Dear Parents and Carers,
I’d like to start this bulletin with a message to all of our students. Those of them who would be sitting exams this year will have been left confused and upset by the frankly bewildering decision to cancel exams without having a plan to replace them. We still don’t know what to expect. What we do know is that we will be asked to provide teacher assessed grades for each student. We don’t know what evidence is acceptable or admissible, but it is vital that those students continue to engage with the work we are setting and complete it to the best standard they can. Waiting to hear what the government suggest we do instead of exams will be waiting too long. That work needs doing now. We are looking at what we can do to support students in the transition between GCSE and post sixteen courses, including maybe starting those courses during the summer term if we can, exam/assessment arrangements allowing.
For students not in Year 11 or Year 13, I can’t emphasise enough that students will need the knowledge from the work being set at the moment as they progress through school. It won’t always be like it is now, and they must not allow themselves to fall behind. Teachers are reporting on levels of engagement and where students are not completing the work set, we will be in touch to ask why not. We understand of course that learning during lockdown won’t be the same, and we will plan to put that right once school re-opens, but students need to help themselves by completing the work, asking for help if they need it and continuing to learn.
Thank you very much to the 278 of you who completed the survey I sent out this week. It has been extremely helpful as we work to get the remote education offer running as smoothly as possible. I was pleased to see that 98% of respondents said that their children had accessed some learning in the first week, with 70% attending live support.
The comments were especially helpful. I’ve read them all and taken them into account as we review and plan our offer for the rest of this half term at least. There were a number of comments about the live support which I think reflect the fact that we were trying to put a new scheme into place at short notice. A number of you mentioned inconsistencies between teachers and subjects. Hopefully those things are all settling down now. There were also a lot of very nice comments about how well teachers were supporting your children. Where your comments praise specific teachers, I’ll pass them on.
Teachers are working really hard to deliver learning in this way, with three quarters of them saying that they have had an increase in workload since the start of term. It is important to recognise that the time a teacher spends with a group on teams represents only a portion of the time they spend planning the work, setting the work, recording student engagement, answering emails, feeding back on work… all the things we normally do in the classroom are made more difficult and more time consuming when we do them remotely. No doubt it will get easier as we go on. Staff will be very encouraged that their work is being appreciated - 93% of you said that your children felt well supported and that you were satisfied with the remote education we are providing.
Mr Sumner, who is leading our remote education team, has answered the most frequently asked questions below. I hope you find those answers useful.
As ever, if you have any questions, comments, or other feedback, I would be grateful if you would contact me to share it.
How much work should my child receive each day and how will this be set?
- Years 7 to 11 will receive 5 hours of work each day and this will be set according to their timetable. Some support homework may be set
- Years 12 and 13 will receive 1 hour of work for each lesson they have daily and then 20 hours of independent study over the course of the week
How will my child access online work and live sessions that are being provided?
- All work will be available on Go4Schools by 8.55am each morning
- Live sessions are on Microsoft Teams and a guidance document and video has been shared with parents
What are the expectations of attendance to live sessions and tutorials run by teachers?
- Students are encouraged to attend live sessions as they can help to provide them with structure and support during the session and during the day. Teachers will encourage students to work together using break out rooms and it will help give students an opportunity to work together
- We understand that not every student will want to do this and that sometimes it simply won’t be possible for them to attend due to other household pressures. The main thing is that they understand the work set well enough to be able to complete it to the best of their ability.
How will my child receive feedback on their work and learn how to improve it?
- Students will receive regular feedback in line with our whole class feedback policy. This feedback will be given during live sessions and available as presentations on Go4Schools.
- Teachers will also provide feedback through live conversations, email and self-marking online platforms,
What should we do if we have any concerns about the work being set? For example, if we feel there is too much or too little?
- Please contact your child’s teacher in the first instance. This communication should be courteous and clear, raising your concern in a polite manner and allowing the teacher time to reply
- If you feel that your concern has not been addressed then please inform Steve Sumner, Deputy Head responsible for teaching and learning
How are you ensuring that safeguarding policies are maintained during live sessions which will often require access from teachers’ and students’ homes?
- The Unity Schools Partnership has provided all of its institutions with robust guidance on safeguarding during this time
- All live sessions with teachers and students are recorded and can be accessed by the safeguarding team if any issues are raised
- Teachers have received guidance on using suitable places for work and wearing professional dress
How will the school communicate any concerns about the quality of my child’s work or if they have not been engaging with the work set?
- In the first instance, teachers will contact students and parents about not engaging with their remote learning
- Each week we ask teachers to let the Senior Leadership Team know about how well students are engaging
- Where students are not completing work and finding things difficult, the pastoral team will contact them to discuss ways of supporting
My child has special needs and finds it difficult to access work even when in school. How will they be supported?
- Our SEND team are making regular contact with students and are present in live sessions to offer their usual excellent levels of support. Please contact Dawn Fenwick our SEND Coordinator if you need any support
What can we do if we /don’t have regular access to online resources / not enough devices in the home to support our child / find accessing online resources and using Microsoft Teams difficult?
- Please contact Steve Sumner, Deputy Head responsible for Teaching and Learning or Jenna Powell, Assistant Headteacher for Behaviour and Safeguarding for support
Remote Learning: some helpful points
- Look at your child’s timetable with them in advance to try and work out which live sessions it’s going to be possible to attend alongside the needs of the rest of the household
- Try to provide a quiet and calm place for students to work – both online and when they are completing written work
- Encourage your child to engage with remote learning in an optimistic and organised manner – our teachers are providing them with the structure and support so vital to their education
- Support them to take breaks, eat well, exercise and keep things in perspective. This is the best opportunity our children have at the moment to make their days as normal and positive as possible.
Parents’ evening last night
Apologies for the disruption to our plans for the sixth form parents evening last night. I saw a message from SchoolCloud who host our online parents’ evenings this morning, explaining that they had an issue with their servers which caused a total shut down of their service across the country. Prior to last night, they have received a lot of positive feedback about online parents’ evenings, as have we, and are working hard to increase their server capacity in anticipation of very high demand. They assure us that future events will be unaffected. In the meantime, Mr Maltby will be in touch about how we propose to complete any appointments which couldn’t go ahead last night.
Self-harm event for parents
The unsettling events of the last year are affecting different people in different ways. We are aware of greater than normal instances of children finding it difficult to stay cheerful. If you are worried about your child, please get in touch with our pastoral team who will be pleased to offer whatever support they can. If you are worried about self-harm, there is an online event for parents organised by Suffolk Mind coming up. The event, which will be held via MS Teams, will focus on understanding self-harm, how to help young people get support and some examples of other parents’ experiences.
The event is on 27th January. There are two sessions - 10:30am –12:30 and 4pm—6pm
They will be identical, so you only need to attend one. If you would like to book, email email@example.com. Don’t be put off by the email address – if you have any worries, no matter how small, you will be welcome to attend.
What better activity when isolating than isobaking? We’re in the middle of lockdown January and the need for cake has never been greater. The Iso-bake-off competition asks students to bake something on the theme of Together! Students can make up to three entries by submitting photos to the house links below. The competition has been running since Monday, but students have until the end of the day on Monday to submit their entries.
Have a good weekend,