Information from Principal Andrew Davis
Dear Parents and Carers,
I hope you have had a good week.
We have continued to make good progress with a range of areas which I would like to update you about.
The number of Teams sessions continues to grow rapidly
As I am sure you are aware staff have really ramped up the number of sessions they are now able to deliver through Teams. As I suggested last week, prior to the Government announcement about schools returning in September, we view Teams as a long term investment since there is a chance we could return to lockdown at some stage.
We are now at the stage where all of our subjects are delivering lessons through Teams. Over the final three weeks of term we would really like to encourage more students to engage in Teams lessons, particularly those we have now planned in for Year 10 sessions. Each subject has committed to at least one Teams session per group a week, unless they already have a face to face session planned, and it would be brilliant to see every Year 10 student engage with those meetings. For Year 10 we have asked subjects to post their Teams meetings through to the end of term so students can plan their work around them.
If you are still encountering difficulties accessing Teams or just need some help to navigate Teams please do not hesitate to get in touch with the Year 10 team by telephoning or emailing the College. We would be delighted to help.
To further support students we have been holding 1:1 sessions for Year 10 students to get them started on Teams or to discuss other barriers to their learning. We have been really delighted with the level of engagement with these meetings and we hope they have helped. If any Year 10 would like to meet to try and remove those barriers or to get further support in the Key Stage 4 Study Centre again please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.
Rules for Teams meetings - a reminder from Mr Allen
As with any new initiative there have been some learning points and we would ask you to discuss the following with your child/ren as appropriate:
In most cases we would expect a student to accept an invitation to a meeting. We have asked staff to keep to normal timetabled lesson times. Some departments have created a multi-class schedule which does not cut across other subjects. If a student needs to decline an invitation for any reason, we would ask them to give a brief reason as they reply to avoid appearing discourteous.
We would also ask students to ensure they join meetings at the scheduled time and not before. We would liken this to being in school and only entering a classroom after the bell. Equally, students should only use chat for lesson related conversation and not inter-student chat. We would ask you to remind students that all comments are logged and traced to the individual and improper use of chat could lead to having their access to meetings removed.
Students accessing a Teams meeting should do so either through the browser version (which can be reached through RM unify) or through the downloadable app. This allows us to identify them automatically. If they try to enter the meeting in another way, they may find the teacher asks them to confirm their identity or they may not be granted access to the meeting.
Finally, we have been pleased to receive many delightful emails from students. On rare occasions, and without meaning to be rude, students can adopt a tone that is more familiar than we would expect. Please could you ask students to consider this when composing emails to staff.
Thank you all for your wonderful support during this time. If you have any queries regarding Teams meetings please do not hesitate to contact me.
Increasing the length of in school sessions for Year 10 and Year 12
Given the success of the Year 10 sessions we would like to increase these sessions by 30 mins to maximise the time we can spend with students. This will mean that the sessions will follow the following pattern:
9.15 – 11.45
9.30 – 12.00
10 – 12.30
Our thanks once again to the students for engaging so brilliantly in these sessions.
Support for Key stage 3 students
Overall, we are seeing really good engagement from our Key Stage 3 students on Teams.
Well done to those students – keep on going – the hard work will pay off!
Now that guidelines have changed, we are now allowed to do some face to face support for these students which we will start this next week on the Green Close site. The sessions will be 1:1 with our pastoral staff and will be invite only so that we can manage their movement safely around the site. As with the Year 10 sessions, we are hoping students will really engage with the programme and drop in to see us so that we can help them with any issues they might be having either academically or pastorally. If you believe your child would benefit from such a meeting please do not hesitate to get in touch.
Key worker and vulnerable students in College
Next week could easily see 100 keyworker and vulnerable students in College on some days with 140+ students booked in across the week. These will be our biggest numbers yet and we continue to provide students with a wide range of specialist teaching across the week as well as some physical activity and time to complete their Classcharts work. We now also try to arrange for students to join in with the Teams meetings they might have planned for each day – if you could include these details when you book this would help us to plan these sessions. Unfortunately, due to the changing numbers of students attending it is impossible to always keep the students within the same group of children though we always try our best to limit any changes. Of course, as per the hierarchy of measures from the DfE, we continue to emphasise social distancing rules, staggered starts and breaks, handwashing, one-way systems, not sharing equipment and so on to mitigate the spread of any potential infections and keep everyone safe.
It has undoubtedly been a very strange time for our Year 11 and Year 13 students (I know I have a Year 11 at home as well!) however, as we approach results day we are beginning to plan what that day will look like for you given the current rules around large groups. We very much want to be part of your results day and I know that for many staff it is the highlight of their year to see your hard work pay off. At the moment, headteachers from around the County are discussing this issue to find the best way forward collaboratively. Please remember that we will also not know results until that results period and, having now submitted all the grades, we await the outcome of any alterations that OfQUAL may make to take account of the national picture.
We definitely haven’t forgotten you Year 11 (how could we!!) and I know if you wish to discuss anything with us, from your mental health to Post-16 courses to careers advice, or even just to say Hi, Mrs Merry and the Year 11 team would be delighted to hear from you.
We know many of you will be returning to Post-16 and so are busy planning your transition days for when you join us. Miss Thomas and the team are hugely excited to be welcoming you to the next phase of your educational journey.
A recovery curriculum for September?
Last week I spoke about the different scenarios that we are planning for within school from fully open to partial lockdown with just some year groups in to returning to a local lockdown.
Following last week’s announcement, late on Friday, about schools being fully open for all year groups we are still awaiting the guidance from Government about what the rules will be to enable this to happen and maintain some form of social distancing. Even with 1 metre social distancing in place there would be constraints around PE changing rooms, crossing the bridge and eating/queueing for the canteen to name but a few areas to manage.
In the absence of this guidance, we have been spending time thinking about what our curriculum will look like in September. We are conscious that we will need to spend some time supporting the mental health of our students upon their return (for some students this may be very difficult but for others easier), recovering our relationship with students and also undertaking some very low stakes quizzing to work out where their gaps in knowledge are so that we can put a recovery curriculum in place to fill those gaps. We are also conscious that we have not been able to provide our normal transition process and so some allowance will need to be made to welcome our new Year 7 students to our College.
This recovery curriculum will be particularly important for the older students about to embark or finish their GCSE courses though, of course, we will want to get younger students back on track as well. We are working with our subject specialists to put in place knowledge organisers for all areas, available on line through Teams, so that every student knows exactly what content they need to know which is then backed up through lessons and formative assessments. By thinking about these threshold concepts and thinking creatively about how we deliver content, alongside a possible the delay by a month to external examinations that the Government has suggested, we believe that can make up for the lost time and help our students to get the grades their efforts deserve in 2021. I hope to be able to provide you with more details about these exciting curriculum plans before we break for the Summer period.
Thank you once again for all your continued support and very kind messages about how much you appreciate the work we are doing. It is greatly appreciated by all the staff.
Have a good weekend.
Andrew Davis - Principal