Coronavirus Update23 April 2020
Please see Mr Walker’s latest update below:
Good afternoon. I hope you are well. I am sending this weekly e-mail today because I wanted to get this information to you before the ‘hand-in day’ on Friday. We have made big changes to the Virtual School, which are detailed below, so please take time to read this.
We have had two weeks of online learning so far, and we thought it may be useful to review where we are. As staff, students, and parents/carers, we are setting, completing, supporting, marking, and following up over 10,000 pieces of work a week. This is a remarkable achievement and I know every member of staff, every student, and every parent/carer has played a part in this. The overwhelming feedback so far has been positive, so thank you very much for this. Most importantly, students in the main are responding magnificently to the challenge.
However, things will not be perfect; we have had lots of feedback from lots of people, and we need to give clear actions as a result of this. We have tried to synthesise all the feedback we have received from parents/carers and staff, and then made a decision about the message. I am aware that not every decision we make will be perfect for everyone, but this is our best solution as it stands. As always, things evolve.
I have presented below the observations and feedback we have received, and I have detailed the actions we are going to take:
- Setting work at midday at the start of the week, with a 10.00am hand-in deadline on the Friday, gives us a routine. This does cause pressure at the start and end of the week, particularly, but it provides a clear start and end to the week, which is useful. Some students and parents/carers have requested more extension work.
- One of the key areas of conversation has been our follow up of work. We really want to do our best to set work and ensure students can complete it. We need to record when a student has not completed work, because it enables us to communicate to staff and to you as parents/carers where a student might need additional support. It allows us to solve the problems that are stopping pupils completing work. This can cause upset, but we want to reiterate that students are not receiving BM points when they don’t do work or complete work to a lower standard. Having said that, we recognise that the term ‘BM’ has become part of our school language, and comes with certain connotations, therefore, we need to adjust this.
- The quantity of work has sometimes been overwhelming.
- Most students are completing work very well, and it is important that all pupils do this. There is support available for all students so they can access and complete work. Sometimes, just like in normal times, things ‘happen’ and it is just not possible to meet deadlines – we understand this.
- We know that, as online learning continues, an emerging challenge is how we introduce new learning, keep learning engaging, and help students stay connected with teachers. Some parents/carers have asked for live teaching.
- Parents/carers have said how useful it is to have an indication of how long a piece of work will take to complete.
Actions in response to the observations:
Setting and completing work
It would really help teachers if students could hold back on work-related questions until after midday on Monday, so teachers can focus on setting the work before the deadline. If you do contact teachers on Monday morning, they may take a little longer to get back to you. If students would like additional work, they just need to let staff know. Staff will take that into consideration while setting work the following week, or in some situations provide some individual work. We also know that some teachers set ‘extension work’. We have asked them to be clear on what the exact status of that work is, and to specify if it is voluntary.
Supporting parents/carers and students
The important thing is that if a student cannot complete work by 10.00am on Friday, they contact the teacher in advance so a solution can be sorted. If something has happened which prevents your child from completing work, please contact your child’s tutor or EST link so that arrangements for that week can be made. I have put together a document that details who to contact if you need support – I hope this helps. You can access the ‘Where to go for Help’ document by clicking here.
We do need to keep recording instances where a student has not completed work, because it enables us to communicate to staff and to you as parents/carers where a student may need additional support, so we can solve the problems which are preventing pupils from completing work. However, we do need to remind students that this is not a BM. We have changed the format on the Virtual School so there is a new tab called ‘WORKING FROM HOME’ – this is now the page that lists any events recorded by staff, in date order, about working from home, whether they are positive or negative. Staff comments, if added, will also be there. If you have any concerns about a record that has been made, please just contact the teacher and work it through. The behaviour page has now been ‘frozen’ and will not be reactivated until we return to school.
Quantity of work
We were trying so hard to do the right thing but I think, in the early days, we set too much work. Now we are in week three, I think we are getting used to this and getting the balance right. This is something that we are talking about all the time and will continue to work hard to get right.
Keeping learning fresh and ‘new’ learning
We know keeping the learning fresh and interesting will become a challenge as online learning continues – we also know how much students enjoy a personal connection with staff. We are working on sharing all our best practice on this area which is so new to us. Some parents/carers have asked for live teaching; we feel that our main focus is to keep learning fresh, engaging, and to introduce new information. It may be that live contact may be appropriate in some very specific cases, but it is not an approach we will adopt on any scale. I am happy to talk this decision through with anyone – please contact me if you would like to discuss this.
Expected time spent on work
Parents/carers have said that knowing an expected time which should be spent on each piece of work would be really useful. Staff started to communicate this to pupils last week, and there was a noticeable difference. We will continue to develop this.
I hope this has helped clarify some areas for everybody. We have been able to do this because of everyone’s feedback, so thank you, and please keep it coming.
Finally, some other information
We will be e-mailing Year 11 separately with more details regarding the prom, yearbook, transition work and exam grades. We will also contact students in Year 10 who have studied Fast Track RE, to provide them with updated information.
We are also now making decisions about the Leading Edge and Isles of Scilly trips, and will update you when more information is available.
Good luck this week, and when it comes, enjoy your weekend.