Choosing to be positive

For me this is has been a week of utterly opposing contrasts.

The positive, we took a conscious decision, as this period extends, to encourage more work to be sent to teachers, shared on social media, and focus of conversations around how students are getting on. My conversation with Mrs Collins on Monday about Year 10 demonstrated how much hard work is happening in the student body, and how anxious they are to return ahead of their exams next summer. In many respects, and with all due respect to other year groups, it is Year 10 (and Year 12 in other schools and colleges) that are at the front edge of this crisis. The sentiment that Gavin Williamson is expressing is spot on about the need to ensure they are as ready as they can be for next summer, but we must also remember their (and all students, staff and parents) well-being during this pandemic. I have to say I have taken advantage of the relaxing of the exercise rules, by allowing myself slightly longer bike rides, but more importantly not having to choose between that and family walks. Our street was able to have socially distanced VE Day celebration last week (although some of the older residents were less socially distanced when they started big band dances!), and thanks to the History department for making sure the event was marked as a school.

The negative, we are being expected to plan without the parameters to plan with; I will give you a less well publicised example of the Year 11 exams for next Summer. Ofqual have said at some point they will consult on what the Year 11 exams in 2021 will look like, but we don’t even know when they will consult. In that sense, we don’t even know what curriculum we have to prepare the students for beyond the current specifications. Personally, I find it inconceivable that exams will just go ahead as planned next summer, but we certainly couldn’t attempt to award grades in the way that is happening this year. For me it is quite simple, this should be a priority for the DfE, so that we know where we are aiming to steer the boat towards during this period. (As soon as we have clarity, we will write to all parents but especially Year 10 parents). If you couple this type of dilemma with the much more widely publicised dispute between the unions and schools over the lack of scientific evidence about re-opening, then as school leaders we are left in an utterly invidious position of planning for the unknown with very few parameters set.

Please don’t get me wrong, we are trying our best to find the balance between all these elements, and the staff have my unreserved thanks for their work. Also, the support we have received from parents and carers has been excellent. Thank you.

For me, I choose to go into the weekend thinking about the positives from the first paragraph; I choose to think about how these events pull us together as a community; I am enjoying the social time after Thursday night clapping with my immediate neighbours, we know them far better now than 8 weeks ago. I choose to think about all the hard work parents are putting in trying to help steer their children through the work whilst doing their own work from home (the biggest challenge this week was balancing next year’s school budget while teaching the balancing of chemical equations! I don’t know where that will leave the chemistry budget!). These are tough times emotionally, but we need to remember the positives and continue to work together in this vacuum of uncertainty.

We all miss the students hugely; stay safe and have a good weekend.

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