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Headmaster’s Letter 2nd April

Posted on 2nd April 2020

A letter from the Headmaster

2nd April 2020

Dear Parent,

I hope you are all keeping well, taking care of yourselves and your family and becoming slowly accustomed to this new way of living.

On the final day of the Spring term, it is strange not to have had our Easter service or our ’Ever to Excel’ assemblies for students in Years 7 to 9. Similarly, we, staff and students, won’t experience that sense of elation when we depart school for the two-week holiday. It is important, however, that we do adjust to the fact that we are now on a break in some form or other. And even though work has been set for students these last nine days, now is the time to stop school work for a little over a couple of weeks.

Like you, I still have no idea as to when we are going to return after Easter. However, the first phase of our plans, the initial two weeks from March 23rd to today, has come to an end. I cannot see us being back straight after Easter (Monday 20 April) and so we’re planning now for two possibilities: either a return at some point between May and the end of June, or possibly, the start of the new academic year in September. The next two sub-headings explain the approach to the second phase. There is an important announcement about the formal exam weeks under the ‘diary and events’ heading, which I would like you to communicate to your child/ren.

Curriculum

In terms of curriculum delivery, we are changing the way in which we’re going to conduct teaching and learning to students in Years 7, 8 and 9. This will allow more flexibility for students at home, while acknowledging that a great deal of learning takes place through guided interactions in the classroom. It also means that teachers can look at different ways of teaching, if they wish. I hope that there will also be the opportunity for students to undertake collaborative work through some of the IT that we have access to. Information about this new approach will be sent to students and their parents later today. Importantly, I want all students (in all years) to feel connected to their School: the guidance on feedback will mitigate the disconnection that many will no doubt be feeling.

For Years 10 and 12, the exam courses will need to continue at the same pace because my assumption is that A level and GCSE exams will take place as normal in the summer of 2021. It is unlikely that Ofqual will have given much thought to how GCSE and A level exams will be constructed for the current Years 12 & 10 to take account of the potential weeks/ months of curriculum time that will be lost. In the schemes of work that Heads of Department devise, there is always flexibility built in to allow for revision in Years 11 & 13 at the close of the courses. However, the opportunity to revise and repeat ideas, scrutinise exam technique, solidify understanding, experiment with application and, basically, to ensure that the learning is ‘sticky’ and connected could be shortened. (We’ll do our best to ensure it’s not but we need to be realistic and pragmatic.)  It is imperative that students keep up to date with the work being sent home. We will hit the ground at a terrific pace when we do get back – no-one can be left behind because they did not complete the work that was set.

Year 11 and 13 will have plenty of work to ensure that they have finished their courses. I am expecting Ofqual to publish their plans for awarding A level and GCSE grades before the Easter weekend. I will write to parents and students outlining the process. I want to state again that lots of data will be used to come up with the final grade.

There is currently a great deal of speculation about how university will fill their places. Currently, these are ‘off the record’ briefings. (From my time as a journalist, I had plenty of these from ‘reliable sources’ but only 20% were ever definitively accurate.) Please don’t invest energy in these until the Government publishes its guidance. Again, I will summarise this for students and parents in Year 13. UCAS continues to be a valuable source of guidance.

Diary and events

Assuming we don’t get called back in on Monday 20 April, the following have been altered:

Be Aware

Please do check our Be Aware page for any updates on online safety, helping students deal with anxiety or any worries related to COVID-19. Mrs Clark, the DSL, emailed younger students with a copy of the Children’s Guide to Coronavirus earlier this week. You can view or download that here. On the Be Aware page there’s also guidance about agencies that you can contact over the holiday if you need support. We also have resources on the ‘Home Help’ page and the ‘Student Well Being and PSHE’ page, both of which are in the student section of the website.

Electronic communication

I wrote to all students this week with some guidance about efficient use of their email account. The message was: please don’t click ‘Reply All’ as your message goes to everyone in your group – not just the teacher.

Reading

Reading is fundamental to intellectual and emotional growth. I cannot stress this enough. All the research points to this overarching conclusions. (For students in KS3, I have left room for 30 minutes per day as part of their curriculum after Easter.) Although we are living through unprecedented times, this is an opportunity to rediscover some of those things that we know are good for us, but that have been lost in the busy-ness of life. The ‘Library page’ in the parents’ section of the website has reading lists for classic and contemporary books. (Many out of copyright books can be read/ downloaded for free on tablets, Kindles, etc.) Mrs Jago, the Librarian, also recommends looking at this web page from the publishers Peters: ‘100 books to read before you leave secondary schools’ if you’re looking for inspiration. I certainly hope we’re back before students get through that list.

Friends Raffle

The raffle was drawn last week. Here is a breakdown of the Raffle results.

£50.00   Miss Jess Moore

£30.00   Mrs. Kerry Cullen

£20.00   Ms. Jayne Smith

Thanks to all who supported this and the Friends. The forms which raised the most money were 7Y (£155.00), and in second place, 8X (£140.00)

Two students who did particularly well were Sophia Faruqi (Y7), who raised £110, and Liam Moore (Y8) who raised £85.

Thank you

Everyone is working hard to ensure that teaching carries on and that the School can open when we’re told to do so. And even though school is closed, we have a number of staff who are still doing their jobs to ensure we are ‘compliant’ or doing their best to find answers to some of your questions. There are many, many to thank but I would in particular like to thank Mrs Newton and Mrs Cowland, who have looked after reception, fielded phone calls and have continued to be the front of house. Also Mr Gibson, our IT Network Manager, deserves a mention. He has kept us all online and has kept the website up to date. His patience is endless. You/we/I would be lost without, not just them, but the rest of the staff we have here.

Do enjoy the Easter break,

Alistair Hopkins

Headmaster