Headteacher's update 7
Published on 22/05/20
I hope you and your family are safe and well.
Government proposal for schools
Over this past week we have been considering the government’s proposal for small groups of Year 10 and Year 12 students to return to school in June. As you can imagine, there is a lot to consider. To help with our work, we sent a survey to staff, as well as students and parents in Years 10 and 12. I thought it would be useful for all of you to see a summary of the results, so have included it at the bottom of this message.
As we further develop our remote learning provision, we will of course be asking for feedback from students and parents in other year groups. Just please bear with us for now – as the work needed to consider a potential return to school for some students is quite significant. As ever, our priority in all of this is student and staff safety.
Related to this issue, Sheffield City Council has sent a letter to all parents/carers. It goes through each of the five tests that the government has set to allow more students into school and provides an analysis of whether they have been met. You can read the full letter at: https://tinyurl.com/ybt6n6c9
I would like to take this opportunity to wish you Eid Mubarak. Eid marks the end of the Holy month of Ramadan - a month-long event where Muslims fast from dawn to sunset each day. Eid al-Fitr directly translates to 'Festival of Breaking the Fast'.
This year Eid is going to be celebrated whilst social distancing, which in some ways seems to go against the spirit of Eid. Around the world, Eid is a holiday celebrated with the community, from praying together in the Masjid to visiting our extended family and friends. However, we can still share in the blessings of Eid from the safety of our homes, while upholding our community spirit and spending time with family!
We have had a few parents contact school to say that they child has not had any work set or has not received any feedback for work handed in. I can confirm that work has been set for all subjects and, if students have handed it in, they staff are sending feedback. It would be really helpful if you could sit down with them and look at Google Classroom together, to ensure that they know where to look for assignments and feedback.
A reminder that they use their school email address and login to access Google Classroom and that full details about how to use it (including a really helpful video) can be viewed on our IT support page at: https://www.silverdale-chorustrust.org/itsupport
Year 12 transition exams
Year 12 transition exams will be postponed until after the summer holiday. These exams are likely to take place on the third week of our return after the summer holiday, but we will confirm a date when we have more detail about September arrangements.
We wanted to postpone the exams to support our Year 12 students in concentrating on their remote learning and to ensure they were not faced with undue anxiety regarding these assessments at this time. Year 12 students can then begin revision over the summer break when remote learning will not be set.
When the transition exams do take place they will cover content that was taught with staff before 20th March only. The post-20th March content will be covered in the normal timetabled assessment of January 2021. The purpose of transition exams will remain the same: to support the formulation of UCAS predicted grades, ensure students can make the transition onto the Year 13 part of the course and to support students on being on the correct courses to ensure their success post-18.
However, for now we wish for our Year 12 students to have a relaxing half-term break and to focus on remote learning.
Finally, please ensure that our students take time to relax next week over half term. I hope they are able to find safe activities to keep them occupied. Sadly, I have had reports of teenagers meeting in groups in local parks and not maintaining social distance. I can see how this can easily happen, with two friends meeting, then bumping into another two friends – and so it grows. So please remind your child that the current guidelines only allow them to meet one other person at a time outside and to maintain social distance.
Remember that our Extra-Curricular Activities page on the website has lots of suggestions – including the latest instalment of Mr Ford’s juggling lessons!
Thank you for your continued support.
With very best wishes,
Mrs Sarah Sims
Head of Silverdale School
We asked staff, students and parents what they thought about the government’s proposal for small groups of Year 10 and Year 12 students to return to school in June. There was an excellent response rate for each group that we surveyed. We are still working through the responses but wanted to share an indication of the key themes that have emerged. Thank you to everyone who took the time to respond.
Should students return?
There was a clear split between those who feel very strongly that students should return and those who do not.
For those who did want to see a return it was largely out of a concern about what the students have missed in terms of their education and wanting them to experience better teaching and learning. Some highlighted students’ mental health and wellbeing as a reason for returning; some students said they found it very hard to get motivated with home learning, or just found it too challenging to do on their own. Some students explained how their home situation made it very difficult to study – due to responsibilities for younger children or a lack of private space or IT equipment.
For those who didn’t want to see a return, it was largely born out of fears about safety. The fear of infecting vulnerable members of their household was one of the top concerns given by students. Safety concerns covered everything from travel to school, to sharing equipment, and whether social distancing could be maintained.
It is clear that there are very strong, legitimate views on all sides.
How do we improve remote learning?
There was a lot of support amongst all groups for more creative ways of providing remote learning. This is something we are going to investigate further. Whatever the future holds, it is clear that remote learning will be part of it, whether alone or combined with face to face learning.
There are concerns about how accessible different tools are for everyone. Some students reported that, even though they had IT equipment, it had to be shared with others in their household.
It is clear that everyone – staff, students and parents/carers – have learnt a great deal in a very short space of time about remote learning.
How are students finding remote learning?
Over half of students said that they coping fine with remote learning – or were even enjoying it. But a significant number said that they were struggling. A few said that they hadn’t done any at all.
Finding work confusing or in a format they couldn’t access was the main challenge for students, along with needing extra help with their work.
Maintaining motivation was also a common issue.
We are taking time to study the survey results in detail. Alongside this, we are looking at how the government’s proposal to let small groups of Year 10 and Year 12 students return to school in small groups in June could be implemented in our school. This involves undertaking risk assessments, drafting new procedures, working with facilities and cleaning staff, and liaising with our governors/trustees. We are also still awaiting the secondary-specific guidance from the Department for Education (DfE). The current DfE guidance is not fit for purpose in a secondary setting.
There is a lot of work to undertake and at the centre of it all is our commitment to staff and student safety. We will endeavour to give staff, students and parents/carers a reasonable amount of notice, should we decide to reopen.
We are also looking at how we can improve our remote teaching and learning, including what we can learn from other schools and organisations. At the start of the lockdown systems were set up in a very short space of time with little preparation. If we are to move to the next level it will require more training and preparation, at a time when many of our staff face challenges similar to our students and parents: caring responsibilities, shared resources, health conditions and different levels of IT expertise. However, we are determined to find a way to address all these challenges, whilst also providing the ongoing in-school service to vulnerable students and children of key workers.
In the meantime, thank you for your continued support. We will update you with our progress in the week after half term.