Dear Parents

The recent move to distance learning has generated a strong sense of deja vu. Whilst it is easy to be vexed and frustrated about the current, repeated, situation it is heartening to see, experience and highlight some of the positives to come out of where we are at this moment. I am going to take this opportunity to mention these because our children and our school community are (again) showing their fortitude and spirit.

In March 2020 we moved to VLE delivery and Y11 and Y10 trialled live-streamed lessons. These were gradually established in other year groups over the subsequent weeks. In 2021, the move to VLE has been immediate and across all year groups. It is noticeable how familiar and adept the Secondary students are with the various platforms by now, to such an extent that when school re-opened after the April holiday the transition to full-time VLE learning was automatic and without fuss. Everyone just got back to the 'old' routine. None of us like it. But, we all know how it works and we all make it work. Attendance levels in virtual lessons remain exceptionally high. Well done students and well-done parents and colleagues.

Having assessments on site, sanctioned by the MoE&HE is an unexpected bonus during April and May. It is a sign of the times that students being excited to put on their uniform and come to school, to sit a test, is a yardstick. But, these small measures, and being able to attend school, are important. They maintain momentum and cohesion. They help to break up the daily grind of distance education. They allow people to be together, albeit socially distanced. Year 11 are already underway with the I/GCSE Unseen assessments and Year 12 are joining the A level process this week. At the end of May Year 9 and Year 10 will have some in-school assessments and it will be refreshing, and heartening, to see them in the building again. We look forward to it.

Here in school, the processing of Centre Awarded Grades (CAGs) is the priority of the moment. Actual I/GCSE, A level and BTEC examinations have been cancelled and the onus is, once again, on schools and teachers to set assessments, provide the marking, gather the evidence, process the documentation and make recommended grades. It is an onerous process. We did it last year and have prepared for it during the course of the current academic year. The next 6 weeks will be dominated by the submission of our Year 11 and Year 12 CAGs. Our students deserve every chance to show their worth and we intend to support them. The actual awards will be made by Pearson Edexcel in early August and we all await that date with bated breath.

Earlier this week I was able to meet with some Year 11 students at the conclusion of their English Literature assessment. Aside from the pleasure of being with young people again and of seeing students in the building the overriding memory will be how convenient a surgical mask is to disguise the lack of senior boys having a daily shave! Every cloud has a silver lining, even if it is in the shape of a surgical mask. We look forward to better days when the vaccine is rolled out to younger people, school attendance is celebrated, examinations are not cancelled, facial hair is addressed and surgical masks are neither required nor impactful on the environment.

I hope you have a relaxing and safe Eid.

Ken Haggarty