Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday 4th January, all schools and colleges in England have been instructed to close following the re-imposition of a lockdown.
At this stage, it is the government’s hope for schools to re-open for face-to-face teaching after the February half-term holiday i.e. on Monday 22nd February but this is yet to be confirmed.
The following hopefully clarifies some key issues for you but please contact us directly if you have any queries or concerns that I have not addressed.
Until and including Friday 12th February, all teaching will be delivered on-line primarily using Microsoft Teams with some teachers also making use of other teaching software such as Google Classrooms.
Drawing upon our experience of the summer term of 2020, we have every confidence in once again delivering high quality and productive remote tuition for students.
We are very conscious that with the imposition of lockdown some students will find this very distressing, some will struggle to study at home, whilst others will be relieved. As always, students’ Senior Tutors will be available to provide support and guidance and are contactable via email and Microsoft teams.
A substantive proportion of our boarding students are now living in our two boarding houses. The Boarding Schools Association (BSA) of which the College is a member, spoke with the Department for Education (DfE) last night and the DfE have confirmed that schools’ and colleges’ boarding provision can remain open.
In addition, any international students currently in transit to boarding at schools and colleges can continue their journeys and thereby arrive at and be housed in boarding.
However, DfE have advised the BSA that any UK student who is already in the UK cannot now travel to a school or college’s boarding houses.
Both of our boarding houses - Pensons Gardens and St. Ebbe’s – will remain open, are fully staffed and full support services will be maintained. This will include security, maintenance, cleaning, and catering continuing to be provided to each boarding house and the students and staff therein.
In addition, Rosemary Finamore as College Matron will continue to provide healthcare support to boarders.
Boarders will access their remote, on-line tuition from the boarding houses.
Please note that visitors are not permitted at either boarding house.
The College’s main teaching and administrative building in King Edward Street will be open during the lockdown and the College switchboard will be staffed.
The building will be staffed from 9.00 a.m. – 4.00 p.m. Monday-Friday but please note that the building will only be accessible to staff; it will not be accessible to students, parents and guardians or visitors.
As you will know the government has now confirmed that GCSEs and A level examinations will no longer go ahead this summer. We also await clarification from NCUK with regard to IFY examinations and from Cambridge Assessment with regard to IELTS and other English language qualifications.
Given the U-turn in the summer of 2020 with regard to the use of the algorithm developed for A levels and GCSEs, the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, said on Wednesday in Parliament that he will "trust in teachers rather than algorithms".
What this means in reality is still unclear. Ofqual, the exam board regulator will now start a consultation process. This may last until late February. Our assumption is that the system for GCSEs and A levels is likely to be a combination of internal assessment and some externally moderated tasks; this is to be confirmed. At the time of writing the position with regards to IGCSEs is unclear although these were cancelled last year in line with GCSEs and A levels. Again, we will keep you informed as and when we know.
Internal assessment of a student’s progress occurs in many ways- for example, through homework, through performance in in-class (remote on-line or face-to-face) tasks, through coursework, through projects, through tests and through mock examinations. Our teachers are naturally gathering this information on an ongoing basis as this provides insight into a student’s level of attainment and the progress that is being made. We will obviously continue to gather such information in the coming months between now and the time when we are asked to submit our assessments. We will ensure the data we have enables our judgements to be robust, and believe some moderation is likely.
We are hoping that face to face learning occurs in the second half of this term and a part of the various methods of assessment is likely to include College set examinations taken in person before the end of the academic year.
We appreciate that the removal of GCSE and A levels in their usual format plus the disruption last year and the move online this term, will be unsettling for students scheduled to sit A levels and GCSEs this summer However, we know they have generally coped very well with all the changes made. We know that these cohorts have continued to make good progress and we have obviously tried to keep their studies as normal as possible. We thank you very much for your support.
The best guidance we can give to our students is for them to keep engaging with their studies in and out of class. This way they will continue to make good progress and be able to demonstrate their achievements in the ways outlined above. It will also ensure they are well prepared for the next stage of their education such as Sixth Form or University.
We will continue to support all our students academically and pastorally to help ensure their studies are valuable to them not just in terms of exam grades but also developing understanding and skills that will shape the rest of their lives.
We will keep you informed of our approach and the picture nationally as it emerges. In the meantime, thank you very much for your support.
Mark Love, Principal