WEEK 38 - Friday 16 July 2021
This has been a hugely difficult week in school. Like most schools in the country, we are currently dealing with a surge in positive Covid cases, the like of which we haven’t seen since last November, just before the second (mini) lockdown. Each positive case takes a huge amount of time to identify students, contact parents and ensure that all students are safely home, in addition to reporting details of each case to the local authority and Public Health. Each case then tends to lead to ripples of understandable anxiety as friends, classmates, staff, parents and other family members process the circumstances around the case, assess their own exposure to risk and then deal with the consequences of homeschooling, or blended teaching and learning. It is a situation that is all-too-familiar to students, parents, teachers and school leaders and I am sure none of us will forget what this has been like. But we will not miss it.
I am in awe at the way in which our school community has dealt, and continues to deal, with this. I know the intense frustration that parents feel. I have attempted (and not been very good at) home schooling and, even now, my son is isolating yet again and, in doing so, is missing out on his final weeks of Primary School. These never-have-the-chance-again moments are what is so heartbreaking about the impact of covid on young people. Sure, they are missing lessons and that is bad enough but the things I remember so vividly about school, and fortunately didn't have to miss, were the school trips, the end of term parties, the lazy days sitting on a school field chatting to my mates without a care in the world. It makes us all double determined to ensure that the time that our students spend in school is as richly rewarding, engaging, stimulating and enjoyable as we can possibly make it.
Which brings me (kind of) to curriculum. This week, I have completed a round of meetings with each of our Heads of Department looking at their curriculum plans for next year. These plans set out the topics, skills and bodies of knowledge that will be taught in each subject during the year and, as you would expect, they take a huge amount of time and consideration.
At Key Stage 4, these topics are broadly set by the examination boards but, in Years 7, 8 and 9, there is a great degree of flexibility for us to teach content that we feel our students need and which they will find engaging. This year, we have asked our Heads of Department to organise their teaching around a series of ‘Big Questions’ which enable the students to understand why they are learning what they are learning. These include, to take just a few examples, Year 7 students in Art will seek to answer ‘Can Art ever be more beautiful than Nature?’, in Music, they will enquire whether ‘modern music is more important than historical music’ and in French they will tackle the issue of where different languages come from and why we don’t just speak one global language.
Students in Year 8 are asked in English ‘How does power corrupt?’ through a study of Orwell’s Animal Farm and in Geography the question ‘Can the Earth cope?’ opens up a unit on the environmental impact of the modern economy. In Year 9, History students are asked ‘How did the Holocaust happen?’ and in French, students learn about French-speaking countries around the world, such as Haiti and Canada, rather than the traditional study of France. All of which, we fervently hope, will make the diet of learning as stimulating and interesting as we can make it. After a year of working in classrooms rather than laboratories and technology rooms, we believe our Key stage 3 students are hungry and ready for it.
Finally, we are reaching the final week of term and so let me offer a few reminders of our arrangements for next week and beyond.
Although, nationally, ‘lockdown’ is all but over from Monday 19 July, in school we are carrying on as before with students working in bubbles and wearing face coverings. There is still the requirement for students to isolate if they come into contact with a positive case and we will notify you if that is the case. Please continue to ask your child to do regular LFD tests and, if your child is positive or has any Covid symptoms, do not send them to school and let us know. From next Friday (23 July) responsibility for all test and trace will pass to the NHS so any cases will need to be reported to them. As for arrangements for September, please refer to the summer letter which was sent out this week which can be found here and I will provide any further summer updates in a letter to all parents on or around 13 August.
In the meantime, enjoy what looks to be a lovely weekend and stay safe.
Mr V Groak