Principal’s Statement – 21st January 2022

Mascalls Academy building

Dear Parents/Carers,

I hope this update finds you and your families well.  It has been another fantastic week which continues to see our attendance grow from strength to strength, long has it been above national averages, in fact it now comfortably sits at pre-pandemic levels.  This is wonderful news because it certainly does not require science to reveal that attendance is the first route to progress.  And those students maintaining attendance at this time are making incredible progress, it really is great to see.

Uniform

Twice throughout the pandemic Mascalls has taken the decision to allow students to wear PE/Dance kit on PE/Dance days.  This was a mitigation for COVID reasons and not merely for comfort, in fact the risk in a changing room is no different to that in a classroom, in addition whilst some lesson time has been gained in PE there have also been some limitations to the curriculum.  After half term, from Monday 21st February, we will return to full school uniform every day, the changing rooms will reopen and students will need to bring PE kit on the appropriate days exactly as they would pre-pandemic.  Of course, students will have been wearing full uniform on non-PE/dance days so it is not expected to cause any additional duress. 

Attention, or Distractions?

This week the Principal’s student briefing focussed on attention or rather distractions.  Specifically, the impact of social media, whose business model is specifically designed to maintain attention and distract through frequent, short and easy to scroll content.  In fact, it was pointed out that the user of social media is not the customer, advertisers are, and from the information provided by the user focussed adverts and content are further prioritised directly to you, and more frequently the most viral content with the highest views rather than your friends content.

Graph showing the attention span of young people and social media.

This culminates in an incredible effect on the ability of young people to maintain attention which many scientific studies show to be in rapid decline since the 2000s.  Some startling statistics show that on average phones are ‘checked’ 1500 times per week (over 200 times per day), the average page view on the internet is now less than a minute and the average amount of words read in an article stand at around 28%.  This is in stark contrast to the demands of a modern work environment or indeed a school.   The nature of the content hasn’t just shown to impact attention but also the ability to empathise and see alternative viewpoints, this is not unsurprising when considering the first comment or the most inflammatory comment on any given post usually sets the narrative for those that follow.

So, we challenged students:  to insist that if they are in conversation with a friend that they are also not distracted by a device or even a headphone, that attention is paid entirely to the friend they are talking to.  That they engage in frequent, attentive conversations with family and friends.  That distractions are entirely away when completing work or homework, and that screen time specifically for social media is reduced.  The challenge for parents/carers and academy moving forward is significant, but collectively we can engage in conversation, promote ‘heads up time’ and conversation as much as possible and ensuring that homework is completed without distraction nearby.  Our desire to seek improvements in attention and what we call a flow state of attention will form a significant focus in the days, weeks, months and years ahead as we look to continue to succeed not just academically but through the personal development of our collective character.

Face Masks

No doubt you will have heard this week the removal of the requirement to wear face coverings in the classroom, until next Thursday they are still required in communal spaces around the site and beyond that on public transport.  Please continue to ensure your son/daughter has one for travel and school.  In the classroom, this will now be at the discretion of the individual and supported entirely by our staff.

Year 9 Options

Thank you to the 75% of parents who were able to attend the virtual parents evening this week to discuss your son/daughter’s progress with their teachers, next we have GCSE options to think about and hasn’t that come around quickly?  We have slightly delayed the options process this year in anticipation of a further announcement on the 26th January from the government regarding the removal of further restrictions.  We really want to see you in person and on site for this important part of your son/daughter’s journey so please be aware that once that announcement has passed it will be full steam ahead, do look out for those notifications.

Finally, from me, as always, a huge thank you to those parents and carers who continue to support the academy through your positive messages and sharing in our achievements with others.  Our collective efforts continue to ensure that our students achieve incredible things growing our reputation locally and beyond placing students of the Mascalls family, past and present, in a fantastic position with employers and ensuring success reaches far beyond the school gates and their time here.

Yours sincerely,

Mr W Monk

Principal