I hope this email finds you and you families well. It has been an incredibly successful week with live remote provision in line with the timetable beginning across all year groups. Reports from staff note that once more our students are showing a remarkable resilience and adaptability against all the odds, we are incredibly proud of them. Those skills coupled with determination and independence that they will be developing through this challenge are the key character traits prized at Mascalls and will ensure they add value to any goal or organisation they encounter in the future.
As we progress, staff will be looking at ways of becoming even more efficient, preparing and recording video explanations and model answers in departments, which may see students listen to a video explanation from a different teacher followed by questions and answers from their own and then into a deliberate practice task. It is a considerable challenge for staff, where in a classroom there are non-verbal cues and the teachers ‘thousand-yard stare’ that ensures students are entirely focussed, in the virtual environment this becomes less effective. Particularly as, for safeguarding reasons, student cameras are switched off.
In the mean time I ask that parents consider the potential distractions in the vicinity of the student work space, remove them and ensure that your son/daughter is able to focus for the duration of the lesson, tricky if the workspace is a bedroom, less so if it is elsewhere. Can I also ask that you check in frequently with your son/daughter while they work to ensure that they are engaged and on task. Feel free to adopt the thousand-yard stare on our behalf!
Whilst live lessons continue successfully the issue of screen time and wellbeing begins to come to the fore, it is a very different prospect sitting face to face with a class than online all day. From Monday, we would like to introduce a (roughly) five-minute break at the end of each lesson, long enough to get up, stretch legs, grab a drink or a snack and be ready to begin the subsequent lesson at the correct starting time. This is no real difference to the ‘old normal’ when students would walk from class to class around the site and is hoped that it will provide a short ‘mental break’ each hour.
Summer Exams for Years 11 and 13
In amongst all of this our staff are working incredibly hard to ensure that our year 11 and our year 13 students are not disadvantaged by the very recent announcement that this summer’s public examinations will be replaced with Teacher Assessments. We are awaiting guidance about what we can and cannot consider in arriving at ‘Centre Assessed Grades’ and will ensure that grading is fair and does not disadvantage any student, it is likely to be very similar to summer 2020. Last year we were complimented both inside and outside the Trust for the systems and procedures we had in place, resulting in 100% of our students going on to the destination of their choice. The overriding message is that now, more than ever, every single piece of work and engagement in online provision will be used to form a picture of each students’ potential. We have yet to finish courses of study so it is imperative that there are no gaps in work and that engagement remains high until the end of the Year. Please also note that grades and discussion around the process are confidential and will not be discussed at all by any member of staff with parents/carers or students, please do not ask for risk of offence.
Once again, I make a plea to parents to only consider formal communications from the school as a valid source of information. There was an issue this week where a delivery of laptops from the Department of Education communicated to a small number of students without access in Year 8 and 9 was passed on as delivery of the Chromebooks for the entire year groups we are awaiting for those year groups. The ensuing phone calls and emails took several staff considerable time to address. Only our website, our official emails, our Facebook page or Instagram should be considered sources of information from an academy perspective.
We are as frustrated as anyone that the final delivery of Chromebooks to Year 8 and 9 has yet to arrive, it is a very different prospect coordinating the delivery of a thousand devices to just one or two domestic devices. Initially held up by an international trade agreement between the USA and China who make the parts for our devices, now simply a logistical issue in a diminished supply chain. We will continue to chase and turn around the handover as quickly as we have previously. Please note we are the only school or academy locally to provide one to one devices for free to all students in Years 7 to 11, we are very fortunate to be able to do so.
Kent Schools Games
Last term we entered the Kent School Games Indoor rowing competition against schools from all over Kent, I am pleased to announce some fantastic results.
In the 4-person team event where individual scores are added results were:
YEAR 7 BOYS 1ST
YEAR 8 BOYS 1ST
YR 9 BOYS 1ST
YR10 BOYS 1ST
In Year 9 both Harry Hall and Rohan Caustin achieved Gold and Silver individual medals as both rowed fantastic distances beating rowers from Kings Canterbury, Sevenoaks School and others. Well done, all of you, an incredible achievement.
Finally, as with every letter I write, I would like to thank you for your continued support and in particular those parents who have taken the time to send in positive messages to staff. It really has an impact. Throughout the entire pandemic I have been incredibly inspired by our community working more closely together than ever in the best interests of our young people, and in turn they continue to make us proud, succeeding in a calm and consistent environment that together we are creating.
Mr W Monk | Principal