I hope this email finds you and your families well. I would also like to take this opportunity to wish you all a happy new year. It is so lovely to have everyone back after the Christmas break and again the students continue to impress us with their determination and resilience in the face of the current national backdrop. This week we returned to testing through which just under 1300 tests were conducted in just over two days, I would describe the testing centre as ‘library quiet’ where students are incredibly respectful of each other and aware of how important the process is, they make the job so much easier.
After what has felt like a considerable amount of time, I am delighted to finally be able to share our final OFSTED report from the inspection that took place in November, the report is packed full of positives and we are incredibly grateful for the feedback, some of which made it into the report. I would like to share the opening paragraph with you which I think encapsulates the academy perfectly and would be any Principal’s (and parent/carer’s) dream to have their academy described in such a way:
This is a vibrant place to learn. Pupils value the opportunities they get. Leaders and teachers are always looking for ways to improve the school and go the extra mile. As one parent wrote: ‘It gets better every year.’ OFSTED, Nov 2021
There are many other positives within the report which confirms that the academy continues to be judged ‘Good’ and is very strong in many areas, naturally there are areas for improvement as there would be for any institution and in every OFSTED report, in fact very few (just two) which suggests that our journey towards ‘Outstanding’ is incredibly close. The report can be read in full here, needless to say we are incredibly proud of the achievement of staff, students, parents and carers and the part each played in the inspection, not simply just those days but also a culmination of effort from everyone over a sustained period of time.
Naturally parents and carers will be more than aware of the column inches devoted nationally to schools and the impact of the latest stage of the pandemic. Our biggest challenge this term, like every other industry at present, will arise from staffing and those members of staff who test positive and/or are isolating. Our intention is not to send any students home unless absolutely necessary, it is a last resort. In fact, staff absence will never be uniform and in many cases may only affect one or two lessons out of a five period day, in addition the sending home of groups is designed to free staff to cover elsewhere with the knock on effect preventing them from delivering remotely to their own teaching group whilst at home.
We have created a ‘Nightingale classroom’ which can house multiple teaching groups, supervised, whilst accessing remote teaching from their class teacher live from their isolation (assuming they are well enough). Class groups have their own dedicated section to sit in and have this week worked incredibly well in silence, on headphones accessing their remote lesson. This is only possible through the significant investment in Chromebooks by the academy and access to Google Classroom. We do of course continue to have our usual cover staff and the combination of the two adds a capacity that we hope will allow us to maintain on site provision and not send groups home for the sake of one or two lessons out of five. The classroom is well ventilated, class groups are in designated sections, students are wearing facemasks (and working online in silence, with headphones) and as such represents no more risk than the school bus or our canteen at break or lunchtime. This week we have consulted with the students on their experience and the overwhelming majority have stated that it has allowed them to really focus without distraction on their learning, with their teacher. We will continue to monitor the experience of the students but do bear in mind staffing needs will change on a daily basis. Parents/carers are able to help by providing headphones for their son/daughter, although we do have headphones to loan most would prefer their own, this allows students to hear the live interaction with their class teacher without disturbing others.
A Christmas Carol
At the start of this week Year 10 students visited The Old Vic theatre in London, under covid restrictions, to see A Christmas Carol as part of their GCSE course. I would like to take the time to congratulate all students on their behaviour and attitude on the trip. They were remarkably well behaved and adhered to all the covid rules the theatre asked for. Some students even engaged in conversations with the actors before the show showing maturity and ability to show the best versions of themselves. The show really aided their experience of English Literature and their understanding of an exam text whilst holding on to that Christmas spirit, even if only for one more day!
Testing at home
As COVID cases continue to rise in the community I would like to thank parents/carers and families who have continued to proactively test at home to ensure that, where there are positive cases, those students are able to isolate and prevent further transmission in the academy. We ask that you continue to test on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings uniformly and also if you develop symptoms. This has helped significantly in keeping numbers incredibly low in our academy. Please also note the latest isolation quick guide linked here.
Finally, from me, my thanks again to parents/carers for returning so positively this new year, supporting the guidance and the academy so wonderfully meaning our amazing students are able to continue to access the full curriculum on site despite the obvious challenges. Your confidence in us and messages of support to staff are always gratefully received. One day we will look back at this period thinking how easy everything now seems, but for now our community remains as strong as ever supporting our young people.
Mr W Monk