School Office: 01708 724 134 | Student Absence Line: 01708 436 216 | Email: [email protected]

That was then, this is now

Firstly Happy New Year – however unusual the circumstances

I appreciate that parents will have had many letters this week, but I thought I would use this opportunity to share my thoughts about the online learning so far.

I wrote to staff this week, and said “that was then, this is now” about online learning; last year, with little warning and even less resourcing we made the decision to get work packs up and running early. I felt last March/April that this was the most expedient way to get work set and support home learning, but I appreciate by June/July this became stilted. I mean that as no criticism of staff, it was ultimately my decision and we couldn’t keep pace with the changing regulations, so staff very dutifully carried on with plan A.

Looking back, I don’t regret that, but I knew we could do better for the students and to make life easier for parents. Sadly, I feared we would be back here again by winter (as a historian, I have studied the social impact of the 1918-1920 Spanish Flu) so we were determined to be ready with a more interactive offer, but one that does not mean staff just talking at students for an hour. I believe what we have now is considerably better than last year, and hopefully has eased the pressure on parents having to cajole their children into work?

Make no mistake, we would rather have students in school, but realistically that isn’t possible in the current climate. In all honesty, and we had it better than some schools before Christmas, we were having to send home more students into isolation as COVID infections and tracing took hold, and this means students had an inconsistent experience from their peers in school. In the short term, I believe this is better, but we all hope (or pray if you are so inclined) that this isn’t for long.

I do understand that some students have more issues with IT hardware and broadband than others, but at least some of the DfE allocation have now arrived, and we are distributing appropriately. It’s challenging because there isn’t enough for one per student, but we will work with those families to try to find solutions, e.g. we have provided dongles this week for some families where they have reported broadband issues.

In all these senses, we must remain a partnership; us providing the work, parents making children be up and ready for all lessons, and students working hard. Ultimately, in the long term, this is the way we make sure students both stay up to speed for learning [for when they return], and also occupied productively during the day.

Finally I was reminded on the radio the other day that it was 5 years since I started at Marshalls; I know that (sadly) because its 5 years since David Bowie died, and that was a focus of one of my first blogs. At the moment, “we turn and face the strange” every day.

Enjoy the weekend.