enough work and that your child is completing the tasks in 40/45 minutes instead of the full 75 minutes; others feel strongly the other way that we have been setting too much work and that your child is getting stressed about their ability to keep up with it all. The majority view is that you are pleased that we have used the iPads to establish a regular routine with as much normality as possible, helping to keep your child in the habit of getting up for a 8.45am start.

Others have commented on the fact that each child is now spending more time on screen each day than they would have been if they had been at school.

We have also had comments that internet access, which was previously fine, has been reduced, presumably as a result of the increased usage which is putting the networks under pressure.

One of the concerns raised, that I am particularly mindful about, is where families have two or more children at different schools and they are trying to balance the different workloads as well as the chance to have one piece of exercise each day outdoors. I do appreciate that for many, a decent walk during the day is important for mental health and wellbeing and that if this clashes with one of our scheduled lessons that causes a problem.

And finally there have been concerns raised about the school email at 5pm alerting parents to there being a gap in the completion of work for that day.

How we are responding:

Taking all this into account, I certainly don’t want to lose the good parts of what we have managed to deliver by making too drastic a change too quickly, but equally I do want you all to know that we are listening and considering the situation to see how we can make tweaks and improvements as we move forward.

My thoughts then for our second week, Monday 30th March to Friday 3rd April, are that we should keep going mostly as we are but with some added flexibility built into the timing of the completion of the work. At present each student has to log on and register during the lesson and submit completed work within a short time frame of the end of that lesson. I am proposing that we move to a system where the registration and the work to be completed for the lessons for each day have to be done by 7pm in the evening on that day. Staff will then check and complete their registers of completed work and the standard automated email to parents notifying them of any uncompleted work will be sent out at 8am the following morning. The reason we want to keep to a daily routine is so that in any particular subject a child doesn’t start to fall behind – i.e. they don’t get to the next lesson having failed to look at or attempt the work from the previous lesson. But making this change does allow each student and family to plan for an extended break in the middle of their day if they wish to. It helps families who are struggling with younger children, or perhaps with older relatives, and it just allows a bit more flexibility for everyone whilst still maintaining the provision of full-time education. I hope this will address a number of the concerns raised above and will strike a better balance in what we are all trying to achieve in partnership together.

I would add that the automated email notifying parents of any incomplete work is only a communication designed to help you to be aware. It is not the school being snarky about it or suggesting that your child should have some kind of sanction. It is just us sharing the information with you. In many cases the student has done the work but hasn’t registered and it is something that can easily be put right. It is really there for a parent who thinks that their child has been doing all the work but actually they haven’t, and, from my own experience, my view is that it is always best to know that sooner rather than later so that it doesn’t build up into a big issue. Please don’t get wound up by that email if you receive it on a certain day! We are only trying to help, and we do appreciate that there are many other considerations in people’s lives at the present time, so just treat it as information-sharing.

I am not going to ask the teaching staff to make any dramatic changes in the amount of work they are setting at the moment. It is an inevitability that some students will work more quickly than others and the balance of responses on this aspect seems to be pretty much where I would hope it to be. We will continue to monitor this each week and we will make adjustments if it looks like we are doing too much or too little.

I know some colleagues are encouraging students to complete certain work on paper and then upload photographs of the work done into Showbie, and I will recommend a variety of approaches are offered by all staff to the students so that there is more choice as to how students respond to the work. This should help to reduce screen time.

I hope the above changes help and provide a reasonable refinement of the work load. As you are aware, we may be in this phase for some time yet and so the maintenance of routines for the young people is important. With your help we are keen to get this right. I would be grateful to receive further feedback from you towards the end of this next week to see if it has worked better for you and your family.

GCSE and A Level Grades

We took the decision this week not to send home the Year 13 Mock Results as originally planned on the school calendar. There remains uncertainty around the exact process to be used for the awarding of the A Level and GCSE grades but one thing is clear: the grades awarded will NOT be simply the mock exam grades. So it was felt that it would be unhelpful and misleading in the current climate to send a set of mock exam results home.

The grades for the GCSE and A Level certificates will ultimately be awarded by the exam boards, not by the school. The school will recommend a grade. This will be based on a combination of all the assessed work completed in that subject, not just the mock exam, and what we know about typical final performance based upon the data we have at this stage. The exam board will then take this and will also consider the known prior attainment data of that student and the typical national rates of progression. It is the precise details of this overall computation that is not yet known.

At the present time the advice for Year 11 and Year 13 students remains the same: complete any unfinished work, including coursework (but not controlled assessment which must be done under exam conditions in school) and complete any work set that is required to complete the exam board specification (or syllabus), but otherwise you do not need to be doing any further work or revision. Your teachers will be putting revision materials on-line for you, but this is only so that you have them for the autumn term in case you wish to challenge the grade awarded by sitting the actual exams once this is allowed.

Best wishes to you and yours for the weekend and for the week ahead. I will send a further update next week.

Yours faithfully,

Rob Williams


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