Head Teacher’s Blog 23rd April 2021
Happy Easter! Easter Sunday already feels like quite a long time ago, but we are still in the 50 day season of Eastertide, when the Christian tradition is to actively celebrate belief in the resurrection of Christ and all that it means for the ultimate triumph of hope, goodness, forgiveness and love.
It certainly helps to live with a sense of hope and belief in goodness when the sun is shining. I was standing out on gate duty earlier this week, in the sunshine, with student after student saying good morning as they came through the gate and some stopping to tell me a bit about their Easter break, or how they’re feeling about the term ahead. At that point, it was certainly easy to be grateful.
With the first week of this term coming to a close, our Y10, Y11 and Y13 students have mostly had at least one of the assessments that will help teachers add to the evidence that they already have to arrive at a fair grade for GCSEs and A Levels. I would ask everyone to keep those young people in their prayers. I hope that, as they get into the swing of things, any anxiety that any of them feel will quickly ease. I ask prayers too for teachers who are particularly busy with additional assessment work to plan and mark and who are very conscious of wanting the very best for our students and are carrying that responsibility in an extra way at the moment.
Before moving on to this week’s updates and notices, I had a lovely message from a teacher about some work from her Y7 class that really impressed her and that she wanted to highlight through this week’s blog.
Mrs Holmes was delighted with the additional homework project some of her Y7 students completed over half term. They were tasked with transforming Shakespeare’s comedy ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ into a storybook suitable for six year olds, and exceeded all expectations with their creations! Wonderful to see such creativity and imagination from our young people.
Planning for the future – parents’ evenings
On Wednesday we had our Y9 parents’ evening which was the last of the year, meaning that parents of children in every year group have now had experience of a remote parents’ evening through the “School Cloud” software.
The feedback we have had from both parents and teachers has been almost entirely positive, with a strong sense that this is one of the changes brought on by Covid that we’d like to keep. We are therefore actively considering a move to continue with remote parents’ evenings using School Cloud next year.
Before we finalise that decision, I ask you to complete the one question survey that you can access through this link: Virtual Parents Evenings - Survey
The survey asks whether or not you support a decision to stay remote for parents’ evenings. There is also an option to say that you have no strong opinion.
As noted, we have had lots of very positive feedback from parents and a number of requests to keep working this way. Parents have appreciated the convenience of being able to talk to teachers from home, the fact that appointments tend to be grouped together better and that they run to time. The survey is a final check to confirm the strength of that feedback before we make a decision.
I am mindful that if we do continue with remote evenings, things are still not perfect and there are certainly things we have learned from this year. If we make the decision to stay remote, the next steps will be to look at the questions that need to be answered and the things we can improve from what we have learned this year and we will welcome your feedback on that.
There are already some frequently asked questions or issues that we can answer, however, that may be useful to you before responding to the survey:
Can we have longer appointments? – No, we cannot increase the time of appointments as the current timings, for a typically sized class, just fit within a reasonable length of evening for teachers and allow the majority of appointments to be within a time frame that parents have indicated in previous surveys that they prefer. Typically the feedback indicates that the 5 min appointments are sufficient for most subjects. Where a parent feels that they need more time to talk about a particular subject, or issue in school, we would encourage the parent to contact the Head of Year or Form tutor so that we can look at the best way to arrange that conversation in addition to the parents’ evening.
I didn’t get appointments for all my child’s teachers – This is not to do with the online system. This is a challenge with Y7 and Y8 classes and it is down to the fact that, in order to cover the whole timetable, teachers often have to teach more than one class in these year groups. This is particularly true in subjects like Art, Music, Drama, Geography and History, where there are fewer teachers. This does mean that there would not be enough appointment slots in a given evening for a teacher to see the parents of every child they teach. The online system does give us some more flexible ways of solving this long standing problem, some of which worked successfully this year, though it will
always be the case that we will need to ask parents and teachers to prioritise appointments to some extent.
How can I get support getting logged onto the system and what do I do if I don’t have a compatible device? – If we do move to online parents’ evenings permanently, we will use the experience from this year to find ways to make it as easy as possible for you to connect with the system and to be able to support you if you are having difficulties.
Overall, I think remote parents’ evenings have been positive, but I would be sad to lose the chance to get into the school and see people in person – If we move to this system in the future, the reduction in the number of long evenings in school for teachers and other members of staff and for parents would, we hope, help us to make even more out of events like our Summer Festival, which would provide that opportunity to see each other in person and to ‘get a feel’ for the school. We would also continue to arrange phone calls and in school appointments for parents to meet with
staff where there are things to be discussed which can’t happen within a parents’ evening.
Big Ask survey
You may have heard on the news about the Children’s commissioner who is launching ‘The Big Ask’ survey. It is designed to help get a picture of the experiences, hopes and fears of young people to inform plans made in government and more widely for the future.
We will be introducing the students to this survey in the coming weeks and we will be giving them opportunities to complete it in school if they wish.
The Children’s Commissioner is also asking parents to contribute their views to the survey. You can
do this by following this link:
The Department for Education has commissioned the NSPCC to establish a
dedicated independent helpline for people who have experienced abuse in education. The Report Abuse in Education helpline comes after a high number of anonymous testimonials were submitted to the Everyone’s Invited website, documenting abuse in all types of schools, colleges, and universities.
The helpline went live on 1 April, and will provide both children and adults who have experienced sexual abuse in schools with support and advice, including onward action such as contacting the police if they wish to. The helpline will also provide support to parents and professionals. Anyone who gets in touch through this dedicated helpline will also be signposted to other relevant support services available, including Childline, which provides ongoing support and counselling to children and young people.
The dedicated and confidential NSPCC helpline – Report Abuse in Education can be reached on 0800
136 663 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will be sharing with students and teachers information about this helpline and how to access it.