Headteachers Blog - 23 October

Posted on: 23rd Oct

We have reached the end of this first rollercoaster of a half term, relatively unscathed and continuing to remain resilient and courageous.  I have been so proud of the way we have all adjusted to these very uncertain times and am impressed with how both students and staff have just smoothly settled back into normal routines and been focused on our core business of Teaching & Learning.  I still get such a buzz from walking around the school, seeing so much purpose and enthusiasm and a real love of learning.

With the colder weather approaching and our requirement to ventilate classrooms due to Covid guidelines, students will be able to wear short or long sleeve plain white t-shirts or vests under their shirts if they wish when they return after the half-term break.  Please ensure that they also wear a warm coat to school.

Information published this week from Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education and Glenys Stacey, interim Chief Regulator for Ofqual, the UK examinations regulator on A Level and GCSE examinations next summer is not consistent and requires further clarification moving forwards.  What we do know is that the plan is for 2021 exams is to have reduced content in some subjects and a later start date of Monday, 7 June, rather than mid-May, ending on Friday, 2 July. In turn, this has required moving results days to Tuesday, 24 August for A Levels and Friday, August 27 for GCSEs, with universities accommodating this delay.

I want to reassure parents and students that we are monitoring this very closely and will continue to keep you updated with any developments.  When final decisions are made we will of course share and discuss these with you.

Thank you to everyone that attended the parents’ forum last week and gave us valuable feedback on our new ‘Code of Conduct for Blended Learning’.  We have now amended the document based on your feedback, and please follow the link to the letter page click here to see a copy for you to review with your son/daughter.  I would appreciate it if you could discuss the expectations outlined in the document, so that should your child need to self-isolate and join lessons remotely, they will be able to get the best out of the experience and keep up with their learning.

For those of you with older children at the school you may remember us going through the options process with our Year 9 students quite soon after the Christmas break in previous years.  This year we will be aiming to complete student options by the Easter break, and further guidance will be issued about this in January.  For students in Year 11 who want to continue their post-16 study with us, the process will start sooner and you should expect information about this shortly from Mr Hogan, Head of 6th Form. Our virtual Sixth Form Open Evening will take place on Thursday, 26 November. Further details will follow after the half-term break.

Our Rising Year 7 Open Evening earlier this month was also held as a virtual event. The evening was a great success with nearly 400 parents and students accessing our website to learn more about our school.  On the evening, I was particularly proud of our Head Boy, Arjun, Head Girl Niamh and our Year 8 students Hadeed and Fleur who all gave speeches and were excellent ambassadors for the school.  It was a joy to hear them talk about the pride and the passion they have about being a Downs school student.

A group of Year 8 students have been involved in the Exceptional Education Project (EEP), which started last summer and culminated with student presentations this month. EEP involves students coming up with their own project ideas and then researching and evaluating them before presenting their findings to others. The project develops students’ independence, aids their time management skills and builds resilience as they work on these projects alongside a teacher for several months alongside their regular school work.

An invited audience made up of Year 9 students and parents watching remotely via Teams saw a series of thought provoking and creative presentations across a range of topics from the social impact of Covid 19 and the environmental impact of the shipping industry, to Greek and Roman myths and their presentation in Art.

Organiser Mrs Seath said: “I was really impressed by the creativity of all of the projects and the determination of the students who completed their work in difficult circumstances.”

Congratulations to the following students: Will L, Daniel M, Sacha W, Chloe H, Daisy M, Johnny A, Lucy H and Gus D.

I would like to end by thanking all those parents who have sent in lovely messages of support during this term, including this one from a Year 7 parent. “It is coming up to half term and I just wanted to say 'thank you' to you all for the hard work that you have put in to keeping the children safe and happy under the current circumstances. I know it will not have been easy and a huge amount of work will have gone into it and quite possibly a few sleepless nights - but I just wanted to let you know that I do really appreciate it.”

We really do value your feedback, it means a lot to me and my staff and has really lifted our spirits during these turbulent times.  I wish you all a safe and restful half-term break.

Mr Prosser






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