MHS Update 20-11-2020
Last week I took time out of the Covid merry-go-round to blog about more normal things such as Children in Need, Remembrance Sunday and a lovely painting of Marple Hall. Therefore I suppose the sensible thing is to return to Covid, especially as since last week we’ve had a bit of an increase in cases. Since posting my blog early on Friday morning last week we had two more cases later that day, and then another one on Tuesday this week. Three in a week is not at all many compared to a number of schools, especially given our size, but it is an increase for us based on the ‘usual’ one a week we’d had before half term. I was therefore interested to see that current Government data also revealed a spike in the Marple area itself in the past week (over 500 cases per 100,000 people), and so perhaps it was to be expected that we’d see more cases in school. Of course every case is a worry and every group of students who have to isolate is a loss to the school, and it’s sad that around 200 students across all year groups are currently having to isolate. A fortnight ago I clarified our approach to remote learning (long blog available here) and I am confident that our mix of hybrid lessons and Show My Homework based tasks appears to be working well. It’s an ambitious model that offers students a good deal, provides structure for the day and enables learning to continue in these strange times. Whilst we’ve been able to compensate for an increase in staff workload by reducing other tasks, running this new format of hybrid education does require a lot more thought from staff and so I am grateful for all their efforts.
In some ways I have learnt this year that looking ahead too far can be a waste of time, but on the other hand we’ve often been able to react quickly to changes by planning for a variety of eventualities. In the past few days I’ve been thinking about what we would do if a significant proportion of one year group had to isolate at the same time. Currently we have about 27% of the Year 11 cohort off school due to three case (two in the year group and another where students on a bus were impacted), and so hybrid lessons are taking place in many lessons. At the moment I think that this is fine, but would we keep the same plan going if 60% of the year were off, or 80%? Obviously from a day to day management perspective it’s easy to manage year groups when large numbers are absent, but from an educational point of view would it be better if ALL students were accessing lessons from home? It’s an interesting question, and one that one school in Stockport has already answered by closing for Year 10 this week and Year 11 next. Their logic is that it’s fairer on students and parents to know where they stand rather than the constant in and out, and that they can then deliver live lessons to all rather than the less structured mix of hybrid lessons and independent tasks. Like I say, we’re not in that boat yet at MHS but if needed I’d be keen to make a call that provides the best possible outcome for the most students at any given time. Happily the good news is that should the unthinkable happen and the Government close us down again – or asks that we run rotas for year groups (after a no-lockdown Christmas, perhaps?) then this time we have already done all the prep – we’re set up for 100% live lessons for whole cohorts at home, no problem!
On the topic of remote learning we are now in a position to accurately track the attendance of students in hybrid lessons, and from next week we’ll start contacting home if students miss hybrid form time or lessons on any given day. We think we have managed to provide devices where students need them, but of course if families need help getting hold of devices then we can assist further – please email email@example.com or call school to report a need should this be the case.
Not in my name
I’ll finish in an unusual way. A few days ago the Guardian ran an article about the impact of the current crisis on school leaders, and it was sent on to me by colleagues and a couple of parents. Whether they were hoping I’d be leaving soon or not I’m not sure… Anyway, I raise it here as I was actually quite annoyed by the piece. Don’t get me wrong, the crisis has been tough on schools and there is a lot of pressure on headteachers (as there is on all other staff too), but I can categorically say that this article in no way speaks for me. In a time of crisis where so many people have suffered more than I, I simply feel privileged to do the job that I do. I feel lucky to be incredibly well supported by all those around me and there is nothing I would rather be doing that helping our great school through this crisis and beyond.
Stay safe everyone,