15th May 2020
Keeping safe, Keeping learning
I hope this update finds you and your family safe and well.
Thank you for your ongoing support of all we are doing at St Anne's to keep safe and keep learning. Thank you too for the support you are giving your children as they continue to learn remotely and safely. We are still a learning community, albeit a dispersed one, and we continue to be here for you.
Last Sunday, the prime minister announced a modification of the lockdown restrictions and this included the way that schools are being asked to operate. There has been a lot of confusion and media speculation about it, and so I want to be clear about the approach St Anne's is taking.
As a staff body, we would be delighted if education could return to normal and to gather again as a school community as we have done for over a century. We know that this is where our collective efforts work best. All of us miss being together, demonstrating our LSU values of simplicity, hospitality, openness and warm relationships together and learning together. It's what teachers went in to this profession for, and what young people need. However, this must be done in a way that ensures that all in the community ARE safe and also FEEL safe. We are already providing daily provision for children of critical worker families and vulnerable families. This announcement goes further.
The guidance for secondary schools is that: "From the week commencing 1 June 2020 at the earliest, we are asking…secondary schools and colleges to offer some face to face support for children and young people in year 10 and year 12 to supplement their remote education…".
I'd like to unpick how we read this guidance.
"Plans are worthless, but planning is everything" President Dwight Eisenhower
With such a rapidly changing situation, the senior leadership team have been planning and re-planning extensively as guidance comes out. With so much in flux, there is a risk of missing a step, or getting something wrong. We have agreed that we will do what is right for our children and staff in our context and not make any knee-jerk or rushed decisions. At each step in our planning, we are asking the question "does this step improve upon the provision we are already offering remotely and can we do it safely?". If we cannot answer that question positively, we won't take it. It’s important that we discuss our planning with staff, governors and parents before we do anything, and when we have our planning in place, I will be sharing it with parents and am happy to receive your thoughts about it. We hope to do that next week. Your continued support, engagement and patience as we ensure we get this right is much appreciated.
The announcement on Sunday means that we now know that for all year groups, remote education via MS Teams will be the main, if not the sole, means to continue education for the rest of the academic year. In the light of this, we are reassessing the way we are providing remote learning to check that it is optimum. Thank you for the positive feedback we've received about the way we are handling this as a school. Your positive comments are really appreciated by the staff who are working hard in their homes around the competing demands of work and family. There have been a few questions about whether we are going to start live lessons using MS Teams. We are not currently minded to do this as it is not as effective as it may first appear. In their report on home learning the EEF finds that the quality of remote learning is more important than “how lessons are delivered. For example, teachers might explain a new idea live or in a pre-recorded video, but what matters most is whether the explanation builds clearly on pupils’ prior learning".
Having live lessons (where the teacher and pupils all log in at the same time and share screens) assumes a lot. It requires that the teacher and pupils are available at the same time, have a decent enough internet connection with endless data, a good quality laptop (mobile phones won't be very effective for this), and that this hardware is available to that pupil at that moment. Although this is true for some, it is by no means true for all in our school community who may share devices; moving to this will increase the gap between those that can access this learning and those that cannot. It will disrupt the patterns of the day and the ways of learning that many children and their families have now got into during lockdown. It is also not reasonable to ask staff to double up teaching every class twice, once via a video lesson and then again via other formats; a feat that would be unreasonable even in normal circumstances. Finally, there are safeguarding implications to having staff and pupils stream video from within their own homes. As such, we have weighed up the evidence and remain sure that live video lessons are not the best way forward for teaching the main body of our school. This matches what I am hearing from the way many secondary schools in the city are operating. We can see that there is a case for a different approach with older students in smaller classes in sixth form, which we will continue to assess.
From Mr Waterfield, Deputy Headteacher.
May half term: Monday 25 to Friday 29 May
We have spoken to the year 7 families who are currently accessing our provision in school under the critical worker criterion and we do not think that there will be a need for us to offer school places over half term. Therefore, our current plan is for school to be closed during the whole of the half term week. If you feel that a school place would have been absolutely necessary, please email email@example.com with details and somebody will be in touch with you.
RSE Policy Consultation
As part of our preparations for compulsory Relationship and Sex Education teaching from September 2020, our draft policy is about to be made available to you on the school website, in the policies section, along with some sample resources. The policy has been checked by the Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth and school staff and will go to governors as a final step. The resources cannot begin to give a flavour of our provision in school! What is important to remember is that St Anne’s promotes the fullness of life in the context of relationships (of all sorts – not just romantic) and that our approach is one shared by many religious and non-religious worldviews. The deadline for consultation is Monday 22 June, 9am.
Thanks for your continued support as we keep safe and keep learning!
St Anne's Catholic School