Message from the Head of School
Dear parent, carers and students
As we begin the month of May, as a community we should be looking forward to spending time enjoying the sunshine at school, but times are very different for us all.
I never thought that I would miss the very familiar sounds of the school bell – the daily controller of our next period of time – but I do. I miss the bustle on the corridors as students move from one lesson to another, recalling what they’ve just done in the previous hour and chatting to their friends as they head to their next teacher. I miss the bell as it signals the beginning of break and lunchtime and then the liveliness and energy that ensues as the students leave the classrooms to enjoy spending time with their friends, socialising in the canteen and on our wonderful school fields. I miss the delight of seeing our happy community whilst on lunchtime duty: the football games that take place with children from different year groups playing together; the groups of friends enjoying their packed lunches on the grass, like picnicking groups in a park at weekend, reminiscing about their experiences, sharing friendships and making memories; and I even miss reminding the occasional over-exuberant child not to roll down the grassy verges as their parents would rather they didn’t go home with grass-stained white shirts.
I really miss being able to see our whole community doing what we do best at Millthorpe – being kind, caring and supportive of one another. I know that my colleagues at school are also missing our students and community very much – we didn’t want to become teachers to work from home – we thrive off working closely with our students every day and miss the joy that they bring and the way that they inspire us and make us laugh and smile every day.
To our students: we miss you.
I know that many of our students will be missing much of this too. They may also miss the familiarity of the bells and the structure that they provide without realising it. For many, the consistency that a timetable provides and the regularity and rigidity of a school day may not be possible or even advisable at the moment. I know they will also miss their friends, their social times and even their lessons with teachers who provide support and warmth and safety whilst working hard to inspire them to learn and engage in the subject that they love. They will also miss our community.
Change is hard and unsettling. Add to that a pandemic which is frightening and a world that we live in that is unrecognisable from that which existed only a couple of months ago.
But our students are always surprising us and surpassing even our high expectations. Below I will highlight what we will do, and how we have improved our learning and contact with families, to help you as we continue in this current situation.
To our students: we will see you again, and we will look after you and make sure you don’t fall behind. But until then, show everyone what we see in you. Be safe. Be confident. Be brave. Be kind. Be determined. Be helpful and supportive to your families. Continue to make us proud that you’re a member of our wonderful community. We will be together again when it’s safe.
Developments in learning
We are working relentlessly with all our Heads of Department and teachers to improve the learning experience of all of our students.
Remote Learning: we are all learning a new way of working and following guidance based on the latest research on distance learning from the Education Endowment Foundation and from information on best practice from other schools and lead practitioners. As always, we are continually reviewing our practice to improve further.
Our students and parents can expect remote learning set on ClassCharts in line with the following guidance from current research:
1. Keeping routines simple: Subjects that usually have more curriculum time on the timetable in KS3 will set 2 hours of work and those with less time on the timetable will set 1 hour. In Year 10, teachers will set the same number of hours that the students usually have in a school week. Work will be available each Monday at the beginning of a school week and the expectation is that it should be completed, if possible, by the following Monday. It is set on Mondays to allow families to have an oversight of the work set and enable it to be scheduled when it can be completed around other family commitments and enable planned sharing of IT devices. We have included an example schedule to offer further guidance to students, parents and carers who may be struggling to plan their time.
2. Clear instructions: Departments are now adapting their resources to give clear guidance for students as they move from one task to the next, with prompts, advice on how to tackle the work, assistance if they need it and model answers for self-checking so that students are confident in accessing the material and checking their progress.
3. Breaking down the tasks: The work set will ‘chunk’ the material in to smaller steps and encourage students to do something active with the new learning. It is good practice that students will be asked to use a small amount of new learning in a variety of different contexts, as this repetition will help secure deep understanding and help them to remember the learning.
4. Setting tasks that are problem/challenge orientated: Our teachers will now be setting more tasks that set goals and challenges to help motivate and engage students. This can already be seen in many activities and challenges such as Blutick in Maths. More departments will be adapting resources to create similar activities and teachers are researching new, innovative apps and strategies for this.
5. Providing tasks that are as active, engaging and practical as possible: Teachers will be setting work outside of their typical classroom curriculum. We know that some gaps in learning are inevitable and we feel it’s better to set tasks that inspire students in subjects rather than to try and cover the curriculum in the usual sequence. We are already planning how we are going to bridge any gaps in students’ understanding and knowledge when we return to school.
6. Building in reflection on learning and how students learn: We have spent a lot of time in school developing these skills for our students; this is done in green pen in school and students know it as ‘R-for Reflection.’ It is important that they understand how we learn, can mark their learning and learn from their mistakes and can reflect on how they will approach the task next time. We are ensuring that this work continues in their online lessons.
7. Feedback and marking: students are already provided with self-marking guides. We have now taken steps to ensure that, as well as the self-assessment tasks, challenges, and self-monitoring approaches, KS3 students will receive specific feedback from their teachers on Two Key Assessed Pieces (KAPs) in the vast majority of subjects.Students should respond to this assessed work in green pen and it will be used in lessons when we return. These assessed pieces will be highlighted on ClassCharts with clear instructions on how to submit them to their teacher and the teacher will ‘mark’ it and give feedback. Students in KS3 are still encouraged to send one piece of work per subject that they are most proud of to their subject teacher also.
Developing and extending communication with students and parents/carers
We are currently in contact with a large number of families for many different reasons. However, we are aware that contact doesn’t reach every family. We will extend our contact to reach every family in our community from next week.
Remote Form Tutor: In school, your child’s/children’s form tutor usually plays a crucial role their time in school; they are the adult that checks in with them on a daily basis and a single point of contact for students and parents/carers. We would like to enable that communication to be opened up during this time. Therefore, from next week, each form tutor will be in touch with your child/children to ‘check-in’ with each student and make sure they have everything the need to access the work and support they may need as they continue to work from home. They will make weekly contact with your child by emailing the parent. Please share this email with your child and reply to the form tutor or contact them should you need any support. They are missing their tutees and would love to hear from them!
As part of our responsibility to support learning we closely monitor how much and how frequently students log into ClassCharts each week. Your child’s/children’s form tutor/s will be making contact with any families by telephone to ask if there is anything we can do to support students who seem not to be engaging with ClassCharts and the work set.
How much time should students be spending on school work?
It is difficult for us to insist on a specific amount of time that your child spends on work as we don’t know all families’ personal situations and challenges. However, we would advise students in Years 7- 9 to be completing about three hours of school work each day. We would advise that Year 10 students certainly complete at least three hours of work but should aim to complete five hours to try to keep up with their preparation for GCSEs.
It may be that your child completes their school work in one block or they divide up their school work around their daily exercise, for example. It is really important that they commit some time to reading each day to improve their literacy.
We have shared some examples of what schedules may look like. We have created a timetable based on a student who likes to work in the mornings and finish school work off early. One who prefers to work in blocks of time but may vary the time of day they work. One who prefers to follow the school timetabled hours and another who prefers to plan everything and work in smaller chunks of time, interspersed with other activities.
Check out the example schedules here
We hope that the changes and developments that we have made continue to support your students and improve their experiences during these times. We will continue to look for ways to further develop our provision.
With best wishes
Supporting Your Child’s Emotional Resilience During COVID-19: FREE ONLINE COURSE
Bright Sparks CIC are offering a free online course for parents to help them support their child with their emotional resilience during these uncertain times. It is aimed at parents of children aged 4-11, so whilst this may not be appropriate for those parents who only have secondary age children, it may be useful for parents of current Year 7s and/or those parents with younger children in the family.
Support for parents with home learning
The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has published this useful information to support parents and carers to establish home learning routines and tips with assisting children in their learning.
Keeping up with current affairs
The Week Junior is an award-winning current affairs magazine for children aged 8–14. Filled with with fascinating news and engaging information, it feeds curious young minds and helps children make sense of the world.
You can see this week’s edition here.
News from York Learning
York Learning’s Family Learning team have put a variety of activities onto their Facebook page and Instagram, including fun games, activities and recipes to try at home, a Wednesday afternoon “Ask the teacher” slot for all those maths questions and tips for managing stress in a Friday weekend wind-down. These can be found at: https://www.facebook.com/familylearninginyork/ and @FamilyLearningInYork on Instagram.
They have also started a project to build a Giant Virtual Rainbow, and they need your help! Each week they will be collecting photos focussing on one colour of the rainbow. You can post your photos and tag them, using the hashtag #FamilyLearningRainbow, add them as a comment on Facebook, message them to us on Facebook or Instagram or email email@example.com
Online support and resources during lockdown
In addition to the resources we have included in previous weekly emails (which are now listed on our website), please find below further useful links:
- Bereavement UK have published some useful resources for supporting pupils facing bereavement, those who are already bereaved and those who are experiencing mental health difficulties. Click here for more information.
- CAMHS also provide ideas for supporting pupils with emotional and mental health difficulties.
- Information for parents/carers about online radicalisation.
Online learning platform to develop workplace skills
A new online learning platform to help develop workplace skills while people are staying at home, has launched this week. The new platform gives adults access to free digital and numeracy courses to help build up their skills, progress in work and boost their job prospects.
Citizens Advice York
Citizens Advice York is still open for telephone advice. Please take a look here for their current contact information.
Just a reminder that York College is still accepting applications for September 2020. If you have any queries please email the Admissions team or you can apply online. Applications should be made as soon as possible for students to have the best chance of securing a place on the course they want.
If anyone is still keen on securing an apprenticeship, you can e-mail this address in order to receive a weekly email update on the latest apprenticeship vacancies and events. You can also use the same email address if you need any general advice on making applications, checking CVs etc.
To search for apprenticeship vacancies, please visit the Amazing Apprenticeships website.
Moving to Millthorpe
Today, we have sent out the first in a series of emails to our new Year 7 students who will be starting Millthorpe School in September. You can take a look at the information here.
Contacting school and teaching staff
Just a reminder that if you or your children need to contact teaching staff during the school closure, all of their email addresses can be found here. There is also a link on the home page of the school website.
If you have a query that does not relate to teaching / specific subjects, please contact the School Office using the email address: firstname.lastname@example.org and they will direct your query.