Head Teacher’s Blog 12th February 2021
I start this week’s blog with an apology for any inconvenience or difficulty caused to any parents by my decision to close the school site on Monday and Tuesday. Particularly on Tuesday, it was clear that the disruption to travel that we were concerned about never transpired and so we could have opened to students who needed to be in without significant difficulty for them or for the staff who would have needed to be in school. Unfortunately, at the time when I am making the decision, I am working with forecasts and past experience and trying to make the most sensible decision. In the past we have had days where very little learning has happened due to disrupted journeys in to school for students and staff, followed almost immediately by the process of trying to get everyone home again safely. On those days, I kick myself for having tried to open. On Tuesday, I kicked myself for closing!
Looking ahead, next half term we expect to hear at some point plans for re-opening. At this stage I know only what has been shared nationally, that the earliest schools will re-open is 8th March and that we will have two weeks’ notice to plan. We will of course do all we can to communicate the implications for you and your children as soon as we receive guidance. In the meantime, we will continue with the same programme of remote learning that students have been engaging in so well. We will also continue to tweak and develop that programme in response to the continual feedback we’re gathering from students, staff and parents.
Talking of engagement with remote learning, I had a conversation with Mrs Scriven, joint head of English this week, who just wanted to highlight once again how impressed the department have been with students and the way that they have engaged with home learning and continued to make great progress during this half term. The general level of engagement and learning has remained very high and there are so many students where the English department have seen exceptional quality of work, with students showing real ownership and responsibility for their learning and real enjoyment in it too. It is just another example of the continual feedback I’m getting from teachers about the way in which students are responding to this lockdown.
Looking ahead again beyond the half term break, on the 22nd Feb we expect to get the results of the consultation by the DfE and Ofqual on the awarding of exam grades this year. We will share our understanding of that response and what it will mean for students as soon as we can, as we really hear and understand the difficulty of uncertainty for so many of our students. While we wait for that guidance, I have shared at the end of this Blog a set of principles drawn up by teaching unions, which has been shared with Ofqual and the DfE. They provide what seems to me to be common sense and we hope they are reflected in the guidance that we will all work to.
For now, I hope that students and their families are able to have a really a good break from the routine of home learning. We recognise the different demands that home learning places on students and parents and hope that the pause gives everyone a chance to recharge and be refreshed.
As it is the start of Lent in the middle of half term, I finish with a prayer that was sent to me this week by a former colleague in the diocese, that felt appropriate for this time in lockdown and for the beginning of the season of Lent.
Creator God, we take a moment’s pause during this challenging time of pandemic. Even though we are pleased and proud of our children and our schools, we also may bring heavy hearts and we have different cares and worries. We sometimes become unsettled by all the
changes in our daily lives and at times our concerns and tiredness can seem to overwhelm our hopes and positivity. We need to pause in our busyness, take a deep breath and regroup.
We gather up all our thoughts, cares, concerns, fears, hopes and joy before our heavenly Father.
Principles for awarding exam grades drawn up by a range of education unions and other professional education associations
The principles call for the government and Ofqual to recognise of the widely varying extent to which students have been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic and the need for clear guidance and support for schools and colleges, assessment based on a range of evidence, and strong external quality assurance processes.
The principles also make clear that appeals must be handled by awarding organisations rather than this responsibility being landed on schools and colleges.
The principles include:
- Awarding organisations should set out what standard is required for students to achieve each grade and these standards should recognise that students may have studied less of the course than usual due to the pandemic. Students should be able to demonstrate a standard of work in the content they have been taught. The standards should be consistent across all awarding organisations.
- Schools and colleges should be able to assess students on a range of evidence, with clear criteria from the awarding organisations about the types of evidence that can be used. Awarding organisations should provide support, guidance and assessment materials.
- Schools and colleges should be given clear and consistent guidance from awarding organisations about how to conduct internal quality assurance, and all schools and colleges may be moderated and required to provide evidence to the awarding organisation for the grades they have submitted for some students.
- Awarding organisations retain responsibility for issuing grades, and appeals should therefore be made directly to awarding organisations, and not to schools and colleges as suggested in the Ofqual/ DfE consultation.