24th April 2020
Dear Parents and Carers,
As promised, I am now writing weekly bulletins during term time. I know you will also be receiving other information from school. If you feel you are getting too much information, please say so. This bulletin covers home learning, lower school maths, audio books, GCSE and A-level grading, trips and the foodbank.
Thanks to those of you who have responded to the parent survey from earlier this week. It has been really helpful to have your insights and opinions. Two frequently raised issues were around pupils receiving feedback and using online platforms to deliver lessons and because we now have all our classes on Microsoft Teams, we're currently providing guidance and support to teachers and pupils in using this brilliant resource. Hopefully this will develop more regular feedback and contact for our pupils. We won’t be asking teachers to deliver live online lessons for a number of reasons. Many families don’t have as many devices as children, so trying to access lessons at a particular time could be problematic. Many teachers are also caring for their own children and other relatives whilst fitting in their work around that, so to impose a timetable would be make their balancing act that much more difficult. We will, however continue to build our bank of online video resources.
Our You Tube channel is proving to be a hit. We’ve got 135 video lessons there now, which have been viewed nearly 15,000 times. They are archived by subject so it’s easy to find what you want. If you haven’t looked yet then I’d encourage you to do so.
Maths Contest for Years 7 and 8
We are involved in a tournament on Times Tables Rock Stars. Over 100 children are taking part already from Samuel Ward - but it would be great to see many more having a go and battling it out against the other secondary schools in the trust.
We were making steady progress at the start of the week but have slipped down the leader board in the last day so would like as many Year 7 and 8 students to take part as possible. We currently have one Year 7 class in the top ten and one Year 8 class in third position (the two years are two separate tournaments) but I’m sure we can do better than that.
Usernames and emails were sent out before the holiday. If you are struggling to log in, please contact Mrs Nichols at email@example.com for help.
There are a number of audio book offers available at the moment. You may be aware that Audible is currently offering free audio books at https://stories.audible.com/start-listen.
These are arranged into various categories and include the following: Myths That Every Child Should Know, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Anne of Green Gables, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Cirque de Freak, Robinson Crusoe, The Return of Sherlock Holmes & White Fang. Some great classics for older readers include: Jane Eyre, Les Miserables, Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, The Call of the Wild, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Ethan Frome, Frankenstein & Moby Dick.
Further to the Audible offer, if you have an Amazon Echo device you can ask Alexa to play from a choice of a few monthly titles. Until April the 30th they are offering The Picture of Dorian Gray (suitable for 6th from students), Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories or Hans Christian Anderson Fairy Tales. In May new titles will be available.
Obviously, listening to an audio book isn’t the same as reading it yourself, but nonetheless it develops good concentration skills as well as providing an escape from screens and the physical walls that are part of our current experience, allowing us an entrance into other worlds and other lives.
If you would rather watch than listen, The Globe is offering performances of a variety of plays. Romeo and Juliet is available on You Tube until May 3rd https://www.shakespearesglobe.com/watch/romeo-juliet-2009-youtube-premiere-2020/. The National Theatre is also offering free subscription to a range of performances at https://www.youtube.com/user/ntdiscovertheatre Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night (starring Tamsin Greig) is playing until Thursday 30th when Frankenstein starring Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch will air.
The below links provide further recommendations including reading ages: https://www.booktrust.org.uk/booklists/1/100-best-books-9-11/ https://www.booktrust.org.uk/booklists/1/100-best-12-14/ https://www.lovereading4kids.co.uk/
GCSE and A-Level grades
You will have heard some of the news about the way that GCSE and A-Level grades will be awarded. We are in the process of putting together our recommendations to the exam boards and I thought you would be interested to know how we will do that. The process is the same for both GCSE and A-Level. We have yet to hear about BTEC.
The first thing we need to do is to establish a rank order for every student in every subject. We will use data we have from mocks and other assignments to put students in order from most likely to receive the highest mark to most likely to receive the lowest mark. This process is not to assign grades, it is just to get students in the right order. If on the first run through there are obvious errors, for instance where a student did much less well in a mock than we would expect, we will look at homework and other sources of evidence to make sure we’ve got the rank order right. The point of the student rank order is to ensure that, if Sue is above Paul in the rank, then whatever grade Paul comes out with, Sue will get either the same or higher. Once we submit that rank order, we have been assured that it will not be changed.
Having compiled the rank order, we will assign grades. This has to be based on three things. Firstly and most importantly, we will base this on our professional judgement. We need to make sure though that our suggestions are plausible, which means we have to take into account cohort KS2 data and previous school performance data. We cannot, and would not want to, put forward a suggestion that would make us suddenly the highest performing school in the country, in which every student performs amazingly well and we get no grades below 5. That would be unethical as well as pointless because those suggestions of grades would be moderated down by the people running the scheme until they considered them to be more realistic.
We will put a lot of time into making sure we get this right, but we need to be aware that the grade a student ends up with might not be the grade that we suggest, because the entire rank of students might move up or down a little bit. We might, for instance, suggest that the top 68% of students get a four or above in maths, but we might only be given those grades for the top 66%. On the other hand, we might be given those grades for the top 70%. We won’t know until the results come out in the summer.
We will do everything we can to make sure that the grade suggestions we submit are fair to every student and of course we want our students to do well. If a student has had a new teacher recently who might not know them well, we will seek the opinion of a teacher who knows them better. We cannot take into account any work that has been completed since the school closed, something we did not know when we started setting work to do at home. We don’t know if it will be possible to submit evidence later, or what we might be asked to provide, so if students have coursework at home that should be kept safe. We have also been told very clearly that we shouldn’t discuss the marks we are awarding with parents, for obvious reasons. We would all like to make the case for our children doing well, but that would put unacceptable pressure on teachers. I’d be grateful if you would respect that and not contact teachers to put a case for a certain grade.
We’ve received donations from a number of places since we set up our school foodbank a few weeks ago, but the majority have been from staff. Thanks very much to everyone who has helped support this scheme. We’ve sent out around 45 boxes of food and other household essentials so far. If you would like some support at the moment just let us know and we’ll get something out to you. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
We are not expecting any trips to go ahead for the remainder of this academic year. The key thing to us is to make sure that the trips are cancelled in the correct manner and at the correct time so that we are able to claim the full cost back through insurers. I know some of you will be anxious for a refund on the Ardèche trip in particular. We will let you know as soon as we possibly can when you can expect that.
I hope you are all well. I look forward to seeing everyone back at school as soon as safely possible. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.