A Sunny Start
Back to school June 2021
When our pupils returned to school on Tuesday 8 June 2021 after the half term break, the differences were immediately apparent. Not only had our year groups been promoted, but for the first time in 15 months, our pupils were on the move again!
This decision has not been taken lightly. We annually roll our timetable forward at this point in the academic year and we did not want to postpone this, because of the impact it has on our pupils and their learning.
We carefully considered the DfE’s guidance for schools and reviewed our risk assessment in the context of the Government’s and our own road map out of lockdown. While we have been able to make continuous provision for our pupils throughout the pandemic during periods of lockdown and face-to-face in school, we now need to look to the future.
While we have made our best endeavours to keep our pupils and staff safe over the last 15 months, some of the measures put in place have put additional strain on our teachers, compromised our curriculum and restricted our ability to offer enrichment activities.
I am immensely proud of how our staff have adapted their practice and, impressively, their skills have ensured the majority of our pupils have been able to stay on track. However, we are determined to support their recovery and re-establish the breadth and depth of our curriculum.
Ms Henson, Headteacher
This term we are maintaining our year group bubbles during our staggered breaks and lunch times and designated social spaces. Furthermore, to enable us to manage movement around the school and minimise contacts we have retained the five minutes movement time and introduced a new one-way system in our main building.
Aside from our new timetable, the most significant difference is our teachers’ return to their specialist faculty areas. They will no longer be peripatetic.
On our in-service training day on Monday 7 June, teachers spent some time in the afternoon preparing their own classrooms and on Tuesday morning they were ready to welcome our pupils back.
Pupils previously in Year 7, quickly located their new tutor group bases and picked up their new Year 8 timetables first thing in the morning. There was a lot of excitement as this was the first time pupils who joined us in September 2020 had had the opportunity to move around the school fully. While familiar with specialist facilities in Expressive Arts, Design, Art and PE, they all enjoyed discovering new learning spaces.
'Teachers have all been very welcoming and the opportunity to move around the site more has been good!' Ines
'Meeting a lot of new teachers and moving around the site far more; it hasn't been half bad!' Sam
Pupils moving from Year 8 into Year 9 were also a little apprehensive as they needed to re-familiarise themselves with the school site having been ‘isolated’ for much of the time over the last 15 months in their home base Monkscroft towards the rear of our school site.
Similarly, many pupils in other year groups were also curious, not least those in our new Year 10 who had their first lessons in their chosen GCSE subjects. Those on our new Year 11 experienced a greater sense of freedom having been released from their previous home base on our top floor!
It was evident that many of our pupils were a little disorientated as they had become accustomed to being in their home bases for most of the school day. Some complained about being very tired at the end of the day because of all the movement around the school! We are confident that they will soon get used to the changes.
Our new timetable has offered everyone the opportunity for a fresh start and this positive feeling has definitely been complemented by the summer sunshine!
‘Being back in my classroom is a great chance for the lesson transitions to be smoother. I can have all of the resources ready for the students, so no time is lost and every minute of the lesson is purposeful. Additionally, being back in the classroom gives us the chance to display and celebrate pupil work, to develop a love of learning.’ Mrs Mabbott, History.
'Returning to my own room has been fantastic. It is lovely to see a row of smiling faces waiting outside the classroom, eager to learn. The focus, discussions and work produced so far has been very encouraging!' Mr Lay, Assistant Head of English.
‘Being back in my classroom means I can leave my rucksack at home because I know that all of the subject specific resources I need are close to hand. I am now able to greet pupils as they arrive, ask them about their day and get them thinking about their learning straight away. This has been so refreshing after months of being the last person to arrive in the classroom and rushing to get everything set up and ready. Already I can see the difference this calm and purposeful start to lessons has had.’ Miss Bluett, Assistant Head of Humanities, Geography.
'I think it is fair to say that members of the Faculty are overjoyed to be welcoming their new classes in the familiar surroundings of the English classrooms. All the teachers have been into school over the half term holiday to settle back into their rooms and create fresh vibrant displays. For me personally, it is always a significant and exciting moment when I meet my new Year 10 classes for the first time as we embark together on the two year journey through Key Stage 4.' Mrs Davies, Head of English.
'I have absolutely loved the return to my classroom and having the opportunity to be more creative in lessons. Having access to all of the specialist resources with greater ease has a great impact on pupil learning and I can finally make use of my timeline display once more! Pupils have been excellent and are thriving back in their specialist classrooms. Long may it continue!’ Mr Ferne, Head of Humanities.
'It has been great to be back in my own classroom. Having access to my own resources by simply opening a cupboard door is much better! The pupils have all settled quickly into the routine and are already engaging well with their learning.’ Mrs Voss, English.
‘It has been a strange few days returning to teaching Maths in the Maths Faculty, with other colleagues from the same department, teaching Maths all at the same time. It is almost surreal to hear Mr Carmichael or Mrs Pennington in full flow again, and echoing my own teaching points at different times. I admit my step count has dropped but the amount of materials used in a lesson has increased and my ‘toolbox’ has found its new home, with tools, in its retirement.
It has felt like reclaiming a space frozen in time, as resources that were put away 15 months ago have reappeared from cupboards and storage and over the next few weeks my classroom will steadily undergo an update and refresh to make it a vibrant mathematical teaching space again.
Knowing that my classroom is designated for all things numerical, I think has re-focused our pupil’s mindset and allowed us to reset our expectations and make school feel like it is more ‘normal’ as we have moved into the new academic year. My tutor group has reminisced about their time from the middle of Year 7 when they were last in this room, and for others it has been the first time they ever been into a Maths classroom if they are in new Year 8.
I think it will take a few more days to remember which stairs to use, but we are getting there, things do feel more normal and with the recent good weather it has been good to be reminded of the beautiful grounds that my classroom overlooks and to look across the green resplendence from my eyrie.’ Mr Ellen, Assistant Head of Maths.
'Anywhere but Monkscroft is fine with me!’ Alex
‘It has been easier being in different classrooms. The transition to Year 9 has been good.’ Madalaine
‘We’ve just had to get used to the new one way system.’ Elodie
‘It has been nice meeting new teachers and moving around the school.’ Esther
‘I have found the transition from Year 8 to Year 9 very smooth and easy.’ Emily
‘I feel the transition from Year 8 to Year 9 has been seamless and the changes have brought back old aspects of the school well.’ Oscar
‘This week’s been really good and much warmer!’ Lily
‘I have really enjoyed moving over to Year 9 and starting to work with different teachers. We have been in proper classrooms which really helps as you can use the resources for each lesson.’ Izzy
‘This week has gone well because we are moving around more and I have been able to get fresh air.’ Matthew
‘It was exciting and fun to be moving up with my friends.’ Max
‘It’s been hard trying to find our way around the school with the new one way system but it’s nice having a new timetable with new teachers.’ Isla