I hope that this message finds you all well and thank you for the emails and kind messages that many of you have sent to individual colleagues and the school.
I’d like to address a number of points in this email to try to give you some clarity and reassure you. I took the decision when we entered this challenging period to be completely open and transparent with parents, carers and students and would like to do this again today, so would like to address two key areas: the setting of students’ work, the challenges and our expectations and an update and guidance for our Year 11 students and parents. I hope that you find this communication useful.
Setting of student work and expectations
Some of the challenges of learning from home
I think that we have come to realise over the last week that the school is likely to be closed for a long period of time; we are unsure of exactly how long, but it is not likely to be open for students in the next few weeks and could be closed throughout much of the summer term. This is a completely unprecedented situation and we are trying to work out how school can continue to educate our students in this challenging time without the face to face presence that we have experienced throughout our careers. This is completely new territory for all of us, staff and students. The work that teachers are setting, by this very circumstance, needs to be work that students can largely complete independently.
Students and families are all different and they have different challenges that they face.
Some students are very confident in working independently and thrive on the challenge, spending hours completing all of their school work and, for those students, this keeps them happy and motivated. Some students find working independently a real challenge and are daunted by the prospect of having to work alone and are really missing the opportunity to ask questions and talk things through. Some students are very difficult to engage in school work and will not independently just complete the work set. We are very aware of this because we work with these students and their different types of behaviours every day; whatever way your child works, I can reassure you that there will be a significant number of other children who are very similar in their approach.
Equally, we are aware that some parents feel very confident in supporting children with their studies and may be spending a lot of time working alongside their child/ren. However, many parents are not confident with school work and have little knowledge or understanding of some subjects – as a qualified teacher myself, I would struggle to support my own child with German, for example, as a subject I’ve never studied or with Geography that I haven’t studied since I was in Year 9. Some parents will also have other children or dependents in the house that they are looking after or they may be working from home and are unable to support or challenge or convince their child to complete the work set.
There are homes that have limited access to IT resources and may have to share devices across the family where a parent may also be working from home and there may be difficulties in recording information or answers to tasks when the children’s exercise books run out and you no longer have any paper.
We are very aware of many challenges that families may face. And we are aware that we are unable to supply these resources that we usually would supply. So we are reassuring families that we understand that you may not have easy ways to keep school work recorded and have physical resources you can use.
ClassCharts – our current provision and how we are reviewing it
We are currently setting 1.5-2 hours a week per subject in Key Stage 3 – we know that some students will complete tasks much more quickly and others will struggle to complete very much. Work will be set on the Monday of each week, so when you search ClassCharts by Issue Date, you will see work for the week ahead.
We are continually reviewing with colleagues how we can provide resources that also provide answers and structure so that parents can help students where possible, but they can also help themselves. We are going to further develop how we set work for Year 10 students as they do need to try to complete as much work as they can to place them in the best position for their GCSEs next year. We have limited the work set by teachers to setting the equivalent number of hours that the students would have in school. This should be more manageable for them. We will try to ensure that Year 10 lessons are clearly structured to build on the content that they will need to cover.
We are also working to be able to format all of our documents as PDFs as soon as possible to help those with issues accessing Powerpoints.
There will be some work on ClassCharts that students may choose to complete over Easter but there will be less than usual as we would encourage students and staff to take some holidays.
From Monday we will provide all teaching staff email addresses on the website to enable students and/or parents to ask for help or guidance if they do not understand a task or require any support. This cannot be used to deliver a personal curriculum or assessment opportunities for individuals but can be used to feedback to teachers if any work set is posing a problem. Please do ask your children to only contact teachers in a formal manner about school work.
Please note: teachers will not be responding to emails over the Easter holidays.
Our expectations of students
I want to reassure you that the work that we are setting children is to try to support you to support your children but we are NOT imposing rigid expectations of what our parents and students must complete at this time. We recognise that there are immense pressures on some parents and that some students will be anxious about our expectations when they return.
There will not be any formal sanction or consequence if students do not complete all of the work set, or in fact any of the work set.
The purpose of setting school work is to continue to challenge the students’ thinking, introduce them to new learning and to provide a structure for them whilst the regular structure of their world is turned upside down.
We are not underestimating the importance of their education and of continuing to engage with their subjects, but we recognise that all children will have very different experiences at this time. We will have a responsibility to ensure that there is some time set aside in the curriculum when we return, to ensure that all students can recap on what work has been sent and we can explore any misconceptions and close any gaps in their learning.
Therefore we will not be monitoring or assessing exactly what each student has completed. We would advise families to consider how to make this time work best for your children and to continue to keep in touch with their learning.
At this time, we would also recommend that you consider as families how to use this experience to also learn valuable skills for life from home such as cooking skills, gardening and spending time together that you wouldn’t have under normal circumstances. We have added a list of activities to support families that you might consider doing at home on our website.
There are also resources provided on ClassCharts on our Health, Wellbeing and Pastoral area such as Mrs Marley’s daily recipe with minimal ingredients and from Monday there will be a number of resources for when we have ‘time on our hands’.
One cannot underestimate the importance of reading for students – I would strongly recommend that students are reading every day for at least half an hour. This may be newspaper articles or other methods of non-fiction or engaging in a novel; these are life skills that will benefit all subject areas and their literacy.
It would probably be most useful for you to set up a routine for your families to give your children some clear structure. This should include days that they will not complete school work and you may choose to keep this as time at weekend, or you may choose to spread out the time. There should be planned opportunities for exercise and may of you may be using activities such as the 9am Joe Wickes’ sessions to keep your family fit. It would also be good to structure times that you get some fresh air, whether that is the permitted exercise time each day or spending time in outside spaces such as a garden if you have one.
Children are used to having a very rigid timetable for 7.5 hours a day over 5 days so having a structure, however bespoke to your family, will help them to continue to have routines as this stage of lockdown continues and they become more frustrated by the restrictions.
Information for Year 11 students
We should receive more information from the government and Ofqual next week about how grades will be determined for you. We know that we will have to provide some information to the exam boards of our predictions for each student in each subject. This will not be the result of one set of Pre-Public Exams (PPEs) or one set of predictions or one NEA (Non-Examined Assessments or known as coursework) for the subjects that have these. It will be a judgement based on their experience of you throughout the whole GCSE period and how you have progressed and were continuing to progress. This judgement will be informed by informal and formal classroom assessments, your PPEs and other methods of making judgements. PPEs are an unfair model to use as grade boundaries regularly change and many colleagues used harsher boundaries as a precautionary measure to not overestimate your results and leave you disappointed. The government will not solely use PPEs as there are different exams and papers set at different times with different mark schemes across the country.
Please be reassured that your teachers will not be harsh in their predictions when they are asked to submit them but that they will take considerable time to analyse with honesty and integrity what you have completed over time and what you deserve to achieve. Then there will be some external moderation of these predictions that will be outside of our control where the exam boards will use additional information, such as Key Stage 2 scores, and other data to determine your final grade. The government is hoping to be able to set a date so that you will get these grades in July, but this is not yet confirmed. Students who are unhappy will have the opportunity to sit exams as soon as is reasonably possible after school opens again and you could use time over the summer to prepare if this is the case. Students will also have the option to sit their exams in summer 2021. Further information can be found here.
I would like to remind and reassure you that the government will not want you to be negatively impacted by this, neither will they want everyone to sit exams later in the year, so we have to try to be optimistic at the moment rather than worrying.
With this in mind, no further work completed by students will contribute to the predictions that teachers will make.
If NEAs have been completed, they will be taken into account, as will moderated work. If incomplete, teachers will still be able to predict what the student was likely to be able to achieve if they had the time to complete the work.
Therefore, I don’t feel that it is fair or sensible to suggest that Year 11 continue to revise or complete work that they will not be assessed on. Teachers will provide work for each subject that helps students to prepare for their next steps. It would be advisable and sensible to focus on the subjects that you wish to continue at A Level or to look at the subjects most useful to you if preparing for a vocational course. In those areas on ClassCharts teachers will provide work that may still not have been completed and would be useful to cover before A Level or work that will help you to prepare further by extending your thinking and wider understanding around a specific subject.
Please do not make any contact with your teachers about grades as they are instructed not to discuss grades with you. However, if you wish to ask for help, they are more than willing to support you.
At Millthorpe School, we work hard to support all of our students who are Young Carers as they undertake a caring role at home. Those Young Carers known to us will continue to receive additional support during the coming weeks and months but there may be some students who are Young Carers but are not known to us.
If your child does undertake a caring role at home and you would like more information about how we can support you at this time, please e-mail Miss Johnson.
Support for parents and families
‘The Parents’ Guide to’ provides parents of teenagers with a wealth of information they need to help their children create successful futures. In response to the Coronavirus outbreak they have produced a useful guide called The Parents’ Guide to Coping with School Closures.
A Support for Families document has been shared by City of York Council and is full of information, web links and contact details for families in need of support on a number of topics including: housing, finance, food, SEN, mental health and bereavement amongst others.
Please do take a look at these documents and if you feel you need support from school, please contact us.
Handling Anger in the Family
The team at Family Matters York are planning to offer an online course from next week on Handling Anger in the Family. It will look at how as adults we manage our own anger and then how we support our children’s feelings of anger. It will involve the presentation of material, whole group discussions and small group activities which will all take place online at the same time, on the same day over four weeks.
Anyone who is interested is asked to contact Family Matters with a preference for one of the following times: 9.00-11.00am; 2.00-4.00pm; or 7.30-9.30pm. They can be contacted on T: 07393 147259 or E: firstname.lastname@example.org
I know that these are challenging times for all of our community. On behalf of all of the staff at Millthorpe, I hope that your families stay safe and follow the guidance from the Government and I look forward to seeing you when you return.
We will continue to keep in touch with you all when we receive any information and on a Friday.
With best wishes
Head of School