I am very mindful of the long letter containing lots of important information which Mr Jackson sent you earlier this week, but I am also aware that there may still be questions around the experiences which our students will meet on their return to school, starting next week. I am therefore writing to offer some additional information on this but also to offer some reassurances about our priorities for the academic progress of your child. I also include a brief update for parents of year 11 and 13 students regarding the processes which we are required to implement in order to award GCSE, A level and vocational grades in the summer.
We know that whilst many students will be desperate to return to school, to regain some ‘normality’ and also to see their friends and teachers, others will be anxious about the return to lessons next week. Our initial priority will be to welcome students back into school in the same manner as we do following any normal break in the school year and to ensure that students feel safe and confident again in their classes. As was the case in September, we will be welcoming back students who have engaged with their remote learning with varying degrees of success, for a range of reasons, and some may be anxious about how their teachers will react if they have not completed every piece of work set. We understand that some students will have found remote learning particularly difficult and all teachers will be keen to be positive about their learning going forward.
We also know that many parents will be keen to know how their children’s progress may have been affected over the period of home learning. We will be seeking to ascertain this information as quickly as possible, but will need to balance this against supporting our students as they return to class, many with the concerns which I mention above. Teachers will be using a range of techniques to assess students and start to address any gaps in learning, however, for a variety of reasons, the Block B assessments will not be formally taking place.
I recognise that reports for some year groups have been due to go out recently or are due soon, and I hope you understand why we have decided not to issue these formal reports as we believe it is not possible to provide this information consistently, accurately and fairly. Where we have learnt from our experiences at the end of the 2019-20 academic year, over the recent lockdown we have focussed on increasing our communication with parents, ensuring that you have been made aware when lessons have not been ‘attended’, when work has not been submitted, or where this has not been produced to an acceptable standard. Please be assured that, as students return to school next week, we are keen to re-establish the positive relationships that characterise our school, supporting them quickly to return to the new routines we implemented in September and allowing them to continue to learn and develop during the remainder of the school year.
Parents of students in year 11 and 13, as well as the students themselves, will be keen to know the processes which will be in place to award GCSE, A level and vocational grades this summer. We received some information and guidance on this at the end of last week and have been discussing this in earnest over the past few days. We are aware that exam boards will be sharing more information and supporting materials over the next few weeks and we will be utilising these in assessments with students but in the meantime, we are able to share the following additional information:
- Exams will not be taking place in GCSEs, A levels and vocational qualifications
- Teachers will use a range of evidence to make a judgement on the grade at which students are performing. This will represent the student’s current performance and will NOT be a prediction of their academic potential
- Students will only be assessed on what they have been taught, to ensure they are not further disadvantaged by the global pandemic
- Before a grade is submitted, teachers will make students aware of the evidence they are using to assess them. Students will have an opportunity to make their teachers aware of any mitigating circumstances they believe should be taken into account
- To ensure grades are awarded fairly, these will be subject to internal and external quality assurance processes, which will be set out by the exam boards
Each subject team will formulate their own plans for collating the evidence required to award grades, but I would like to assure all parents that, as a centre, we will be developing our systems and processes in the same robust manner that we successfully applied when awarding centre assessed grades in 2020. There is no system that consistently awards grades that students feel they deserve, including actually sitting GCSE and A level exams in ‘normal’ circumstances, but we are confident that our year 11 and 13 students last year were awarded grades that accurately represented their ability in each subject, and we are equally confident that this will be the same in 2021. Advice for students is simple; continue to attend lessons, work hard, follow teacher instructions and ask for help when it is required.
Finally, I would just like to add my thanks to those of the headteacher for all the messages of support we have received from yourselves since September, but in particular over the past two months. These messages have really helped to motivate colleagues over this very unusual period of teaching and have been really appreciated. I would also like to say thank you to parents and carers for the support you have given to your children regarding their home-schooling during this time. As a parent of two daughters in years 10 and 13 myself, I am well aware that maintaining motivation has been difficult at times. Whilst our own children may not have always been quick to thank us(!) please be assured that this has been appreciated by the school and their class teachers. Thank you.
We look forward to welcoming all students back to school next week.
Tony Goodman, Deputy Headteacher: Quality of Education