Updates from the Principal
PRINCIPAL’S UPDATE: 20TH JANUARY
One of the many fantastic things about working in education is the variety. No two days are ever the same and you really experience the full range of emotions on a daily basis. On some occasions, your emotions can fluctuate wildly from hour to hour… and this morning was one such occasion:
At 8am I was overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude and pride when I saw our wonderful community volunteers running all 10 of our testing bays (giving us full testing capacity) being supported and assisted by dedicated EDA staff. The scene was a resounding confirmation that the hours of online training and laborious preparations had been worth it.
At 10.30am I was overwhelmed with anger and frustration when I read a letter from the Secretary of State for Education, officially telling all Secondary Schools, in a nutshell, that Lateral Flow Tests aren’t as good as we were led to believe and so ‘contact testing’ should not be carried out after all!
Once I had calmed down, stopped chuntering (as they say in Stoke) and looked into this in more detail, it transpires that testing will still actually have an important role to play in keeping schools safe. This is because the regular screening of staff and students can continue , via weekly or twice-weekly tests, to identify asymptomatic carriers of the virus. The only kind of testing which will not be allowed in schools is ‘7-day repeat testing’ as an alternative to self-isolation for someone who has had close contact with a positive case. Therefore, from now on and with immediate effect, anyone who has close contact with a positive case will have to revert to self-isolating for 10 days.
The consultation about the awarding of GCSE and A Level grades is now underway and everything we know so far was communicated to the parents of Y11 and Y13 students in Monday’s joint letter from myself and Mr. Walklate. Frustratingly, until the Secretary of State gives his official directives after the consultation period, we don’t know exactly what our teachers will be expected or allowed to do to support our students and it would be wrong to try and second-guess Mr. Williamson’s decision-making at this moment in time. When his official directives are given, there are two crucial issues which I hope are addressed clearly:
1. The weighting and importance that is placed on the external mini-exams; In other words, will the moderated results of these tests, which our teachers mark, simply become the grades that are awarded… OR will teachers be allowed to use the use the test as part of a broad, well-rounded portfolio of assessed work?
2.The extent to which teacher assessments may be interfered with and changed (via a moderation process or – day I say it – an algorithm of some description.)
Finally, there is growing talk about when and how schools will begin to re-open. The only thing I can say on this matter at the moment is that no-one in education, whom I speak to on a regular basis, has any secret knowledge or inside information about this. I simply assume that we will be given very little time to plan for it when the decision is eventually made…but we are used to that by now.
Mr. Walklate will touch upon these issues, amongst other things, in his weekly blog that will be sent to you on Friday.
Take care and thank you for your ongoing support,
Principal, Erasmus Darwin Academy
PRINCIPAL’S UPDATE: 14th JANUARY
In the world of education, two significant letters were sent and received yesterday:
The Secretary of State for Education sent a letter to the Head of Ofqual (the organisation which sets the rules and regulations for national assessments and qualifications.) In this letter, he explained his vision for the awarding of GCSE and A Level grades in the summer and asked Ofqual to co-ordinate a consultation on this crucial issue. His letter clearly explains that moderated, external national tests, to support teacher assessments, is a central theme of his thinking. If you would like to read a selection of extracts from his letter which confirm this, click here. If you would like to read the full letter, click here.
The Head of Ofqual responded by writing a letter to the Secretary of State for Education, which contained some of his thoughts on possible arrangements for awarding GCSE and A Levels this year. And, his letter clearly mentions that the use of “mini-exams” have been a firm part of Ofqual’s “advanced thinking” for a while. Please click here if you like to read a selection of extracts which confirm this. Alternatively, if you would like to read the full letter, please click here.
The consultation is expected to last two weeks, after which The Secretary of State for Education will analyse the results of the consultation and then give directions about what exactly should happen in the summer. At this point, nothing is confirmed but we do seem to be moving towards some form of national, external testing arrangements. It is, however, important to note that any tests will only be part of the teacher assessment process and we may have to provide other evidence of students’ academic standards. This may include some form of mock examinations, which is why, at this moment in time, they are still going ahead.
Therefore, taking all of the above into consideration, I want to repeat myself for the third time in a week, by urging all students to keep on working as hard as possible in all subject areas in the spring and summer terms, as this will have a direct bearing on final grades.
Mr. Walklate will address the above issues, amongst others, in his weekly blog which you will be sent tomorrow.
With regards to our mass testing regime, we are operating at full steam and the number of tests that we have completed now runs into the hundreds. And, as well as our own staff and students, we are regularly testing the staff of an increasing number of primary schools and nurseries in the local area. When you consider that far higher proportions of pupils are attending primary schools and nurseries when compared to secondary schools – and that younger students find it harder to maintain social distancing – it is ludicrous that testing has not yet been introduced into these settings. Therefore, until the government facilitates this, we will continue to do the right thing and test as many primary and early years colleagues as we possibly can.
Principal, Erasmus Darwin Academy
PRINCIPAL’S UPDATE : 12TH JANUARY
As I mentioned in my update last Wednesday, the Secretary of State for Education announced that GCSEs and A Levels won’t go ahead this summer, with the government planning to put their trust “in teacher assessments, not algorithms.” And since then, there has been significant educational chatter about the likelihood that teacher assessments may incorporate the outcomes of “mini exams.” At the time of writing this update, the most reliable and up-to-date sources appear to say that these mini-exams, if they materialise, will be:
- Written and produced by exam boards.
- Sat late in the summer term (when COVID rates have hopefully declined.)
- Marked by teachers.
- Moderated by exam boards.
Although no formal consultation has taken place and these “mini-exam” arrangements have not been officially confirmed yet, it seems clear that the process for awarding grades this summer will be more rigorous than last year and will try to involve some element of regulated national testing. And this only serves to reinforce the message that I communicated last week; that all work completed in all subject areas in the spring and summer terms will have a direct bearing on students’ final grades. Therefore, they need to keep on working as hard as possible.
And it is not just Year 11 and Year 13 students who need to work as hard as possible whilst remote learning continues. All students in all year groups need to embrace remote learning as a valid and powerful alternative to face-to-face provision and show determination to make as much progress as possible. We are monitoring student engagement carefully and we are incredibly pleased with the way in which the vast majority of students are working remotely. HOWEVER, for those parents who get contacted by the Academy because their child
isn’t engaging satisfactorily, please do everything in your power, in partnership with the Academy, to improve the situation. Young people only have one chance at an education and the harsh reality is that remote provision has quickly become a significant element of it. Therefore, every student needs to engage in every lesson every day whilst they are being educated remotely. Failure to do this could cause untold damage to their future life-chances.
Last week I thanked the huge number of parents who had sent messages of support and gratitude to our staff for trying to provide the best possible remote learning experience for children in all year groups. Well, this week, I would like to thank those parents who contacted Ofsted, the recently-appointed ‘remote learning enforcers’ to tell them that we are doing an amazing job and that no enforcement of any kind is necessary!!!
As always, I am immensely grateful for the support and understanding of EDA parents and I would like to reiterate that Mr. Walklate and I will continue to try and keep you informed about important issues in a timely way.
Principal, Erasmus Darwin Academy