Head Teacher’s Blog 22nd January 2021
I start again this week by acknowledging what a great job the students are doing in responding to remote learning. Thank you to parents, as I know from personal experience and from feedback what a challenge it can be juggling everything and supporting those efforts by your children. By way of encouragement, however, the level of engagement remains incredibly strong with over 90% of students logging on regularly to form time and subject Teams lessons and submitting all work on the deadline. Even amongst those who are not, there are often practical reasons which students are working round with support from parents and teachers.
While it is also difficult to quantify learning over a relatively short space of time, what we are seeing of students work echoes what we saw when the students were in school. The general picture is one of really good progress through our normal curriculum. Of course, there are different stories and I am not dismissive of situations where that is not the case, but I share this because it is a real credit to our young people and I hope a source of encouragement to parents and teachers.
We survey the students weekly to get a feel for how things are going for them, including how home learning is working out. This feedback is really helpful for teachers. This week we have included a link to a similar survey for you as parents. Thank you in advance for the time taken to respond.
(Please click on link below to access survey)
At the end of the notices in this week’s blog, please note that there is also a survey from Mr Doherty which is designed to offer practical support to families where it may be required.
Shortly after I sent my Blog last week, we received the link to the joint DfE and Ofqual consultation on arrangements for awarding grades for GCSE and A Level this year. I have included a link to that consultation below, along with a brief summary of what is being considered. Students who are affected and their parents are encouraged to contribute to the consultation and I would certainly urge you to do so if you can. The deadline for response is 29th January.
Last week I also looked ahead to our annual response to Holocaust Memorial day, which Mr Scriven and Mr Neal are adapting to work online this year. I have included below an invitation to the Sheffield vigil to mark this day, which will also be taking place on line.
Holocaust Memorial Day 2021 – Be the Light in the Darkness
On Holocaust Memorial Day we share the memory of millions who were murdered in the Holocaust and subsequent genocides in order to challenge hatred and persecution in the world today. The theme this year is ‘Be the Light in the Darkness’ where there will be readings and reflections from the Lord Mayor, Leader of the Council and other Community Organisations.
This year the vigil will take place virtually on Wednesday 27th January, 5:45pm – 7pm. Please find the webcast link below;
This year’s vigil will also pay tribute to Sue Pearson MBE who arrived in Sheffield from Prague on the Kindertransport in 1939 at the age of 11. Sue dedicated her life to education and raising awareness of the Holocaust and the impact of discrimination. Her work included visits to Notre Dame where she spoke powerfully about her experience and helped our students to gain a personal connection to the human story of the holocaust. Sue sadly passed away in December 2020. We are grateful to have known her in this community and I know some of you reading this will remember her coming into school and will no doubt share that appreciation for her life and work.
DfE and Ofqual consultation on the awarding of grades for GCSE and A Level
Here is the link to the consultation on the way in which grades will be awarded for students who would have been sitting GCSE or A Level Exams this summer.
I have summarised below the key things that are being proposed and the points where your views are being asked for.
- Grades will be based on teacher/centre assessment. Exam boards will provide advice on a standardised approach between schools, outlining what evidence should be collected and how schools should quality assure internally. Grades will be submitted as late as possible to maximise the time for catch-up teaching and ongoing assessment.
- Teacher assessment will be based on the level of knowledge, skill and understanding that they have reached by the end of the course, rather than a prediction of what students may have got had exams run as normal; or what students would have got had the pandemic not disrupted their learning. There is no detail at this stage on how the evidence of student performance will be translated into a grade. It is to be hoped that this will allow some flexibility to take account of the different experiences that students have had this year compared to normal years.
- Exam boards may provide some external assessment tasks, which would be based on exam paper questions. DfE and Ofqual are consulting on whether these should be mandatory or not, whether teachers could set their own assessments instead, the percentage of the course that the tasks should cover, and the timing of the external assessment.
- Schools and colleges will be expected to provide internal quality assurance, with support and advice from the exam boards.
- Exam boards will also provide external quality assurance, both during the process of determining grades, and once grades are submitted. If the exam boards are satisfied with the internal quality assurance of a school’s or college’s judgement, it is unlikely to change grades. A formula or algorithm will not be used to standardise results.
- Private candidates will be included in the process, and the consultation asks what the best way to do this is. This may include private candidates being entered centrally by the exam boards.
- Students will have the right to appeal grades, which is currently being proposed as being led by schools and colleges in the first instance, before being escalated to exam boards. Again, there is no detail on the process, but appeals will be based on the guidelines given for how grades should be arrived at.
Message from Mr Coats regarding Y7 progress grades
Earlier in the year we shared with parents of Y7 students that, in the absence of Y6 SATs having been taken, we were instead combining data from a standardised ‘GL Assessment’ series and teacher assessment to report our best judgement of the trajectory students were on when they joined us. This will allow us to celebrate successes and identify where things are not going quite as we’d hope and to put in place intervention where appropriate.
We had hoped to have completed this process in time to share this information with Y7 parents with the January monitoring reports. Unfortunately, there have been delays due to bubbles isolating and also in getting information back from GL Assessments which means we were unable to meet our January deadline for this. We are now working towards sharing this information with the March monitoring reports.
Change to the safeguarding policy - COVID-19 addendum
Please read the document attached to this blog which contains some amendments to the safeguarding policy to ensure the safety of students during the period of lockdown.
Message from Mr Doherty
We know that in these difficult times, lots of families are struggling with a wide variety of issues that would not necessarily, under usual circumstances, present a problem. Notre Dame have been contacted by a number of local charities offering practical support for families, and we are keen to put them in touch with those they can help. If you find yourself experiencing difficulties in any of the following areas, please respond to this survey. At this stage, we cannot make specific promises of help, but we are confident that lots of people can receive meaningful support. We appreciate the need for confidentiality in these issues, and will not discuss your responses with other parties before first talking to you.