A Challenging Month
Keeping in touch
[artwork from Yang in Year 8]
As we reach the end of the month, January 2021 has presented us all with new challenges, not least a further period of lockdown and school closures, the cancellation of formal examinations, testing and vaccine rollout, increased incidence of COVID-19 nationally, including variant strains, and inclement weather, showers and even snow! Our thoughts are with everyone, members of our school community or not, who have been adversely affected by the pandemic and we are doing what we can to support each other.
‘I am immensely grateful all members of staff for the contributions they are making, however, great or small, to the smooth operation of the school. While we are physically closed to most pupils, learning is still taking place albeit remotely in school and at home. On average 12-15 teachers are in school each day, alongside over 30 members of our wider support staff team. Not everyone is visible and I would especially like to thank those behind the scenes who ensure we can all stay connected with each other, provide feedback and receive timely communications.’ Chiquita Henson, Headteacher
Pupils and staff are incredibly resilient and resourceful. This is reflected in the quality of the responses we have had to our tutor group or PSHEe challenges, whether involving baking, upcycling or saving the planet.
For example, 9DU made bread rolls together via MS Teams in tutor time.
We are sharing examples of work on Twitter: @CDPStoday.
The majority of our pupils are actively engaging in their live lessons in MS Teams. Attendance across all subjects is consistently above 85%. Year Leaders are in touch with pupils who are experiencing difficulties in lockdown and, where we can, we are providing and signposting additional support. For example, under the Government’s scheme we have been able to provide over 40 laptops for pupils who meet the criteria so that they can join in online too. Our IT support staff are providing technical support to staff, pupils and parents and this has helped ensure everyone can access their learning and complete assigned tasks to the very best of their ability. We are also extremely grateful to those people who have kindly donated laptops and printers to help us give them a second life in supporting pupils’ learning at home.
We continue to develop our practice and respond to constructive feedback. We are aware that some of our pupils are feeling a little overwhelmed by the volume of work that is being set and we have asked teachers to make it clear just how much time should be spent on a task and, if it is a longer piece of work, to break it down into more manageable steps. Similarly, pupils are advised to work within these given time frames and, if they are unable to complete pieces of work within the hour set aside for the lesson in SMHW, to stop, but advise their teachers accordingly. We recognise that some assignments can be open to interpretation and, therefore, occasionally require more guidance or structure.
Our remote learning plan and the timetables our pupils are following deliberately provide a balance between synchronous (MS Teams) and asynchronous (SMHW) learning. This takes account of both pupil and teacher workload and wellbeing and is considered best practice by Ofsted who recently published 'What's working well in remote education'. Furthermore, we are working with teachers to assure the quality of teaching and learning and we recently completed the Department of Education’s self-evaluation framework ‘Review your remote education provision’.
Following the Prime Minister’s announcements this week (on Wednesday 27 and Thursday 28 January 2021) and the extension of the lockdown that will see schools remaining closed for most pupils until at least Monday 8 March, we are currently planning for Term 4. Our provision for remote learning and for those currently in school as children of critical workers will continue. However, like all schools, we would welcome a more coherent plan. We appreciate we will be given two weeks’ notice ahead of any decision and we anticipate that any return to school is likely to be phased. Parents will recall that pupils in Year 10 re-joined us first in June 2020. We will advise pupils, parents and staff of the next steps as soon as we have been able to interpret any guidance we may receive.
We are especially concerned to ascertain what provision will be made for those pupils who would have had formal and terminal exams this summer. Members of our Strategic Leadership Team and many of our Heads of Faculty contributed to the Department of Education’s and Ofqual’s ‘Consultation on how GCSE, AS and A level grades should be awarded in summer 2021’ which closes on Friday 29 January. We hope to hear the outcomes by mid-February, but it is looking highly likely that pupils in Year 11 will complete assessments or shorter tests in May and June to ascertain their attainment and inform their grades. Therefore, it is imperative they continue to engage in their learning and challenge themselves to achieve even more! Again, we will share our plans as soon as we know more.
We are determined to maintain as much of our school calendar of events as we can.
We recently sent out Year 9 Next Step Reports and hosted our Virtual KS4 Curriculum Evening at which we encourage pupils in Year 9 to make informed choices for the next phase of their learning. This was followed by our first successful online Parents’ Evening, for Year 9, on Thursday 28 January.
Virtual Parents' Evenings are a new way of working for all of us and it will take a bit of time for everyone to get used to it, but the initial feedback, in spite of a few glitches, has been largely positive so far, although we all recognise the countdown on screen creates a sense of urgency and the need for focused conversations! Staff welcomed the opportunity to see pupils and their parents on screen and continue to wish pupils would put their cameras on in lessons too!
We thank our parents for your continued patience and understanding.
‘I just wanted to take the time to thank you and your team for the tremendous effort you are currently putting into the education of our daughter and of course the other students at the school. It’s tough times for the students and probably even tougher for the teachers who are so restricted in how they can teach and engage currently. We had our daughter’s parents’ evening last night. The teachers were all so positive. Whilst 5 minutes was quick with each one and I am sure relentless for the teachers, it was great to have the catch up. They were all so upbeat. Their hard work and effort is just amazing and is not going unnoticed.’ Year 9 parent
‘I just wanted to pass on huge thanks and support to all the teaching team at Deer Park school. My son is in Year 7 and the timetable has been brilliant. It is a really good mixture of live and off line lessons, great content and challenge. All information has been posted on Show My Homework or Teams in good time. He is currently doing an off line PE lesson next to me in my office. Technical issues have been minimal but teachers have always been kind and understanding when reported. We all can't wait to get back to school properly, but I think Deer Park are doing a brilliant job of providing a strong curriculum and support during lockdown. It must be a huge strain on everyone and particularly those teachers with children of their own at home. A big thank you!’ Year 7 parent