Dear Parents and Carers,

Change in Remote Learning for Years 11 and 13 From Monday 1 February

When we re-designed our remote education system a few weeks ago, we did it in accordance with a few simple principles. Firstly, we wanted teachers to be available to support students during normal school hours because we think that direct contact is the best way to learn. However, we are also aware that students are likely to be working around other students and adults and may not have a laptop or computer they can have exclusive use of throughout the day.  We encourage students in all year groups to attend the live sessions if they can but completely accept that many will not be able to or might prefer to blend their learning so that some is supported, some independent.

We still have no clear guidance from the government about how they intend to assess GCSEs, A-Levels and other public exams this summer. With that in mind, we are looking at what we can do to ensure the best possible outcomes for our students.

We think that one way to support our student is to make attendance at lessons compulsory for students in Years 11 and 13.

We are making this change for three main reasons:

  • We have seen a growing difference in performance between those students attending live support on Teams and those who do not
  • Teachers will need to assign fair and impartial grades at the end of the course, taking into account a full range of evidence.  Students not attending MS Teams live support to ask/answer questions and demonstrate their thinking place themselves at a clear disadvantage in this regard
  • It remains uncertain when students might be able to return to school.  The longer the current restrictions continue, the harder it will be for students to progress without direct and regular interaction with their teacher

We recognise that not all students enjoy learning through MS Teams calls.  We have ever-growing expertise in supporting students through this medium and are sensitive to these issues.

I am sure there will be some students who have adapted well to working independently and will be disappointed to hear that they are now required to attend the live support sessions. I would reassure those students that, however capable you are of working independently, which you can of course still do while the meeting is running on your computer, having access to your teachers also gives you access to their much greater subject knowledge and experience.

Students can join the MS Teams support through their smartphone and many students already prefer to do this.  We have lent out more than seventy laptops and unfortunately have none left.  If access to devices is extremely limited, please let us know and we can discuss solutions and the possibility of a place at mini-school.

I have been incredibly impressed by the way that parents, students and teachers have once again adapted to a rapidly changing and challenging situation.  I believe that the move to compulsory attendance for these selected year groups will better enable your child to benefit from the support and expertise of their teachers and reach their potential.

We will monitor the response to this change closely with a view to possible extending this system. If we do, Years 10 and 12 would be our next priority. I would like to emphasise that our decisions aren’t a reflection of which students’ needs are most important, but rather about whose needs are most urgent.

As always, if you have any concerns or queries, please feel free to contact me.

Best wishes,

Andy Hunter