Dear Parents / Carers
I hope that you are well and keeping safe during these challenging times. Having read the article this week in The Comet about the pressures our local NHS staff are working under at the Lister Hospital, I just wanted to say that our thoughts are with all our parents who are NHS and other key workers. Accompanying this letter is a letter that the local authority has sent to all parents. There are a number of key messages in the letter, but the most important one for me is that we all continue to be vigilant and follow the current lockdown restrictions.
Thank you for the positive feedback that you have sent to colleagues and myself about our online provision; it is very much appreciated. As in the first lockdown, we will be surveying students to ask for feedback on the provision we are offering. I encourage you to sit down with your child and go through this survey with them. The survey needs to be completed by Monday 18th January.
Online learning and especially live teaching is still a developing platform for delivering learning. To ensure that we look after the wellbeing of staff and students, please see the attached document about working at home. During the school day students have natural breaks from learning when moving between lessons. To replicate this break between lessons I have asked teaching colleagues to finish lessons 5 minutes early. This will allow:
- time to get up and stretch and a short period away from the screen;
- a comfort break where required;
- the ability to get oneself a drink to keep hydrated;
- time to log on to the next lesson.
Non-live online teaching days
The vast majority of learning over the last two weeks has been done through live online teaching. The setting of quality online resources, revision for assessment and recorded instructions also play a role in the learning provision that we offer. The tennis champion Arthur Ashe had a mantra: ‘Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.’ Our approach to online learning is a mixture of principle and pragmatism.
On the days in the table below I have asked my staff to step away from live online teaching to allow them to focus on feedback and planning. Students will be registered in the morning in their tutor groups and will have quality work set to complete for each of their timetabled lessons on that day.
|Date||Tutor registration taken||Online resources set|
|Friday 22nd January
|Wednesday 27th January||Yes||Yes|
|Thursday 4th February||Yes||Yes|
|Wednesday 10th February||Yes||Yes|
Key Stage 4 & Key Stage 5 exams
Following on from my letter dated 5th January we are waiting for Ofqual to release their consultation on what will replace the summer exam process. It is my understanding that the Ofqual consultation is due to be released this Friday.
On 13th January, the Secretary of State for Education sent a letter to the Chief Regulator of Ofqual outlining the direction of travel on the replacements for the 2021 summer exams: Letter from SoS for Education to Ofqual. Within this letter is confirmation that VTQ exams will be cancelled in February and March. In light of this, the external exams planned for February onwards will not go ahead.
Ofqual’s response to the Secretary of State has also been published: Letter from Ofqual to SoS for Education. Following is a summary of the key points:
Evidence that will be used in awarding grades:
- Grades will be based on teacher assessment.
- A breadth of evidence should inform teachers’ judgements.
- Assessment will be based on what students have learnt not necessarily the full course but there will need to be good enough coverage of the curriculum.
- Externally set tasks or short papers may be provided in order that teachers can draw on this resource to support their assessments of students but these will not be externally marked.
- Students should continue with any non-exam assessment where possible.
- Students should be taught for as long as possible so they have every opportunity to cover as much of the curriculum as possible.
- A teacher’s final judgement on a student’s grade ought to be as late as possible in the academic year to maximise remaining teaching time.
- Schools and colleges should undertake quality assurance (QA) of their teachers’ assessments.
- Exam boards will have QA processes in place to support fairness and consistency.
- The QA will be sampling only of student work.
- Changes to grades as a result of the external QA process should be the exception.
Whatever the outcome of the Ofqual consultation, teacher assessment is going to play the pivotal role in informing the exam boards about the grade students will be awarded. The key message to all students sitting exams is that you need to attend your online lessons, actively engage and ensure the work produced is of the best of your ability. It is the responsibility of students to show resilience and do the work set. The blunt fact is that if teachers do not have the evidence to support a grade judgement then what you get in the summer will reflect that and will have consequences for your future progression.
When students return from lockdown we will review and implement a new schedule of assessments in line with what the exam boards require. Whatever we put in place it will ensure that students will have as much teaching time as possible.
After much planning, preparation and training, our lateral flow testing team is operational. Colleagues have been tested this week along with our children of key workers. We will continue to test those coming into school a couple of times a week and to fine tune our processes in preparation for mass testing when the school re-opens fully.
To date we have handed out 156 Chromebooks to students. As in my previous letters, if your child has issues with accessing online learning please contact Mr Parsons (Neil.Parsons@priory,.herts.sch.uk) The rollout of the Year 9 Chromebook scheme is currently being finalised and more details about this will be sent to Year 9 students later next week.
Free school meals
It is my understanding that the Government will be re-launching the national voucher system from next week. Until we have clarity on what the Government is doing, the school will continue to pay for £15 vouchers for students who have free school meals.
Take care and thank you for your continued support of the school,