Headteacher Blog - 12 February

Posted on: 12th Feb

We have come to the end of what has been a challenging and difficult half-term. I would like to thank all our students and their families for their continual support over the last couple of months, it is greatly appreciated. Students and staff have not only risen to the various challenges thrown at them, they have fully embraced the new ways of working that we have implemented. I hope the half-term breaks gives our students the opportunity to have a well-deserved rest.

The last couple of weeks in school have been very busy. We hosted our first ever virtual parents evening for Year 9 students on Monday, trialling a new online programme allowing parents/carers to book slots directly with teachers rather than relying on their children to do this. Another benefit of the system is that up to four people can log onto the same appointment, allowing parents who are separated or in different locations to all attend. Each appointment was limited to five minutes, with a countdown screen clearly visible to parents. This ensured that we kept to time and that the event finished promptly.

We were delighted that a number of parents took time to contact us afterwards with positive feedback of the new process.

“As the adverts say –wow that was easy!”

“Just a quick note to the school in general and the teachers we saw in particular to say thank you for the year 9 parents evening we took part in today. Clearly it would be lovely to see them face to face, but the system for going from meeting to meeting worked really well and the booking system was brilliant!”

“Just a note to say thank you for organising the year 9 parents evening so efficiently.  I was impressed at how the teachers handled the appointments so smoothly.”

Our next virtual parents evening is for our Year 11 students on Tuesday, 23 February. Letters have already been sent out and parents are now able to book their appointments online.

We had our largest ever attendance at our Parent Forum on Wednesday this week, which I jointly hosted with Mrs Allen, alongside Mr Wilson and Mrs Jackson supporting in answering questions.  Targeted at parents with children in Year 11 and Year 13, the focus of the evening was how the GCSE and A Level assessments will be calculated this summer, how the process differs this year compared to last, with information from the recent OFQUAL consultation. We also examined the impact these changes and the uncertainty has had on our students and the way in which the schools is working to address this.

For parents who were unable to attend, please click here to view the presentation. If you have any further questions, please do contact the school.

With remote learning now the new normal for the majority of our students, we have spent the last couple of weeks surveying them to ask how they have found the experience. I am delighted that the majority of the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, and I wanted to share with you some of their comments.

“Even though I am not at The Downs in person, I feel like I am still getting all of the same support and learning that I would if I was at school.”

“The teachers keep me motivated during the day, are very thoughtful, and make online learning an absolute joy.”

“The teachers respond to Teams messages really quickly and they genuinely care and want me to do well.”

“All the teachers are very hard working and make sure that everyone in their class is ok.”

As I outlined in my blog on 29 January, myself and my staff have worked really hard to make remote learning engaging and informative. We now have a ‘live’ element to all lessons, and a reduced lesson time to allow for regular screen breaks. We are delighted that the students are embracing this and it is working well for them. We will continue to monitor the situation next term and make any changes we see necessary.  Students have just been issued a document from Mr Mullarkey providing them with useful links on how to full access TEAMs.  Please click here.

Finally, a fun activity for students for the half-term break and beyond. We are competing against other local West Berkshire schools in the ‘Round the world’ competition, asking students to count their steps when exercising and then uploading their results to Forms. How each student completes their steps is up to them, for example walking, running, taking part in online fitness classes etc. and there is no limit to the amount of activities that can be added. Each week the PE Department will publish the results which will determine House winners, year group winners and where we are positioned against other local schools. Please encourage your children to take part in this fun event.

Enjoy the half-term break, and I hope that looking forwards we can welcome all students back to school in the not too distant future.

Mr Prosser

Headteacher

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