Principal’s Blog

Nothing will substitute students learning with a teacher in a classroom – but we are having a good go with our online offer.

Our young people agree, with 91% accessing the live lessons on a regular basis.

That is a credit to our students, their support network at home, and our staff, who have worked so hard to adapt.

What is more, the numbers are increasing, with more accessing in week 2 than in week 1. So the word is getting out about the quality of our online offer.

We have set a tough challenge.

As well as the live lessons, which follow students’ timetables, tutor time and our Personal, Social and Health Education is online in the form of Futures and Character sessions.

A large majority of students are accessing everything daily.

We have strategies in place for the 9% failing to log in regularly and for those not attending every lesson.

We know it is not easy, but I spoke about the importance of routine last week and it is clear from the figures most of our students have adapted to remote learning.

To the end of last week, staff had delivered 829 live lessons across all year groups, a fantastic effort.

Parents and carers can be reassured we are not asking our students to stare at a screen non-stop for five hours a day and our approach is a blend of a variety of strategies.

Teachers are delivering content through the live lessons before the students are set a task, which might not be online. That variety to their learning is important, just as it is in a classroom.

We have three times as many attending school as the first lockdown but that is manageable, with those 30 to 40 students receiving the same online lessons as working remotely.

Our inclusion and support team, as well as our PE department, deserve our thanks for supporting these students in the academy and conducting the testing programme for staff and students.

Those staying at home are helping the community bring down the numbers of infections.

I am hopeful that, in the next few weeks, I will be able to share plans on how Year 11s will be awarded their grades.

In the meantime, it is important they continue to do what is asked.

Mr Murray’s overseeing their college applications through the Futures programme.

A video has been produced to help with personal statements, phone calls home being made, and one-on-one virtual meetings taking place with careers’ advisors to support with next steps.

Some colleges and training providers are asking for predicted grades and that is difficult when courses have not been completed and there is still uncertainty over the exact process of final grades being awarded by teacher assessment this year.

Schools do not know whether they will be assessing against the whole course or the parts students have done. We are unsure if Year 11 students will still have to sit some form of assessment in the weeks ahead. I appreciate that this uncertainty is unsettling.

Hopefully, decisions will be made by the Department for Education soon.

Regular phone calls home continue across all year groups. It is important where a student has a problem or there is a change in circumstance, that school is informed.

The same goes for those struggling with remote access, for whatever reason. Please talk to your Achievement Team Leader for your year group, or to Mrs West.

As always, stay safe and well.

 

 

 

Principal’s Blog

Routine has never been so important for our students.

As adults, we sometimes struggle with it, so I do understand the difficulties in what we are asking our young people to do.

Our online learning follows their school timetable and, while the vast majority are in a good routine and logging in every day, some are not.

Could I ask parents and carers to encourage children to log in to the learning platform and check their emails regularly.

The emails require them to log on to a different platform. We are sending out important information – for example college applications for Year 11 – via email and that is why students must check emails daily.

You or we do not want them to miss deadlines.

I am pleased we went ahead with vocational exams, taking place over the last week or so.

The Government left the decision up to individual schools and academies, but I know our students have benefited from the experience.

Only a very small number did not take them, and we knew and understood their reasons for not doing so.

Students took their exams in a safe environment and their conduct was exemplary. Well done!

Members of the senior leadership team have done a great job setting up a COVID-19 testing centre over the last week. My thanks to them for doing so.

It means we can regularly test those staff and students in the building during lockdown and, in theory, we should be able to handle 300 people daily.

Staff have volunteered to train and service the station, but we may, at some point, appeal to members of the public to support.

We have around 40 children in school – deemed vulnerable or those of key workers – and there is a really good atmosphere. They are doing the same work online as peers are remotely.

The live lessons are working well, with teachers providing content through some live teaching delivery before students are set a task, which is mostly online.

Where members of staff are unavailable, online learning is provided.

We are keeping as much face-to-face contact as possible, making it as real as possible. It helps reassure the children when they see their teachers regularly.

Finally, our free school meal voucher system is working well and given the headlines, is a reason we did not want to go down the route of providing food parcels.

As always, stay safe and well.

 

Principal’s Blog

It has been a dramatic 36 hours or so for everybody.

For those trying to provide the best quality teaching and learning experience for our young people, we are still coming to terms with what this lockdown will mean.

Our immediate concerns are setting up a high quality online learning timetable and providing a safe environment for students sitting vocational exams over the next week in hair and beauty, hospitality and catering, sports science and health and social care.

As we stand on this Wednesday morning, all these students should expect to sit exams from tomorrow onwards.

If this situation changes, we will let students and parents know immediately.

Unfortunately, that is the situation we are in. We are finding out changes through news bulletins and having to react accordingly.

I do appreciate the Government has had to make difficult decisions but, up to Monday’s announcement, we were planning the logistics around setting up a coronavirus testing centre and having all students return from the 18th.

Now, the academy is only open to vulnerable children and those of key workers.

While it is a time of uncertainty, I would ask students and parents not to worry unduly.

We will be doing everything we can as an academy to support our young people.

For instance, thanks to a huge amount of work, we are in a much better place altogether than 12 months ago to deliver online learning.

While not the same as being in a classroom, our online platform is up and running with content for students this week and, from Monday, teachers will be delivering live lessons.

They will do so either from their homes or here at the academy, where we have invested in IT to cover this eventuality.

Students need to be logging in daily and we are, once again, indebted to the support of parents with this.

Our students are our priority and we care about them. Their education, their wellbeing, their safety and the safety of their families are important to us.

Whatever you read or hear please remember this and keep supporting us in the work that we try to do.

Most important is that our academy plays its part in reducing the spread of this dreadful virus while maintaining the best possible education for our students.

I wish you a safe and healthy New Year.

 

Principal’s Blog

Wow – we have almost made it!

Nobody could have foreseen when we were breaking up 12 months ago the year we have had.

Even in this last week of term, it has had its twists.

More students could be accommodated in the academy than we thought possible a week ago because of the reduction by the Government of self-isolation to 10 days.

Without wishing to sound like a stuck record, I would like to thank all our staff who have stepped up to the plate, adapting to last minute changes in plans to support our students.

The students have been incredible.

They have shown tremendous resilience and met the challenges head on. Everybody has worked together to get through this difficult period.

The vast majority of feedback from parents has been overwhelmingly positive.

They accept we are trying to do the best we can in not just challenging circumstances, but circumstances which change seemingly at the drop of a news bulletin.

Of course, I understand these issues are not restricted to schools. Businesses, organisations, and individuals have had much to deal with, particularly those who have lost loved ones to this pandemic.

Christmas is always a reflective time of the year. This one will be even more so.

None of us know what the New Year will bring but, whatever it is, we will deal with it together and be stronger for it.

The last day of term is Thursday and it is important, particularly given the lost time this year, that students are in the academy for these final days.

Attendance for those meant to be in school dropped yesterday (though improved today) and, for those who are not ill, absence will be classed as unauthorised.

Their education provision is in school, they are not learning from home.

Tomorrow, all students have an opportunity to take part in our virtual Christmas concert in their tutor groups.

We had a fun Christmas jumper day last Friday, raising £86.30 in support of Save the Children. Some pictures are here.

Students and staff also made donations in support of the neonatal care unit at Scunthorpe Hospital.

Representatives from its charity The Health Tree Foundation collected them from under our Christmas tree and thanked everybody for their generosity.

I will finish my last blog of the year on that positive note.

As always, please stay safe and well over the holidays.

I wish you all a Happy Christmas and peaceful New Year.

Principal’s Blog

It is not getting any easier as the end of term comes into sight.

I was sorry to send home Years 9 and 10 yesterday but, having sought advice from the Department for Education, was left with no alternative.

Single positive tests for coronavirus in each of these year groups meant a proportion of students were close contacts and needed to self-isolate.

Others will have been relieved to hear that, while learning from home, they did not need to self-isolate in the run up to Christmas.

We will review the situation on Friday but there is the possibility this situation will remain the same until the end of term and these year groups will not return until the New Year.

This is because, in recent blogs, I have mentioned the difficulties we have faced almost daily on the staffing front because of the virus.

Just before we opened on Monday a colleague tested positive and a further five were asked to isolate after being close contacts. This was in addition to a number of known staff absences that we had already planned to cover on Monday morning. It created an impossible situation.

On Monday evening a further five staff were contacted via NHS Track and Trace in unrelated incidents. So we will do our best to continue to provide education provision through to the end of term.

We will always ensure the academy safely provides the highest possible quality of learning for students in the building and to those at home.

It is essential students fully engage with online learning.

On this front, this year has been a big learning curve, but I feel we are providing high quality online resources and, where possible, live online teaching will take place.

We will be emailing students directly about their timetable and how to access this support.

Those with any difficulties should contact the academy.

I would like to stress that, as far as Years 7, 8 and 11 are concerned, it is business as usual for now and students in these year groups should attend the academy as normal.

Indeed, some Year 11s face external exams in January and it is important we support those students as much as we possibly can.

There might be only two weeks left until the end of a very long term but, given the time in the classroom all our students have missed, it is important they engage, work hard and, for those in school, take advantage of the low numbers and how we are operating.

As always, stay safe and well.

 

 

 

Principal’s Blog

It is the first day of Advent and counting the days to Christmas is a welcome boost.

Everybody knows the festive season will be different this year, but our remote calendar starts today, and we are planning other activities to make the season special.

Our tree arrives on Friday and we will have a Christmas Jumper Day, tying in with the national event, on the 11th .

We are asking for voluntary contributions only this year for those who wear one.

Traditional Christmas services will also be remote, and more details will be announced over the coming days.

Instead of serving a Christmas lunch on one day, we are talking to our caterers about themed lunches over a week. This, again, will be confirmed shortly.

So, there is plenty to look forward to.

As I mentioned, it is a welcome distraction.

We have done well to get to this point with a lot of work from staff and support from students and parents.

The vast majority of our children have been superb in the way they have adapted to their new routines.

We have administrative, support and teaching staff absent from the academy because of the pandemic and I would like to again thank those taking on additional duties to ensure the school remains open.

Members of the senior leadership team start planning on a Friday night for Monday, with changes made over the weekend as the staffing situation becomes clearer.

But the picture constantly changes, and this means people adapting to whatever situation we find ourselves in.

It changed again with the Department for Education’s announcement last Thursday.

The new guidance is that a school is either fully open or closed.

This presents even more challenges to our stretched team.

We felt we had reached a good ‘half-way’ house with potential plans approved if we needed them for year groups to attend in rotas if our staffing levels became too stretched.

This would have made excellent use of our online offer, including live lessons, allowing students not in the academy to learn effectively from home.

We will obviously still need to use these strategies if we get a positive student case to allow self-isolating students to learn from home.

We will do our best to adapt again, as we always do.

I had a good walk around school yesterday and witnessed excellent lessons and learning.

This is not a period of containment, there is some high quality teaching going on, and that includes from our well known and trusted supply teachers.

As I mentioned last week, the situation means students may not have their regular teacher and this may become more regular as we do our best to keep the school open.

Again, I am sorry where that is the case.

But we battle on – and keep counting the days of Advent.

As always, stay safe and well.

Principal’s Blog

We have a full complement of students in this week – but our staffing situation remains difficult.

Thank you to the vast majority of the 58 Year 10s who engaged with our online learning platform and kept working away while in self-isolation.

I warned a couple of weeks ago about the difficult juggling act we are performing daily to maintain full-time, face-to-face teaching.

We are in a world which changes daily and, sometimes, faster than that.

A message from the NHS Test and Trace app or a phone call to do with home can turn people’s lives upside down.

They and their employers may need to deal with the consequences of a positive test or period of self-isolation.

While we do not have any staff testing positive for coronavirus, some colleagues are being impacted by, for example, family circumstances.

This has meant, in some lessons, students may not have a regular teacher and I am sorry where this is the case.

It is why students need to stick with it and be even more focused and cooperative. In these difficult times, every hour of every day in the classroom is important.

Our focus remains on providing high quality provision.

Parents / carers of Years 8 and 11 have an opportunity to check on a child’s progress on Wednesday and next Monday (30th November) respectively.

Our normal parents’ evenings have been replaced with telephone slots which can be booked through our new School Cloud app.

It enables parents to see teachers’ availability, with early morning and daytime slots possible.

65% of Year 8 parents have made bookings but we would like this to be higher before Wednesday. Year 11 parents have more time.

Please let us know if you are having any difficulties arranging a slot.

It is a time of the year when attention is turning to Christmas and I am pleased there will be a  touch of festive normality next Friday when our Christmas tree arrives. It will be put up in the atrium.

We are working on other festive activities, including services and lunches, and will confirm details as soon as we can.

As always, stay safe and well.

 

Principal’s Blog

A big thank you to those Year 10s currently learning from home.

It is pleasing to report the vast majority of the 58 affected are logging in and getting on with their work.

I am also grateful to staff who continue to adapt and rise to the challenges brought on by COVID-19.

Where a whole class has been self-isolating, colleagues have been using the technology in an empty classroom to teach live online lessons.

With some option subjects, the number of self-isolating Year 10s has meant lower numbers in  different sets.

Where we have had these partial classes, some teachers have been trialling teaching to those children in the room, with the rest joining remotely.

It is working well, though there will always be examples where it is better in some lessons than others.

Teachers are learning new skills and, while it is not a substitute for being in the classroom, our students are benefitting from the technology and staff efforts.

I would also like to thank our first class IT team who are supporting the teachers.

What everyone is proving is that being away from school does not mean students have to miss out on their learning.

I spoke to some Year 10 students about the experience of staff teaching to a camera as well as the class.

They said it “seemed to work well”. That is good enough for me!

We continue to monitor staffing daily and, as an update to what I said last week, plans have been put in place for all eventualities. These will go before Trustees for approval next week.

Thank you to those Year 8 and 11 parents who have already responded to our new look parents’ evenings.

Telephone slots can be booked with teachers through our new School Cloud app, details of which were sent home last week.

It will allow more flexibility for parents, with teachers available during the day and in an evening.

I would encourage those who have not taken slots to do so as quickly as possible please.

They are to discuss a child’s progress and have nothing to do with the current crisis.

If you have any problems with the app, please contact the Academy.

Finally, could I also take this opportunity to congratulate Year 11 on their hard work and approach to the mock exams, which continue until the end of the week.

As always, stay safe and well.

 

Principal’s Blog

I want to provide an honest assessment of the Academy’s situation with regards coronavirus.

Unfortunately, we have had another positive test in Year 10 this morning, which has meant 85 students being asked to self-isolate.

They can return to the academy on Monday, 23rd November. Parents have been contacted.

We are also dealing with reduced numbers of staff because of the pandemic.

None have tested positive, but some are self-isolating – having been identified as close contacts – or working from home because their young children have been asked to self-isolate by school.

Those at home, while not teaching ‘live’ lessons, are still providing resources for up to 150 children a day.

Teachers then, are no different to others, juggling difficult circumstances at home.

We also have staff who are clinically extremely vulnerable who cannot come to work and others who are vulnerable and, while in the academy, need to work differently.

We are supporting all our colleagues which means the Academy is short staffed across its teaching and non-teaching teams.

We are monitoring the situation daily, but parents / carers should know we are drawing up plans for all eventualities.

We will keep open five days a week for face-to-face teaching for as long as we can.

But I need to be open with parents / carers about how difficult the situation is.

Our priority is to provide safe and effective learning in a way that is sustainable, consistent and fair for everyone.

Tracking has confirmed that students who have tested positive since September picked up the virus outside the Academy.

We are, therefore, confident our risk assessments and bubble system are working but we must remain vigilant.

The virus has put paid to usual parents’ evenings, due for Years 8 and 11 on the 25th and 30th November respectively.

Instead, telephone slots can be booked with teachers.

Details have been sent out this week on how to access our School Cloud app. It will enable parents to see what teachers are available and when. If you have not received this information via text then please contact the academy.

We are hoping for an even higher engagement than an ordinary Parents’ Evening as there is more flexibility, with teachers available during the day as well as evening.

Parents will not have to stick to a particular date to discover their child’s progress.

It is another situation where we have used the technology to create an opportunity we did not have before.

I hope parents will take advantage and I look forward to there being a positive uptake to the initiative.

Good luck to those Year 11s taking mocks this week and next. Remember, they are being run to inform staff and students of what they still need to learn ahead of their formal exams next summer.

Further mock exams and quality-assessed pieces of work will build an even clearer picture of what students can achieve.

Finally, our start to the academy day is important.

Students must arrive on time for their year group’s start of learning. Many students are managing this well, but a small number are arriving late.

This is disappointing and needs to improve…but well done to the vast majority who are coping very well under challenging circumstances.

As always, stay safe and well.