At the moment, we are all working in a very different world to the one we are used to. This generates a lot of questions and uncertainty for us all. As a school, we have to operate within government guidance and this has, perhaps understandably, changed constantly over the last few months. Schools were not designed to work in these circumstances, and despite the best efforts of school staff across the country, things are never going to be perfect.
Our school has remained open to eligible students throughout the COVID 19 emergency. It has been lovely to receive many e-mails and messages of support for the work that we have been doing. We know we haven’t got everything right, but we continue to learn and are always looking to improve.
I hope that the FAQs below help you to better understand some of the issues that we face and what we are doing to address them. We are all very much hoping that things will be a lot more normal in September.
Why are schools not open to more students?
Until June 15th 2020, secondary schools were only allowed to open to children of keyworkers, vulnerable students and some students with SEND. We have been open for those students throughout the COVID 19 pandemic.
Since June 15th 2020, we have been allowed to bring small groups of year 10 students into school for some face to face workshops. See below for more details.
We are not currently allowed to bring any other students into school.
What provision are you making for priority students (children of keyworkers, vulnerable students and some students with SEND)?
School has been open to these students throughout the COVID 19 pandemic. Students with SEND and vulnerable children are in school by invitation, subject to a risk assessment.
Parents who are defined as keyworkers can register for provision by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The government has promised some face to face sessions in school for year 10. What is the school doing?
All year 10 parents have been contacted and their children have been invited into school for workshops. These will be in maths, English, science and some of the options subjects. The government guidance restricts the number of year 10 students we can have in school at any one time to 25% of the year group. Students cannot swap groups within a day. This obviously seriously limits the provision that we can make. We believe however that these workshops will be very important in supporting students’ learning. If you have any queries about the year 10 provision please contact Mr Grieves: email@example.com.
What provision for learning at home are you offering?All class teachers are setting work, to be completed at home, for all of their year 7 to 10 classes. Details of the amount of work that a student should complete per week are available here. We would strongly encourage all students to make a timetable for each week and to complete work according to that timetable.
How can students contact their teacher if they need help with their work?
Students can e-mail any teacher using the teacher’s e-mail address from the school website here. Teachers can only respond to e-mails sent from students’ school e-mail addresses. Alternatively, parents can e-mail queries to teachers from their own registered e-mail address.
For learning at home to work well, students must have access to their school e-mail account. See “How do I reset my password?” in these FAQs.
Why aren’t you teaching lessons over Zoom?
We made the decision early in this emergency that we would not teach live lessons. Different schools have taken different approaches to this but most other secondary schools have taken the same view. Private schools and FE and sixth form providers are in a different position.
There are several reasons why we don’t teach live lessons on Zoom.
So, what are you doing instead?
The government is addressing this issue by supporting Oak National Academy, the Department for Education’s recommended provider for online lessons. We are using Oak Academy recorded lessons in our teaching. Students can access these lessons at a time of day convenient for them and the rest of the family. We are also using content from BBC Bitesize and several other organisations.
Our teachers are also experimenting with recording segments of lessons themselves to explain key points and give more individual, targeted feedback.
Why hasn’t my child’s form tutor been in touch with them?
When school first closed, we asked our staff to focus on setting work and not to contact parents as form tutors. In retrospect we should have asked tutors to do more to keep in touch. We have now asked our tutors to start contacting parents and students, initially in years 7 to 9, to check how things are going.
Students in year 10 who attend our in-school workshops will have the opportunity for a pastoral “check in” with a member of senior staff whilst in school.
Our pastoral and SEND team have been in regular contact with many students over the last three months, checking on welfare and in some cases arranging for students to join the vulnerable student provision in school.
What are you doing about providing feedback on students’ work?
This is another issue that is proving a challenge nationally for schools who, like us, that didn’t have systems such as Google Classrooms or Microsoft Education Suite set up. These aren’t systems that we ever thought that we would need.
Students who have access to their e-mail are currently able to e-mail work, or photographs of work, to members of staff. Many students have been making good use of this facility and have useful correspondence with teachers. Teachers are very, very keen to support your child.
We are formalising this now by asking all staff to ask for some identified pieces of work to be sent to them by students so that they can check completion and learning and provide feedback. Initially this will have to be done by e-mail (another reason why it is essential that students have access to their e-mail).
We are now working, with other schools nationally, on setting up ICT systems that make it easier to set work and to have it returned for marking. This will take time, but will be an essential facility if things have not returned to normal in the autumn.
Many departments have also made use of online quizzing programmes and subject specific platforms, for example Educake to check on learning.
We will be encouraging staff to use the school’s existing reward system, through Go4Schools, to reward good work.
My child has filled their exercise book, how can I get a new one?
Replacement exercise books are available from school reception during school hours. If your child needs a book with coloured paper, please do give us a quick call in advance and we will arrange for them to be available.
If you have any questions about ‘Learning at Home’ please contact Ms A Griffiths: firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is happening about year 6 transition to high school?
We’ve contacted all year 6 parents with details of our year 6 transition programme for this year. You can see the information that we have sent to parents of year 6 here. [links to year 6 tile]
Why can’t year 6 come into school, either for a transition day or to be taught in high school full-time?
Currently we are not allowed, according to the government guidance, to bring year 6 students into school. Teaching students on site this term would in any case be impossible as we already have our own priority and year 10 students in school and we have to restrict the numbers of staff in school at any one time. As in primary schools, social distancing makes huge demands on the space available.
If you have any questions about transition, you can contact Mrs P Griffiths, assistant headteacher: email@example.com.
School network password: you will only need this if you are working in school. Our network manager can reset it if you go to the ICT office.
School e-mail password - if you have never changed your password: ring the school office, they will tell you your password.
School e-mail password – if you have changed your password: e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for a new password, or ring the school office and explain that you need a new password. The new password will be e-mailed to the registered parental e-mail address that we hold.
Go4Schools: parents and students can reset passwords themselves from Go4Schools, providing that you have access to the e-mail address that you used to set it up. There are instructions on the school website, under ‘Parents’ and ‘Accessing Go4Schools’.
For any other subject specific programme, contact your class teacher by e-mail.
If you have any problems or enquiries about password issues please contact Mrs Davies: email@example.com.
What is happening with refunds of payments for trips?
We have now, finally, received confirmation that our insurers will pay out for the Spain and Poland trips. We will be refunding parents as soon as we receive the money from the insurers.
The France/Belgium trip in October has been rearranged for early 2021. Parents have either been refunded or have had their balance transferred to the new dates.
The water sports trip to France is more complex. Refunds from PGL, the tour company, are proving to be an issue nationally. We have therefore decided that we are left with no choice but to refund parents from the school’s budget. We will then continue to try to secure a refund for the school.
We aim to have refunded all trip monies by Friday July 3rd 2020.
How do year 11 students get careers support?
Our careers team will continue to circulate details of apprenticeships etc. to year 11 parents. The careers team are working and are available to help year 11 students. They can be contacted by e-mail:
Careers team contacts:
Mrs Geraldine Brannelly, Careers Advisor
Available: Wednesday and Thursday
Mrs Catriona Bulger, Careers Leader
Available: Wednesday and Friday
How do year 11 students get their GCSE results? Can they resit?
GCSE results will be released on Thursday 20th August 2020. We don’t know yet whether COVID 19 restrictions will allow students to come into school to collect results or whether they will be posted out to students.
The government has promised students the opportunity to resit GCSEs in the autumn if they wish. They have given no details about how this will work in practice. We will pass on any information that we receive.
Will there be a year 11 prom?
We have promised year 11 a prom, or perhaps now a reunion. We are determined to keep that promise. Obviously, we will need a big change in social distancing rules before this is possible.
What is the provision over the summer that the government announced?
The government has announced a “catch up” programme for students over the summer. Schools have been given no details about how this will work. We will pass on any information that we receive.
Is there a government scheme to provide laptop computers to year 10 students?
Early in this emergency, the government announced a scheme to provide free laptop computers to a very limited number of year 10 students. We applied to be part of this scheme. We believe that some laptops have been ordered by government. We have had no further information.
What will education be like in September, will schools be fully open?
The very honest answer to this is that we do not know. Understandably, perhaps, we have had no information from government yet about what we will and will not be allowed to do in September. I hope that education will be much closer to normal than it is now. If I had to guess, I would say that it is likely that all year groups will spend some time in school, but also some time learning at home. This approach, called blended learning, seems likely to be the norm for at least parts of the autumn term. Students would learn new content in school and would then do further work on it at home.
It is possible, of course, that schools will be open as normal in September.