Headteacher's blog 16-10-20
The first term of the academic year draws to a close
So that is term 1 of the new academic year complete. I have been teaching for 25 years and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that it has been the toughest of my career. Whilst it is absolutely great to have all of our students back, it is difficult to overestimate quite how challenging this has been and how much we have had to amend our normal working practices to make this happen. What has helped has been the overwhelmingly positive response from the students. They have understood why we have made changes and know what is expected from them.
One area that has had to be rethought in the current circumstances is parents evenings. Clearly our normal arrangements will not work and so these will be changing to virtual events. The first of these will be our Year 7 Tutor-Parent evening which will take place on 12thNovember. Details have been sent to Year 7 parents about this. This will give us an opportunity to trial systems and logistics prior to the Year 11 parents evening which takes place in December. We do know that not all parents will have access to effective IT and alternatives will be available. Please do contact the school if you have questions or queries.
Another new area of operation is the need for a contingency curriculum in the case of students needing to self-isolate. Thank you to Year 9 parents for your support during the period of self-isolation for the year group earlier in the term. We had been given the deadline of 30thSeptember by the government to plan our remote curriculum provision for such an eventuality and are extremely proud of what our students (and staff!) achieved so close to the start of term.
We have learned a great deal from this unexpectedly early experience and are grateful to parents and students for their feedback. As a result, we have made some significant modifications to our remote learning provision - particularly in regards to the use of Show My Homework and online contact between staff and students - which we believe will enhance the experience should we have to ask students to self-isolate in the future.
After several months of waiting and in the final week of the first term, we have finally been given details of when our Year 11 students will be sitting their exams. The DfE confirmed on Monday that students will still sit one GCSE English and one GCSE maths exam before the summer half term next year. All other exams won’t start until after June 7th, and will continue until July 2nd. GCSE results day will be August 27th. The DfE has also confirmed there won’t be any further content changes beyond what has already been announced. However, they did say they plan to engage with schools over measures needed to address potential disruption. This means it is likely to be a further 6 weeks at least before we have details of the DfE’s “plan B”.
Following this announcement, the head of Ofqual has suggested “greater optionality” in next year’s exams is still a possibility. She said further exam changes could include more multiple choice questions and exam boards providing advance materials before tests, such as formula sheets for science subjects. When challenged about whether invigilated mocks are under consideration as part of a “plan B” should pupils miss exams because of the pandemic, she would only say there is “work in hand to look at contingency plans”.
Clearly, it is helpful now to know when the exams will be; it is unhelpful to still have uncertainty about the other elements of the planned GCSE season. Our response to this continuing uncertainty is to focus on teaching our students to the best of our abilities. I have been heartened by the resilience shown by our Year 11s and the extent to which they have taken advantage of the opportunities offered to them. Period 6 is working well; the students are engaging and it is having the desired impact. Strong foundations are being laid which bodes well for the rest of the year.
Term 2 will see all of our KS3 students taking the first of their order assessments in English, Maths and Science. Revision tasks for these tests have been posted on Show My Homework. Half-term will provide the students with a great opportunity to get on top of these tasks. If you have any questions regarding this process, please do not hesitate to contact Mr Ball or Miss Winchcombe. Thank you in advance for supporting your child in their preparation for these exams.
Last weekend’s DofE expedition was a great success. The weather Gods smiled on the students and they had excellent conditions on both days. Despite the expedition being modified due to Covid restrictions the students did have to walk about 30km across the two days as well put their own tents up and cook a “camp” meal. 31 of the 33 Bronze students successfully completed all elements of the expedition; all 6 of the Silver students successfully completed their practice expedition.
Rather than going slightly further afield this year's expedition took place in the local area, because students were not able to stay overnight. Both days participants walked from School, on one day walking out toward Longney and the other day out towards Elmore. Both days taking in the beautiful countryside that is just a stone's throw away from school, with stunning views over the River Severn and along the canal. The Lead Instructor and one of the Directors of Ocean Rock Adventure, the company we use to run our expeditions, commented on how much she loves working with the school on our expeditions due to the lovely students and staff. She described them as "always a pleasure to work with and a credit to the school".
- My weekly reminder about Free School Meals eligibility. If your financial circumstances have changed, your child may be eligible for Free School Meals. If you click on this link you will find guidance on the eligibility criteria and the application process. It's a quick process and we are notified of all FSM entitlements by Gloucestershire County Council each Monday. I would urge you to take a look if you think you may benefit from financial assistance.
- If your child tests positive for Covid over the half-term holiday we do need to know. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Our school is supporting some local research by Cardiff University in conjunction with the NHS that is investigating the family home environment and the health of children. Please find a link below to a short online survey that we would ask parents of students in Year 7 to complete.
All submitted questionnaires (where contact details are provided) will be entered into a prize draw with the opportunity to win a range of prizes. Please note this research has received NHS Ethics Approval and research assurance from Cardiff University, Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust (School Nursing Service) and Gloucestershire County Council.
I do hope that you and your family enjoy some quality time together over the half-term break. We look forward to welcoming the students back to school on Monday 2nd November. This will be a week B.