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Letter to parents and carers 19 April 2020

Home Learning

Dear Parents and Carers

I am writing to you to outline our plans for learning moving forward after the Easter break.  Thanks to those of you who have fed back to us in relation to this area of the school’s work. It has been helpful to us as we map a way forward.  It’s fair to say that we have all been on a steep learning curve in terms of adapting to managing effective distance learning for our pupils.  In the light of our experiences so far and feedback from pupils and parents/carers we are refining our approach to the provision of learning materials as we move forward.  The aim here has been to simplify the process and provide clarity over our expectations.   

Our key purpose is to support pupils as effectively as possible under the current circumstances.  Regular contact with teachers may help learners to remain motivated and engaged in their learning. It is vitally important that we all work together to ensure pupils sustain a regular and structured study habit so the transition back into school, when it comes, is as smooth as possible.

Home Learning

Google Classroom will remain the central platform used for students to access work. However, moving forward, and from Monday 20th April, Years 7, 8, 9 and 10 will be set home learning work according to a weekly timetable which can be accessed via this link. Each day (Monday to Friday), pupils will be provided with two to three hours’ worth of work from one Learning Area/Subject. Tasks will be renewed every week but the organisation of the timetable will be maintained. This is intended to provide clarity for pupils, support consistency across groups and ensure that the amount of work being set does not become overwhelming. Home Learning tasks are intended to be accessible to all learners. However, extension tasks will allow students to tackle more challenging ideas or explore a topic in greater depth if they wish to or are able to.

In Years 7,8 and 9, the work set is intended to consolidate previous learning and, in addition, provide opportunities for pupils to continue with skills development. Some tasks will be devised to encourage a sense of curiosity and maintain a love of learning. In Year 10, teachers will follow a similar ethos but the work will be linked to GCSE content. In Year 12, students will be set two to three hours’ worth of home learning work per subject, per week. Teachers will be setting tasks that support the continuation of subjects at A2 level (Year 13).  

Please appreciate that there is a very fine balance to be struck here for the school.  To be completely honest, we are aware that there is a huge range of response to any work that we set.  Some pupils will follow every guideline scrupulously so as not to ‘fall behind’.  At the other extreme, some pupils will do very little work.  I am sure you can see that there is very little we can do about this at a distance, other than to encourage all pupils to engage.  That is why your role as parents and carers is so vital at this time. Our fear is that, if we do not manage the type of activity very carefully, then pupils will be at very different points in their learning when they eventually return to school.  That is why, with the exception of Year 10 and Year 12 (who are already embarked on courses with defined ‘content’) we aim to make the learning experiences broader and focused on the development of pupils’ skills as learners.

In addition to the provision I have already outlined, we are currently in the process of compiling a bank of ‘bridging’ resources for Year 11 students. Our intention is to provide students with an opportunity to prepare for next year’s courses. We will be communicating with the Year 11 cohort in relation to this very shortly.  If you are the parent of a Year 11 pupil, you should encourage your children to engage with these bridging units, as they will be beneficial for them in preparation for courses which will start sometime next year.

We understand that managing digital access in a busy home environment, where digital devices need to be shared between siblings and with parents, can be a real challenge. With this in mind, we have decided that not all the tasks set will necessarily need to be completed online; students might, for example, access a task on line but then complete it on paper and upload a photo of the work for the teacher to respond to. 

Monitoring progress

Teachers will be responding to learners’ questions and requests for support as well as providing formative feedback on specific pieces of work.  This feedback may be in the form of specific written comments through Google Classroom, emailed written feedback or voice comments.  The online learning packages used may also provide instant feedback to learners and teachers on student performance.  Please reassure your child that if they are unable to complete everything, it is not a problem as long as they are attempting as much as they can.

This is an opportunity to develop confidence and independent learning skills. A simple task done well builds confidence and gives a sense of accomplishment.  We should not endeavour to replicate progress and productivity achieved under normal circumstances; this is just not realistically achievable.  Therefore, we need to provide a way for learners to continue learning in some form and provide a purposeful focus (and possibly a welcome distraction) for them.  It is really important that we maintain a mindful balance for all members of our school community.

This is a uniquely challenging time.  I make no claim that we will have thought of everything or indeed that we will get everything right.  Please bear in mind that teachers have children of their own to look after and they also participate in the running of our Emergency Childcare Setting for the children of key workers.  They cannot do everything. I believe that what I have outlined strikes a reasonable balance for teachers, learners and their families, although I acknowledge that it is challenging for us all.

Once again, I want to underline to you that my main priority is the health and safety of the school community.  Everything else, though important, is secondary to that.  As I have said before, when we eventually get back to normal we will make it our business to try to ensure that no child is disadvantaged by a crisis that is outside his or her control.  So stay safe everyone.  Keep as fit and healthy as you can and focus as much as you can on the positive news rather than the negative, difficult though that might be. 

With warmest wishes

Hugh Davies